Dance at Joburg’s Arts Alive Festival is the equivalent of a cat with nine lives that gives birth to many kittens along the way.
For the past 20 years this city celebration has presented many facets of our theatre dance and urban dance cultures in various formats, with different producers and at key venues. For 2012-14, under the auspices of the Cut2Black consortium, a radical shift happens with the inclusion of SA’s Dance Umbrella run by Dance Forum.
How this major national and international brand will fare within another festival, remains to be seen.
But the reality is that Arts Alive is a lifeline for this now iconic, sponsorless, platform for new choreography for all forms of SA contemporary dance, which notches up its 25th anniversary on February 14 next year.
Before reflecting on the line-up for Dance Umbrella 2 @ Arts Alive 2012 it is worth thinking back to September 1992. Not only was Arts Alive driven by the city of Joburg, this annual cultural bonanza was launched with great fanfare with the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s season at the refurbished Johannesburg Civic Theatre.
Over at the city hall, on a much smaller scale, The Dance Factory opened its doors in a hall . Born out of the activism of teachers, dancers and choreographers from Joburg, Soweto, Alexandra and other communities this communal, anti-apartheid ideology took physical shape in this venue. Ground-breaking classes and workshops were held where local and visiting artists, across culture, genre and race, exchanged ideas. Performances included Germaine Acogny’s solo Ye’Ou that began this legendary Senagelese dance pioneer’s enduring relationship with SA dance.
When The Dance Factory, directed by Suzette le Seuer, was moved to Newtown in 1994 (to make way for the Gauteng parliament), its highly inventive, inclusive, annual Arts Alive programming continued but eventually stopped. Since the Factory turns 20 this year, it is fitting that for Dance Umbrella 2 it presents Dada Masilo’s African take on Swan Lake before it launches its European tour at the Lyon Biennale de la Danse, in France.
This artist and production epitomises the Dance Factory legacy of nurturing and developing young dancers and choreographers. That original spirit of collaboration hasn’t died – although nowadays it has a more economic rationale.
In Masilo’s Swan Lake the openly gay Prince Siegfried has very pushy (white) parents performed by Matchbox Theatre Collective’s Bailey Snyman (who doubles as MC/Swannmeister) and Nicola Haskins.
Before and during Arts Alive Snyman (the Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2012) and Haskins will be shuttling between the Factory and The Market where Snyman’s contentious, rigorously courageous period piece Moffie, about being gay in the SA Defence Force in the 1980s, has its Joburg premiere in a single performance.
The international component, courtesy of the France/South Africa Season 2012 & 2013, is the Non Nova Company’s dazzling plastic bag concerto Afternoon of a Foehn, which set Grahamstown alight this year with its incredible creativity and airy virtuosity. Be prepared to be enchanted.
Dance Umbrella 2 @Arts Alive 2012 at a glance:
• Community dance showcase Stepping Stones, Uncle Tom’s Hall, Soweto, September 2 from 10am.
• Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake from August 30, culminating in Arts Alive shows on September 8 at 6pm and September 9 at 2.30pm. The cast includes Masilo as Odette, Craig Arnolds, Ipeleng Merafe (Odette understudy), Songezo Mcilizeli, Tshepo Zasekhaya, Bafikile Sedibe, Thoko Seganye, Carlynn Williams and Shereen Mathebula.
• Shanell Winlock’s Be Still… , for The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative, The Market Theatre, September 4 and 5 at 8.15pm.
• Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe’s solo Skwatta, SPACE.COM Joburg Theatre, September 5 at 6pm.
• Kirstin Wilson and Rob Mill’s Beauty Tips, for Tshwane Dance Theatre, SPACE.COM, September 6 at 6pm.
• Bailey Snyman’s Moffie, The Market Theatre, September 6 at 8.30pm.
• Phia Menard’s Afternoon of a Foehn, The Arena, Museum Afrika, September 8 and 9 at 10am, noon and 2pm.
• Via Katlehong’s Umqombothi Kabar in collaboration with Reunion Island’s Lindingo. The Market Theatre, September 8 at 9pm, September 9 at 3pm.
• Book at Computicket.