Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre (SSDT) is a professional dance theatre company that
emerged from a training and development programme for Black dancers with no access
to training opportunities, initiated by The Playhouse Company in Durban in 1994.
Jay Pather and Alfred Hinkel of Jazzart Dance Theatre devised the original curriculum,
and the first programme with 18 students was an overwhelming success. In July 1995,
ten dancers were offered full-time salaries to form a company that served as a
performance vehicle for the training programme, and in 1996 Jay Pather was appointed
Artistic Director of Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre.
Still under the wing of the Playhouse Company from 1996 to 1998, the influence and
scope of SSDT expanded quickly. Pather and the company vigorously pursued their
mission statement, contributing to dance education, development and performance on
local, national and international levels. They were invited to perform at the National
Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg, the Macufe
Festival in Taung, at the opening of the International Writers Festival and the Interface
Festival in London. The Indian Government supported a hugely successful tour of India
and Sri Lanka, and it became clear that Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre was fast
establishing a reputation as a serious proponent of new South African dance.
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