With more than half the FNB Dance Umbrella’s programmes having been presented, it is now fair to comment about the festival as a whole, rather than merely considering the individual programmes.
The Dance Umbrella is an exciting platform for artistic and cultural expression. It is one of the few truly multiracial cultural art-forms we have in South Africa with both the dancers and the audiences comprising people from every aspect of our diverse nation.
The standard of choreography, dancing and presentation of the productions has been extremely high throughout the festival. While I have not seen the works in the Stepping Stones Programme, the eight programmes I have been privileged to view from the Main Programme have been wonderful.
Audiences have been blessed by both South African and international productions and our local works are of the same high quality as the works from further afield, both in terms of artistic expression and in quality of the total production. I think both our local artists and the visiting ones are learning from one another.
It is a pity that many of the touring companies cannot afford to stay longer than the festival’s duration because this exchange of ideas is one of the joys of an event of this nature. It is good to learn about plans for touring companies to return next year with fresh works; it is an indication that they recognise the value of the FNB Dance Umbrella for their own development.
There have been some very beautiful bodies and some extraordinary ones, especially in the two dance works which have focused on disabled dancers. There have been some heavy themes which make demands on the audience and others which have been less challenging and more entertaining. Each type of programme brings its own rewards and pleasures.
A selection of the programmes has been well attended, and indeed some performances have been over subscribed, while others have lacked audiences. Sunday evening is historically not a good time for theatre and this shows in attendance figures.
The administrative skill with which the FNB Dance Umbrella is put together is amazing. Even just the programming is a mammoth task, but everything has run very smoothly, at least to the outside eye.
Bear in mind that there are multiple venues, each with its own staff complement and attendant foibles and even more than one programme on an evening, with each of the twenty five programmes being repeated. An administrative challenge indeed and it is not surprising that Manager Georgina Thompson has, in the past, won an Arts and Culture Trust award for Arts Administration.
The FNB Dance Umbrella 2007 offers 16 programmes – presented at numerous venues across Johannesburg – that include new commissioned works, as well as platforms featuring new works that are representative of the diversity and creativity in contemporary dance in South Africa. The festival ends on Sunday 17 March.