Mamela Nyamza performs in Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo/ The Meal at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, 4 July 2012. The piece was written, directed and choreographed by Nyamza. (CUEPIX/ Chris de Beer)

Improvisation, or improv as it is known in dance speak, is one of the cornerstones of contemporary dance either in teaching, creating choreography or sometimes in performance.

Similarly this free, if often structured, form of creativity is part of music making.

So it is not surprising that these two art forms meet in the programming of the fifth Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF) Se vuol ballare, if you would dance.

The festival’s artistic director Florian Uhlig’s rationale is: “With this year’s dance theme, we do not only feature instrumental, symphonic and vocal music that is inspired by dance in an abstract sense, but there are a number of events Tanima and Erich Huetter (tomorrow), Mamela Nyamza and Andreas Kern (Thursday, February 7), Duo FourIVTwo with Thabo Rapoo (Friday, February 8) where there is an actual choreography of live dancers on stage.

“In the case of these collaborations there is an element of improvisation, too. The dancers react spontaneously to the music that is being performed and, in turn, the musicians leave the strict framework of the musical score in order to improvise and thus engage with the interplay between music and dance.”

Via e-mail in Graz, Austria, ballet-trained contemporary dancer and teacher, Tanja Schmid, who has pole art (pole dancing) in her repertoire, explained that she prefers to be known as Tanima.

A combination of Tanja and Anima (the soul), this artistic persona has been created especially for this project in which she interacts with cellist Oskar Huetter.

This performance, the first in the JIMF’s choreographic concert series, in The Fringe at the Joburg Theatre tomorrow night at 8pm, ropes in Bach cello solos.

Tanima describes this dialogue between the cellist and the dancer as a reflection of “their dreams, desires, feeling of distance and fears.

“On the one side you have the amazing, perfect structure of Bach and on the other the individual very personal, but also fragile music and feeling of the moment.”

For her JIMF encounter Mamela Nyamza has swopped uhadi player Dinah Eppel for pianist Andreas Kern.

Moving Mozart, at the Wits Art Museum (WAM), reunites the adventurous Cape Town dancer-choreographer with the South African-born musician.

Their first collaboration was at the Darling Music Experience in 2010 where they made unconventional artistic whoopee in a home.

Two years later the inventive Kern, who launched the Piano City concept in Berlin, Germany, in 2010, invited the South African dance maker and 2011 Standard bank Young Artist to participate in the Joburg festival.

An excited Nyamza enthused: “Andreas is not just a pianist, he goes all the way. He can turn the piano into a drum!”

Joined by UCT School of Dance student Kirsty Ndawo (from Durban) the dancers will revisit motifs from Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo – The Meal which Nyamza developed during her 2012 fellowship at UCT’s Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (Gipca).

This delicately intriguing piece, which was staged at the National Arts Festival Fringe on Cape Town Edge, with Eppel singing and storytelling, interrogates the African dancer’s body and cultural ethos in relation to the demands of classical ballet and the constrictions of the tutu.

At WAM on Thursday, February 7, at 7.30pm, the dancers and pianist (who may be joined at the piano by JIMF 2013’s resident composer, Bongani Ndodana-Breen) tangle with Mozart’s Piano sonata in C Major K 330 and Twelve Variations on Ah vous dirai-je, Maman K 265/300e as well as Moritz Eggert composition One Man Band.

Expect aesthetic fireworks.

The next evening, same time, same location, more African ingenuity rules.

Thabo Rapoo, the 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, joins Duo FourIVTwo for a mostly improvised encounter with Mozart, Shostakovich and Arvo Part.

This week Magdalena de Vries playing concert grand marimba, Frank Mallows on vibraphone and the dancer-choreographer-African drummer are exploring rhythmic introspections and percussive interconnections in preparation for their very public choreographic encounter.

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