Born in the Soweto township in 1970, Boyzie Cekwana began by practising yoga and afro-jazz before discovering the Graham technique and the lyric style of Alvine Ailey. He trained with choreographer Carly Dibakwane in the Meadowlands district of Soweto, before receiving a three year scholarship which enabled him to train at the Johannesburg Dance Foundation: ballet, Graham… Here he encountered the country's most important dance companies, in particular that of Adèle Blank: “With this woman, one could be passably technical, but if she chose to collaborate with you, she also decided this according to your defects and of what she could bring to you to transform them. I believed it". In 1993, he became resident choreographer for the Playhouse Dance Company, a public theatre which closed down in 1997, then located in Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal region.
The year 1994 was a significant one for Boyzie Cekwana: he won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and the FNB Young Choreographers Grant – prestigious awards given by two of the country's most prolific banks – as well as the first prize at the Third International Competition in Helsinki for his piece “Brother, Brother” the following year. Called a “Wonderkind” (child prodigy) of South-African dance, he toured with various international companies, including the Scottish Dance Theatre and the Washington Ballet, for which he created the piece “Savannah” in 1996 in co-production with the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, for the African Odyssee Festival.
In 1997, Boyzie Cekwana founded his own company in Durban, with the performer Désiré Davids: the Floating Outfit Project. The name of the company asserts its flexibility: “We needed to break with the constrained formats of traditional dance and South-African ballet companies. We imagined a floating entity, without fixed structure or permanent dancers, which allows everyone to continue to work with others across the world, while allowing us to create our own works. It also met to an economic need. For a small independent company, it was no longer possible to survive in South Africa and more realistic to continue on our separate paths to then be able to reinvest the profits in our joint project.” (Press pack for the Montpellier Danse festival, 2000). In addition to the creation of dance shows, the company also aims to promote dance in Africa through workshops and projects. Boyzie Cekwana has also taken part in international conferences like “Inroads Africa” in New York in 1996, “Confluences 2” in Cape Town in 1999 and Afrique en création (“Creating Africa”) in Lille in 2000.
The first pieces he created for his company are “… like posing pictures with a smile” and “Rona”, which means “Us” in the Sotho language. This last piece, for two dancers and a musician, won him the first prize of the 3erencontres chorégraphiques de l’Afrique et de l’Océan Indien (3rd Africa and Indian Ocean choreographic encounters) at Antananarivo in 1999. A lengthy European tour followed: Cologne, Utrecht, Brussels, London, Vienna, and in France, Strasbourg and Marne-La-Vallée...
For the Dance Umbrella Festival Johannesburg he created “Shift” in 2000, a trio which questions women's place in the new South Africa: “We don't talk enough about the dynamics of fear and power which influence and create the politics of race, gender, violence, human rights, love, prejudice… In South Africa, these problems are surrounded by too much silence. And this silence is a problem in itself. I'm no longer trying to explore tranquillity, I explode it. Today, South Africa has a new 'psyche' in response to isolated or organised crime, which it combines with the stereotypical demonization of the African 'male' who is considered as a constant threat to society. The show challenges these 'shifts' and their shortcomings in the contemporary South-African context.” To be more precise: “the work explores problems which range from rape to crime and war while also touching on racism and religion. It does not try to tell a linear or concrete story. It moves laterally through images, movement, music, spoken and written text, which I hope will have a subliminal eye-opening effect.” (Archives of the Kunsten Festival des Arts, Bruxelles)
In 2003, he presented “Ja, nee”, initially in an experimental form, at the Centre national de la danse, then at the Africalia festival in Brussels in its final version before going on a European tour (Utrecht, Ljubljana, Limoges, Geneva, Brest, Weimar and Berlin). In 2005, the piece was performed alongside “Rona” at the Théâtre de la Ville (Paris). In the same year, Boyzie Cekwana was invited to the Rencontres internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis International Encounters) where he presented “Cut!”, created at the Dance Umbrella Festival in Johannesburg, and also created a proposal inspired by the fable “The stag who sees himself in the water”, as part of the Fables à La Fontaine project led by the producer Annie Sellem, in which the stag is replaced by a gazelle.
In 2009, B. Cekwana began work on the “Influx Controls” trilogy. The title refers to a discriminatory law established in 1923 by the South African government aiming at preventing black people from travelling and living freely in the cities. At the heart of this trilogy is the subject of human identity in the context of apartheid and global colonialism. The first part, “I wanna be wanna be” is a solo inspired by a journey in Democratic Republic of Congo, presented at the Kaaitheater in Brussels. It finds its starting point in the outrage felt in the face of dehumanisation – both in the past and the present – of Africa, its people and its heritage, and transforms itself into a play on identities and their ambiguity. The second part “On the 12th night of never, I will not be held black” was created in May 2010. It explores “Africa's identity crisis in the post-colonial era and shares the stage with Pinkie Mtshali, an opera singer whose career was hampered by her "unconventional" physique. From the individual politics of the body to the global body of politics, the show questions the way, through the eyes of others, identity is constructed by stereotypes. How can Africa destroy its "third world" image and reinvent itself? Committed to developing an autonomous artistic creation on the black continent, Boyzie Cekwana enters the battle with an immense talent." (Kunsten Festival des Arts, Programme 2010). “In the case of fire, run for the elevator”, the last part of the trilogy, is a trio that personifies Love, Power and the Privileges and their involvement with the inequality of food: “This is a story of food and of its complex, unequal and invisible poetry, the choreographer explains. It is told by three “universal” characters that represent love, power and privilege. It is the history of food as the reality of difference, the common ground for all that is common and unequal. In this piece, we present a silent musical, with rhythmic interventions to the score heard only by the speakers. It is our poor attempt to portray the anxiety of an angry stomach, growling in the face of the deafening din of culinary decorum.” (Institut français, Saisons croisées France-Afrique du Sud 2012-2013).
In 2011, he presented “Crosswords puzzles”, a piece for 8 dancers from the CCN-Ballet de Lorraine, whose structure is inspired by the crosswords printed in newspaper: “We also want to reflect on a personal selection of danced choreographic phrases and reproduce them in relation to the individual. The idea will be developed with a group of four dancers and perhaps concentrated on ideas of exploring the friction or the tension between the true and fictitious identities. These identities can be manipulated to create and recreate "authentic" and/or invented individual versions.”
In his latest creation, “The Inkomati (Dis)cord”, which he presented in France at the Montpellier Danse Festival 2013, he worked with the Mozambican choreographer Panaibra G. Canda, with whom he had already collaborated for the development of the South-South Think Tank, aimed at promoting artists and disseminating their work in the southern hemisphere. It is a piece inspired by the non-aggression pact signed in 1984 by Mozambique under Samora Machel and South Africa under Pieter Botha, and which bore the name of the river which separates the two warring countries.
His neo-classical duet Brother, Brother using music by Vivaldi (which he first performed with Quinton Ribbonaar at the 1994 FNB Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg) won first prize at the Third International Ballet and Choreography Competition in Helsinki in 1995.
Cekwana won the Standard Bank Young Artist award for dance premiering the commissioned Kude Nomfula.
Joint first place winner (Choreography) at the third Helsinki ITI International Ballet Competition
In September 1995, at the invitation of The Washington Ballet, he performed Brother, Brother, with Washington Ballet's John Goding, at Kennedy Centre and then again at the Joyce Theatre in New York City, in January 1996. In 1997 Cekwana was commissioned by this company to create Savannah as part of Kennedy Centre's African Odyssey programming.
Winner of the Best Male Dancer Award at the FNB Vita Dance Indaba in Cape Town South Africa.
Latest update: september 2013