Celebrating 30 years in new partnership with Drama for Life

A COLLABORATION with Drama for Life has injected a new energy into the annual Dance Umbrella festival.

Dance Umbrella is celebrating 30 years of showcasing South African contemporary choreography and dance. This year it is presenting an Arts in Conversation series with Drama for Life, which offers face-to-face discussions and master classes.

These classes provide a unique education and training opportunity for students and the public to interact with practitioners, academics and researchers in the fields of dance and drama.

While the festival has always offered similar workshops, people have not been drawn to attend in previous years. This year, however, the classes are fully booked due to the success of this partnership.

The festival started on Tuesday, March 6, and will be running until Monday, March 18. It will exhibit 18 dance performances featuring local and international choreographers at various theatres and venues in Johannesburg, including the Wits Theatre Complex.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Manager at Drama for Life, Caryn Green, told Wits Vuvuzela that many conversations are taking place around the role and position of the arts in society. The partnership between Dance Umbrella and Drama for Life, “intends to document and publish these conversations and engagements and promote further exchange between sectors”, said Green.

According to the director of Dance Umbrella, Georgina Thomson, the festival has “evolved hugely” since first starting out with 16 people, but it has always remained “an open, free platform for contemporary dance”, she said.

The festival’s biggest milestone has been “giving that space for choreographers to come and play”, said Thomson. Many of the artists that have been involved with Dance Umbrella have been promoted locally and globally and have launched international careers.

Julia Burnaham, creator and choreographer of Matlou which features in the festival’s New Dance Programme on Sunday, March 11, has been involved with Dance Umbrella for a few years. Speaking from personal experience, she said “Dance Umbrella is providing the platform for young dancers to evolve into choreographers. It has supplied the platform for me to showcase my work.”