Deeply Rooted Deepens Global Connections

Dance as a vehicle for social change across the globe fuels The JOMBA! Initiative,  blossoming this summer in its second year of a three-year collaboration between Chicago’s Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT) and South Africa’s Flatfoot Dance Company (FDC), in residence here for DRDT’s Summer Intensive (July 4-20).

Flatfoot Dance Company’s dynamo artistic director Lliane Loots, along with four highly-accomplished company members from the Durban, South Africa company, have begun collaboration with DRDT dancers and artistic directors, Kevin Iega Jeff and Gary Abbott to develop a joint work that speaks to parallels between apartheid in South Africa and the history of Jim Crow laws and slavery in the United States.  

Flatfoot Dance Company will perform as guest artists tomorrow night (Saturday, July 19th, 7:30 PM, Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport) in concert with Deeply Rooted’s Summer Intensive program.   A sneak preview at Old Town School of Folk Music on July 15th included three engaging works. An enthusiastic and polished corps of pre-professional summer intensive participants performed “Move,” a choreographic “cross-stitch” that incorporates popular dance idioms with contemporary concert dance forms by Iega Jeff and Abbott. Nicole Clarke-Springer’s “Until Lambs Become Lions” featured four DRDT women in an emotionally wrenching abstraction that charged headlong into the internal strife of female sexual mutilation, set to Nina Simone’s “It’s a Pity and a Shame.” Finally, FDC and DRDT, performing their collaborative work-in-progress together for the first time, showcased a work which will culminate in 2015 with performances in DRDT’s New York  season and at The JOMBA! Experience in Durban, South Africa next summer.  

Flatfoot serves as an inspiring global model for addressing gripping social issues in South Africa and using dance as a medium for communication, education, consciousness-raising, and self-examination to create change. The company’s educational programs empower underserved youth with a sense of dignity through dance, which is much more popular with boys in South Africa than in the U.S.--another positive model. 

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater was the first American company invited to participate in The JOMBA! Experience Dance Festival, hosted in Durban, South Africa each summer by Flatfoot Dance Company and including Africa’s leading dance artists and others from around the world. Deeply Rooted’s mission of  representing the African experience in diaspora brings a parallel focus. DRDT’s participation at the JOMBA! Experience Festival of Dance last fall, and their outreach teaching in townships in and around Durban and Johannesburg, convinced Iega Jeff of the need to push for global connections.  “Collaboration with South Africa will make a difference,” says Byron Johns, project director for The JOMBA! Initiative. “Sexism, racism, the criminal image, the challenge of affirmative action-- bringing the world together on these issues (through art) can create change.” This summer’s collaboration is a step in that direction, creating a model for leadership, says Iega Jeff, and establishing “a training bridge for communication across borders.” Deeply Rooted’s summer intensive gives students rigorous training in classic modern dance forms and ballet as well as ethnic forms, and exposes them to the richness of crossing aesthetic boundaries and global borders in form and structure. Iega Jeff's dream? A collaborative summer intensive in South Africa!

Lynn Colburn Shapiro, Editor

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