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Reimagining Dance

Ever onwards and upwards… Durban’s innovative Rampage Dance Company, spearheaded by dance-maker Iqraam Rahim, is once again pushing the boundaries, in a bid to highlight the value that Dance brings to society.

“October is Mental Health Awareness Month,” says Rahim. “It’s the perfect time to reinforce our dance philosophy ‘ikigai’, which translates as ‘reason for being’ or ‘source of value’. Durban Dance Alliance’s Reimagining Dance initiative – a collaboration that threads together Eastern, Western and African dance perspectives – has been working on revaluating the value of dance.”

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Rahim notes that with the economy being what it is, it becomes  increasingly more difficult to communicate the value of dance. “As with Language, Dance has a relevance to its time. Having recently celebrated Heritage Day, we were once again reminded that Eastern and African dance perspectives are rooted in rich culture, and have a value far beyond the superficial veneer of mass-produced dance.

Rampage Students have embarked on a journey to tackle a moderated dance exam, in an attempt to introduce an alternative dance methodology to the current dance structures being used by educational institutions. In the run-up to the exam, Durban has seen a spike in dance interest. Students were put to the test in a process which began with a controversial debate  – is Dance an art, or a sport?

As part of exam season, students, parents and industry leaders gathered to evaluate where the industry stands, and to plan a way forward. Internal moderators, Shivani Singh, Kashmir Pattundeen, and Yuthika Nagessur are assessing the standard of dance within the classroom, and measuring the results of students and faculty members. Their criteria include reaction time, communication, and participation; and also focus on predominant social issues, such as the burning of the Rainforest, gender-based violence, feminism, and toxic masculinity.

Rampage Students also worked with external moderators – leading choreographers, Musa Hlatswayo and Angela Smith. Hlatswayo emphasized the importance of dancers understanding their individual range of motion. In this process, developing dancers were taught to create choreography and communicate the art to their peers.

Angela Smith worked with students within the framework of modern contemporary dance. The emphasis shifted from creating and teaching movement to learning controlled movement with a specific output. Students were tested on dance genres outside of their comfort zone, instilling diversity and inclusivity.

“Dance as a language operates outside the confines of political correctness,“ adds Rahim. “In pioneering change and reimagining dance, we are focusing on the topical concept of  ‘new audience’. Nina Atkinson, owner of the UK’s Loop Dance Company, is doing groundbreaking research on new audiences. She joins the faculty to examine the students’ perspective of new audience. Our other international moderator is from India – Vaishali Sagar, owner of Vaishali Klanjay.”

Maya Jagijivan, Safiyya Adams and Sameer Mohamed complete the exam faculty, focusing on  public speaking, the ability to work in front of Cameras, and the creative flair of costume design.

Throughout the year,  students have performed in large scale venues, including The Playhouse Company, but were also required to perform in unusual sites – such as the Blythdale Adventure Market and cultural specific work supported by the South African Indian Heritage Foundation. The students have raised over R100 000 for various charitable causes, and a portion of this has been set aside to allow members of the public to view their work free of charge.

These free performances take place around Durban, including 3 October at The Plant , 12 October at The Playhouse Company and 13 October at the Pattendeen Theatre Chatsworth. To find a free performance near you information 071 237 2900.


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