When Dada Masilo launched her Swan Lake at the National Arts Festival, in Grahamstown, in 2010, enthralled audiences were ambushed by the cheeky ingenuity and gritty intelligence that infused an edgy African ethos into a Western classic.
Four years on, that response – paired with critical respect – has an international resonance as this Joburg choreographer and her hand-picked company, sourced from the Dance Factory, Cape Town and Pretoria, continue to tour Europe.
A distinct highlight last year was a sell-out month-long season at the Theatre du Rond-Point on the Champs Elysees in Paris (September 10 to October 6), as part of the South African Season in France, followed by life-sustaining extensive touring.
In June, Masilo, starring as Odette, joined by her 12 dancers, heads for the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London – one of ballet’s holy grails – to open the second edition of the “Sadler’s Sampled”. This two-week “taster” festival targets new audiences for innovative dance.
Billed after Swan Lake, with its UK premiere on June 17-18, Ireland’s Fabulous Beast and the renowned Sidi-Larbi Cherkaoui (who collaborated with Gregory Maqoma on Southern Bound Comfort in 2012), present 4D.
At home the artistic adventures, in the face of the need for economic survival, continue. Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre celebrates 15 years of accomplishment against the odds.
Not only has pioneering dancer and choreographer Maqoma established him- self as a solo artist in such master works as Beautiful Me and Exit/Exist (which he performs in June at the Spoleto Festival USA, in Charleston, South Carolina, then at the American Dance Festival, in Durham, North Carolina), but his company has weathered many a funding storm. When the 15 new trainees start their internship training on February 3, the legacy goes on, no matter what. A five-year business strategy, backed by the Vuyani Dance Theatre board, is in place.
The celebrations begin in earnest at the Market Theatre on February 25 with a run of Four Seasons (2010), a humanist eco-fantasy with original live music (a Vuyani Dance Theatre signature). On March 9, part of the company leaves for Germany to tour Wake Up! the continuing interaction with Congo- Brazzaville’s Studio Maho as part of Dance Dialogues Africa. On April 9, the Vuyani Dance Theatre returns to France with Kudu (still not seen here), last year’s collaboration with master jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz.
That’s why rehearsals began in Newtown last week for Full Moon, Maqoma’s magnum opus which premieres at The Mandela at the Joburg Theatre on April 30 for a two-week season. The trainees will join the 10 Vuyani Dance Theatre professionals – who now include the ultra-talented Julia Burnham (ex-Moving into Dance Mophatong) – and the 50-year-old National Youth Orchestra, performing an original Isaac Molelekoa score.
Maqoma will be exploring astronomical as well as theatrical space underpinned by his creative obsession with man’s relationship to the Earth, which is being ravaged.
Nature and human ritual are also at the heart of Cape Town choreographer Alan Parker’s futuristic The Leftover Sacre, which is being created at Dance Space, No 1 President Street, as part of Dance Forum’s invaluable choreographic residency programme, funded by the National Arts Council. On Friday, February 7, from 10am to 11.30am, Parker gives a master class, Performing the Archive. At 7pm, Parker and fellow performers Joni Barnard and Nomcebisi Moyikwa showcase their exploration of artistic responses to Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s century-old score and ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). Performance artist Gavin Krastin is collaborating designer.
Previous resident Nadine Joseph, who worked with composer Daniel Nubian, designer Sonja “Twiggy” Smit and fellow performers Athena Mazarakis and Parker last month, will present her border-shifting neither HEre nor there (and everythIng elSe) at the National Arts Festival in July and at Dance Umbrella in September.
The final recipient is Andile Vellem – formerly of the Remix Dance Company, who excelled in the Baxter Theatre/Swedish 2013 project Hit the Ground Running, and is now with the Broken Borders Arts Project in Cape Town.
The Mother City is also the place for Dirk Badenhorst’s fourth International Ballet Competition. South African ballet luminary Dawn Weller returns from Perth, Australia, where she heads the Graduate College of Dance, to serve on the jury.
Gauteng audiences won’t be totally deprived of the competition action at Artscape, from February 17 to 23, because the gala performance Young Ballet Stars of the World is coming to The Lyric Theatre on February 25 and 26.
Also make a note of Woman in Dance – Celebrating the life and work of Vicki Karras at the State Theatre Arena on March 13 (preview), March 14 (matinee and gala performance) and March 15.
The dance year has begun…