Background of the Dance Umbrella Festival

It had its beginnings in 1989 when two journalists, Marilyn Jenklns and Adrienne Sichel, both with a passionate interest in contemporary choreography and dance, approached the major business-arts partnership at the time, the Vita Awards, requesting they initiate a contemporary dance festival in South Africa.

Under the aegis of AA Life, Vita Promotions, under the directorship of Philip Stein, launched the Vita Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg in 1989. There was no sponsor for the first festival and only about eight choreographers took part. An award for contemporary choreography was included for the Most Outstanding Performance by Male and Female dancers.

The Festival today features new works from South African and/or African choreographers, international artists and young up-and-coming artists. Dance Umbrella has become the platform for new South African work; it is the main programme which both artists and programmers consider the place to show and see work.

This annual festival now includes new commissioned work by South African companies/choreographers; invited international companies; young artists and a Fringe programme; a series of workshops/master classes; discussions and debates regarding the dance industry; Face to Face talks with selected artists.

2010 marked the 22rd anniversary of Dance Umbrella Festival - 22 years of development that has resulted in it being acknowledged as the premier international contemporary dance festival in Africa. 2010 also marked the final year of FNB sponsorship.

Now in 2011, the 23rd anniversary of Dance Umbrella, it remains under the artistic directorship of Georgina Thomson and is forging ahead with renewed vigour and new sponsorship. It remains the biggest contemporary dance platform in Southern Africa.

“Dynamic Dance Showcase: The FNB Dance Umbrella -  a showcase of southern African and International dance and choreography - is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most important festivals, offering an opportunity to explore and develop all emergent dance forms” …Style

“Dance Umbrella: Jumble of recycled aesthetics mixed with dance makers: What do you get when a South African musician, a Botswana visual artist and a Zimbabwean choreographer cross paths? A uniquely Southern African collaboration that puts politicians in the region to shame!” …Star Tonight

Georgina Thomson - Artistic Director, Dance Umbrella 2011

Georgina_ThomsonThis dynamic Arts practitioner has over the past 30 years, played and continues to play, a significant role in the development of Contemporary Dance in the South Africa.

She took over the management and administration of the Dance Umbrella Festival in 1997 and has successfully developed it from a local Gauteng-based festival to one that is now nationally and internationally known. She built up a strong audience-base with support and interest in South African and International Contemporary Dance. She instituted the Young Choreographers’ Residency programme and has developed an aesthetic, an ethos and a platform for young artists.

In 2008 she promoted South African and International artist collaborations, some of which resulted in tours of Europe:  PJ Sabbagha ‘s Back choreographed with dancers Dada Masilo and Lulu Mlangeni / Russia; acclaimed choreographer Robyn Orlin’s Dressed to Kill, Killed to Dress / Brussels  and France and the German choreographer Gerda Koenig’s White Lines / Germany.

A woman of many achievements: this two time Arts & Culture Trust winner (Arts Administration/ 2001 and  Arts Management /2007)  has served on the National Arts Council’s  Dance Committee (1999-2002); received, as FNB Dance Umbrella  Artistic Director, invitations to numerous festivals and conferences. In 2010 she was awarded the prestigious Tunkie Award.

A long-term aim was the opening up and establishment of a Dance development space. This dream became a reality in 2009 with the opening The Dance Space in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Georgina Thomson remains an influential key player in the Contemporary Dance world of South Africa.