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International dance connections sparks local innovation

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International dance connections sparks local innovation

Contemporary dance is counted among one of South Africa’s most valuable, and politically aware, performing arts sectors – forging innovative ways to express the new freedoms and cultural diversity of post-apartheid South Africa.
International dance connections sparks local innovation

Established in 2003, with the aim to manage various developmental aspects of the professional and non-professional contemporary South African dance industry, the Dance Forum has become a vital and integral driver for training, development and innovation in local contemporary dance and choreography. With a unique industry- wide focus it acts as a catalyst between existing contemporary dance initiatives and provides much needed skills transfer and vocational training opportunities, and the ability to manage and facilitate a number of developmental programmes in the Southern African region.

One of the Dance Forum’s central endeavours is to develop a culture of excellence within the dance industry, both locally and internationally. Central to this aim is the management of a number of initiatives like workshops, contemporary choreography residency programmes as well as the annual Dance Umbrella Festivals. Now in its 28th year, The Dance Umbrella has established itself as the main international springboard for local choreographers, and counts world acclaimed choreographers like Robyn Orlin, Gregory Maqoma, Vincent Mantsoe and Boyzie Cekwana among its alumni.

In 2015 the Dance Forum hosted a number of dance residency programmes at the Dance Space in Newtown, Johannesburg. The dance residency programmes provided local talent the opportunity to connect and collaborate with international dance-makers. Funded by the National Arts Council (NAC) to the tune of R 150 000 the Connections residency programme focused on developing professional South African contemporary dance practitioners through master classes that stimulated discussion and invigorating debate. The residency provided a supportive environment for local dance practitioners to create, perform and diversify their creativity and professional skills, and specifically set out to:

  • develop artistic direction and the creation of outstanding dance
  • enable the sustainability of free expression through contemporary dance performance by the selected young and established choreographers by building capacity for the Contemporary Dance community
  • give dance practitioners from the contemporary dance sector in Southern Africa an opportunity to work within a creative and secure structure and network and work with international artists.

In June 2015 the Connections Residency programme hosted a one week HIGH FIVE residency programme with the Geneva Ballet Company and five local choreographers resulting in performances showcased at the Soweto and Wits Theatres. This was followed in August, by a collaboration between Dance Forum and ISH Dance from the Netherlands, which brought together Fana Tshabalala and Thulani Chauke with Dutch choreographer Anna Maria Suijkerbuijk. The resulting collaborative piece was presented at the Soweto Theatre, Johannesburg before travelling south to Cape Town’s Artscape and the Voorkamerfees in Darling. The third residency was a collaboration between Sonia Radebe and Teresa Mojela and the final involved a site-specific contemporary dance work by Nhlanhla Mahlangu. Inspired by the South African Labour Migration and migration at large the piece was created with the Workers Museum in Newtown, Johannesburg in mind.

The outcomes of the Dance Forum residencies programme will be shown at the 2016 Dance Umbrella festival held from February 25 until March 6 in various venues across Johannesburg – Dance Factory, The Market Theatre, Soweto Theatre and the University of Johannesburg Theatre & Arts Centre Theatre.

For detailed Dance Umbrella programme information, visit:


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