SUNDAY TIMES - Coming soon: wherefore art thou Sipho?
Sunday Times News By THEMBALETHU ZULU, 2016-01-31 00:00:00.0

Coming soon: wherefore art thou Sipho?

A scene from ‘Rebellion and Johannesburg’, a dance piece based on ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Image: Tanja Hall

A last-minute cash injection has saved this year's Dance Umbrella, allowing it to present a smorgasbord of top local and foreign productions next month.

The contemporary dance festival, now in its 28th year, was at risk of being canned because organisers were struggling to raise funding.

Georgina Thomson, festival director, said the loss of a primary sponsor five years ago meant the festival had to search for a funder every year.

And this time, they only received pledges of finance in November, when the Department of Arts and Culture and its Gauteng provincial counterpart came to the rescue.

They have provided just under R1-million. Although this has ensured that the show will go on, it does not cover the full R2.5-million required to run the dance programme over the course of the year.

But despite the financial strains, festival organisers say the standard of dance has remained high, with both local and international acts taking part.

One of the shows on the programme is Rebellion and Johannesburg, which is loosely based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Choreographed by Jessica Nupen, who is based in Germany, and Sonnyboy Motau, it recently completed a six-week tour of Germany, where, Motau said, it had been well received, sometimes playing to capacity audiences of 3000.

"It took 18 months to conceptualise," he said. "Jessica is based in Hamburg so we were exchanging ideas throughout."

Motau said dance did not receive as much support in South Africa as it did in Europe.

"We're still in a slowly growing stage."

Also on the programme is another local piece, The Last Attitude , by renowned dancers Mamela Nyamza and Nelisiwe Xaba.

It is headed for Germany once Dance Umbrella wraps up.

The festival will run at various venues in Johannesburg from February 25 to March 6.