Feast of dance at 20th Jomba!

A scene from The Women Who Fell From the Moon, choreographed by Khutjo Green. Picture by Herman Verwey.

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BY BILLY SUTER  

THIS year marks the 20th edition of Durban’s annual Jomba! contemporary dance festival, to be held from August 28 to September 9 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the Howard College campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, the festival carries the theme Legacy this year, and will offer special performances at the university’s Open Air Theatre and at the Durban Art Gallery at the Durban City Hall.

“This landmark edition celebrates 20 years of bringing Durban the world through contemporary dance and nurturing and supporting the development of contemporary dance through open workshops, grants and the creation of platforms for dance-makers to showcase their work,” says a spokesman.

This year’s Jomba! will feature dance companies and choreographers from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Spain, Switzerland, India ,America and Madagascar. They will join Durban companies in a programme of innovative dance theatre work that promises to provoke, entertain, delight and challenge.

The festival will also have a strong focus on ‘Durban Dances’ and offer unprecedented spaces for the evolution of eThekwini’s dance community.

The Jomba!! opening features Johannesburg-based Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) which is celebrating its own 40th anniversary this year.

“As they performed in the very first edition of Jomba! in 1998, we felt it only fitting to honour them,” says Jomba! artistic director Lliane Loots.

Durban’s acclaimed Musa Hlatshwayo.

“MIDM will perform two new works: Sunnyboy Motau’s Man Longing, a brooding, yet beautiful, work that uses dance and poetry to explore the sinister world of human trafficking; and guest artist Khutjo Green’s collaboration with MIDM women dancers, The Women Who Fell From the Moon, inspired by the Nina Simone song Four Women, a searing exploration of the collective power of woman.”

Acclaimed Indian dancer and choreographer Anita Ratnam will present her iconic and award-winning work, A Million Sitas. Heralded as one of the forerunners of Indian contemporary dance, Ratnam’s performance weaves the many disciplines of dance, theatre, ritual, archaeology and women’s issues.

A Million Sitas is a re-telling of the classic Ramayana, using every weapon in the creative dance arsenal – voice, movement, song, dance and storytelling  – to illuminate the character of Sita.

Two dance-makers from Madagascar feature this year. One is Malagasy Gaby Saranouffi, who partners with  South Africa’s Moeketsi Koena in a duet titled CORPS/BODY, a collaboration between four artists from France, South Africa, Madagascar and Mozambique that explores embodied links between the real and unreal through photography, music and dance.

Then there is Malagasy Haja Saranouffi, who presents a duet. Danse Des Bouteilles. based on a dual between myth and reality and in which the ‘art of bottles’ interrogates how we place value on a person in society.

Spain’s Aïda Colmenero Dïaz presents her solo Aka Nativa, described as a quirky and beautiful work using voice and body, that is a manifesto for life and the living.

Dïaz has a strong and long relationship with many African dancers, which led to her short-film project called She Poems, featuring solo dance performed by creative African women that Dïaz has encountered in her travels on the African continent, and are inspired by poems written by women. Some of these will be screened as part of Jomba! at the Durban art Gallery.

Swiss choreographer and dancer Ioannis Mandafounis once again shares his unique vision of challenging audience/dancer relationships. His latest duet, One-One-One, offers the simple staging of two parallel lines on the floor and two chairs, one on each line. The dancers invade the public space and invite the audience into an unexpected experience providing a witty and challenging dance work.

As part of this year’s Legacy theme and ‘Durban Dances’ focus,  grants, commissions and various spaces for the ongoing evolution of eThekwini’s dance were given to local dance-makers.

The 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Durban’s own Musa Hlatshwayo presents, Udodona, which premiered at the National Arts Festival in Gtahamstown playing to standing ovations.

This powerful work explores the black male body, challenging both traditional and religious systems that continue to dehumanise men into a state “where black masculinities are forever changing for the worst while patriarchy continues to reign supreme”.

Jomba! also presents a unique collaboration between Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company and Cape Town’s Unmute Dance Company. Both companies have a reputation for working in spaces that challenge access and inclusivity in South African dance. and this meeting is sure to be explosive.

A double bill kicks off with Yaseen Manuel’s provocative Aslama, and the journeys into his own identity as a Muslim South African dancer.

Aslama takes inspiration from the struggles of the Syrian people. In a context of on-going war and violence, Manuel – and the dances from Unmute and Flatfoot – wonder where personal faith comes into our making of dance.

The second work, a collaboration between choreographers Lliane Loots and Andile Vellum, is titled The Longitude of Silence. Created over only 14 rehearsals in 14 days, the work  begins to question how we map identity through shared sound and asks what happens in the chasm of silence.

Artist Gaby Saranouffi.

Jomba!! 2018 grants were awarded to three young professional local dance-makers to premiere new work on the special Jomba! On the Fringe platform.

JC Zondi, the 2017 winner of the Jomba! Pick of the Fringe award, opens this platform with Classi filed, while the gutsy Kristi-Leigh Gresse offers her newest creation, Blank, and Tshediso Kabulu, sharing this grant with fellow dancer Thami Majela, presents a joint creation titled Imvelo.

The dance festival hosts its first major partnership with the Durban Art Gallery on Friday September 7. Titled JOMBA!@ DAG, this free event sees the art gallery spaces offer an alternate kind of challenge to dance-makers and for those intrepid artists who work outside of the traditions of the proscenium arch.

Coinciding with the DAG Women’s Month exhibition, titled She, this Jomba! event has offered grants to three local female dance makers to premier new work. They are Lorin Sookool, Jabu Siphika and Zinhle Nzama.

Usual festival favourites will include the fringe and youth fringe events, as well as a full programme of workshops and master classes by all participating dancers and choreographers.

For the full festival programme and listing of workshops visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za and click on the Jomba! pagr. All workshops and classes are offered free of charge (dancer over 16 only) but booking is essential.

Most performances take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 7.30pm (2.30pm on September 9) with the youth fringe at the Open Air Theatre, UKZN, at 2pm on September 2, and at the Durban Art Gallery at 6pm on September 7. Tickets at the Sneddon Theatre cost R80 (R60 for students, pensioners and block booking of 10 or more).

Book at Computicket or at venue from one hour before the scheduled event. Durban Art Gallery and Open Air Theatre presentations are free events.

Dancers Yaseen Manuel and Nadine Mackenzie. Picture by Val Adamson.

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