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For 10 days, Joburg was turned over to contemporary dance, with some noteworthy productions staged. There were also master classes and documentaries were screened.
DANCE Umbrella, the annual contemporary dance festival held in Johannesburg, ended on a high note with its Stepping Stones Programme for performances by young up-and-coming dance talent.

 

Sifiso Kweyama's CircleSifiso Kweyama's Circle opened Dance Umbrella 2011The festival, which began on 24 February, roamed across various venues, with productions at the Dance Factory, the Wits Theatre, Goethe on Main and the UJ Arts Centre. It ended on Sunday, 6 March.
 

Now in its 23rd year, Dance Umbrella this year remained under the artistic directorship of Georgina Thomson, who said it was forging ahead with renewed vigour and new sponsorship, continuing to remain the biggest contemporary dance platform in southern Africa.

The festival opened with Thomson stating: “2010 was not an easy year for us, but here we are celebrating our 23rd year.”

At its formal launch, the festival began with Circle, which used the ageing art form of storytelling through dance exploration of traditional values, placing it in ancient and contemporary African society. This performance was followed by Bloodlines, which was about the histories of bodies.

Choreographer Lliane Loots explained that Bloodlines was “not just the obvious histories of gender and race legislation that told us where our body could walk and sleep, but also the histories of how our bodies move”.

PJ Sabbagha then presented I Think It’s Hamlet, his humorous take on Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. There were many other noteworthy productions on the programme.

 

Redha's GisselleRedha's Gisselle at the UJ Arts CentreIn addition, for the first time this year, movieswere on the programme, through the Goethe-Institut. Three dance films were shown, on the life of the German choreographer, Pina Bausch, and on contemporary African dance.
 

Dancers were also invited to participate in three master classes taught by leading choreographers. These free classes focused on techniques, on dancing with disabled dancers and capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian dance.

Towards the end of the festival, Redha’s Giselle was performed at the UJ Arts Centre. This production was set against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa and was very loosely based on the classic ballet tale of boy meets girl, but in this case the boy in question was on the opposite side of the colour divide.

The final performance was Mirage by Thabiso Pule in collaboration with Hind Benale from Casablanca, on 5 and 6 March.

Sponsors this year included the City of Johannesburg, National Arts Council, Goethe-Institut South Africa, Rand Merchant Bank, Business and Arts South Africa, French Institute of South Africa, French Council, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Culture Dutch Flemish Diary in South Africa, British Council, Art Moves Africa, CitiVibe, Classic Feel and Artslink.co.za.

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