In response to xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Heal the Hood (Cape Town) founder Emile Lester Jansen aka Emile YX? developed the concept for Project “Breaking Divides”, an anti-xenophobia initiative utilising dance, music and visual arts to break the racial divides that separate SADC countries. Using hip hop as the medium, the project aimed to showcase similarities between South African and Zimbabwean cultures through the creation of a dance productions that fused different traditional dance and music styles. The project received ANT Mobility support in 2016 and enabled ongoing collaboration between Heal the Hood and Lyfstyle Dance Company in Harare. Two directors and choreographers from Zimbabwe and South Africa had the opportunity to travel to each other’s countries and host a 5-day workshop with local dancers to create material that could then be utilised in each country at local schools to address the topic of xenophobia. In consultation with Joshua Saunyama of Lyf-Style Dance Company, the Heal the Hood contingent to Harare included Tanswell Jansen, Managing Director of Heal the Hood Project, and the two African Hip Hop Indaba winning dancers, Alistor Adams and Alfred Burgess.
The workshops would touch on a variety of hip hop dance elements but with the focus on learning from each other. This brought up a number of topics relating to cultural similarities as well as commonalities in hip hop dance culture. The aim was to create something that looked at the endemic dance styles in South Africa & Zimbabwe and create a fusion style through hip hop dance. Through this interaction, conversation and sharing, friendships were built. The workshops culminated in the creation of a dance piece that would be presented in both countries. This was showcased at the National Ballet in Harare, Zimbabwe as well at the African Hip Hop Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa. Thanks to this ANT Mobility support more exchanges were planned and we were able to share more through theatre and outreach activities. –Tanswell Jansen
I was excited to go to Zimbabwe as I have been asked many times before from Break dancers in Harare and Bulawayo. It was great to meet these dancers and share with them. The highlight for me was the growing together. – Alfred Burgess AKA B-Boy Benny
There’s so much to learn, and being in Zimbabwe was a great experience. I feel that we had a lot to give but also so much to gain. The eagerness from those that attended at school and community workshops helped me with my own workshops back home. I couldn’t wait to share what we learned with dancers back home. – Alistor Adams
Great experience being part of Project “Breaking Divides”. We got to interact and work with prominent dancers from South Africa. Relationships were forged and knowledge was shared about each other’s culture and dance experience. Mindsets were shifted and interaction was a blessing that helped push our Zimbabwean dancers to the next level of their dance careers and journey. The workshops at the primary school really inspired a new generation of dancers for which we are truly thankful. – Joshua Saunyama