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Via Sophiatown

The initial idea of this show is to bear witness to and shed light upon the infamous Sophiatown era in the 1950s. 

Sophiatown was a district of Johannesburg that was destroyed in 1955. It was a multiracial area, the birthplace of many different musical and dance styles. It was also the place where the fight against apartheid first began, and is still today the symbol of artists' commitment. 

With now internationally-famous South African music such as hits by Dorothy Masuka or Miriam Makeba, the show presents couples dancing the tsaba-tsaba or the kofifi, the ancestor of pantsula. Accompanied by two jazz musicians, the dancers allow us to relive this strong period in African culture – the era of 'happy Africa'. 

With the destruction of Sophiatown, Father Huddleston lamented that: “Sophiatown has finally been struck off the map, its population dispersed; I feel that South Africa has not only lost a place, but also an ideal.” 

Even when government bulldozers razed the houses, Sophiatown would generate a cultural buzz unequalled in the urban history of South Africa. Even as just a memory, Sophiatown is a symbol, a legendary reference for black writers and artists. 

Today, many seek the artistic spirit once created in this legendary district. 

Source : Via Katlehong

Birraux, Jean-Marc

Jean-Marc  Birraux has been a director since 1995 for M6, Mezzo, France3, Paris Première, France2, Arte Live Web or even Arte.

Via Katlehong Dance

Created in 1992, the Via Katlehong Dance company, led by Vusi Mdoyi, Steven Faleni and Buru Mohlabane, borrows its name of the township of Katlehong in East Rand, a deprived district which produced the pantsula counter-culture, born in the townships in the 1960s and 1970s, under the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Like hip hop in the United States and Europe, pantsula culture is an entire lifestyle, covering fashion, music, dance, gestural and spoken codes. And like hip hop, this culture finds its place of expression in the street.

In the 1990s, as a multiracial South Africa slowly emerged, the company continued to fight for the young people of the poor districts. The company's shows and performances mix several dances: pantsula (non-acrobatic but virtuosic kind of hip hop), tap dance (percussive taps with metal-tipped shoes), stepping (similar to the American time step) and the gumboot dance (miners' dance, done in Wellingtons, or gumboots).

In combining these traditions, the South African company produces an energetic, festive and cheeky dance.

Sustained by a strong communal identity, Via Katlehong Dance pursues its educational, cultural and social mission to help the young people of South Africa. The company has won several international prizes (FNB Vita Dance Umbrella, Gauteng Dance Showcase, KTV Most Brilliant Achievement, Gauteng MEC Development Award, etc.) for its creations, with its new mix of pantsula and other community dances of South Africa, like the gumboot dance and stepping.

More information

Distributor's website



Vernay, Marie-Christine. “Danser contre la violence, les malfaiteurs et la drogue”, Libération, 21 March 2011

Vernay, Marie-Christine. “Via Katlehong fait son tapage à Paris”, Libération, 21 March, 2011

Last updated: December 2013

Via Sophiatown

Artistic direction / Conception : Buru Mohlabane

Choreography : Vusi Mdoyi

Choreography assistance : Mpho Molepo et toute l’équipe de Via Katlehong

Interpretation : Tshepo Nchabeleng, Vuyani Feni, Mandlenkosi Fanie, Vusi mdoyi, Mbali Nkosi, Matshidiso Mokoka, Boitumelo Tshupa, Thembinkosi Hlophe

Set design : David Hlatshwayo

Text : Nomathamsanqa Baba, Thembinkosi Hlophe (chant et narration)

Live music : Jackson Vilakazi, Muzi Radebe / Tshepo Nchabeng, Vuyani Feni (percussions)

Lights : Alix Veillon

Costumes : Dark Dindie

Technical direction : David Hlatshwayo

Sound : William Monchusi

Production / Coproduction of the choreographic work : Steven Faleni (Chargé de production en Afrique du Sud, Coordinateur) Damien Valette (Production, administration et diffusion), Julie Lucas (Coordination et assistance administrative) / Coproduction Via Katlehong Dance, Maison de la Danse-Lyon, Damien Valette Prod. - aide apportée à la résidence et à la création par les Saisons Afrique du Sud France 2012 & 2013, l’Institut français et la Ville de Lyon.

Production / Coproduction of the video work : Production Scènes d'écran 24 images - 2013 / Maison de la Danse

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