Dance Umbrella, rather romantically, came into being on Valentine’s Day in 1989.
It began as the result of an idea of two respected arts journalists, Adrienne Sichel and Marilyn Jenkins, who felt that there needed to be a ‘platform’ for contemporary dance in the country. The idea was carefully put into motion by the respected businessman Philip Stein of Vita Promotions with the assistance of the Wits Theatre/Performing Arts Administration. It resulted in a short one-week long festival that had 15 local choreographers: Bernice Lloyd, Carly Dibakwane, Dina Erasmus, Eric Bouvron, Gerard Bester, Grayham Davies, Jeannette Ginslov, Jill Waterman, Kim Thackwray, Lisa Pridgeon, Micky Dube, Psalm Dlamini, Robyn Orlin, Tale Motsepe and Wendy Quarmby participating.
Now, 25 years on, Dance Umbrella has expanded enormously and has developed into one of the main platforms for new contemporary choreography and dance in Southern Africa.
Last year the Dance Umbrella festival became part of the annual Arts Alive International Festival 2013 which takes place in September. However as Dance Umbrella’s 25th birthday falls on February 14, Dance Forum will host a short, three-day anniversary season at the Wits Theatre from February 14 -16, 2013.
The 25th anniversary season will include a series of mixed bills which will feature both established and young choreographers and will serve as a peek in to the main Dance Umbrella @ Arts Alive International Festival 2013, from September 1-15, 2013.
Opening at the Wits Theatre on February 14 at 19:30, the first programme will include four works: Treasure to a Being by Sonia Radebe, created for Moving into Dance Mophatong; Beautiful Us by Gregory Maqoma, created for Vuyani Dance Theatre and two untitled works by Thabo Kobei and Carly Dibakwane (one of the original choreographers at the first Dance Umbrella in 1989).
On Friday, February 15 at 19:30, the programme includes: I Don’t, I can’t, I won’t, the result of the Rand Merchant Bank funded, 2012 DanceXchange professional development residency, held at the Garage studios in Okiep, under the guidance of Alfred Hinkel. The work was created by Byron Klassen, Olivia Daniels, Richie Cloete and Marquen Carstens, on the completion of an intensive two week process; an untitled work by Thabo Rapoo; the Tshwane University students work entitled Traffic, choreographed by Sidney Agnew; Jayesperi Moopen’s reworked Circles and Squares which was first presented at Dance Umbrella in 1991 and Nthabiseng Segoe’s work, Engagement of Love (H2O), which is the result of the Dance Xchange programme in Orange Farm, funded by Rand Merchant Bank.
Also on February 15 at 21:00 in the Wits Theatre foyer, is a work choreographed and performed by Athena Mazarakis, Standing By, which weaves together a series of vignettes that delve into the loaded issue of gender-based violence in the South African context with a specific focus on the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians. Standing By first emerged as a short work originally commissioned by Rhodes University’s in 2011. It was then developed into a full-length, site-specific work in residency at GoetheonMain in 2012, with the generous support of the Goethe-Institut South Africa. Now Mazarakis has reworked Standing By into a theatrical context for Dance Umbrella’s 25th Anniversary season.
The programme on Saturday, February 16 starts at 18:00 with Ntsoana Dance Theatre’s Displacement Powerlines, conceptualised and performed by Humphrey Maleka and Brian Mtembu and directed by Sello Pesa. The 30-minute long work explores how technology has encroached on society and has led to the alteration of traditional games and social interaction and the emergence of new social rituals (such as Shoefiti) and examines the thin line between the perceived reality and the need for social contact and acceptance.
The second part of the programme starts at 19:30 with So Close To Life, choreographed by Charlston van Rooyen from Forgotten Angle Dance Theatre, in collaboration with Thulani Chauke – “…often in life we find it hard to be happy, because we always see the past better than it was the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be”; two works - Don Quixote and Amakhonokhono, presented by South African Mzansi Ballet and the classic piece Me & You, created by Christopher Kindo, which will be performed by the K-Mad Dance Company. This innovative and brilliant piece of choreography first premiered at Dance Umbrella in 1993 and has since been performed regularly by companies all over South Africa. The final work in the programme is Between Us, choreographed by Forgotten Angle Dance Theatre’s Fana Tshabalala, recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artists Award for Dance 2013, who proves again that he is an interesting dance creator to watch. “Space and distance never determines our relationships or our conversations; it is the senses that define what we share in our relationships and this work reflects on friendship and love”.
Dance Umbrella, the birthday celebration, is at the Wits Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg for a very limited season: Five programmes only – Thursday 14 February at 19:30 and Friday 15 February at 19:30 and 21:00 and Saturday 16 February at 18:00 and 19:30.
Tickets are R80 (book for all five programmes and pay only R40 per performance). Students / Pensioners / Friends of Dance and group bookings of 10 or more are R40. To reserve tickets please call Karlen at 011 492 2033.