German-based South African choreographer brings rebellion to the 2016 Dance Umbrella

Feb 18, 2016

The Dance Umbrella is one of the highlights in the South African arts calendar and features local and international choreographers who have created fresh, exciting, though-provoking works that tackle various socio-political issues through the medium of dance. Romeo & Juliet / REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG Enlarge image Romeo & Juliet / REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG (© Xavier Saer)

The German Embassy Pretoria is supporting the work of South African choreographer, Jessica Nupen. Nupen is a South African, based in Hamburg, Germany. Nupen has given the classic Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet a South African twist with her work, REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG.

Inspired by the vibrant youth culture of Johannesburg, Nupen particularly looked at Skhothane/Izikhothane/Ukukhothane, which is a South African term referring to a township sub-culture which includes groups of young people commonly clad in expensive floral T-shirts and Carvela shoes who live a life of deliberate decadence. In a dance-off called Ukukhothane the winner is elected by lot of who has willingly destroyed the most currency. This sub-culture can be thought of as a rebellion against the social and economic struggles that the young generation face – an explanation which doesn’t fully do this movement justice. Nupen’s work was also inspired by the growing trend of ‘train surfing’ or ‘staff riding’.

“The urban daredevil phenomenon has been compared to a rite of passage for the “lost generation” from poverty, violence and HIV stricken communities with bleak future outlooks who use it to express themselves,” explains Nupen.

Jessica Nupen Enlarge image Jessica Nupen (© Steve Thomas) “…The idea of literally dancing with death is what I am exploring in the piece and how the inherent danger of the practice, although well known by the surfers, is mocked and teased...” 

The cast comprises of dancers from Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) with original music by Spoek Mathombo, colourful costumes designed by Anmari Honniball’s and Ed Blignaut’s abstract film. Nupen worked together with the cast and co-choreographer Sunnyboy Motau (as well as artistic assistant Oscar Buthelezi) to uncover and explore the issues that young South Africans face on a daily basis.

Being based in Germany affords Nupen the opportunity to view Johannesburg from a different perspective and bring a fresh angle to her work. She hopes to change the way German’s view South Africa with her thought-provoking (at times controversial) works. Her work Afridyssey (2013) which tackled the issue of African refugees forced from the lands of their birth and find refuge in Germany, received standing ovations in Hamburg, Germany. Romeo & Juliet / REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG Enlarge image Romeo & Juliet / REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG (© Steve Thomas)

REBELLION & JOHANNESBURG toured Germany last year to rave reviews and will debut on South African soil and open the Dance Umbrella on Thursday February 25 at the University of Johannesburg Arts Centre.

Nupen will also host a free master class on Saturday February 27, from 10h00 to 12h00 at the Dance Space in Newtown, Johannesburg. Booking for the master class is essential and bookings can be made by contacting Lindiwe from the Dance Forum via danceforum%27%co%27%za,lindiwe

© GIC Africa

German-based South African choreographer brings rebellion to the 2016 Dance Umbrella


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