HOT off the heels of a sell-out world premier and five week tour of Germany, Romeo & Juliet: REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG will have its South African premier next month and is set to take the stage by storm when it opens Dance Umbrella 2016 on February 25 at the UJ Arts Centre Theatre, Kingsway Campus.
The full production will be staged in South Africa and the cutting-edge contemporary dance piece – choreographed to challenge perceptions about what it means to be young, African and kind-of free in Johannesburg – is set to shift the dance scales.
Performed by eight dancers from Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM), it is a bold and provocative re-telling of Shakespeare’s story, Romeo & Juliet, set to the backdrop of a transforming street subculture in Johannesburg. MIDM’s award-winning Sunnyboy Motau collaborated with Nupen as choreographic assistant on the production.
This exhilarating contemporary dance-theatre piece taps into the unique spirit of the city and its changing cultural landscape by experimenting with dance forms such as skhothane pantsula, train surfing and sbujwa fused with contemporary dance.
The production also pulls together some of South Africa’s top talent, who collaborated to bring the production to life, including, Spoek Mathambo, who created the original score, Anmari Honiball who designed the kaleidoscopic wardrobe, and photography and video artist Ed Blignaut.
Nupen pulled together the creatives to put into practice what the production preaches, by involving Johannesburg-based youth in the co-creation of the dance piece.
“Every day rebellion is on our minds and in our footsteps. Young people, with every movement they make, conscious or unconscious, are challenging the status quo and vying for a space in a city that both welcomes and discards them,” said Nupen, who is originally from Johannesburg and has taken up permanent residence in Germany, but continues to regularly visit the home that inspires her work.
“Romeo & Juliet: REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG is about that journey; the tension between belonging and doing battle.”
The production is about revolution and the lack of freedom that persists because of economic exclusion.
“Spoek Mathambo coined the phrase ‘the apartheid after-party’, and the piece reflects this in its own rebellious nature of dance battles and dare-devil subculture born from the ‘lost generation’,” she added. “We’re rebelling against our times. It’s an endeavour to take some personal control.”
Moving into Dance’s chief executive, Nadia Virasamy, said the company was looking forward to the honour of opening the prestigious Dance Umbrella. “This privilege is a testament of the growth of our organisation and the commitment of our dancers who have put their hearts into this piece.
“REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG is an emotional piece for the dancers because, in essence, it is them. It’s about their social reality laid bare – but in collaborating with Jessica, they are also unlocking a new method for self-expression which is going to change African dance as we know it,” she said.
This world-class dance creation was recently named the best new discovery of 2015 by Amelie Deuflhard, the director of Kampnagel Centre of International Art in Hamburg, Germany.
Dance Umbrella 2016 is the 28th edition and includes five collaborations between South African and international choreographers, as well as works from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban based choreographers as well as young artists. It takes place at multiple sites across Johannesburg between February 25 and March 6, 2016.