African dance programmers attend Swiss Dance Days [Basel]
The Swiss Dance Days showcase platform was founded in 1996 and modelled after the pioneering Rencontres chorégraphiques de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris, a festival that has been dedicated to contemporary choreographic creation since 1969. The aim of Swiss Dance Days is to promote Swiss choreographic arts to Swiss and international programmers and help the featured pieces tour more frequently at home and abroad The event takes place biannually in a different Swiss city. Over a few days, it showcases remarkable dance pieces with artistic strength, originality and a unique language. Geneva, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lugano, Lucerne, Zurich: the Swiss Dance Days has taken place in many of Switzerland’s largest cities as well as in its three principal linguistic regions. The 11th edition will be held in Basel, a region that is home to an active and intriguing choreographic scene.
Our office supported programmers from the region to attend the 2019 edition of Swiss Dance Days (which resulted in the Southern African tour of Teresa Vittucci’s All Eyes On, that in turn led to her collaboration with Mozambican artist Marilú Mapengo Námoda).
Together with Pro Helvetia Zurich, we have invited four programmers from key dance platforms in the region to attend the 2022 edition of Swiss Dance Days. They are Rucera Seethal, artistic director of the National Arts Festival Makhanda (South Africa); Jared Onyango, dancer and choreographer (Kenya); Melaku Belay, dancer, choreographer and director of the Fendika Cultural Centre (Ethiopia); Hope Azeda, director of Ubumuntu Arts Festival (Rwanda). They will join a delegation of guest programmers from the regions of the global network of Pro Helvetia liaison offices. The aim of the research trip is to establish links and connections between contexts, and will include an extensive orientation of the Swiss dance scene. Guided by Swiss dance professionals, the visiting dance professionals will visit venues, production facilities and meet Swiss dancers and programmers in Switzerland’s three main dance cities: Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich.
Rucera Seethal is artistic director of the multi-disciplinary National Arts Festival based in Makhanda, South Africa since January 2020. Previously, she was programme manager at Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, responsible for the performing arts portfolio across Switzerland and the Southern African region. Prior to this Rucera was also art director and production manager at Chimurenga, the award-winning arts, culture and politics magazine, between 2004 to 2011. Rucera sat on the Theatre Spektakle Zurich Jury for the 2015 edition, and has been part of several South African grant selection committees over recent years.
Jared Onyango is a performer, choreographer and writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He trained in dance at P.A.R.T.S (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in Brussels, Belgium and at Ecole des Sables in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal between 2010 and 2015. Jared is a Pina Bausch Foundation 2016 fellow for dance and choreography where he worked with Italian choreographer Francesco Scavetta based in Sweden and Norway. Jared is also a Cape Town University Fellow for the Institute for Creative Arts 2020 where he presented a digital version of Jua Kali Pedestrian for the University’s website. His latest projects have been about exploring movements in public spaces and how architectural designs of public spaces affects movements and behaviours of people in those spaces. In April 2021, Jared collaborated with Lea Pischke, a Berlin-based dancer and choreographer in Nairobi to make a performance which was presented at tak Theater Aufbau Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany in November 2021.
Melaku Belay is the founding director of Fendika Cultural Center, president of Ethiopian Dance Art Association, world-renowned Ethiopian dancer, and leader of world touring bands Ethiocolor and Fendika. Melaku is committed to the development of Ethiopian performance culture and heritage. Under Melaku’s leadership since 2008, Fendika is the first music venue in Addis Ababa to pay regular salaries to traditional musicians and dancers. It is a home to artists of many disciplines and cultural backgrounds, offering a weekly multidisciplinary programme including music, dance, visual art, and poetry. In 2020, during the 6-month COVID shutdown in Ethiopia, Melaku produced 18 virtual concerts and 3 virtual art openings streamed to Fendika’s global audiences. Melaku was a 2015 recipient of Chevalier des arts et des Lettres (France), 2018 finalist for Ethiopian Person of the Year Award, a recipient of 2019 tribute from Visa for Music (Morocco), 2020 Prince Claus Laureate (the Netherlands), and 2021 Ethiopian Role Model Award.
Hope Azeda is the founder and artistic director of Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, a leading theatre organisation in Rwanda. She is also the curator of Ubumuntu Arts Festival. Major productions include Africa’s Hope, which was performed in Kigali at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the genocide, and at the G8 World Summit in Edinburgh in 2005. The play has toured globally. Hope has also directed Shadows of memory for the 20th genocide commemoration in 2014 and Generation 25 in 2019. She has also been an artist in residence at the Institute for the Arts and Civic Dialogue in Cambridge Massachusetts, an alumni of Brown University International advanced research institute in 2013, and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Hope is also a fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative ALI-ASPEN-Institute). In addition to her theatre work, Hope served as a casting director for several films including Sometimes in April, Shake Hands with the Devil, Beyond the gates, and Our lady of the Nile. Hope was honoured as a Laureate of the John. P. McNulty prize in 2018 and awarded a lifetime award by MAAFA. She is also a recipient of the 2022 Segal Center Award for Civic Engagement in the Arts.