Space, #DanceUmbrella2017

Sifiso Kwenyama of the Jazzart Dance Theatre brought Space to the Wits Theatre for the 2017 edition of Dance Umbrella.  It premiered there on Friday 24 February 2017.

Kwenyama is already an established artist and director with both theatre and dance experience to his name.


Jazzart dancing Sifiso Kewyama’s Space. Photo by John Hogg

The work entitled Space deals with land issues and the original inhabitants of South Africa and how this impacts us today.

With music by Max Ritcher and Radical Face, poetry by Khadija Tracey Heeger and Lewellyn Afrika and costumes by Nkosinathi Sangweni, this is a powerful, although very short, work.  Lighting was by David Hlatshwayo.

Danced by Lewellyn Afrika, Refiloe Mogoje, Shaun Oelf, Thabasa Dinga, Tracey September all of the Jazzart Dance Theatre, this work thrilled me.


Sifiso Kweyama’s Space at Dance Umbrella 2017. Photographer John Hogg

Based on research by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, the work provides much food for thought.  The land does not belong to us.  We belong to the land.  How much happier we would be if we all practiced that.  (Not saying realistic … just throwing it out there).

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Corps / Body #DanceUmbrella2017

One of the most important collaborations at the Dance Umbrella each year is the one with foreign countries.


Corps / Body, Moeketsi Koena – Photo by John Hogg

This work, Corps / Body is brought to Dance Umbrella by the Institut Francais d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS).

Body brings Moekoetsi Koena (dancer from Inzalo Dance and Theatre) from South Africa, Gaby Saranouffi (dancer from Vihinala Dance Company) from Madagascar and Denis Rion (photographer/technical/lighting designer) from France together.


Moeketsi Koena (left) and Gaby Saranouffi (right). Photo by John Hogg. Dance Umbrella 2017

The original soundtrack was created by Nandele Maguni.

The premise of this work is fairly hazy and I always enjoy being able to let my mind float free with its own interpretations of stuff that the artists may or may not see themselves. The freedom to do this is always a privilege and for the artists to trust the audience to do so is a huge risk for them.

The choreography, photography, music and lighting all worked together to create a composite which made some extraordinary demands on the audience.







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De-Apart-Hate #DanceUmbrella 2017

Born in 1976 in the townships of Cape Town, Mamela Nyamza is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and activist in South Africa.

A classically trained dancer (ballet and Spanish interalia), she is recognised today primarily as a contemporary dancer.

Her latest work, De-Apart-Hate, premiered at the Dance Umbella 2017 on Friday 24 February 2017 to a packed house at the Amphitheatre, Wits University.

The work is about religion and its role in society.  The programme says “The work and its related performance depict embodied defiance, desperation, dismantling and detonation of all institutional myths and fallacies that keep people apart.  DE-APART-HATE thus uses religion to symbolise all the pervasiveness of oppressive and devisive forces that infiltrate all society. Religion works to restrict and homogenise. ”

A see-saw bench in the rainbow colours of the gay flag is the sole prop. (Technical design by Buntu Tyali).  Costume by Shiba Sopotela.


De-Apart-Hate. Photo by John Hogg. Mamela Nyamza (left) and Aphiwe Livi (right)

Mamela Nyamza and Aphiwe Livi create powerful chemistry as they explore the balance of power in relationships with the church, male and female and with society.

Bible verses are quoted setting various contexts.  Only two songs are used,  one at the beginning, a well known hymn, Indumiso, and a protest song, Asephelelanga. 

The work resonates strongly with the current situation in South African culture as well as the global experience and it touched many people in the audience.  One could sense the barriers going up and coming down.  It felt controversial and moving and the mood of the audience switched several times during the performance.

This is truly what great contemporary dance is about, challenging people, making them think for themselves and entertaining them in the process.

Well done!

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Classical Crossover, The Muses

For one night only, South Africa’s top performing string quartet, The Muses, will entertain their fans at The Barnyard Theatre Cresta on 23 April 2017. The Muses have been hard at work, perfecting their show for the public in this rare performance. Bring the family along for a night of show-stopping pop songs, performed on viola, violin and cello by four of the most beautiful and talented virtuosos this country has produced.

The Muses Live at Barnyard Cresta -    23 April 2017.jpg

Audiences will enjoy a wide repertoire spanning their four albums including favourites Uptown Funk, Paint It Black, Misunderstood, and more. New favourites from the current album, aptly titled, “Four” have also been included in the evening’s repertoire, which include Justin Bieber’s Sorry, The Script’s Hall of Fame and the dramatic and moving classical version of Disturbed’s Sound of Silence; this music video was recently released to critical acclaim.

The group will be performing TWO sets and will have copies of their current album, Four, on sale.


Date: 23 April 2017

Venue: The Barnyard Theatre, Cresta

Address: Cresta Shopping Centre, Corner Beyers Naude Drive and Weltevreden Road, Cresta, Randburg, Johannesburg

Time: 20:00

Ticket price: R150

Bookings: 011 280 4370

For more information, visit

More about The Muses:

The Muses are an electric string quartet based in Johannesburg with a love and passion for entertaining. They fuse classical instruments with contemporary music and are best known for their breath-taking stage presence and high energy shows.

Made up of four classically-trained virtuosos, Olivia Kotze, Ashley Bodill, Neo Buthelezi and Ruby Ngoasheng, The Muses were founded by Olivia Kotze in 2011. They have been invited by prestigious brands – the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, The Spring Summer Guess Fashion Show and the 2013 UEFA Champions League Heineken Mansion series – to name a few. They are also one of the most active performers in the country, entertaining audiences up to 6 times a week.

Connect with The Muses:

@TheMusesZA on Twitter and Instagram

The Muses on Facebook

YouTube channel:


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Bolshoi’s bland and bilious Swan Lake

The choreography and dancing are sublime.  The production, particularly costumes and lighting not so.


Svetlana Zakharova

Swan Lake is probably the world’s best known ballet.  Classical in style, it was created for the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877 to sublime music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  Yuri Grigorovich rechoreographed much of this in 1969 and revised this in 2001 and it is this version that the movie features.  Act 2 is pure Petipa.

This production was filmed live at the Bolshoi Ballet on 25 January 2015, for broadcast into cinemas globally.  Sadly, the costumes for Acts 1 and 3 are bland, brown/beige things for the most part and one feels the drab effect.

Acts 2 and 4 are what define Swan Lake as a “White Ballet”, performed in white costumes with soft moolight and a feeling of otherworldly eeriness.  Sadly the lighting in this production is yellow from above, giving the swans a jaundiced look and making the audience vaguely bilious.  All other colour wss stripped away, so the grey and yellow was relentless.  There was more colour stripping for much of Act 3.  Seriously ugly.

The dancing is flawless and the ending is the classical sad one (I prefer that one).

Swan Lake releases on South African screens on Saturday, 18 February for four screenings only – on 18, 22 and 23 February at 19:45, and on 19 February at 14:30 – only at Ster-Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 180 mins, including one interval.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s SWAN LAKE at Nouveau, visit or Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

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The Great Wall, my thoughts


Matt Damon in The Great Wall

The Great Wall (2016) was directed by Zhang Yimou.  It stars Matt Damon and Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau.  Filmed in China, but using specially constructed walls, not the actual Great Wall of China, this is an epic monster movie with large and effective special FX.  Not surprisingly, it is the most expensive film ever made in China.  I saw it in IMAX 3D.  It is opening on 17 February 2017.

It is a great movie for mindless entertainment, and some popcorn and cold drink in an IMAX theatre makes this a very pleasant evening out.

The plot is thin.  White mercenaries looking for black powder, which may or may not exist. They slay a monster and decide to take the hand they cut off with them on their travels.  The Nameless Order find them and are impressed with someone who could kill one of the monsters, called taoties. There are lots of sexy girls bungee jumping.  The monsters are scary.  But Matt Damon saves the world, almost single handedly, shooting their Queen from a hot air balloon (I kid you not).  What would we China do without Matt Damon.  What would the world do without Americans heroes to save us?

Filmed for an international audience and using both Mandarin and English is not the worst thing I have ever heard, although even that has been attacked for the point I raise above (the white saviour, more specifically than American, in the case of the critics – the American saviour being a personal little joke of mine).   I think that the movie should have been subtitled into Mandarin and English.  That would already have helped  If it is aimed at both audiences, make it accessible to both audiences.

Quite frankly I was a little disappointed, but overall it was fun. I give it a 6/10.


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The King’s Singers – why you should attend a concert

Well, they’re awesome.

Six young men, all easy on the eye.

Kings 1.jpg

Six vocal talents combined to be easy on the ear. No, “easy” is the wrong word. They are wonderful, the harmonies, the voices, the ensemble. The progamme shows a quote from the BBC Music Magazine “… Voices of Spun Gold …”. I concur.

Patrick Dunachie (countertenor), Timothy Wayne-Wright (countertenor), Julian Gregory (tenor), Christopher Bruerton (baritone), Christopher Gabbitas (baritone) and Jonathan Howard (bass). The current people in The King’s Singers.

They’re putting together fifty hours of recordings for the 50th anniversary (in 2018) of the ensemble for this particular blend of voices and their chat is easy as they chat their way through the programme for the audience, giving it context and richness.\

The programme was fairly light, a mixture of British and American songs. I was expecting at least one South African number prepared for this tour, Sarie Marais, maybe?  We got two.  Pula, Pula! by Franco Prinsloo and Horizons by Peter Louis Van Dijk. Horizons is a superb work, a story of the San people of Africa welcoming the gods from the sea.  It ripped my heart out.  Exquisite!

There is nothing not to like.  Worth every cent of the ticket price!  Do not miss it if they are performing near you.  Bloemfontein on 14 February, Cape Town on 15 February and Stellenbosch on 16 February 2017.

The Johannesburg Musical Society were one of the collaborating organisations for the tour and for the concert I attended on 12 February at the Linder Auditorium and it was truly wonderful to be able to attend this concert.

So, buy your ticket already!



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