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Tuesday, February 14, 2012


(Pic by Suzy Bernstein)

Clear Path for Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance 2012 Bailey Snyman (33) grew up in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. From a very young age he knew that he wanted to spend his life on the stage and to pursue his vision of how the arts can potentially challenge perceptions and ideologies.

“I remember my first role on stage at the age of six. I played the role of Benjamin in the Story of Moses. It was this that sparked my interested in the performing arts,” said Snyman.

In primary school, Snyman learnt to play six different musical instruments and took a keen interest in Art and Drawing. It was also at this point that he started playing around in a very unconventional way with choreography. “All three of my sisters were drum-majorettes, and I used to sit with my draughts board and make different configurations with the playing pieces, becoming very interested with the relationship that the playing pieces had to each other and the patterns that they could make,” said Snyman as he reflects on how his childhood games later influenced his career choices.

“This award is a reflection of the many years I have spent refining my craft as a dancer and choreographer. It is a validation that hard work does pay off and that the arts community in South Africa recognises excellence,” said Snyman. “This award also has a very special place for me as it is something that I have set as a goal for myself for many years, as I believe that it provides a great opportunity for me to develop and to expose my work to a greater audience,” he added.

In High School, Snyman took to writing for the theatre. “I adapted Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby for stage and starred in the musical Fame. In my standard 9 (Grade 11) year, I was fortunate enough to have my teacher, Mr Aidan Smith, send me to the National Arts Festival. This trip changed my life,” said Snyman.

It was at the National Arts Festival where he encountered the First Physical Theatre Company in a programme of work titled Declarations (1993). “The First Physical Theatre Company had such a fresh approach to making theatre,” said Snyman. “This collaboration between the different art forms made me realise what I wanted to do.

Snyman was determined not to give up on his ambition. He went back to Kimberley to write his Matric exams and was hopeful of finding the money to study Drama at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. He completed a Masters Degree in Choreography and Contemporary Dance Studies and followed on to work full-time for the First Physical Theatre Company for three and half years under the artistic guidance of Professor Gary Gordon and Juanita Finestone-Praeg.

Snyman moved to Johannesburg in June 2006, and with Nicola Haskins he started the Matchbox Theatre Collective. “The aim of our Company is to promote secondary and tertiary theatre education. This name inspired us as it speaks to the idea that dynamite comes in small packages,” said Snyman. Together, Snyman and Haskins started working with many schools and universities and forging important relationships with teachers and educators, the people they believe to be the backbone of the arts in South Africa.

At the end of 2006, Snyman went to London to perform at the acclaimed Laban Centre. Upon his return to South Africa in 2007, he performed in PJ Sabbagha’s contemporary dance version of Macbeth. In September of 2007, he was cast in Richard Loring’s African Footprint, touring with the production to Mexico and America. In October 2010, he performed in Tel Aviv in Carmen.

Since 2008, Snyman has also held a lecturing position at Wits University, Johannesburg, where he teaches Movement and Physical Theatre Studies. “In my time at Wits, it has become clear to me how important it is to nurture young creative minds. I see so many students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and try to tell them my story so that they too can live their dream,” said Snyman, as he relates his experiences about performing professionally with artists like Tracy Human and Dada Masilo, as well as the numerous productions he made with his students.

Snyman is currently working towards his PhD Proposal, centred on The Terrorised Body.

He describes Physical Theatre as a medium in which anything can happen, with no right or wrong answers, allowing the performers and choreographer to be able to make fresh, new and exciting work that brings together many different theatre, dance and creative styles.

“I expect this award to provide me with the platform to produce a body of work that will be well recognised and will help shape an exciting future for me in dance theatre in South Africa,’” said Snyman. “I also hope that this award will provide me with an opportunity to have complete creative and conceptual freedom. Audiences at the 2012 National Arts Festival can expect a work that is driven by my core research into sexuality and violence. I intend creating a poetic, challenging and visually provocative dance work that will challenge ideologies and perceptions that still abound in the 21st century.”

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 28-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.

The 2012 National Arts Festival runs from June 28 to July 8. For more information, click on the banner advert at the top of this page which links to the NAF site.