ASSITEJ SA and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Festival have partnered to invite Swiss dance company Joshua Monten to present two productions, “Game Theory” and “How to Do Things with Words”, during the organisations’ respective platforms focused towards young audiences.
ASSITEJ SA’s biennial Cradle of Creativity performing arts festival aims to inspire and engage young audiences who have never experienced work especially made for them. Under the theme “The Stories That Move Us”, the festival takes place in Johannesburg from 20-27 August 2023 and includes productions from Africa, Europe, South America and Pakistan. Theatre directors Theresa Künz (Switzerland) from Blickfelder Festival, Mamby Mawine (Senegal) from Association Djarama and Carole Umulinga Karemera (Rwanda) from Ishyo Arts Centre have been invited to attend the festival and professional development programme. They will have the opportunity to present their work and build networks and connections with other invited experts working in the field of theatre for young audiences.
JOMBA! is South Africa’s longest-running dance festival, taking place in Durban from 29 August-10 September 2023. As part of its 25-year anniversary edition, JOMBA! will for the first time include a youth programme featuring Joshua Monten’s productions.
ABOUT THE WORKS
Gaming is a thread that connects many of Joshua Monten’s works. In “Game Theory,” he looks more deeply at some of the building blocks of play: freedom and rules, ritual and surprise, adrenaline and flow. The result is an aesthetically rigorous composition with ample room for freedom and joy. For the creation of “Game Theory,” the dancers focused their attention on the spontaneous beauty of movements that arise in the flow of an intensely played game. Such movements are often characterised by fluid virtuosity, un-self-consciousness and intuition. Equally fascinating are the emotions triggered by intense play: the jolt of adrenaline, the sting of defeat, the spontaneous empathy between players and spectators, the tension of not know what comes next. Games play a central role in the identity and emotional life of many people — for adults just as much as for children. Games frequently serve as the most important connection between the experiential worlds of these two groups: they are the bridge upon which adults and children meet, they are the language with which they understand each other’s needs and inner life, they are the glue which cements many of their relationships.
“How to Do Things with Words” is a pas de deux between bodies and graphic text, between language and movement. How does one dance with text? What new meanings arise when dancers manipulate objects printed with words and phrases? The results range from the literal to the poetic, from the meaningful to the absurd. Printed signs may be flat, but they add a surprising depth to a dance performance. The work was conceived as a series of choreo-linguistic experiments exploring the unexpectedly fascinating “things” that written text can “do” in the context of a dance performance. Words can be used to reveal our inner states and identity; to dialogue and interact with one another; to describe the world around us; and to inspire us to create new worlds. A single sign can crystallize our perceptions, it can reorganize the universe around it. “How to Do Things with Words” is a playful reinvention of the field of “conceptual dance,” which has previously often prioritised verbalised concepts over movement and choreographic craft. The choreography is rich in full-bodied presence, pulsing rhythms, lavish movement idioms, formally inventive choreographic structures, delicious ironies, poetry and puns. Playing hide-and-go-seek amongst clouds of interpretive complexity, the dancers invite the audience to participate actively in the search for meaning.
ABOUT THE PARTNERS
Joshua Monten is a Swiss-American choreographer and dancer who founded his eponymous company in 2012. The Joshua Monten Dance Company has given hundreds of performances at festivals and theatres around the world, including Hivernales d’Avignon, Chalon dans la rue, Swiss Contemporary Dance Days, Krokusfestival Hasselt, Festival de Chassepierre, Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Shanghai International Dance Center, Esplanade Theatre in Singapore, Ramallah Dance Festival in Palestine, CIFCET Festival in Cairo, Festival de Danza Nueva in Lima, and Queer New York International Arts Festival. Joshua Monten regularly choreographs for theatre, opera, ballet, museums and arts outreach programmes, and his work as a choreographer is deeply informed by these encounters with diverse audiences and varied forms of artistic expression.
ASSITEJ (the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People) is a global network that promotes and facilitates theatre and the performing arts for young audiences, with the goal of providing hope, inspiration and joy through the power of live performance. ASSITEJ SA is an active member of this organisation, and has transformed the landscape of theatre for young audiences in South Africa through programmes and platforms that unite artists and theatres to maximize children’s exposure to high quality performing arts. The Curator of Cradle of Creativity 2023 is Faye Kabali-Kagwa, ASSITEJ SA Western Cape Coordinator. Faye builds interventions that go beyond artistic output and is interested in audience as engaged contributors to her work. The festival is produced by Yvette Hardie, ASSITEJ SA Director, who also produced the 2017 ASSITEJ World Congress and 2019 Cradle of Creativity festival. Yvette is an Honorary President of ASSITEJ international having served in the role of President from 2011-2021.
JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 2023 is presented by The Centre for Creative Arts, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Offering 13 days of performances, commissions, masterclasses, residencies and workshops, this year’s festival takes as its curatorial provocation the idea of ‘(in)tangible heritages’. JOMBA! 2023 traces its legacy on the African continent and celebrates its local and global partnerships in a celebration of a dance and performance community that never forgets the power the dancing body to speak truth to power.