South Africa’s benchmark dance festival, the JOMBA Contemporary Dance Experience, celebrates its 22nd year with its first-ever digital edition. It goes online free to a global audience from 25 August to 6 September, 2020. It’s presented by the Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

This year’s JOMBA! is a carefully curated explosion of dance and conversations about dance-making, offering both a look back at some iconic dance works and dance makers, but it also looks forward to exploring what dance can be in a digital space and a digital time.

“It is clear that we will not be able to deliver a festival in the same manner as previous years,” explains Artistic Director Dr Lliane Loots. “COVID-19 has shifted the arts world and in this fragile environment, dance – still defined as a full-contact ‘sport’ – remains separated from rehearsal spaces, from theatre venues, and various sites. The somatic, visceral body is absent right now we believe – as a holding block for future embodied work – that they can still offer dance-makers, dance-lovers, and audiences space to engage serious, beautiful, and important new dance making via a re-visioned JOMBA! 2020.”

Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience. Picture: Ondiege Matthews
Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience. Picture: Ondiege Matthews

7 platforms at 2020 JOMBA

The JOMBA! Legacy programme features nine key dance-makers from all over the globe who have had a significant impact on making JOMBA! the premier contemporary dance festival in Africa. JOMBA! stages: From South Africa Gregory Maqoma and Musa Hlatshwayo are featured; dissenting Robyn Orlin shares work she has made with Johannesburg- based Moving into Dance Mophatong; Africa’s two most illustrious voices Nigeria’s Adedayo Liadi and Senegal’s Germaine Acogny who is often quoted as the ‘Mother of African contemporary dance’ shares a definitive solo work (somewhere at the beginning) danced at the age of 73. And the exquisite feminist artistry of India’s Anita Ratnam is featured in her challenging revision of Indian mythology.

Long time JOMBA! guests, INTRODANS from The Netherlands, grace the festival with neo-classical work made before lockdown that never quite had a life on stage. In an on-going partnership with the US Consulate, two remarkable American dance companies that have had a huge impact on JOMBA! over the years are also featured; both hailing from Durban’s twin cities of Chicago and New Orleans. Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre from Chicago and Leslie Scott’s New Orleans BODYART Dance Company.

The JOMBA! Digital Edgehas provided grants to nine Durban dance-makers who continue to make waves on the local dance scene, to create short dance films that will premiere on the opening night of the fest, and will be available to view on the JOMBA! website for the duration of the festival.

The dance-makers were asked to work loosely around the theme of “Intimacies of Isolation” and there were interesting differences in modalities of filming, from cell phone to cameras. Feature choreographers are, Jabu Siphika, Kristi-Leigh Gresse, Leagan Peffer, Nomcebisi Moyikwa, Sandile Mkhize, Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo, Tegan Peacock, Tshediso Kabulu, and Zinhle Nzama

Continuing its partnership with the USA, JOMBA! has invited guest US-based curators Lauren Warnecke, Peter Chu, Rachel Miller, and Tara Aisha Willis to put together a collection of Dance on Screen films in an inspired and poetic one hour package of short dance films that explore the length and breadth of film dance in the USA.

Digital JOMBA! Fringe 

18 African-based dance-makers air work from an open application process. JOMBA! will award prizes to the top three dance films in this section.

Four dance-makers who have embraced digital dance making under lockdown will host a conversation around their work and what it means to have made this shift in a programme called Conversations…Dance in a Digital Age. Featured choreographers/dancers are Vincent Mantsoe (South Africa/France), Jürg Koch (Switzerland), Themba Mbui (South Africa), and Ongiege Matthew (Kenya). Both Mbuli and Matthew will offer the world premiere of their new ‘lockdown’ dance works.

JOMBA! blog and digital newspaper – JOMBA! KHULUMA – will involve the on-going support of dance writing and dance criticism through a series of closed webinars/seminars for graduate dance students.

After years of photographing JOMBA, the fest photographer Val Adamson will share her work in an exhibition – 21 Years of JOMBA! Through The Lens.

Digital JOMBA! 2020 runs off jomba.ukzn.ac.za. All platforms for 2020 are free of charge and a full programme is available via the website.

What: 22nd (DIGITAL) JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience
When: 25 August – 6 September 2020
WS