Dance to entertain and provoke

A scene from Black Cake, a work by Introdans from the Netherlands. Picture by Hans Gerritsen.

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BY BILLY SUTER

DANCERS from Germany, Benin and the Netherlands will be among those in Durban in August for the 19th edition of the popular Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience, a festival to be held at various venues.

Presented by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts (within the College of Humanities), the event will run from August 23 to September 3.

“This year’s festival promises a feast for dance and theatre lovers over 12 days, with a programme featuring some of the world’s most innovative dance theatre work from South Africa, Africa and abroad. This work promises to provoke, entertain, delight and challenge audiences,” says a spokesman.

International companies featured will include Germany’s steptext dance projects, Benin dancer and choreographer Marcel Gbeffa and Introdans from the Netherlands, who will also perform at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town in September, following their Durban season.

The Durban festival opens with a stellar international partnership with the Johannesburg-based Vuyani Dance Theatre and Germany’s steptext dance projects.

“In a profound meeting of Europe and Africa, choreographers Gregory Maqoma and Helge Letonja (Bremen, Germany) join forces to create Out of Joint. Six dancers meet in a furious game of difference, where the dance is a Babylon of physical co-existence, with dancers exploding into centrifugal power, paralysis, fear and the rebellion of both the individual and the social body.”

Benin dancer and choreographer Marcel Gbeffa in his acclaimed solo work, titled Et Si. It is headed for Durban in August. Picture by Andreia Salame.

The dance festival’s longterm vision to honour the African continent and to continue to make artistic connection with the rest of Africa, manifests in this year’s hosting of Benin dancer and choreographer Marcel Gbeffa.

“With support from the Alliance Française (Durban) and the Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud, Gbeffa makes his first trip to South Africa. He will perform his acclaimed solo work, Et Si.

“Gbeffa uses a repetition of animal movements, which he then adapts to his human dancing body before transforming the dance into involuntary and spontaneous animalistic reflexes,” says the spokesman.

It is said to be a bold and masculine work whose origins lie in the zeitgeist of West Africa.

“Gbeffa will also be conducting the annual festival residency with five KwaZulu-Natal dancers: Bonwa Mbontsi, Tegan Peacock, Steven Banzoulu, Sibonelo ‘China’ Mchunu and Kim McCusker-Bartlett. The culmination of the residency will be given a showing at the KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood.”

Dutch favourites, Introdans, will mark a third festival visit to offer a programme (three performances) of dance works from their award-winning repertoire. Considered one of Europe’s leading touring companies, this company works in a neo-classical ballet idiom that should delight both ballet and contemporary dance-lovers alike.

“They have titled their 2017 progamme Wonderland, which features a ‘wonderland’ of works by choreographers Hans van Manen, Ton Wiggers, Cayetano Soto and Alvin Ailey’s new artistic director, Robert Battle. Their work is always witty, technically supreme and full of beauty.”

A dancer from Introdans, a company from the Netherlands which will feature a ‘wonderland’ of works by choreographers Hans van Manen, Ton Wiggers, Cayetano Soto and Alvin Ailey’s new artistic director, Robert Battle, at this year’s Jomba! festival in Durban. Picture by Hans Gerritsen.

Introdans will also collaborate with Durban’s acclaimed Flatfoot Dance Company, in a special work that premieres at the festival, which has taken on the mandate to support disability dance practices locally, and has done so in a bid towards inclusivity around dance.

Introdans’s artistic manager, celebrated choreographer Adriaan Luteijn, will be spending three weeks in Durban working with Flatfoot and four specially auditioned dancers with Down Syndrome, to create a local version of a work titled Cardiac Output. The first version of Cardiac Output premiered in March 2016 in Amsterdam.

The medical term “cardiac output” is used for the amount of blood pumped through the heart per minute. This choreography is about matters of the human heart which can influence the cardiac output.

Lutejin has become famous for his choreographic works that team professional dancers with dancers who are often denied access to dance due to  intellectual or physical disability.

Once again Durban’s KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood features in the programme, offering an alternate challenge to dance maker, and for those intrepid artists who work outside of the traditions of the proscenium arch.

Not only will this event see the outcome of Benin’s Marcel Gbeffa’s Jomba! residency, but the evening will host three new works by some of Durban’s most cutting-edge voices. These works will be announced at a later stage.

A scene from Out of Joint. Choreographers Gregory Maqoma of Vuyani Dance Theatre and  Helge Letonja of steptext dance projects  (Bremen, Germany) created the work for this year’s Jomba! dance festival in Durban. Shown here is steptext dance projects dancer, Kossi Sébastien Aholou-Wokawui. Picture by M Menke.

The dance festival will host its usual platforms of the Fringe (August 29) with 10 new works of about 15 minutes each. It will also offer the Youth Fringe (August 27) and a full programme of workshops and master classes by all participating dancers and choreographers.

The festival will take place at different venues around Durban – including the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a free 2.30pm performance on August 27) and the KZNSA Gallery (6pm on August 28, admission R50).

The university’s hillside Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre will be the dance festival venue on all other days, with tickets on sale at Computicket or available one hour before the performance (R60 or R45 for students and pensioners).

For a full listing of the programme and workshops go to www.cca.ukzn.ac.za and visit the Jomba!  page.

Note that workshops and classes are offered free to dancers older than 16. Booking is essential via jombafestival@gmail.com.

The popular dance festival is under the artistic direction and curatorship of Lliane Loots. It is organised, hosted and run by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), and is supported primarily by the eThekwini Municipality.


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