Over the past 20 years, Vuyani Dance Theatre has endeavoured to afford young people from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to excel in dance while developing a new generation of dancers, dance teachers and choreographers.
Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT) has expanded its contemporary dance vocabulary of movement and is forever altering the scope of contemporary dance by rooting its artistic works and training programme in contemporary social, political and psychological contexts, which gives VDT an edge over its competitors. Vuyani Dance Theatre has identified an opportunity to contribute to the fight against unemployment by offering a training programme for those youths who are talented in dance and wish to pursue a career in the unconventional arts sector. South African youths are beginning to appreciate that not all of them will become accountants, business managers or lawyers and as such are beginning to take to the arts as a possible future employer or an entrepreneurial platform.
Moving into the next 20 years, the company has begun a process of developing a comprehensive curriculum for a recognised Certificate in Fine Arts with the support of the National Arts Council. Vuyani has documented both Gregory Maqoma and Vincent Mantsoe’s dance techniques and is incorporating these as major components of the Vuyani Dance curriculum. This qualification aims to utilise dance as a creative tool for learning and development within our communities and to educate a force of dancers who will use their knowledge, talent and creativity to educate, develop, innovate, and broaden dance as an art form in Africa. Vuyani Dance Theatre techniques will thus continue to be a major contributor to contemporary, urban, artistic dance as we know it. The academic elements of the training programme will be provided by tutors from accredited institutions, and industry professionals. This model will ensure that the students are taught both the theoretical and practical elements of the course, thus preparing them for job readiness and building a strong foundation to those who will become entrepreneurs.
VDT continues to create job opportunities for its graduates, with six promotions in the company as part of VDT’s ‘Beyond Twenty’ vision, thus adding another layer to the cocktail dance aesthetic.
Ernest Balene, a junior dancer at VDT, comments: ‘The promotion to be part of the company dancers has proven to me that I can grow as a dancer, that my capability is not limited. What I love most and appreciate about Vuyani Dance Theatre is the fact that it’s a platform that has been created for me to learn and become a better performer and better creator. Learning for me is the key aspect that I get from the company. The space allows me to unfold the stories that need to be told worldwide. Through dance we speak to souls. Through dance we instil hope. Through dance, we heal.’
The company’s protégés explore their voices and create dance productions that are staged at Vuyani Week, an annual showcase dedicated to VDT’s development programme. Pieces presented at the 2018 showcase such as Otto Nhlapo’s Gister Maoba and Roseline Wilkens’ Cry the Beloved Eldos, were staged at the inaugural Dance Umbrella Africa and My Body My Space 2019 festivals. Furthermore, Gister Maoba has captured the attention of Simba Arts Festival in Oslo, Norway, and has been included in 2019’s programme to be staged on 17 and 18 September.