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South Africa's Dance Umbrella.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's Vita Dance Umbrella, a choreographic festival that features a plethora of dance forms and styles, was scheduled to celebrate its sixth anniversary with performances, March 2-12, at Wits Theatre on the University of Witwatersrand campus in downtown Johannesburg. The 1994 Dance Umbrella, under the new sponsorship of First National Bank, was slated to present one hundred and twelve works by ninety-six choreographers, with four evening programs and two "Fringe" Sundays.

This eclectic, multicultural festival was founded by Marilyn Jenkins and Adrienne Sichel, two theater journalists aware of the enormous practical difficulties that both seasoned and emergent choreographers in Johannesburg and Soweto must overcome in order to stage their work. Their concept, considered daring in apartheid-riven South Africa, was courageously backed by Phillip Stein, director of the Vita Arts Awards.

The Vita Dance Umbrella, which presents original work, continues to reflect a cross-section of South Africa's developing concert-dance scene. On a single evening an audience can experience ritualistic traditional African dance, dance-theater, pantsula (township) jive, Afro and other fusions, Western-influenced modern dance, ballet, and gumboots (a stamping dance of Bhaca mineworkers wearing industrial rubber galoshes). Participants, who range from professional choreographers and dancers to grass-roots community groups, share the box-office profits, which increase every year.

Last year the Dance Umbrella acquired added vitality with the sensational South African debut of the new Tumbuka Dance Company from Zimbabwe, led by Neville Campbell, the former artistic director of Phoenix Dance Company in Britain. At press time Tumbuka Dance Company was due to return to the Umbrella with a Campbell premiere.

This year geographic and socio-political barriers were set to fall again with the appearance of Mario Cardoso's Company Dance Project, based in Maputo, Mozambique, performing Mphula - Psalm of Water. Since Mozambique's independence in the 1970s, its relations with South Africa have been very strained, though recent political changes have led to a more cordial relationship.

Among the companies who signed up for Umbrella |94 were Jazzart Dance Theatre; the Southern Women and Motion in Progress collectives from Cape Town; Napac Dance Company from Durban, Natal; First Physical Theatre Company from Grahamstown, Eastern Cape Province; the Bop Dance Company from the "homeland" of Bophuthatswana; Johannesburg's Moving into Dance Company; and Pretoria's prestigious Technikon Dance Department and the experimental TOM (Theatre of Mind) company.
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Title Annotation:choreographic dance festival, South Africa Vita Dance Umbrella
Author:Sichel, Adrienne
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:382
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