Projektbericht: Tanzen verbindet – Hannover und Blantyre

Silvia Hesse Allgemein

The desire for a joint exchange and cooperation grew steadily over the last eight years and culminated in the EasterDanceDays 2019.

A LOOK BACK – HOW IT ALL BEGAN

In 2011 the founder of the Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF), Thom Chibambo, the BAF TRIO Giddes, Ben Michael Mankhamba, and Agorosso visited Berlin and Munich. Silvia Hesse, chairwoman of the „Freundeskreis Malawi und Städtepartnerschaft Hannover-Blantyre „, took the opportunity and invited them at short notice to Hannover. They were the first musicians from Blantyre ever  –in the decades-old partnership– to visit their twin city Hannover.

The guests were familiarized with as many activities of the city of Hanover and the cultural scene as possible. They visited the IGS List and the city hall, and cultural institutions such as the Pavillon, Faust, MusikZentrum, the Ballhof opera house, etc. Contacts with Hannover musicians, like Ulrike Meinholz, were arranged and information on events in the town hall, where they could inform about Malawi and Blantyre, was organized. Thanks to the efforts of music teacher Angela Gulyas, the musicians were able to present their music in a workshop at the IGS List and provide an insight into Malawian culture.

All institutions expressed their interest in an exchange. Since then, numerous cultural exchange activities have taken place every year, based on this first encounter and bringing the partnership of cities and civil society to life. Thanks to the financial support of politics and the city, they can also be realized. 

COOPERATION PARTNER: HANOVER STATE OPERA/BALLET 

The visit to the Opera House in 2011 became an impressive experience for the malawian guests. Ballet Master Jörg Mannes and Ballet Director Steven Markusfeld showed them the Opera House behind the scenes and invited Thom Chibambo, Giddes, Ben Michael Mankhamba and Agorosso to see the ballet performances „PIAF“ with dancer Monica Garcia Vicente. Everyone agreed that „we want to do something together“, but how it could look, no one knew at that moment. A big challenge – we needed time for that. 

When the opportunity arose, Silvia Hesse visited the opera house with guests of the Circle of Friends of Malawi and were invited to see performances of the Hanover State Opera Ballet. e.g.

  • 2017 director, actor and dancer Mbene Mbunga Mwambene 
  • 2018 actresses, Jessie Gongolo and Janine Lucy Chilambe, Jack Musumba and Deborah Lydia, and soul singer Princess 
  • 2019 director and filmmaker Charles Shemu Joyah (2019).  

This continuity eventually led to success. A project could be developed and concretized. 

COOPERATION PROJECT: EASTER DANCE DAYS 2019 

When actor Mbene Mbunga Mwambene came to Hanover in 2017, he visited the Opera House together with Silvia Hesse. Together with Steven Markusfeld, ballet director, and the choreographer and dancer Monica Vicente Garcia, it was arranged that dancers from Blantyre would be invited to the Tanztage 2019. For this purpose there were two different offers, which 

  • Malawian dance culture and 
  • Breakdance

Who should participate should be decided during the Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF) and in the Jacaranda School. For this purpose, Monica Garcia Vicente and Silvia Hesse went to Blantyre in October 2018. 

WORKSHOP AT THE BLANTYRE ARTS FESTIVAL 2018 

During their stay in Blantyre, a workshop was offered at the Blantyre Arts Festival, conducted by Monica Garcia and Mbene Mbunga Mwambene. Suitable dancers were invited to show their skills.

After the workshop of several hours, the choice fell on the dancer Joshua Bhima, an excellent dancer. He is an experienced artist who has performed with local and international companies in both dance and theater performances. He has been certified by Dance Foundation Course (DFC) of Dance Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) as a dancer and awarded by Theatre in the box Africa as an actor.

He also has experience as a dance teacher, having taught at schools such as St. Andrews International High School, Southend International Primary School and Hillview International Primary School since 2011. 

WORKSHOP AT JACARANDA SCHOOL, LIMBE-BLANTYRE

With the support of Jacaranda School and the Jacaranda Foundation, two workshops were held at the school. Many students showed great interest in the workshops. These experiences were also used for casting, but the participants did not know that.

The decision was very difficult. After an intensive consultation, evaluation of the videos, and assessment of all factors, in which the head of the school was also involved, the decision fell on Julius Pounded, Ester Salima, and Patricia Simon. All were very talented and dedicated. Julius was already teaching fellow students. 

HANOVER OPERA HOUSE – DANCE DAYS 

The OsterTanzTage has become a flagship of the city of Hanover and it is impossible to imagine Hanover’s cultural life without them. For the Freundeskreis Malawi it is a great honor and pleasure to be able to participate as a cooperation partner. With this project the partnership association reached a large public. Over 3000 spectators have been reached by the participants in the opera house alone. A great „side“ effect. 

RESULT WORKSHOP BREAK DANCE: MIXED MOVES RELOADED

Under the guidance of international instructors, ballet and dance students of all ages worked on choreographies that were combined into a whole and presented to the audience on Easter Sunday. The workshop places were very popular and quickly filled. For the first time, students from Blantyre participated.  Julius Pounded, Ester Salima and Patricia Simon participated in the workshops Breakdance 1 and 2, which was led by the dance teacher Timo Draheim and the two professional ballet dancers Davide Sioni and Matt Emig from the Hanover Ballet Ensemble. 

It was a very exhausting time for the young people, who not only dedicated themselves to dance, but also had to deal with the culture shock and the incredible intensity in the opera house. They often practiced and rehearsed steps outside the opera house at home or on the playground. Especially Julius, who practiced again and again. Julius was ambitious and participated in both breakdance workshops. When he got bloody knees, the dancers took care of him. He did not want to take a break. Easter Monday, the result was presented to the audience on the opera stage under the motto Mixed Moves Reloaded. Julius had great success. He finally had a solo performance and received a jubilant applause from an enthusiastic audience in the final performance. All tickets were sold out. 

MOVES OF MALAWI – JOURNEY THROUGH MALAWI  

In addition to the workshops for young children and teenagers, which were offered by international dancers, there were two workshops conducted by Joshua Bhima. These were open to all interested – without age restriction. Everyone could participate and join in. Many also came twice. 

Under the motto JOURNEY THROUGH MALAWI he wanted to introduce the participants in the workshops to the different cultural dances with their different traditions, while he wanted to teach basic steps of the respective dance. In Malawi there are four very different tribes and each dance represents the faith of the tribe it comes from.

1. Sena jive. This dance originates from the south of Malawi. There, people dance under the moonlight to stimulate themselves happily as in wedding ceremonies and other events that make them happy.

2. Malipenga. Is a warrior dance from northern Malawi where it is danced by many tribes. Originally it was danced after battle to celebrate the victory they won. Today, however, it is danced to impress.

3. Manganje. This dance is danced during the initiation ceremony. After they come of age, girls and boys are apprenticed to learn how to behave. After all the talks and all that they have done, they dance this dance. 

4. Vimbuza. This dance is a purification dance. It comes from the time when the colonizers came and suddenly everything was not normal for the villagers. So they started to dance this dance to cleanse their village from bad omens and everything. Today it is danced to eliminate stress and anger.

The workshops were a lot of fun. Joshua Bhima built a cultural bridge between the twin cities of Hannover and Blantyre, Malawi in his two-day workshop. All participants agreed that such a workshop should be offered again, with more time to learn more – especially about Malawi’s dances and culture. 

Thanks to the financial support of the city of Hannover, the Malawian dancer Joshua Bhima and the three students of the Jacaranda School could be invited to Hannover in 2019 and participate in the EasterDanceDays. 

All tickets were sold out – an enthusiastic applause. The young people had a unique experience. They wanted to continue to dance and pass on what you have learned. For Steve Markusfeld, Jörg Mannes, Monica Garcia Vicente and Silvia Hesse a good and successful project that continues to bear fruit.