Harris Center to Host Festival of South African Dance

With more than 20 dancers and musicians, two dance companies - and two visions of South Africa - share one stage for a fascinating glimpse into life under apartheid. The two ensembles, Real Actions Pantsula, and The Gumboots Dance Company uplift, unite and tell an entertaining story as they follow a rich tradition of spreading awareness of socioeconomic and political challenges.

Direct from Johannesburg South Africa , the Festival of South African Dance comes to Folsom Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 7:30 PM. Tickets $18- $38; Premium $48; Students with ID $12. They are available online at www.harriscenter.net or from Harris Center Ticket Office at 916-608-6888 from 12 noon to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, CA, facing East Bidwell Street.

At times joyous, at times reflective, the Gumboots Dance Company presents Stimela - The Musical. Created by Thapelo Gordon Motloung, whose Spirit and Bones was described as a "masterpiece" and an "energetic, thought-provoking and amusing musical tale" (Sowetan Live).

Stimela is a vibrant musical piece told through narration, music and Gumboot dance. It tells a tale of rural African men who come by train from all walks of life in search of greener pastures in the City of Gold, Johannesburg. As time passes, life proves to be more challenging than they expected. They endure difficult working conditions in the gold mines simply to make ends meet so they can send money back home. The journey unfolds through a series of flashbacks as we learn about each man's story from the eyes of Zakhele Ndlovu, a young Zulu man who leaves behind his mother and the love of his life, Buhle Zwane.

The production explains the history of Gumboot dancing, while also integrating Gumboot choreography throughout the show. Gumboot dancing, also known as "Isicathulo", was conceived by South African workers in the 1880's who were transported to Witwatersrand, South Africa by European settlers to mine for gold. The gold mines were often flooded so the miners were provided with gumboots to protect their feet. The miners were forbidden to speak while they worked, so they would often jangle their ankle chains in order to communicate with one another.

As an art form, Gumboot dancing uses the same methods of body articulation in a polyrhythmic pattern while wearing Wellington gumboots, reminiscent of the way the miners would move their chains to communicate. Today, the dance exists as a strong symbol of South African history and culture, used in routines on the streets and plazas of tourist areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Thapelo Motluong and the company of Stimela "The Gumboot" Musical have toured their production all throughout South Africa as well as parts of New Zealand reaching critical acclaim. Motluong's mission as a playwright is to preserve and restores the South African tradition while sharing South African art forms, like Gumboot dancing, with the world.

The other half of the program features a company called Real Actions Pantsula, celebrating a uniquely South African style of dance that grew up on the streets under the apartheid regime. There, young men practiced for hours a day and developed a vision of a better life through dance.

Real Actions Pantsula was established in 1992 by Sello Reuben Modiga. Modiga established the group after realizing the talent of young dancers in Orange Farm, a small town in South African outside of Johannesburg. The group consists of young, talented teenagers around the community. One of Modiga's missions, as director and choreographer of the group, is to take South Africa's youth off the street in an effort to give them a life free from the harmful influence of their community through the power of dance.

Real Actions Pantsula has traveled locally, provincially, nationally and internationally since its existence. They consider themselves 'the real thing', with their unique interpretation of Pantsula and their own aspirations of distinguishing themselves from other Pantsula crews. They believe that a positive impact on their community, through their passion for dance, will revive the spirit of 'Ubuntu' - a word that in Zulu means "humanity."

The group's choreography, like many Pantsula dance companies in South African, consists of quick, syncopated stepping usually set to modern pop, electronic, techno, or deep house music. Historically, Pantsula dancing would evoke certain political overtones, speaking out against the Apartheid government, socio-economic injustice in South Africa, and even the AIDS epidemic. That freedom of expression dating back to the early 1980's has created an art form which is a proud expression of South African culture.

This Year Marks Seven Seasons of Great Shows. Up Close. In Folsom!

The Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College brings the community together to share in cultural experiences featuring the work of artists from throughout the region and around the world. Built and operated by the Los Rios Community College District, the $50 million, state-of-the-art regional performing arts center boasts three intimate venues with outstanding acoustics, an art gallery, a recording studio, elegant teaching spaces, plenty of safe parking and all the other amenities of a world-class performing arts venue. Each year the Center hosts over 400 events attracting more than 150,000 annually.

Tickets are available online at www.HarrisCenter.net or from Harris Center Ticket Office at 916-608-6888 from noon to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time.

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