Nadine Mckenzie, in the wheelchair, and Yaseen Manuel perform at last year’s festival.
Nadine Mckenzie, in the wheelchair, and Yaseen Manuel perform at last year’s festival.

Unmute Dance Company's Ability Festival at Artscape

By Robyn Cohen Time of article published Nov 24, 2017

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From modest beginnings in 2014, when the Unmute ArtsAbility Festival launched as a one-day festival, it has developed into a major festival – bringing together artists and audiences working together across physical and other disabilities.

The fourth edition, titled Ability, is at Artscape from Tuesday to December 2. The programme of the six-day festival includes theatre, site-specific performances, artistic installations, exhibitions, film screenings, seminars and disability walks. 

The festival is being presented by Unmute Dance Company in association with Artscape.

Participants include artists who are able-bodied and others who have disabilities (blind, deaf, intellectual, physical and psycho-social). 

They will be performing collaboratively across multiple genres, which include music, dance, drama, visual art. French outfit Candoco Dance Company will open the festival with the acclaimed Tordre.

Unmute will stage two works.

Choreographer/dancer/director/designer Themba Mbuli was on board from the start as artistic director but has stepped back and handed the mantle over to others.

“For the past two years I’ve taken a step to train Nadine Mckenzie and Rae Classen to manage, curate and organise the festival.

“This year I’ve decided to give them a chance to manage without me leading, so my role has been to assist and guide them with the planning and organising of the festival"

The festival opens with Tordre (French for "to twist, bend"), choreographed by French-Algerian Rachid Ouramdane. Lithuanian-born Lora Juodkaite dances with British-born dancer Annie Hanauer, who has a prosthetic arm, described as “an extension and an integral part of her body”.

Juodkaite has developed a particular way of spinning dizzyingly on the spot - almost like a gyroscope - without losing balance. 

There are two pieces on the festival presented by Unmute: Access Me and Nothing Makes Sense. Access Me is performed by Yaseen Manuel, Nadine Mckenzie, Rae’ Classen and Andile Vellem and choreographed by company members of Unmute Dance Company. It is accompanied by a photo story and short film by Darkroom Contemporary.

Nothing Makes Sense, performed by Thulani Chauke and Lionel Ackerman, and choreographed by Thulani Chauke and Unmute Dance Company, “is an interrogation of violence with a specific focus on the violence that emerges because of our continued human obsession with systems of classifications based on sex, race, gender, sexuality, class culture and physical ability”.

* Tickets for productions at Unmute ArtsAbility Festival: R25 for scholars, students and seniors and R50 for the public.

Book at Computicket or Artscape at 021 421 7695. There is no charge to attend some events.

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