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AN informal gala celebrated the start of Dance Umbrella this year, its 24th year. The event took place inside the historically rich Market Theatre, in the heart of Newtown, amid a vibrant ambience and bustling spirit.

Out of this body for a little while - Moya MichaelOut of this body for a little while - Moya MichaelDance Umbrella’s artistic director, Georgina Thomson, said the festival was “undoubtedly the main contemporary dance platform in Southern Africa”.

“This year alone, we are presenting over 200 works that can be seen over a period of 16 days. We are honoured this year to also welcome over 15 international programmers who come from the United States, France, Germany and Belgium … This is proof of what an important event the Dance Umbrella is.”

At the gala, on 20 February, guests filled the Main Theatre to get a taste of what the full programme has on offer. The festival of dance began on 17 February.

“This evening, the Dance Forum hopes to garner interest in becoming a new partner with the Dance Umbrella festival. We will take you through, we hope, an attractive impression of what Dance Umbrella is, what it has achieved and its plans for the future,” said Thomson.

Skeleton Dry, from which an excerpt was shown on the night, was choreographed by Gregory Maqoma. He explained that it was an abstract from the full-length production, which delved into human decomposition to the point where there was no longer flesh nor bones, where fossils became the revelation of life that once was.

The second excerpt, Threads – Praise Song for Men, was a collaboration between the choreographer, Sylvia Glasser, and the poet, Lebo Mashile, as a 50-minute work in 2008. It explores cultural, personal and gender identity and the way stereotypical perceptions relating to these issues affect actions and interactions.

Threads reveals the ways in which people’s lives are inextricably intertwined or connected. According to the creators, the excerpt shown on the night, titled Praise Song for Men, celebrated the vigour and vitality of the young men. The rope used in the work symbolised one of the threads that linked the lives of the men.

An excerpt from Alfred Hinkel’s Dansmetdieduiwels was also performed. It’s the story of a young man from Northern Cape who had an affinity for working with young people. But his intentions were misunderstood and ultimately led to tragedy.

It was followed by Yalla, a work in progress by Shelly Sheer. The South African lead dancer, artistic director and teacher was previously with the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel.

Dance Umbrella 2012 runs until 4 March at venues across Joburg, including the Market Theatre complex, the Wits Theatre, the Dance Factory, the Goodman Space at Arts on Main, and the old stock exchange building on Diagonal Street.

Tickets for Dance Umbrella shows cost between R60 and R100 each. Bookings for performances at the Wits Theatre, Market Theatre and the Dance Factory can be made at Computicket. Bookings for performances at the Goodman Space at Arts on Main and the old stock exchange can be made by calling 011 492 2033.

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