THE STABLE Theatre in central Durban is on a mission to revive contemporary dance at the grassroots level and it begins this weekend with the Imbokodo Festival.

Now in its second year, the festival is the theatre’s vehicle to commemorate women during Women’s Month.

This year, the festival will be held in honour of two leading female artists, Neliswa Rushualang and Ntombi Gasa of Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre, who are recognised as major award-winning role players on the Durban dance scene and beyond.

Festival director Thanduxolo Zulu said they had chosen to honour the two for their hard work in developing dance in Durban.

“These are young artists who’ve worked very hard to be where they are today, but also to develop other young people (in dance).”

Zulu said it was important that institutions such as theirs not let dancers be restricted to performing in universities, but that they are also offered a professional platform to showcase their talent.

“Apart from the dance on offer at this year’s festival, we are also in talks with the Flatfoot Dance Company of the University of Kwazulu-Natal to come and perform at the theatre in October. The Stable Theatre wants to make this platform available, not to make money, but to make sure the dance community is taken care of. We don’t want dance to shy away because it will cost a lot to have to bring it back,” he explained.

Since its structural, financial and physical upgrade over the past year and a bit, the Stable Theatre’s board and management have been hard at work to re-establish it as a development tool for theatre in Durban. They’ve done this by launching and maintaining annual youth festivals (in June/July), the women’s festival (in August), regular activities over Heritage Month (September) and festive events in December.

Zulu explained that with the Imbokodo Festival they have started small, only having the event over one day.

“We started last year with a theatre programme, where we honoured Mam’ Petty Nokwe, a senior actress, and this year we have our dance programme. Now that we have assessed and found that there is interest in such an event, next year we will expand the programme over three weekends, incorporating theatre, dance and music,” he said.

This year’s festival will feature two dance pieces themed around women’s issues, one titled Imbokodo, by the award-winning choreographer Mduduzi Mtshali, the other a new work that is choreographed by Rushualang, titled Nkosazana.

Imbokodo features six females who portray the role of victims, and two men, who portray the role of an abuser. The show deals with issues of women abuse, the main concept being rape.

In a statement the ladies of the moment explained their pieces. Mtshali said women abuse had become a norm, even a joke.

“It is being taken lightly, so much so even government does not fully intervene, or provide the solution. Women living in rural areas suffer the most because hospitals and police stations where they can get help are not easily accessible. The story is, however, not for the faint- hearted. People know and hear about rape, but showing rape scenes in the piece will show the true state of a rape victim.

“Rape victims emerge from the nightmare with physical and emotional trauma, therefore the bold decision to use a screen with a projection of a naked woman who has just been sexually violated will portray the ‘reality’ of rape . It will be tastefully done, in the sense that lighting will be smartly used so that the scene is not explicit,” she said.

Nkosazana will be performed by the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre members.

“This piece is about a woman called Nkosazana. The work throws light on her life journey as well as her kind heart. This woman has so much to offer, but can’t distribute it at the same time. She guides each generation by offering them different aspects to guide them about life. Even when she finds herself in the deep end she makes sure she doesn’t go any deeper,” said Rushualang.

• Tickets at R50 for the Stable Theatre’s Imbokodo Festival can be booked at Computicket. The programme will start at 1pm.