Tshediso Kabulu. Picture: Supplied
Tshediso Kabulu. Picture: Supplied

The art of dance comes alive at ‘Digital JOMBA!’

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Aug 25, 2020

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Lights, camera, action! It’s time for a digital dance experience of a lifetime at JOMBA!

Feast your eyes on an explosion of dance that will leave you clapping your hands and stomping your feet - all from the comfort of your home.

The 22nd JOMBA! takes place from Tuesday, August 25 from 7pm to Sunday, September 6.

Due to the global pandemic of Covid-19, the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience will be held digitally and audiences will still be able to watch their favourite dancers strut their stuff - for free.

Artistic director Dr Lliane Loots said Covid-19 has shifted the arts world significantly but dancers and choreographers have made the move to digital with ease.

“In this fragile environment the somatic, visceral body is absent but we believe that we can still offer dance makers, dance lovers and audiences space to engage serious, beautiful and important new dance making via a re-visioned JOMBA! 2020.

“The shift, of course, is that there is no live theatre and performance on offer – everything is delivered digitally.

“Dancers and choreographers have been asked to - themselves - make the transition from stage to screen,” said Loots.

“I have honestly been overwhelmed by a global community of dance makers who, without reservation, all jumped in when I approached them.

“From the Netherlands, Nigeria, India, Kenya, the USA, artists were so willing to continue their association with JOMBA! and so eager, at a time of restrictions and lock down, to participate in a digital space that continues to honour and support dance,”she said.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal, a carefully curated explosion of dance and conversions about dance-making, offering both a look back at some iconic dance works and dance makers, but it also significantly looks forward to exploring what dance can be in a digital space and a digital time.

“We are all starved for some good serious art. Even as we enter Level 2, dance cannot really start up again so I think that audiences are going to really want to engage.

“Our website and social media spaces have been very well subscribed with hundreds of hits a day so let’s hope everyone comes to the screenings.

“This is new territory for all of us so it is exciting to see what will happen.

“And, strangely enough, going digital has meant a bigger global audience and global reach, so I am excited to see how this might play out too,” she said.

She explained some minor changes in the festival.

“It has been a very interesting space to think about dance and how we deliver digitally.

“There is the obvious move to feature a lot more ‘Dance on Screen” which is a relatively new genre that is about the confluence of choreographer and filmmaker.

“So we have an amazing curated collection of ten short screen dance films from the USA that I think will be one of JOMBA!’s highlights,” she said.

This year choreographers are afforded the space to go back and re-visit past work.

“In the endless artistic need for survival we are forced to constantly make new work to access new funds.

“JOMBA! has taken a mindful step back into honouring seminal legacy dance works and we have invited nine key choreographers and dance companies who have been really significant to our festivals 21 year history, to share dance work as a salute to legacy and history,” said Loots.

About the change in platform, Loots said it has been a very steep learning curve.

“I am a bit of a technophobe and so have had to really make friends with new technology.

“I have worked with an amazing team of digital experts and, to be honest, I am totally sold. In fact we are even having talks about offering digital delivery in tandem with a live festival for 2021,” she said.

Loots said at a time when the continent is really reeling from Covid-19 and the resultant loss of livlihoods, JOMBA! feels like a moment of beautiful and solidarity with the artists on our continent.

“We have managed to support and hold South African and African dance work and this – for me - is our triumph. JOMBA! is now Africa’s longest running contemporary dance festival and I am particularly proud of the African reach,” she said.

Loots suggested shows to watch are: The SA Dance on screen package, Germaine Acogny’s “Somewhere At The Beginning”; The nine KZN commissioned JOMBA! Digital Edge short dance films; South Africa’s Gregory Maqoma’s “Exit/Exist” and all four of the “JOMBA! In Conversation live streams with, Vincent Mantsoe (South Africa/France), Jürg Koch (Switzerland), Ondiege Matthew (Kenya) and Themba Mbuli (South Africa).

Digital JOMBA! 2020 is free of charge. The full programme is available.

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