The idea was carefully put into motion by businessman Philip Stein of Vita Promotions. It resulted in a short one-week long festival that had 15 local choreographers: Bernice Lloyd, Carly Dibakwane, Dina Erasmus, Eric Bouvron, Gerard Bester, Grayham Davies, Jeannette Ginslov, Jill Waterman, Kim Thackwray, Lisa Pridgeon, Micky Dube, Psalm Dlamini, Robyn Orlin, Tale Motsepe and Wendy Quarmby participating.

Now, 25 years on, Dance Umbrella has expanded and has developed into one of the main platforms for new contemporary choreography and dance in Southern Africa.

Last year the Dance Umbrella Festival became part of the annual Arts Alive International Festival 2013 which takes place in September. However as Dance Umbrella’s 25th birthday falls on 14 February, Dance Forum will host a short, four-day anniversary season at the Wits Theatre from Thursday, 14 to Sunday, 17 February.

The 25th anniversary season will include a series of mixed bills which will feature both established and young choreographers and will serve as a peek in to the main Dance Umbrella at Arts Alive International Festival 2013, from Sunday, 1 to Sunday, 15 September.

Opening at the Wits Theatre on Thursday, 14 February at 19:30 the first programme will include: Treasure to a Being by Sonia Radebe, created for Moving into Dance Mophatong; Beautiful Us by Gregory Maqoma, created for Vuyani Dance Theatre. The third work is by Carly Dibakwane, one of the original choreographers at the first Dance Umbrella in 1989.

On Friday, 15 February at 19:30, the programme includes: I Don’t, I Can’t, I Won’t, the result of the Rand Merchant Bank funded 2012 DanceXchange professional development residency, held at the Garage studios in Okiep under the guidance of Alfred Hinkel. The work was created by Byron Klassen, Olivia Daniels, Richie Cloete and Marquen Carstens on the completion of an intensive two week process; the Tshwane University students work titled Traffic, choreographed by Sidney Agnew; an untitled work by Thabo Rapoo and Jayesperi Moopen’s reworked Circles and Squares, first presented at Dance Umbrella in 1991.

Also on Friday, 15 February at 20:30, is a work choreographed and performed by Athena Mazarakis, Standing By, which weaves together a series of vignettes that delve into the loaded issue of gender-based violence in the South African context with a specific focus on the ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians. Standing By emerged as a short work originally commissioned by Rhodes University’s 2011 and then it was developed into a full-length, site-specific work in residency at GoetheonMain in 2012, with the generous support of the Goethe-Institut South Africa and now Mazarakis reworks Standing By into the theatrical context for Dance Umbrella’s 25th anniversary season.

The Saturday, 16 February programme includes: So Close To Life, choreographed by Charlston van Rooyen, from Forgotten Angle Dance Theatre in collaboration with Thulani Chauke; the classic piece Me & You, created by Christopher Kindo which will be performed by the K-Mad Dance Company; Between Us, choreographed by Forgotten Angle Dance Theatre’s Fana Tshabalala, recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artists Award for Dance 2012; and Ntsoana Dance Theatre’s Displacement Powerlines, conceptualised and performed by Humphrey Maleka and Brian Mtembu and directed by Sello Pesa. This programme starts at 19:30.

On Sunday, 17 February from 10.00 onwards, the Wits Theatre will rock with a selection of works created by the participants of the DanceXchange programme that was funded by Africalia. Participants from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, who attended the two workshops that were facilitated by Jamila Rodrigues together with Matthieu Sparma and Thabo Kobeli respectively, will present the outcomes.

Dance Umbrella, the birthday celebration, is at the Wits Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg for a very limited season: four performances only – Thursday 14, Friday, 15 and Saturday, 16 February at 19:30 and Sunday, 17 February from 10:00 onwards.

Tickets are R80 (book for all three performances and pay only R40 per performance). Students /Pensioners/Friends of Dance and group bookings of 10 or more are R40.

For further information or to reserve tickets please call Karlen at 011 492 2033.

For more information and a full programme, click here.