Jomba Dance Festival creates a legacy

The annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, celebrates its 20th edition with the theme ‘Legacy’, from 28 August to 9 September 2018 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, with special performances at the Open Air Theatre and the Durban Art Gallery.

This landmark edition celebrates 20 years of bringing Durban the world through contemporary dance and nurturing and supporting the development of contemporary dance through open workshops, grants and the creation of platforms for dance-makers to showcase their work.

This year’s JOMBA! sees dance companies and choreographers making their way from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Spain, Switzerland, India, USA and Madagascar to join Durban companies in a programme of innovative dance theatre work that promises to provoke, entertain, delight and challenge. This 2018 ‘Legacy’ edition of JOMBA! also has a strong focus on ‘Durban Dances’ and offers unprecedented spaces for the evolution of eThekwini’s dance community.

The JOMBA! opening features Johannesburg-based Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) which is celebrating its own 40th anniversary this year. “As they performed in the very first edition of JOMBA! in 1998, we felt it only fitting to honour them,” says Artistic Director of JOMBA! Lliane Loots. MIDM will perform two new works: Sunnyboy Motau’s “Man Longing”, a brooding yet beautiful work that uses dance and poetry to explore the sinister world of human trafficking, and guest artist, Khutjo Green’s collaboration with MIDM women dancers. “The women who fell from the moon” inspired by the Nina Simone’s song ‘Four Women’, a searing exploration of the collective power of woman.

The acclaimed Indian dancer and choreographer Anita Ratnam presents her iconic and award winning work “A Million Sitas. Heralded as one of the forerunners of Indian contemporary dance, Ratnam’s performance weaves the many disciplines of dance, theatre, ritual, archaeology and women’s issues. “A Million Sitas” is a re-telling of the classic Ramayana, using every weapon in her creative dance arsenal – voice, movement, song, dance, and storytelling – to illuminate the character of Sita.

Two dance-makers from Madagascar feature this year: Malagasy Gaby Saranouffi partners with South Africa’s Moeketsi Koena in a riveting duet “CORPS/BODY” a collaboration between four artists from France, South Africa, Madagascar and Mozambique that explores embodied links between the real and unreal through photography, music and dance. And Malagasy Haja Saranouffi presents a duet called “Danse Des Bouteilles” based on a dual between myth and reality and in which the ‘art of bottles’ interrogates how we place value on a person in society.

Spain’s Aïda Colmenero Dïaz presents her solo “AKA NATIVA”; a quirky and beautiful work using voice and body that is a manifesto for life and the living. Dïaz has a strong and long relationship with many African dancers, which led to her astounding short-film project called “SHE POEMS” of solo dance performed by creative African women that Dïaz has encountered in her travels on the African continent and are inspired by poems written by women. Some of the these will be screened at JOMBA! @ DAG.

Swiss choreographer and dancer Ioannis Mandafounis, once again shares his unique vison of challenging audience/dancer relationships. His latest duet “ONE-ONE-ONE” offers the simple staging of two parallel lines on the floor and two chairs, one on each line. The dancers invade the public space and invite the audience into an unexpected experience providing a witty and challenging dance work.

As part of this year’s “Legacy” theme and “Durban Dances” focus, grants, commissions and various spaces for the ongoing evolution of eThekwini’s dance were given to local dance-makers. 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) for Dance, Durban’s own Musa Hlatshwayo presents, “UDODANA”, which premiered at the National Arts Festival playing to standing ovations. This powerful work explores the black male body, challenging both traditional and religious systems that continue to dehumanise men into a state “where black masculinities are forever changing for the worst while patriarchy continues to reign supreme”.

JOMBA! presents an unique collaboration between Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company and Cape Town’s Unmute Dance Company. Both dance companies have a reputation for working in spaces that challenge access and inclusivity in South African dance and this meeting is sure to be explosive. A double bill kicks off with Yaseen Manuel’s provocative “ASLAMA” and the journeys into his own identity as a Muslim South African dancer. “ASLAMA” takes its inspiration from the struggles of the Syrian people. In a context of on-going war and violence, Manuel – and the dances from Unmute and Flatfoot – wonder where personal faith comes into our making of dance. The second work, a collaboration between choreographers Lliane Loots and Andile Vellum is titled “The Longitude of Silence”, which has been created over only 14 rehearsals in 14 days. “The Longitude of Silence” begins to question how we map identity through shared sound and ask what happens in the chasm of silence.

JOMBA! 2018 grants were awarded to three young professional local dance-makers to premier new work on the especially focused JOMBA! ON THE EDGE platform. JC Zondi, the 2017 winner of the ‘JOMBA! Pick of the Fringe’ award, opens this platform with “Classi_filed”, the gutsy Kristi-Leigh Gresse offers her newest creations “Blank” and Tshediso Kabulu, sharing this grant with fellow dancer Thami Majela, presents a joint creation called “IMVELO”.

JOMBA! hosts its first major partnership with the Durban Art Gallery on Friday 7 September. Titled ‘JOMBA!@ DAG’, this free event sees the DAG spaces offer an alternate kind of challenge to dance-makers and for those intrepid artists who work outside of the traditions of the proscenium arch. Coinciding with the DAG Women’s Month exhibition titled “SHE”, this JOMBA! event has offered grants to three local female dance makers to premier new work. Lorin Sookool, Jabu Siphika and Zinhle Nzama.

Usual festival favourites will include the Fringe and youth fringe as well as a full programme of workshops and master classes by all of the participating dancers and choreographers. For the full festival programme and listing of workshops go to www.cca.ukzn.ac.za and click on the JOMBA! page. All workshops and classes are offered free of charge (dancer over 16yrs only) but booking is essential.

Most performances take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 7.30pm (9 September @ 2.30pm) with the youth fringe at the Open air Theatre UKZN on 2 September at 2pm and Durban Art Gallery 7 September at 6pm. Tickets at the Sneddon Theatre are R80 or R60 (scholars/students/pensioners/block booking of 10 or more). Booking through Computicket (or at venue from one hour before). Durban Art Gallery and Open Air Theatre are free events.

Like on Facebook (JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience) and follow on Twitter (Twitter@Jomba_dance).

The 20th JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience is under the artistic direction and curatorship of Lliane Loots and is organised and hosted and run by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), and is supported primarily by the eThekwini Municipality.

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