In a recent article Georgina Thomson, the artistic director of Dance Umbrella, said in an industry in which everybody was desperately trying to survive on their own, it had become commonplace for dance practitioners to work in seclusion, where opportunities and resources were often hogged in securing whatever was available for themselves.
Thomson believes that this is counter-productive. She explains that for the dance industry to survive and prosper, collaboration among artists and organisations is indispensable.
Dance bodies need to work in alliance, form partnerships and become united in collectively taking ownership of their industry.
Exposing young dancers to such a collective spirit fosters a mindset of collaboration and support.
The National School of the Arts (NSA) will be presenting its annual flagship dance production, Dance Spectrum, from May 10 to 13 in The Mandela at Joburg Theatre.
A double bill, the programme starts with Clara’s Journey, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Act 2, performed by students from the National School of the Arts. It is followed by an exciting re-staging of Johannesburg Youth Ballet’s The Ruby Suite in collaboration with the NSA and Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM).
The Ruby Suite is an exciting mix of neo-classical ballet, contemporary, flamenco and hip hop, and features choreography by Laura Cameron, Alexandra le Maitre, Mary-Ann Mottram and Mark Hawkins.
NSA head of dance, Haydee Baker, says partnering with both the Johannesburg Youth Ballet and Moving into Dance to re-stage The Ruby Suite has been an opportunity for the NSA to acknowledge the achievements of these two companies.
She says the NSA is thrilled to partner with two organisations who have reached their respective 40-year milestone anniversaries.
Baker says it is critical to expose young students to other companies and choreographers. “We have to ensure our horizons are always expanding,”she says.
Mark Hawkins, the artistic director of MIDM, says in view of the insufficiency in arts funding, collaborations between dance practitioners and between dance organisations have become vital. He says the pooling of resources, talent, expertise and audiences has become necessary in furthering the arts.
Nadia Virasamy, the chief executive officer of MIDM, says collaborating is an ideal start to exploring ways in which to shape an industry that is supportive.
“So much more can be achieved through a consolidated dance industry, and collaboration is the starting point to see this through to reality,”she says.
Alexandra le Maitre, the choreographer of the Spanish section in The Ruby Suite, says collaborations are important to extend and broaden the scope of work – the cross-pollination of artists and genres reveals interesting and multi-layered creations.
This is not only valuable in aiding the creation process, but also enables the performers to experience a wider range of ideas, techniques and artistic approaches.
Choreographer Laura Cameron says there are very few dancers in South Africa who have had the opportunity to train in different styles, and with different teachers and choreographers. She says collaborations are beneficial in that they allow dancers to learn new and diverse movement qualities.
“It is amazing to see such a large group of dancers working cohesively together, feeding off each other’s energy and learning from one other,” Baker says. “Our young dancers are working with their idols and role models. They have grown immensely through this experience, both personally and as artists. It has been very fulfilling on all levels.”
* Bookings at www.webtickets.co.za or www.joburgtheatre.com.