The Dance Umbrella is celebrating 29 years and this year’s focus is about the ‘young’, featuring mostly up and coming choreographers who have been challenged by the mainstream and are generating interest on all levels.

The Dance Umbrella has established itself as the main “stepping stone” for many South African choreographers who now work internationally. This includes people like Vincent Mantsoe, Robyn Orlin, Boyzie Cekwana and Gregory Maqoma.

I spoke to Georgina Thomson, the Artistic Director of the Dance Umbrella about this year’s programme.

What do you continue to look for in pieces/ choreographers when selecting the works for


the Dance Umbrella programmes every year?


“I don’t look for anything specific but I do look for different and innovative. As I watch a lot of work, I’m inclined to follow a choreographers creative process and then decide from there. Often it’s just taking a chance!”

What is different in this year’s programme from previous years?


“Each year we present new contemporary choreography and dance plus performance art which is what we have done again this year within our limited funding. The focus this year was giving a platform mainly for young artists.”

Which pieces are you looking forward to – without showing favouritism?


“I’m looking forward Mamela Nyamza’s De-Apart-Hate, Fana Tshabalala’s In the Heart of the Country, Songezo Mcilizeli with Perspective, Rudi van der Merwe with Trophée and the Young Artists programmes. I’m sure I’ll be surprised by others..”

DU2017_Programme1Advice for dancers and choreographers in general?


“Keep dancing!!”

Why has the Dance Umbrella been such an incredible platform for dancers and choreographers?


“I think it’s because we have tried to keep up with what is trendy. We shifted the festival according to what artists wanted and so in a way have evolved with them. We also try to be open to new work that other platforms may not be inclined to programme.”

Why bring in international choreographers, why not just keep it South African?


“Initially the Dance Umbrella was only for South Africans, but when the new South Africa came into being, we were suddenly considered an international platform garnering interest from companies from other countries. I think it’s important to show international work both for the local artists to experience this and audiences to see what is out there. Doing this has also created linkages between local and international artists as many went on to collaborate after seeing each other’s work.”


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The Dance Umbrella 2017 is funded by the department of Arts and Culture and the Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, in partnership with the National Arts Council of South Africa, Institut Francais d’Afrique du Sud, the Goethe Institut, and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.