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Friday, February 19, 2021


Stage set for the Theatre and Dance Alliance to act on behalf of the sector.

The live performance sector was among the first to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with many festivals cancelled and many theatres expected to remain dark for the foreseeable future. A recent report in Europe found the creative industry to be the second most impacted by lockdowns after the aviation industry. By nature, the artistic community is innovative and solutions-driven, but the resilience of the sector requires a co-ordinated approach with the pooling of resources.

To this end, an Interim Steering Committee (ISC) to establish the Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA) held its first meeting on February 15, 2021. The ISC, made up of organisations actively addressing the employment crisis in the performing arts, proposed that the Alliance be a coalition of membership-based organisations, institutions, festivals and companies as well as individuals who make at least part of their livelihoods within the South African dance and theatre sector.

The purpose of the Theatre and Dance Alliance will be to advance and defend the interests of the theatre and dance sector as a whole and of the individuals active within it.

“Theatre and dance have been among the hardest-hit disciplines within the creative sector as the lockdowns have banned festivals, limited audiences and imposed curfews that have made productions and related incomes largely unviable,” said Saartjie Botha, Director of the Toyota US Woordfees and member of the Interim Steering Committee.

Jack Devnarain, national chair of the South African Guild of Actors, added his voice, saying: “The lockdowns have served to emphasise the need for a different policy, funding and strategic approach to theatre and dance in order for these to be sustainable and continue to realise the potential of South Africa’s rich vein of performing arts talent”.

Public funding for artists’ relief during the pandemic have also confirmed the anomalies within the sector with most who make their livelihoods in theatre and dance being freelance or independent contractors and are thus excluded from the protections of the Labour Relations Act, and do not comply with the initial requirements to be ‘employees’ in order to benefit from relief funding.

A number of organisations has emerged within the theatre and dance sector during the pandemic as a response to its devastating impact on the sector. These include Tribuo, an artists’ relief agency, the Theatre Collective, House of Crew, STAND Foundation and the Theatre and Dance Employers Association of South Africa. 

Notwithstanding this, various issues have been taken up in silos or by adhoc groupings of individuals so that the need for an umbrella body that co-ordinates efforts more effectively and that represents and acts on behalf of these two disciplines, has become increasingly evident.

Against this background, the Interim Steering Committee adopted a six-week time framework formally to launch the Theatre and Dance Alliance by the end of March.

“I am excited by the constructiveness and collaborative energy of the participants in the Interim Steering Committee” said playwright and performance poet, Malika Ndlovu, who chaired the inaugural meeting.  “I believe that the upheaval of these times makes perfect soil for this Theatre and Dance Alliance to take root. We can and must be critical of leadership but the manifesting of the ground up and inclusive changes we want to see, depends just as much on us, on our coming together.

Attendees at the ISC meeting were representatives of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) Jack Devnarain, Adrian Galley, Carlynn de Waal-Smit, Ashley Dowds and Londiwe Shange; ASSITEJ SA representatives Faye Kabali-Kagwa and Yusrah Bardien; Lara Foot of the Theatre and Dance Employers Association of South Africa; Lizani Smith representing House of Crew; Cornelia Faasen of the National Afrikaans Theatre Initiative; the Centre for Creative Arts’ Ismail Mahomed; Saartjie Botha, Director of the Toyota US Woordfees, and individual practitioners Calvin Ratladi, Jaco van Rensburg, Malika Ndlovu and Lesego van Niekerk as well as Mike van Graan of STAND Foundation which will provide secretariat services to the Interim Steering Committee.

How members of the theatre and dance community can get involved:

A draft constitution has been tabled and will be finalized by the Interim Steering Committee within the next two weeks, before being presented to members for adoption. 

All membership-based organisations, NGOs, companies, educational institutions, creatives and technicians as well as others who make their livelihoods within the dance and theatre sector are invited to apply for membership of the Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA). Members need to agree to the Vision, Aims and Principles of TADA as outlined in its draft constitution.

Once a critical mass of members has been reached, the constitution will be adopted and a National Steering Committee will be elected by the members immediately to get to work on behalf of the theatre and dance community.

To sign up as members, click on

Members who were unable to attend the first meeting were Mxolisi Masilela and Mpho Molepo of the Community Arts Practitioners Network and Gregory Maqoma of STAND Foundation. The Interim Steering Committee will be extended to include other important constituencies.

Tribuo is a private fund, created by a group of vested parties, to support freelance workers in the performing arts who have lost their source of income during the Covid-19 lockdown and post-lockdown phases. For more information visit

The Theatre Collective is a grouping of concerned sector representatives who addressed the NCOP Select Committee on Sports, Art and Culture on October 20, 2020, made up of Petronel Baard (Founder: TEO Theatre Development for Café Theatres), Lara Foot (CEO and artistic director, Baxter Theatre), Daniel Galloway (former Managing Director of the Fugard Theatre), Yvette Hardie (Director, ASSITEJ South Africa), Karabo Kgokong (Chairperson, Im4TheArts), Ismail Mahomed (Director, Centre for the Creative Arts), Gregory Maqoma (Founder and Executive Director, Vuyani Dance Theatre), Mpho J. Molepo (Theatre Administrator working in Community Theatre), Mike van Graan (Playwright and Cultural Activist), Jaco van Rensburg (Executive Producer, VR Theatrical) and Lizani Smith (Director of House of Crew/Lobbyist/Public Affairs).



House of Crew unites, promotes and defends the rights of all freelancers and behind-the-scenes workers in Tourism and Travel, Events, Arts and Culture. See


The Sustaining Theatre and Dance (STAND) Foundation is an independent, non-profit and public benefit entity created by individuals within the sector to nurture, promote and celebrate contemporary South African dance and theatre. See


The Theatre and Dance Employers Association of South Africa (TDEASA) was initiated in July 2020 as a response to the adverse impact of the pandemic on the dance and theatre sector. One of the immediate objectives of the TDEASA is to form a unified national association of employers of dance and theatre practitioners (festivals, theatres, NPOs, independent producers, etc) outside of the state sector to speak with a coherent and organised voice. More information may be obtained from Lara Foot, Director of the Baxter Theatre Centre.


For more information, contact Malika Ndlovu 0741867931 or


NB: A series of theatre and dance dialogues will be taking place in Stellenbosch this weekend (February 20 & 21), and which may be accessed remotely should you be unable to attend in person. Follow this link :