Hip hop showcase set to mix up local theatre scene
In his 2006 track Hip Hop Is Dead, US rapper Nas could not have been more wrong, something the British Council South Africa’s new hip hop dance theatre showcase, Mixing It Up, is about to prove.
Mixing It Up is an initiative set to develop and position the local hip hop sector, generally seen to be an informal street-based activity, as a legitimate form of art.
The concept for this project, which forms part of the British Council SA’s arts programme, was adapted from the UK hip hop scene where hip hop has successfully been integrated into the local theatre sector.
Looking at the local hip hop culture, the British Council saw an opportunity to contribute in the development of the local hip hop dance theatre culture, as it is still largely confined to the clubs and battle scene, where it nonetheless enjoys a strong presence and following.
The idea is to develop a new generation of South African hip hop dance performance artists, whose unique and world-class works will be exported for the enrichment of international audiences and will empower the artists to package their craft, manage their brands and to attach value to them.
A first for South Africa, Mixing it Up provides a platform for these Johannesburg and Cape Town based artists to portray genuine South African stories through mixed dance styles, music and words. As a holistic approach to hip hop, audiences will also be enthralled by the genre’s other elements such as DJing , rapping, graffiti and the trendiest street wear brands.
The performers were selected from the preliminary Sweat Week workshops and closed auditions in November and January. Mixing it up will showcase their new original work, under the guidance from expert choreographers and curators. The idea is to show this work to key influential stakeholders in the arts/dance/theatre sector i.e. local and international dance festival curators, theatre programme managers, booking agents, press, and public.
In preparation for the showcase, the hip hop crews and artists who will be performing have been participating in a series of development workshops facilitated by experienced local hip hop, dance and theatre practitioners.
Emile Jansen of Heal the Hood Project - a Cape Town-based Non Profit Organisation that utilises hip hop’s various elements to encourage youth to break away from the gang culture encountered on the streets of the Cape Flats – has been tasked with being the Cape Town workshop facilitator, mentor and writer/director for the Cape Town performance.
The role of workshop facilitator and mentor for the Johannesburg-based dancers is undertaken by the nimble-fingered DJ, member of the renowned outfit Static B-Boys, MC and highly sought-after TV and radio personality, DJ Switch. He will also be responsible for the musical direction for each dance crew and will also be the MC at the Johannesburg event.
In addition, the showcase not only presents an opportunity for the performers to use hip hop dance theatre imaginatively, but also encourages them to become and socially aware citizens.
The award winning dancer Mamela Nyamza who is renowned for her projects that break boundaries including pieces that explore important gender based issues, sexuality, small-scale performance works and participatory projects will be the curator for the showcase.
Kwesi Johnson of Kompany Malakhi – a company he established in 1994 out of a desire to fuse dance, physical theatre and spoken word – will be in charge of developing the performers after the showcase through a series of hip hop master classes, which will encourage them to make positive contributions to the local arts fraternity.
Headlining the festival is international hip hop theatre pioneers Clash 66 (made up of France’s Sebastien Ramirez and Hyun-Jung Wang from Germany), and performers from the UK and neighbouring Zimbabwe, will give the show an added sense of authenticity.
Mixing it Up is made possible by the British Council in collaboration with Matchboxology Creative Incubator, Heal the Hood Project, Artscape Theatre, Goethe Institut, French Institute, the University of Johannesburg, French Embassy, EUNIC, DJ Switch, Bush Radio and the French Embassy.
The festival will take place in Johannesburg on March 7 and 8 at the University of Johannesburg Theatre; and on March 10 and 11 at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town. Tickets are available at computicket at a cost of R50 and a reduced rate of R30 is available for students on presentation of a valid student card.
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.
Crews from Johannesburg include Vintage Crew, Ash, Relapse, Adverse, Clinch and Soweto’s Finest. Immortal Style Crew, Vuelta Crew, Objects in Motion and RFK are some of the crews that will be representing Cape Town.
For more information, go to www.britishcouncil.org/africa.