Coaching for Dance Artists 2019 Cohort: Mafa Makhubalo

Ontario Presents is currently partnering with CanDance and La danse sur les routes du Québec for the second year to offer the Ontario-Québec Coaching for Dance Artists program. The project offers assistance to artists from Ontario and Quebec who identify with Indigenous or racialized communities. Inspired by the success of Jouer dehors, the project’s aim is to develop dance production skills. Artists are guided by Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo and Lee Bolton.

The 2019 cohort includes: Ariana Pirela Sanchez, Bettina Szabo, Kim-Sanh Châu, Mafa Makhubalo and Meryem Alaoui.

We had planned to share blogs from each artist throughout the spring. While we recognize of course that all of our lives have been disrupted, we want to continue to share the stories of these artists while prooviding some uplifting, COVID-free content!

The below blog was written by Toronto-based dance artist Mafa Makhubalo. You can also find a video featuring all five dancers here.

Mafa headshotMy practice motto:

I am a movement poet trained in folk dance forms from African tradition, African Contemporary tradition, and Western-Contemporary tradition. As an artist of African descent, I am influenced by my understanding of dance as an accumulation of memories and a history of my culture. Dance is an invisible evolution that becomes visible through movement, music, and singing. I am inspired by social issues that I want to address and challenge. I am excited by the ways the disciplines of movement and music intersect within a diverse practice, and how the understanding of how each discipline informs and transforms the other.

My artistic objectives:

It is important for me to tell our own stories and make room for those stories in spaces where they are barely visible and barely acknowledged, but always influential. This inter-cultural 2019-2020 Ontario-Quebec Coaching for Dance Artists project had a profound impact on my development, expanding my creative network and helping me to build resilience against the negative effects of exclusion and Eurocentric art traditions. I want to reinforce the idea that the African Performing Arts in public spaces are culturally transformative, and that they attempt to reunite art with the daily life of the community. I also want to facilitate the movement of artists and their works within Canada and abroad.

My path and goals:

With over twenty-five years of cultural exchange and professional practice in diverse dance forms and techniques from African regions, Europe, and North America, I see myself as a diligent, patient, determined and motivated person who is passionate about his art form.

After moving to Toronto, where I completed a two-year training program at the Ballet Creole School of the Arts, I continued seeking professional development from senior artists, including Milton Myers, Danny Grossman, Debbie Wilson, and Gabby Kamino. Through my company, Mafa Dance Village, I also connected with company members of The Collective Of Black Artists, The Ballet Creole Company, OMO Dance Company, and Nyata-nyata in Montreal to collaborate in collective training. I was particularly interested in how these artists practiced African Contemporary dance, Contemporary dance, Urban Street dance, African-Caribbean folk dance, and African music, and their understanding of these cultural practices.

When not on stage, I am actively involved in community outreach programs and arts education programs that inspire dancers of colour and youth of African-Canadian descent to realize their potential goals through the arts. I wish to utilize my creative voice to promote and communicate dance and art - not only through theatres, but across arts-run centres and recreational hubs. Mafa Dance Village has done this in collaboration with ArtStart and Dance Immersion.

I hope to foster reciprocal partnerships and exchanges of diverse dance forms that highlight the African-Canadian contemporary practice of today. I want to do this using open gestures of trust and artistic excellence that will continue to develop African-Canadian contemporary dance in Canada and abroad. 

My currently choreographic journey:

Lentswe la Setjhaba “Voice of the Nation” a 40 minutes (of 67 minutes) multi-disciplinary choreography that hybrids the Africa tradition aesthetic with African contemporary, specifically the urban dance form Panstula, Afro-House, African Traditional dance and Gumboots in relation to the rhythm of our everyday life memories. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” by Nelson Mandela. The work is inspired by the legacy of Nelson Mandela - the idea of “Rainbow Nation”, his passion to move forward from the past to the future with one nation. He invested 67 years of his life advocating for human rights and equality for the future of the South African nation and the World.

Selected highlights of my of practice:

Through my practice, highlights include several Dance Immersion Show Cases, the Ontario Dance Weekend, the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), the Body Percussion Festival, the Contemporaneity Series 1.0, and the TEADE-2019 8th Edition International Summer Dance Intensive in Cuba. I also participated in the Choreographers Lab program at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, the American Dance Festival, and the Six Weeks Dance program in Durham, North Carolina. I have also acted as a juror for the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Foundation, and the Toronto Arts Council, with the goal of providing a safe space for contemporary dancers with Non-Western training and dancers of colour to voice their concerns.

Most recently, I was fortunate enough to be one of the winners of the 2019-2020 Ontario-Quebec Coaching for Dance Artists project.