Curious, furious dance fest

Bringing together different aesthetics, contexts and languages, the dance programme at this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF) interrogates and celebrates questions of identity, culture, spirituality and sensuality.

From new works by well-known choreographers and dancers to reinterpretations of classic works, this year’s programme represents a “curious, furious and poetic game of different aesthetics, contexts and languages, oscillating between perception and attribution, between history and that which is current and urgent,” the artistic committee’s dance panel convener Gregory Vuyani Maqoma said.

The NAF will be held from June 29 to July 9 in Grahamstown. The core programme has been collaboratively produced by executive producer Ashraf Johaardien and the 20-member artistic committee with Maqoma, dance lecturer Lliane Loots and arts writer Tracey Saunders on the dance sub-committee.

“Social orders are at the core of the main dance programme,” Maqoma said of the line-up. At the top of the bill is 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Thandazile Radebe, who explores her fascination with the idea that, as human beings, we are required to have names. In Sabela she excavates the tensions between names and numbers, bodies and biometrics, space and passwords.

Vincent Mantsoe’s solo work KonKoriti has been described by dance critic Adrienne Sichel as “cathartic, deeply poetic and uncannily intuitive”.

Named after a song about pride and arrogance that his grandmother used to sing to him, KonKoriti explores physical power and selfishness. A former Standard Bank Young Artist, Mantsoe now lives in France. KonKoriti toured France and Germany last year to sold-out houses and critical acclaim.

In a powerful collaboration created through a residency at Dance Space in Johannesburg, Unmute Dance Company (Cape Town) and Tumbuka Dance Company (Harare), have united to present Breaking Borders.

Moved by the acts of xenophobia in South Africa, the artists have been working together with the intention of breaking the borders between their countries to connect and look to the future together.

Dada Masilo’s Giselle will make its South African debut in Grahamstown, thanks to a partnership between the University of Johannesburg and NAF.

Masilo, another former Standard Bank Young Artist, says she has aimed “to create a work that is not about forgiveness, but about deceit, betrayal, anger and heartbreak”.

Another interesting take on a classic is Mark Hawkins’s delightful re-imagining of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in celebration of the Johannesburg Youth Ballet’s 40th anniversary.

Set to Mendelssohn’s score, the ballet moves from the contemporary world of taxis, car guards and unemployed actors, to a fantasy world of psychedelic neon-coloured fairies dancing through bubble-wrap forests.

The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative presents With Nothing but Silence They Turned Their Bodies to Face the Noise.

This “dance-theatre” piece, choreographed by former Standard Bank Young Artists PJ Sabbagha and Fana Tshabalala, brings into focus the ever-present realities of environmental degradation and climate change.

The Oakfields College Faculty of Dance and Musical Theatre returns to Grahamstown with an exciting programme of contemporary dance works. 4 is an experimental platform for acclaimed choreographers Ignatius van Heerden, Gladys Agulhas, Bailey Snyman and Sunnyboy Motau to collaborate with Oakfields College dance students, using Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as the point of departure.

The Main and Arena dance programmes will be complemented by an exciting and edgy Fringe programme of works from South Africa and beyond.

ý Box office bookings open on May 9, but limited tickets for some productions are available for early booking at

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