Dance in Zimbabwe

Dance is intimately linked to music and performance in traditional society. Even in contemporary popular music groups dance is often a large part of the performance. Dance also appears as a genre of its own, and here the links to tradition can take different forms.

There are attempts to preserve the various traditional dances in what is believed to be their original forms, often in the combination of song and dance. This aim of preserving indigenous cultural forms was an objective of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Dance Association (ZNTDA), and the annual Neshamwari Festival, which was discontinued in 2001. New attempts have followed, such as the National Arts Council's promotion of traditional dance competitions in all primary schools (announced in July 2002), and the Zimbabwe Dance Company's workshops, to be started in July 2004, to revive and document old indigenous dances.

Traditional roots of dance also play a part in what we can call modern stage dance performances. Yet it is probably fair to say that both ballet and contemporary dance in Zimbabwe owes much of its formation to outside influences. There were classical ballet companies in at least Harare and Bulawayo long before independence, and for quite some time they owed only their location to Africa. With time their composition and style changed. The National Ballet of Zimbabwe in Harare and the Curtain Call in Bulawayo have given training in dance, which has stimulated the growth of companies of contemporary dance, of which the Tumbuka is perhaps the most well-known.

Tumbuka grew out of efforts to bring contemporary dance to the townships. Visiting British choreographer Neville Campbell was impressed with the talents, and was engaged to form a fully professional group in 1992. Campbell instilled a personal style, to which the dancers brought their own dance experiences and traditions, and the result was something new and urban. Gilbert Douglas, interviewed here, was one of the founding members of Tumbuka.

Interview with:

Douglas, Gilbert

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