A guideline to the JOMBA! festival by Vicki Galloway-Place
Alvin Ailey, one of the most influential black dancers and choreographers of our time, has many quotes I could have used to begin this piece.
''Dance came from the people and should be delivered back to the people'' - Alvin Ailey
However, it was this one that spoke to me the most, particularly when I reflect on what I am learning about the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. A festival jam packed full of artists and creatives giving back; and generating an abundance of artistically defiant dance performances, free for all to view and participate in. Alvin Ailey would have, I imagine, scolded me for using the term “black dancer and choreographer” given his preference in being referred to as a “choreographer” and dancer. However, given the focus of the JOMBA! Festival and the rich history of South Africa, both during the apartheid era and beyond, it would be remiss of me not to highlight his inherent identity. For me, this quote epitomizes the aim of JOMBA! because, as simple as it reads, there is so much more depth to these words and to this dynamic, contemporary dance festival.
In its 23rd year the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience opens tonight with an address by Lliane Loots (JOMBA! Festival Director and Curator) and Ismail Mohamed (Director of Centre for Creative Arts). This 12-day festival has its roots planted, watered and grown in South Africa. With the fitting theme this year of border crossings bringing together dancers, lovers of dance and theatre, creatives and writers for their second digital stage is more pertinent than ever.
This expansively jaw-dropping program includes performances by renowned South African choreographer, Jay Pather, who is this year's festival Legacy Artist as well as Garage Dance Ensemble who perform Gat Innie Grond, Wond in My Siel (Hole in the Ground, Wound in my Soul) which tells the complex story of mixed race people from Namaqualand by translating memories of trauma and current lived experiences. ACE dance and music company based near my neck of the woods in Birmingham, UK are also performing.
Border Crossings itself can be interpreted many ways: ''Geographical, emotional, physical, spiritual and performative'' according to Dr. Lliane Loots. The content of each piece is sure to be thought provoking, deeply moving and highly emotive. Exploring people's truths, their experiences, and their hopes for a better future, as they navigate a dark, troublesome past, all communicated through this digital dance stage provided by JOMBA!
A first for the UAE, newly formed (but literally and figuratively storming the stage) Collab Company is partnered with the writing residency platform called JOMBA! Khuluma. The residency sits alongside the dance festival, both encouraging and supporting dance journalism from a wide range of writers. It is within this remit, that I sit, mostly comfortably, eagerly awaiting the different performances coming this week. JOMBA! Khuluma offers different seminars for writers including South African history, approaches to writing, and cross-cultural dialogues. Enthusiastic students from around the world, professional performance journalists, writers and those new to the arts, have been accepted on to the residency and have been beautifully brought together to learn, grow from one another and experience and enjoy contemporary dance.
Through Collab Company, as dance journalists, we will cover and review the festival both individually and as a collective, which, in turn will deepen and develop the partnership between Collab and Khuluma. This is such an exciting time all round, as the arts continue to bring people together, and the UAE can continue its ever-developing cultural journey, by expanding itself even further in the field of dance and the arts.
It's almost time for opening night, so let me take a moment to refer back to the words of Alvin Ailey which sum up the aims of JOMBA! rather perfectly: To provide for people. All the people! JOMBA! encourages dialogue, expands minds, and challenges narratives. By drawing on South African history, collaborating with creatives worldwide, and providing a digital door to new dance and performance experiences for anyone wanting to take part; not only is JOMBA! crossing borders, it is breaking down barriers, and some fairly archaic views of dance, theatre and performance. All that’s left to say is: for anyone who wishes to open that digital door - take a peek, we will be flinging it wide open!
About the Author: I’m Vicki and I have worked as an international theatre director, writer and producer for over 18 years now. It was my work on a project in South Africa which changed my journey for the better and is part of the reason that I am absolutely thrilled to be involved in JOMBA! Khuluma 2021 as a dance journalist. Having directed The Children’s Monologues alongside Danny Boyle as well as numerous theatre performances in both the UK and the UAE, I am now in the final stages of publication for my first verbatim play This is She! which shares many courageous and moving stories of women from around the world. My specialty is verbatim and physical theatre, and I have always been eager to incorporate movement and dance into my work. South Africa will always hold a piece of my heart and I simply cannot wait to experience JOMBA! on the digital stage this season.
© Written by Vicki Galloway-Place for JOMBA! Khuluma and Collab Company
Edited by Lauren Noble | 2021
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