11 May 2023

With rehearsals for Requiem progressing in earnest here in Leeds, we wanted to pause for a moment to reflect back on what the process has been like for Jazzart Dance Theatre’s Rehearsal Director, Nkosinathi Sangweni. We caught up with him to gain a greater insight into his role in the production and to learn about the creative process in South Africa. He also offers us an insight into After Tears, originally created on the Jazzart dancers and choreographed by Jazzart Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Dane Hurst, which is being presented in a double bill with Requiem, performed by the all sixteen dancers from both companies.

PART FOUR: Reflections of a Rehearsal Director

“This experience has been a blessing, an honour and a privilege that I will cherish for the rest of my life”

In my role as Jazzart Dance Theatre’s Rehearsal Director, I was fortunate enough to work with Dane once more, having collaborated with him on previous projects. Meeting Mbulelo Ndabeni (Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Interim Artistic Lead who also worked as Rehearsal Director in Leeds), a fellow South African, was equally thrilling, and I am grateful for his invaluable support. We stayed connected via a WhatsApp group to provide mutual encouragement, which made it simpler for me to initiate the creative process with the dancers.

We were all apprehensive and excited about the process, as the Jazzart dancers were tasked with learning choreography from Phoenix dancers and understanding their movements authentically. Fortunately, we created a smooth process that allowed the piece to be completed before Dane’s return to South Africa.

Dane gave the dancers and me the freedom to be creative within the given constraints, which allowed the dancers to take ownership of the work and express themselves more effectively, resulting in a more engaging and inspiring learning experience. Once Dane arrived, he shared his concept for Neo Muyanga’s After Tears, which thrilled everyone. As an exceptional choreographer he gave the dancers the space to express themselves and explore the concept creatively.

Many discussions were had about After Tears, including the dancers’ feelings about it and their understanding of it in a South African/African context. These conversations were essential to the production’s outcome and will be reflected in the final performance. I am looking forward to experiencing the culmination of the team’s creative efforts.

I am grateful to Jazzart and Phoenix for providing the dancers with this incredible opportunity. I would also like to thank Dane and Mbulelo for their excellent support and entrusting me with this creative process. This experience has been a blessing, an honour and a privilege that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Read the other blogs in the series and discover more behind-the-scenes content, interviews and insights into Requiem here

Header image by Robyn Walker: Dane Hurst (left) with Jazzart Dancers and Nkosinathi Sangweni (far right). Above left Nkosinathi Sangweni (pictured). Above right: Jazzart dancers by Robyn Walker.