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Internationally acclaimed choreographer visits UJ

​German-Chinese choreographer Hannah Ma and Keisuke Mihara’s internationally acclaimed Swan comes to the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) UJ Con Cowan Theatre this September.

UJ Arts and Culture, within the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, has partnered with Hannah Ma, the Ministry of Science, Further Education and Culture of Rhineland Palatinate (Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Weiterbildung und Kultur Rhineland-Phalatinate) and City of Trier (Stadt Trier); in staging Swan as part of its 2018 dance season that will come to a close with Moving into Dance’s (MIDM) 40th year celebration presented at the UJ Art Centre Theatre this month.

Inspired by the ballet ‘Swan Lake’ and the Japanese social phenomenon, ‘Hikikomori’; where (mostly young) men are locking themselves in their rooms (often for years) and are rejecting any social interaction; Swan is about a young man being imprisoned.

In the original story, it’s as a result of his relationship to his parents, but the choreographer locates this version of the work firmly in a contemporary milieu through an exploration of burnout syndrome. In this piece, we meet S. a (young) man who lost his mind and his soul. Overwhelmed by social pressure and expectations, he cannot find his true and holistic self anymore. He is trapped in his own world of shifting realities, unable to restore his fragmented ‘self’. In the South African context the high rate of teenage suicides in adolescent boys will have particular relevance. The following quote from ‘A course in miracles’ accurately unpacks the main themes of this solo dance work which pivots on the idea that “There is no one who does not feel that he is imprisoned in some way. If this is the result of his free will he must regard his will as not free, or the circular reasoning in this position would be quite apparent. Free will must lead to freedom.”

“My work is based in sociological questions,” Ma explains, “bringing together people of different backgrounds and education levels in a democratic movement environment”. In particular, she has worked with refugee professionals from Arabian countries, and through this work developed the ‘People United’ group which is based in finding a common understanding of global culture/s. She describes experiencing immense connection to the artistic and social philosophies that she saw in performance in this country on a recent visit to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and looks forward to the opportunities this trip will provide to consider important philosophical questions – including the possibilities of freedoms – and an exchange of ideas and perspectives, within the South African context.

The dance piece is built on Tchaikovsky’s music. Although the music and aesthetic on stage change completely through the piece, all music is generated only from Tchaikovsky’s original, as we see a shift in the inner and outer worlds that show two sides of the same young man. Videographics, music and the texture of two tutus that the dancer uses in different ways; merge to create a magical mysterious universe; juxtaposed with the first part of the piece which remains true to the original score of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’.

Swan will be performed at the Con Cowan Theatre on the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting Road Campus from 20-22 September 2018, at 18:30 nightly. A short post-show discussion will follow each performance. Visit to book.

Hannah Ma will also be offering dancers’ workshops while she is in Johannesburg.
Thu 16:30 – 18:00 at UJ’s Con Cowan Studio Vocational/ Professional dancers
Fri 12:30 – 14:00 at UJ Arts Centre Studio Members of UJ Arts Academy
Sat 16:30 – 18:00 at UJ’s Con Cowan Studio Dance students age 14 years and up

Workshop attendance is R80 and can be booked via Workshop capacity is limited on a first-come first-served basis, and booking is necessary.

A ‘multi-pass’ ticket is available, which includes attendance at a workshop (16:30 – 18:00), a performance of Swan (18:30 – 19:15) and a performance of MIDM’s 40th anniversary season (19:30 start), on the same evening, for R150.


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