The season for dance

2011-04-29 13:58

Being a dancer isn’t ­exactly one of those high-paying professions, but choreographer ­Gregory Vuyani Maqoma is ­making a living.

With sustainability being the sexiest buzz word in the art world today, it’s fitting that Maqoma should celebrate a ­decade of his Newtown-based Vuyani Dance Theatre with this concept in mind. Audiences will get the chance to celebrate his success with Four Seasons at the Dance Factory this week.

Maqoma says: “Four Seasons is a dance performance depicting destruction and deterioration of the human mind – towards ourselves, towards life, towards each other and towards the earth.

It further embraces the beauty this planet provides. It is about giving hope to generations to come.

Maqoma himself has proved to transcend generations when it comes to captivating audiences.

Beginning professionally with Sylvia Glasser in 1990 at Moving Into Dance Mophatong, Maqoma (38) moved up the ranks, attaining associate artistic directorship before Vuyani Dance Theatre became his full-time focus in 2003.

“With Vuyani Dance Theatre I am growing a legacy that is not about me. It isn’t the work of a single ego.”

Maqoma doesn’t romanticise the hard work. He’s just returned from Rome, the last stop in a travelling programme.

“Fourteen shows on three ­continents,” he sighs. “Travel kills me. But I still love the stage.”

After Four Seasons, he’s off to Congo on a mentoring project.

Then he’s back for a site-specific work at the Apartheid Museum to commemorate June 16, and then off again to Europe, hosting Dada Masilo and Sonia Radebe.

Mentoring is something close to Maqoma’s heart, and he makes sure his trainee dancers take the work as seriously as he does.

“Being a trainee is tough. I am tough,” Maqoma says. “This year, we have trainees from all over the country.”

To keep dancers as paid ­performers is no mean feat in a shifting economy. “Dance will ­always be reliant on funders,” says Maqoma.

“But Vuyani Dance Theatre’s international success sustains us. Many companies failed when Lotto money didn’t come through; we did not.”

Vuyani Dance Theatre will ­perform Desert Crossings – a ­collaboration with UK-based State of Emergency and choreographed by Maqoma – at this year’s ­Grahamstown Arts Festival.

But in the meantime, his thoughts are focused on a new project – a collaboration with James Ngcobo – called Exit/Exist.

“It reaffirms my existence as a performer and it contemplates my exit to new beginnings. It is not always about ego.

It is often simply about the joy of new experiences.”

» Four Seasons runs at The Dance ­Factory in Newtown, Johannesburg, from May 5 to 8. Book at Computicket

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