DanceHouse Presents Via Katlehong’s Via Kanana

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DanceHouse, in partnership with Digidance, presents the North American premiere of the digital broadcast of South African dance company Via Katlehong and contemporary choreographer Gregory Maqoma’s Via Kanana, which will stream online in February and March.

Via Kanana by Via Katlehong. Christian Ganet photo.
Via Kanana by Via Katlehong. Christian Ganet photo.

DanceHouse Presents Via Katlehong’s Via Kanana

Founded During Apartheid & Amidst a Notorious War Zone, Dancers of Via Katlehong Channel & Re-envision South African Dances into High Energy Exploration of Society

When: February 16 to March 6, 2022
Where: Video on Demand Streaming in Canada only
Tickets: Available from $15

Pulsing with rhythmic vibrancy, eight warrior-like dancers combine the traditional, high-energy dance form of Pantsula (born out of South African protest) with tap, step, and gumboot—a miners’ dance based on handstrokes on the thighs and calves – into an exhilarating exploration of the problems and promise of their homeland.

The Canadian digital broadcast of Via Kanana is due to the coordinated effort of Digidance, a national initiative formed in response to COVID-19 between four of Canada’s leading dance presenters: DanceHouse (Vancouver), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and Danse Danse (Montreal). 

Arriving just in time for Black History Month, Via Kanana is a non-stop torrent of energy with a powerful and urgent message. The hour-long work condemns the corrosive effects of corruption in South Africa and expresses frustration at how little has changed for the better for Black people since the end of apartheid.

Hailed as “inspiring” and “electrifying,” the production draws on a South African expression meaning “the promised land that never arrives” (Kanana in the Sotho language). Careening from the mundane to the metaphorical, and played out via a series of scenes and vignettes, Via Kanana opens with one word: corrupt, projected onto an angled white screen, and is repeated on a loop as part of the electronic soundtrack. Throughout the work, the dancers balance technical precision with wild abandon – dominated by the fast, frantic footwork of Pantsula that has drawn influences from everything from tribal dances to hip hop – while exploring themes of coercion, intimidation, and seduction.

Founded in 1992, Via Katlehong is well-known for combining Pantsula, tap dance, step, and gumboot into a distinctly South African choreographic language that celebrates the calls for positive change. The award-winning company takes its name from the township of Katlehong in the East Rand (Johannesburg), one of the deprived neighborhoods where the protestant Pantsula culture was born – and a notorious war zone during the 1980’s uprising.

The vision of the Pantsula rebellion arrives on the stage courtesy of Soweto-born choreographer Gregory Maqoma, one of the most talented artists of South Africa’s new generation. As a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, Maqoma’s work is vibrant and elegant, earning him numerous awards for his choreography and for elevating South African culture. 

The digital broadcast of Via Kanana will include a 20-minute pre-show documentary.

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