Durban’s inimitable Flatfoot Dance Company is off to Chicago in the USA for a three week trip to continue its collaboration and partnership with Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre (DRDT). In 2013, DRDT was the first American dance company to serve as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. at the UKZN Centre for Creative Art’s 15th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. The invitation to JOMBA!, sponsored in part by the U.S. Consulate General in Durban and their Arts Envoy Programme, and the Chicago/Durban Twin City desk of Durban’s Metro, saw DRDT set up a two week collaboration in August 2013 with Flatfoot that had them firstly, teaching in Flafoot’s various dance development programmes and secondly had Flatfoot learn part of the DRDT repertoire so that the two companies performed “the dance we dance” at the JOMBA! festival.
Flatfoot dancers sharing a stage with Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre in 2013 in ‘the dance we dance’
Picture – Val Adamson
In February 2014, Iega Jeff (the artistic director of DRDT) returned to Durban for a month long residency and as an invited “artist-in-residence” with Flatfoot where he taught company classes and participated in the dance life of the company by sharing his skills with the Flatfoot Training Company and the ADD Flatfoot programme.
Overwhelmingly in this on-going cross-hemisphere and cross-cultural partnership is the meeting of hearts and minds of both Flatfoot’s Artistic Director, Lliane Loots, and DRDT’s Artistic Director’s Iega Jeff. Loots says; “Iega is a generous and loving human being who has dedicated his life to his craft as a dancer and choreographer, and beyond this, is his ability to feed into Flatfoot’s own vision of understanding that while dance is our medium, all of us are cultural activists working to use our art for a deeper social change. Iega feels like part of our dancing family and so when we work together we are both learning from each other. I am humbled that DRDT share our belief in using dance to shift lives”.
As the third leg of this on-going partnership Loots and three of the Flatfoot dancers (Sifiso Majola, Jabu Siphika and Sifiso Khumalo) leave for Chicago on the July 3, where they will spend three weeks in an intensive residency with DRDT. The residency involves on-going dance training and classes with DRDT and Flatfoot in a skills sharing programme. And Loots will begin working, alongside Iega Jeff and Gary Abbott of DRDT, with a joint choreographic work while in Chicago with the two companies.
Flatfoot are obviously excited to be touring, once again, beyond South Africa’s borders, but are even more excited to be continuing what is hoped to be a long term partnership with DRDT and the city of Chicago. The final leg of this collaboration is hoped to be the return of DRDT to JOMBA! 2015 and the joint celebratory performance of the new dance work with both DRDT and Flatfoot
Funding the trip has been a long and arduous journey. With so much political transition and an election year in South Africa, the exchange has had to rely to the DRDT partners to raise funds. Support funding includes grants from The Joyce Foundation and The Boeing Company, and a partnership with the South African Consulate of Chicago, The University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator and Old Town School of Folk Music. “We have been humbled by the incredible advocacy and work of our DRDT family in Chicago and their commitment to finding funds to get us to the US and to support the longevity of our collaboration. My only wish is that I could have taken the whole Flatfoot company this time around, however, we go representing Flatfoot and its beautiful unique vision, and indeed, our city of Durban”.
This edition by Fred Felton