Dance should be an official language

10th Annual Baxter Dance Festival

The Baxter Theatre Dance Festival celebrates 10 years this month. Running from October 9 until October 18, the Festival provides emerging and established choreographers and dance companies the opportunity to present their work.

But every year it’s touch and go, a funding headache. Sometimes dancers are left to perform without pay. We asked the Producer, Nicolette Moses who has been championing it from the start, why it’s so difficult to find support for this discipline.

“Dance is largely regarded as not being of commercial interest and is viewed as an art form that appeals to a select audience… Finding just one person within a funding body who shares your passion for the discipline is key. Not the easiest task… If I had the answers, I would not be battling for funding every year. It’s a minefield.”

A wonderful addition this year is a photo exhibition in the Baxter foyer of The Motion Project by Darkroom Contemporary. An official project of World Design Capital 2014, this collaboration between Darkroom Contemporary and movement photographer Oscar O’Ryan culminates in an exhibition that invites you to rediscover the designed spaces of historical and contemporary Cape Town through the mediums of photography and dance.

Moses and her team have pulled out a range of innovative stops. She says:

“This year, because of the lack of funding, we seem to have come full circle from where we started 10 years ago. The programme is entirely local and we have many of the previously commissioned choreographers presenting work. For those who have followed the festival since its inception, it will be interesting to note how dance makers have matured from when we first started out.”

“I have followed the careers of both Thalia Laric and Steven van Wyk since their student days at UCT School of Dance and am infinitely proud to know them. They ‘cut their teeth’ as choreographers on this very platform,” she says.

“The commissioned work Mode is for me sheer joy to watch. This imaginary folk dance performed by four exceptional dancers (Ciara Barron, Cilna Katzke, Luke van Wyk and Henk Opperman) and opera singer, Robin Botha, is incredibly beautiful and absurd, and also represents the quirkiness that is Steven and Thalia. What a pleasure to work with such visionaries. It’s quite a departure, not just from their previous works, but also that of previous commissioned works. There are no props or set to speak of. Watching the piece, one is completely absorbed by the dance and the sublime artistry.”

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In addition to Mode, a work that stands out on the Baxter’s 10th Anniversary programme is the contribution from the Eoan Group, an organisation that grows stronger every year.

“The Eoan Group, run by a small group of largely under resourced people, is for me one of the pinnacles in the city for training dancers. The dedication and discipline is very evident in the work. They are never scared to take risks with their work and in this way are constantly challenging themselves,” says Moses.

Moses is a former dancer and says this art form has always been very close to her heart.

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“Despite having studied the sciences, I feel that apart from my parents, my dance teachers and mentors have been very influential in shaping who I am. Dance should be declared one of the official languages. As a non-verbal form of communication, dance transcends many boundaries

Historical and present day architectural landmarks of Cape Town provide the backdrop to this photo story. O’Ryan captures the grace of dancers as they interact with these urban spaces, letting the lens reveal the surprising similarities and contrasts between the human form and the built environment. Well-known locations included in this photo series include the Castle of Good Hope, the Parliament Chambers, the Old Train Station Building, Artscape Theatre and the Civic Centre. Dancers featured in this year’s project include Grant Van Ster and Shaun Oelf of Figure of Eight Dance Collective; Philip Boyd, founder and CEO of Dance For All; Simone Botha of Bovim Ballet and Rosana Maya of Tiera Flamenca.

Oscar O’Ryan is a well respected movement and theatre photographer. His work was selected as a top ten finalist in the media category of the Ramsay Media Picture the Change photo competition.

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