Over the last three years The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) has hosted a total of 34 South African and International Dance Artists in its Artist in Residence (AIR) Programme. The 31 South African artists that have participated in the programme reflect the programme’s extensive national reach with artists coming from six different provinces:  KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng. The three International artists who have taken part in the AIR programme came from Switzerland, Israel/Germany and Denmark.

The AIR programme, that takes place at the Ebhudlweni Arts Centre in rural Mpumalanga, is made possible through the support of its principle funder, Rand Merchant Bank, who has supported the programme since its inception in 2015. This year the AIR programme has received additional support from the Department of Arts and Culture: Community Arts Centre funding and from the National Arts Council of South Africa.

Since 2015 participating artists have presented works developed through the residency programme on a number of national platforms such as the Dance Umbrella and the National Arts Festival, as well as on international platforms in countries such as Ghana and Spain.

The five Artists currently in Residence are Joni Barnard (Gauteng), Thalia Laric (Western Cape), Kopano Maroga (Western Cape), Alfred Motlhapi (Gauteng) and Themba Mbuli (Western Cape).

The month-long residency programme is dedicated to stimulating creative research in the field of dance and aims to provide a framework within which artists can deepen and extend their creative practice. Speaking of the value of the residency opportunity Joni Barnard explains: “This kind of residency is extremely beneficial for young dance artists because it creates time and space to refine and reignite creative methodologies and actively allows for moments of extensive research to occur.” Kopano Maroga also addresses the value of having a space to explore one’s creative approach when he states:  “The opportunity to engage with your artistic practice without the pressure of having to create something that ‘increases share value’ or has ‘bums-on-seat’ appeal is super rare in the climate we work in….When you’re accustomed to a dynamic where your creative, psycho-emotional and physical labour is either undervalued or exploited, the experience of feeling valued as a human, before the projected value of what you may or may not produce, proves pretty damn radical.”

The residency also provides an opportunity for dialogue, sharing and exchange between young dance artists from different contexts. Thalia Laric acknowledges the value of such interactions when she says: “As an artist working outside the commercial mainstream, it is incredibly valuable to have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded artists in such an intensive way. It seems that we have similar concerns around the relevance of our practice, the politics of what we do, and the need for great change in our industry – particularly related to areas of transformation, embodiment and authentic engagement.” Barnard shares these sentiments and adds: “The intimate setting – sharing studio and living space –  allows for rich discussions and debates to occur on the politics of making work within the current South African Climate. I have found these ‘social’ encounters to be as invigorating as the encounters in the studio.”

Residency participants are presented with a programme of Master Classes and workshops offered by leading South African dance practitioners to unlock new approaches to dance-making and to inspire innovative strategies for the creation of new works. Facilitators on the current residency have included international contact improvisation specialist, Lucia Walker, choreographer Desire Davids, arts entrepreneur David April and members of the Ebhudlweni faculty that include FATC Artistic Director, PJ Sabbagha, and FATC Development Manger, Athena Mazarakis. Residents also have space and time for their own investigations. Describing the residency structure Laric states: “I have enjoyed the way the residency is facilitated, with a gentle structure offering some provocation, but also a lot of open time for individual process. Along with this there is a strong emphasis on the concept of process”. Maroga adds: “The holistic nature of the approach of the AIR program has been super galvanizing and energizing. I feel like I am able to contribute more productively to a world of possibility and abundance rather than cynicism and scarcity.”

For Alfred Motlhapi the residency “means a creative platform of learning how to articulate myself as a young professional dance artist to build a relatable relationship with my craft and those I find myself working with or collaborating with”.

2016 Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Dance, Themba Mbuli, expresses his gratitude for being able to be a part of the residency: “Being surrounded by nature, having experienced dance practitioners as facilitators who are guiding throughout the residency, and sharing/exchanging with my colleague dancers from various backgrounds – I can confirm that the residency is like a reboot button to me, helping me to re-center.”

FATC’s AIR faculty over the past three years have included South African and international  dance professionals such as Mamela Nyamza, Gerard Bester, Roser Tutusaus (Spain), Joan Catala (Spain), Craig Morris, Lucia Walker (UK/SA), PJ Sabbagha, Athena Mazarakis, Fana Tshabalala, Nicholas Aphane and David April.