The annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in the College of Humanities will celebrate its 20th edition under the theme “Legacy”, from 28 August to 9 September 2018 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, with special performances at the Open Air Theatre and the Durban Art Gallery.

This landmark edition celebrates 20 years of bringing Durban the world through contemporary dance and nurturing and supporting the development of contemporary dance through open workshops, grants and the creation of platforms for dance-makers to showcase their work.

This year’s JOMBA! sees dance companies and choreographers making their way from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Spain, Switzerland, India, USA and Madagascar to join Durban companies in a programme of innovative dance theatre work that promises to provoke, entertain, delight and challenge. This 2018 “Legacy” edition of JOMBA! also has a strong focus on “Durban Dances” and offers unprecedented spaces for the evolution of eThekwini’s dance community.

The JOMBA! opening night features Johannesburg-based Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) which is celebrating its own milestone, a 40th anniversary this year. ‘As they performed in the very first edition of JOMBA! in 1998, we felt it only fitting to honour them,’ says UKZN Performing Arts lecturer and Artistic Director of JOMBA! Ms Lliane Loots.

MIDM will perform two new works: Sunnyboy Motau’s Man Longing, a brooding yet beautiful work that uses dance and poetry to explore the sinister world of human trafficking, and guest artist, Khutjo Green’s collaboration with MIDM women dancers, The women who fell from the moon, is inspired by Nina Simone’s song Four Women, a searing exploration of the collective power of women.

The acclaimed Indian dancer and choreographer, Anita Ratnam, will present her iconic and award winning work A Million Sitas. Heralded as one of the forerunners of Indian contemporary dance, Ratnam’s performance weaves the many disciplines of dance, theatre, ritual, archaeology and women’s issues. A Million Sitas is a re-telling of the classic Ramayana using every weapon in her creative dance arsenal – voice, movement, song, dance, and storytelling – to illuminate the character of Sita.

Highlights of the festival include Malagasy Gaby Saranouffi partnering with South Africa’s Moeketsi Koena in a riveting duet CORPS/BODY; Malagasy Haja Saranouffi presenting a duet called Danse Des Bouteilles; Spain’s Aïda Colmenero Dïaz presenting her solo AKA NATIVA and Swiss choreographer and dancer Ioannis Mandafounis performing his latest duet ONE-ONE-ONE.

As part of this year’s “Legacy” theme and “Durban Dances” focus, grants, commissions and various spaces for the ongoing evolution of eThekwini’s dance were given to local dance-makers. The 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) for Dance, Durban’s own Musa Hlatshwayo, will present, UDODANA, which premiered to standing ovations at the National Arts Festival. This powerful work explores the Black male body, challenging both traditional and religious systems.

JOMBA! also presents a unique collaboration between Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company and Cape Town’s Unmute Dance Company. A double bill kicks off with Yaseen Manuel’s provocative ASLAMA and then journeys into his own identity as a Muslim South African dancer.

The second work is a collaboration between choreographers Lliane Loots and Andile Vellum and titled The Longitude of Silence, which has been created over only 14 rehearsals in 14 days. The performance begins to question how people map identity through shared sound and asks what happens in the chasm of silence.

JOMBA! 2018 grants were awarded to three young professional local dance-makers to premier new work on the especially focused JOMBA! ON THE EDGE platform. JC Zondi, the 2017 winner of the JOMBA! Pick of the Fringe award, will open this platform with Classi_filed; the gutsy Kristi-Leigh Gresse will offer her newest creations Blank; and Tshediso Kabulu, sharing this grant with fellow dancer Thami Majela, will present a joint creation called IMVELO.

JOMBA! hosts its first major partnership with the Durban Art Gallery on Friday 7 September. Titled JOMBA!@ DAG, this free event sees the DAG spaces offer an alternate kind of challenge to dance-makers and for those intrepid artists who work outside of the traditions of the proscenium arch. Coinciding with the DAG Women’s Month exhibition titled SHE, this JOMBA! event has offered grants to three local female dance makers Lorin Sookool, Jabu Siphika and Zinhle Nzama to premier new work.

Usual festival favourites will include the Fringe and Youth Fringe as well as a full programme of workshops and master classes by all of the participating dancers and choreographers.

For the full festival programme and listing of workshops go to www.cca.ukzn.ac.za and click on the JOMBA! page. All workshops and classes are offered free of charge (dancers over 16 years only) but booking is essential.

Most performances take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 19h30 (9 September at 14h30) with the youth fringe at the Open air Theatre UKZN on 2 September at 14h00 and Durban Art Gallery on 7 September at 18h00.

Tickets at the Sneddon Theatre are R80 or R60 (for scholars/students/pensioners/block booking of 10 or more). Booking to be done through Computicket (or at venue from one hour before). The Durban Art Gallery and Open Air Theatre are free events.

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Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Suzy Bernstein, Robin Elam-Rye, Herman Verwey