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Monday, May 23, 2011


Main dance line up at National Arts Festival.

Integration and collaboration is celebrated through dance at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Eight grand scale dance productions ranging from the technically classical to the culturally traditional to the exploratory conceptual are set to mesmerize audiences on the Main Dance programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown (June 30 to July 10, 2011).

Standard Bank Young Artists Award winner for Dance 2011, Mamela Nyamza headlines the dance programme with her intimately personal Isingqala presented alongside Amafongkong which she has produced in collaboration with Hannah Loewenthal and Adugna Dance Company. This company of mixed ability performers was the first contemporary dance company to be founded in Ethiopia. Adugna grew out of a project in the 1990’s initiated by Royston Maldoom, with over 100 street children in Addis Ababa. Two of its first company members, Junaid Jemal Sendi and Adissu are now the artistic directors of Adugna Dance Company.

“In creating Amafongkong, my intention is to hold an open space to explore the notion of collaboration in all its complexities, to see how and where similar and different bodies could meet in movement”, Mamela explains.

Another acclaimed production that also explores the beauty of integrated dance is the Remix Dance Company’s Lovaffair presented by the Baxter Theatre Centre, in association with Ual’s Youngblood. Described as a celebration of bodies and love, Lovaffair had its world première at the Baxter Theatre Centre in 2010 with two hugely successful seasons.

With this award-winning production directed by Ina Wichterich-Mogane, with musical direction and composition by Neo Muyanga, the Remix Dance Company with its 10 years of innovative and groundbreaking work has established its reputation as a leading South African contemporary integrated dance initiative that combines differently-abled dancers as well as actors.

Presented by Moving Into Dance Mophatong, the 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance, Thabo Rapoo, brings Batsumi to the Festival this year. Batsumi weaves a story of the hopes, joys and struggles of a hunter-gatherer community as it integrates song, dance, acting and live music to celebrate the age-old traditions of the hunter-gatherers.

The South African premiere of Desert Crossings is a cross-cultural performance birthed from a collaboration between UK-based producers State of Emergency and South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma of Vuyani Dance Theatre. Performed to an original score by Steve Marshall and drawing on a company of five dancers from diverse cultural backgrounds Desert Crossings is inspired by the similarities between the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site on England’s south coast and the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. This new work is an exploration and reflection on two very different places, united through a shared history of the rocks on which they stand.

Desert Crossings is a landscape where the physical and the metaphysical, the corporeal and the spiritual, the celestial and terrestrial all merge,” said Maqoma about the choreography of this piece, which received the Inspire endorsement by London 2012 and the International Olympic Committee. Deborah Baddoo, Artistic Director of State of Emergency Productions was made an MBE in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her contribution to British Dance.

Angel Heart & Fourteen, a double bill created and performed by Fura, is presented at the Festival with support from the Embassy of Spain. After studying dance and theatre in Spain and France, Pilar Cervera, who prefers to be called Fura, started her career as a trapeze artiste in Paris in 1993 before moving to Canada to be trained in the swinging trapeze technique by Andrè Simard, trainer of the aerial shows in the Cirque du Soleil.

Her choreographed pieces, Angel Heart is danced on a fixed trapeze while her piece Fourteen, inspired by the story of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges' The House of Asterion, is a choreographed work on vertical cloths. She has performed at most leading festivals across Europe, USA and Asia. Her performance at the National Arts Festival marks her première on the African continent.

Ireland’s foremost aerial dance theatre company Fidget Feet will also make a South African premiere with their Madam Silk, an aerial dance extravaganza which will have Lindsey Butcher, Chantal McCormick and Jennifer Patterson dancing, sweeping and spinning across the stage and through the air in a universe of veils and drapes, using dance and circus skills on fabric and hoops. The show opens in an empty house where the memories of Madam Silk lie forgotten under sheets of fabric. The winds of time blow through the window and awaken her, and each scene represents a different century influenced by different writers.

Swan Lake, the renowned embodiment of mystery and romance portrayed in sublime, ethereal movement will be presented by the Cape Town City Ballet in association with Artscape. Tchaikovsky’s score transports the viewer and inspires the dancers in their portrayal of this tale of love’s triumph over evil. This version of Swan Lake, produced by Elizabeth Triegaardt, is based on that of Vladimir Bourmeister, and was first taught to the CAPAB Ballet Company, now the Cape Town City Ballet, by Frenchman Attilio Labis in 1971. Labis had danced as a guest in Russia in several different productions, and it was from these that he chose the elements to make it one of the most eclectic in the world. This is the 17th time that this production has been mounted for this company. Megan Swart and Laura Bosenberg share the roles of Odette / Odile, Xola Putye and Thomas Thorne are Prince Siegfried, and Mervyn Williams and Johnny Bovang share the role of Von Rothbart.

From the largest desert province of India comes Rajasthan – A Melodical Journey In Folk Dance, Song & Music, presented by the Indian Cultural Centre. Rajasthan is celebrated for its architectural splendour and vibrant costumes. The music from this arid region evokes the haunting beauty of the desert. The programme presented at the Festival includes instrumentalists, singers and dancers delivering performances of the Chari, Ghoomar, Bhavai and Kalbeliya traditional dances, as well as musical interludes on instruments like the Sarangi (a short bow-necked instrument), Yar a Khartal (made from a pair of wooden blocks with jingles), Dholak (double-headed hand-drum), Ghatam (an earthenware pot that the musician strikes), Dhol (a drum that dates back to the 15th century) and Morchang Ghatam (an earthenware pot that the musician strikes).

Presented by the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture, Rhythms of the Eastern Cape is a fascinating display of the province’s rich music and dance heritage. In an extravaganza of five lunchtime concerts, audiences will be introduced to the sub-tribes or clans of the Eastern Cape (amaBhaca, abaThembu, amaKhoisan, abeSuthu and amaMpondo), who will mesmerise with their indigenous music and dance. Artists will also be drawn from the newly-formed Indigenous Music Orchestra and Eastern Cape Cultural Ensemble.

Bookings for this year’s “11 Days of Amaz!ng” are open. Tickets are available through Computicket. Booking kits available from selected Standard Bank Branches, selected Exclusive Books and all Computickets. For more information on the programme, accommodation and travel options visit (or just click on the banner advert above). Also join the National Arts Festival group on Facebook for all the latest competitions and news, or follow us on Twitter.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Sunday Independent and M Net.