50-year-old Jazzart Dance Theatre is acknowledged as South Africa’s oldest contemporary dance theatre company that has, and continues, to exert a powerful influence on the development of dance in South Africa.
The Jazzart methodology ensures that strong technique is matched with a uniquely South African dance philosophy that is rooted in the diversity of the culture and traditions of our country. Its prodigious creative and critical output allows it to use dance as a transformative tool and to fully interrogate social awareness and cultural inclusiveness – thus embodying the transformative principles and values of South Africa’s Bill of Rights.
Jazzart is based at The Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town and conducts its fulltime training programme in Cape Town while running its outreach and production touring ventures throughout the province, across the country and internationally.
In 1973, Sonja Mayo’s started Jazzart, a studio that specialised in modern jazz dance. In 1978, from this studio a small, professional dance ensemble emerged, named the Sue Parker Jazzart Contemporary Dance Company. In 1982 the studio ensemble was handed over to Val Steyn and renamed Jazzart Contemporary Dance Company.
In 1986, Alfred Hinkel bought the company and with Dawn Langdown, John Linden and Jay Pather changed its name to Jazzart Dance Theatre. In an era when professional dance theatre was the virtually exclusive domain of the ruling white elite, Alfred Hinkel forged a teaching and performance ethos firmly rooted in the progressive ideological principles of the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
In 1992, after two decades as a privately funded company, Jazzart became part of, what was then the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) as its in-house contemporary dance company. Since 1994 and the start of South Africa’s new democracy Jazzart has been housed at the Artscape Theatre Centre which continues to offer it technical and logistic support, that has proved vital to its survival.
Today, Jazzart Dance Theatre occupies as important a place in South African performing arts as it did at the time when it made a point of snubbing oppressive racial policies. The company continues to train young dancers for the professional stage and careers in the arts, to perform repertoire works and to create new pieces reflecting current realities.
Jackie Manyaapelo became the first black female Artistic Director of the company in 2010. In 2014 Sifiso Kweyama was appointed as Artistic Director until 2019. Both are products of Jazzart under the leadership of Alfred Hinkel.
During the current Covid-19 pandemic Jazzart appointed Artists in Residence to continue the artistic role. In 2020 Dane Hurst, based in the UK, took up the position and Shaun Oelf, a 2009 graduate and past Jazzart Company dancer is working with the company as the artistic lead.
Jazzart continues to occupy an important space in creating an African-Contemporary dance aesthetic that draws inspiration from our historic and cultural past, that interprets and engages with our African present in all its diversity and complexity, to shape, influence and positively affect our African future.
To be a sustainable African contemporary dance theatre company that promotes social change through the continuous reflection of our South African past to influence and shape the future of the arts.
To challenge the dance status quo and social stereotypes through contemporary dance training and performances that celebrate the uniqueness of our bodies as creative instruments which give voice to our African stories.
•The advancement, promotion and preservation of the arts and culture of South Africa through dance that draws inspiration from our historic and cultural past.
•Provide youth development programmes to those who have little or no access to arts educational programmes for the purpose of enabling them to find employment and thereby contributing to socio-economic advancement and poverty alleviation in the country.
•Create sustainable platforms and outreach programmes to expose children, youth and adults to the arts to elicit participation, promote the appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the arts thereby contributing to the social cohesion in South Africa.