A Journey to Johannesburg and Addis Ababa/ Chapter V: Katlehong Township/Dance, an Overview of Dance so Far and Some More Dance

Melville shop window last night

Days Four, Five, Six (Not counting two days of travel).

Africa Consortium bunch

It is Thursday, October 4th now. According to CNN and Huff Post presidential debate did not go particularly well for our team. Well, damn. But it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood—of Melville. And the festival goes on.

My favorite Melville spot

A perfect South African spring morning. If I were younger I would live in this country for awhile…but I am not…so just happy that I have gotten to know something about a small part of this big amazing place over the past few years. In a while I will go to Rosebank Mall to see if I can find some of the contemporary wooden figures to join their friends on my window ledges in Albuquerque. Maybe some lunch and then an evening in Soweto at more performances.

In the township, Hafiz & me

Even though these particular blogs are partially festival reports, they must also serve as notes on my personal journeys.

I know this is my next to last scouting trip. My presenting life is happily drawing to its close. I say happily because, while my movement toward this conclusion has been slow…it has been steady and at my own pace. Coming here to Danse l’Afrique danse has given me a chance to see—and in some cases say goodbye [mentally at least]—to  old friends. And to know which work I want to bring to Albuquerque for the grand finale of Global DanceFest/Journeys.

I will go to ICE HOT in Helsinki in December to see and invite some Scandinavian artists to be in Albuquerque for the final bow to my dual heritage—Norwegian/contemporary dance presenter—in 2013 or 2014 and THEN I write write write and get to the last 95 countries on my list.

ENOUGH ABOUT ME. Now to cover Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Topically.

THE TOWNSHIP. Danse l’Afrique danse began with Via Katlehong Dance from the very large and very poor township of Katlehong—which is where Monday began for several of the fortunate among us. The company issued an invitation to join them at home in the township where their base of operation and practice is a company member’s house.

It was a morning to be remembered. First for getting to spend time in a township new to most of us, but especially because these dancers are quite simply strong and beautiful—characteristics represented perfectly in their dances.

Townships are sort of suburbs and sort of ghettos and sort of neighborhoods and sort of separate towns.

Actually townships are all of the above.


First there’s Faustin Linyekula (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Taoufiq Izeddiou (Morocco) to write about—with pleasure.

Boyzie, Faustin, Panaibra, Virginie

Faustin’s Le Cargo is moving, exquisite, small, pay-attention work. This dancer/choreographer is also storyteller, singer, family man and Congolese—and we get them all in this one carefully framed quiet story-dance. Faustin shares a tale of returning to the village in which he lived as a small child. He sings with an unexpectedly beautiful voice and dances—but only a little. It really is a story in the old-fashioned full-of-words sense. I do have a slight complaint. I wanted so very much for the story to continue rather than repeat as it does. My small issue with a beautiful work.

Taoufiq’s Aleef is the opposite of quiet and exquisite. Aleef is loud, really loud, and furious and confrontive. No way to get away from Fela’s music and Taoufiq’s falls and turns and yells and black and lights and red. The third time I have seen this piece and each time I am as engrossed in its sound and fury as the first time.

I must talk a little about Andreya Ouamba’s Suer Des Ombres and Radhouane El Meddeb’s Ce Que Nous Sommes because these two are among my favorite artists.


They are very different but what they have in common is choreographic intelligence, imagination and talent. I didn’t mention their pieces earlier because they are both hard for me wrap my thoughts and impressions around.


My favorite choreographers appeal to me for different reasons, all personal of course. Don’t we all see different aspects of ourselves reflected in the art about which we care the most? There is emotion and spectacle; beautiful dancing and brave dancing and tough dancing; stories get told one way or the other—usually. With both Andreya and Radhouane I do appreciate both the power and the subtlety of images and actions but what I feel the most is intelligence, design, aforethought. That even though the topic may be very hot as in Suer Des Ombres, the thought process behind it cool and smart.  Even I am having a hard time figuring out what I mean by what I just said—still it feels right when I reread it so guess it stays in the blog. I would like to see both of these pieces again in a perfect space when I am very rested and can talk to the artists immediately before and after. Yeah right…like that kind of opportunity comes around often!

I have only described the performances so far that I have responded to most strongly.

There are others from the previous days I must mention because, while they may not have struck me as personally or directly they are important in this world where contemporary dance is a hard road to follow in terms of understanding, encouragement and support.

Lucky Kele (South Africa) with Point 1,2,3 and Delavallet Bidiefono (Congo) with Ou Vers? were on Friday’s bill; Fanny Roselyne Mabondzo Ngamba (Congo) and Hier D’Aujourd’Hui on Saturday; and Gladys Tchuimo (Cameroon) and Voler De Ses Propres Ailes, Julie Iarisoa (Madagascar) and Yellow, and Mamela Nyamza (South Africa) and Shift (wanted very much to see Mamela but could not because of the site/location of the performance) on Monday.

Vincent and Laura from Bates Dance Festival

Skipped Tuesday and saw Vincent Mantsoe’s Skwatta (talked about Vincent a few blogs ago as he just performed this and other pieces at our N4th Theater in Albuquerque), P.A.R.T.S (artists from Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s school/originally from Tunisia, Morocco and Brazil) with 111-1, and Jacques Banayanga (DRC) with Laisse Moi Parler.

Again, fine performers all. But like all artistic endeavors, we experience them very personally and if something isn’t right (for us as individuals)we take it personally. All of these pieces had great strengths and maybe some weaknesses. But that’s one view only.

Intended to write about Melville and my day off but maybe a tour of my ‘hood will come in a future blog.

Two days to go. Festivals are intense and joyous and engaging for three or four days and then, when you’ve greeted old friends and seen your favorite artists in their new or familiar performances, the event starts to lose momentum. Or rather we do. Winding down then. In perfect Melville in perfect Jo’burg on a perfect spring day. Okay okay okay…so I know it’s not perfect but let me have my moment here…

One Comment on “A Journey to Johannesburg and Addis Ababa/ Chapter V: Katlehong Township/Dance, an Overview of Dance so Far and Some More Dance

  1. As always you have engaged me in this discussion of dance, of which I know nothing. It is an experience I have never actually had…there is no dance in Dover, except some ballet…as in Nutcracker…I guess there is more floating around, but nothing that motivates me..why is that? This could be a whole new world for me to explore…I love music and art..why not dance? If I were with you I am sure it would open up a whole new world…so, will just try to have a good time reading your blog.

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