Vuyani Dance Theatre’s Lulu Mlangeni has jetted off to the United States to take part in a choreographers’ residency at the American Dance Festival.
Regarded as a rapidly rising star in local dance circles, she will be participating in the festival’s international choreographers’ residency programme at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, until July 30.
The 2016 season focuses on celebrating emerging and established choreographers from around the world.
Mlangeni was recently promoted to creative assistant at Vuyani, in addition to holding the position of principal dancer at the dance company.
She staged her own work, Page 27, to great acclaim at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre last year as part of the inaugural Sophie Mgcina Prize for best emerging voice she won at the Naledi Theatre Awards. Page 27 later toured to Amsterdam as part of the 2015 Afrovibes Festival.
The invitation to take up a six-week residency at this prestigious international dance showcase follows Vuyani’s performance of Gregory Maqoma’s work Exit/Exist at the American Dance Festival (ADF) in 2014 – becoming the first African dance company to perform at the event. Maqoma was subsequently invited to take up a residency and mentor students there last year.
Says Maqoma, executive creative director at Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT): “During my residency I forged a long-term relationship with the ADF, whereby VDT will send a promising dancer/choreographer each year to experience the festival and be inspired by it. I felt that Lulu was a strong candidate, given the recent success of Page 27 and her recent promotion within the company.”
“Vuyani is about creating such opportunities for dancers to find inspiration in others, and to be challenged and pushed beyond their comfort zones. It is also an opportunity for Lulu to develop choreographic ideas for her new work.”
He believes it’s vitally important to “throw those you mentor into the deep end” at some stage, enabling them to step up to the plate and innovate as leaders in their own right.
Mlangeni will be joining more than 500 modern dance students, teachers, choreographers, performers and scholars from around the world, who will be converging on Durham to participate in the 2016 American Dance Festival.
While in residence, she will be teaching a 45-minute master class for a group of educators who are studying pan-Africanism and black internationalism, while also auditioning for various ensemble and repertory pieces.
“This is not only a great opportunity for me but also a platform for me to grow as a choreographer,” says an excited Mlangeni, whose flights to and from the United States have been sponsored by the National Arts Council. “I believe this will uplift and empower me to reach and exceed my boundaries as a choreographer.”
“This residency is an opportunity to help me work across borders, as I believe we are living in times where integration is important and art is a platform through which social and emotional conflicts can be brought out into the open and made available for public discussion.”