July 15, 2024

Unmute Dance Company


The ArtsAbility Festival celebrates the abilities of artists with disabilities. Now in its 8th year it seeks to engender an innovative, creative space of exciting, heartfelt performances for disabled and able-bodied artists and performers.  It commences on 28 November at Artscape and brings to the stage an array of breath-taking art pieces during National Disability Rights Awareness Month culminating on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.

Through inclusivity, performances, dialogue and workshops, the festival continues to use the arts to drive social transformation, addressing the issues that people with disabilities experience in their lives. It further seeks to highlight the significance of accessibility and integration into the arts, all while celebrating the uniqueness that these artists have to offer.

Staying true to the theme Disability, Dance and Diversity, Artscape along with the Unmute Dance Company, has partnered with guest productions from abroad including Diversity in Dance UK, and Sensorium EX, to bring fresh, new performances for audiences to revel and immerse themselves.

According to findings in a research report documented in the African Journal of Disability titled Creating inclusive Performing Arts practices for development of youth with disabilities: A critical ethnographic study, headed by Artscape CEO, Marlene le Roux, exposure to the performing arts provides important skills development and social opportunities for disabled youth.  “It is up to the ‘keepers’ of the performing arts – those in administration and management – to realign the Performing Arts in a way that can best benefit everyone,” cited the report. The report explored how youth with disabilities, who were exposed to theatre performances, were influenced by becoming aware of possibilities for social and economic inclusion.


Audiences can look forward to a jam-packed line-up of artistic performances.




As part of the festival launch on 29 November, Unmute will also present a moving piece called Timelapse, a production, which delves into moments in one’s life that move with us through time – be it a happy memory, a traumatic feeling or minor experiences. The piece also explores how moments affect future moments, making this deeply-felt art performance one which shapes new beginnings and refreshes souls.

The Unmute productions will kick off on 30 November, 19:30 with thrilling new work through a collaboration by the Unmute Dance Company and Italian artist, dancer and choreographer Alessandro Schiatarella. Allesandro’s dynamic relationship with Unmute began in 2016 during his first residency in South Africa with the company, which has since developed into powerful exchanges of creativity and exploration. Allesandro has previously brought two of his works Altrove and One at a Time to the Artsability Festival in 2018, which was met with vigour and enthusiasm.

Another production to look forward to is Unclear, on 1 December at 19:30 by queer disabled artist Louise Westerhout, which follows, in forensic detail, the journey of struggles and triumphs in an altered body following treatment stage 4 cancer and hip/femur replacement. Unclear is a raw account of separating one’s consciousness of mortal existence, and our flawed needs for purpose. This production uses strong language, and was developed in conversation with Craig Leo.

The Diversity in Dance UK performance takes place on 2 and 3 December, it’s a programme that aims to expose all artists to different cultures through performing arts and engagement, creating a standard of work that is recognised on a global stage, while creating moving experiences for audiences to enjoy. The UK dancer; Pallavi Nair, Chinyanta Kabaso and Jia McKenzie who is a deaf dancer. The Unmute Dancers are Nadine MacKensie, Yaseen Manuel and Tasmin Andrews.

Also on the line-up is a gripping interpretation of the Islamic story of Adam and Hawa (Adam and Eve), in a piece called Dust to Man by Yaseen Manuel, takes place on 2 December at 19:30The story starts at the beginning of life as we know it, detailing Adam’s purpose and duties to man on earth. After he was influenced by the ‘forbidden fruit’ the production takes audiences on an insightful journey of how this act changed life as we know it.

Listen to my Hands, on 3 December at 15:00 is another piece on the line-up and is a collaboration by Andile Vellem and Jazzart Dance Theatre that was created in celebration of Deaf Awareness Month this past September. This piece is about communication, and how Andile formed a riveting production through movement of his hands. In his quiet world where he found it difficult to communicate, Andile can now speak louder than his voice through the performing arts.

Sensorium Ex
has partnered with the Artscape Artsability Festival to bring a collaborative performance to the stage, where artists are able to share with intrigued audiences the magic of expression through the use of technology. The team is working with Artscape to identify performers from the local disability sector to fulfil some of the roles, including that of Kitsune and the Chorus. Auditions for these roles are underway. For more information about the audition process, CLICK HERE

 Composer and Artistic Director Paola Prestini, explains

“Our aim is to build new methods for co-creation and inclusive practices in Opera by developing approaches to casting and the artistic process, which centre access, inclusion and lived experience as the driving forces of the creative process. The time with Artscape will focus on exploring new collaborative approaches to developing a scene grounded in more improvisational elements – centering the role of a mixed-ability Chorus and their relationships to improvisation (both voice and movement/dance) and early explorations of how we might develop an artistic language for a character who is non-verbal  as the key exploration of the workshop”

 “It’s a dream”, shares, Jerron Herman, Choreographer and Associate Director. “Sensorium is a piece of art and a process that is impacted by the communities and environments with which it partners. This is never more true than with the authentic and dynamic partnership where the team of Sensorium Ex will have the chance to develop co-liberatory processes for our opera with the South African disability community. We will focus on a crucial scene, but more emphatically understand our approach to welcoming artists into the work through the work in the context of the ArtsAbility Festival. I’m so excited to explore with a space that is this committed to artistry and equity in equal measure.

 The Sensorium Ex Opera is being funded by the following international organisations; Ford Foundation, VisionIntoArt, Beth Morrison Projects, The Atlanta Opera and Enactlab.

Diversity in Dance

The Diversity in Dance Project, funded by the British Council, is a partnership between Artscape based in Cape Town, South Africa and Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Unmute Dance Theatre which is an in-house company at Artscape hosted 3 dancers from the UK for two months to create new work. This collaboration would have seen able and disabled bodied dancers showcase what they have created at the Edinburgh Festival Carnival in July 2022 but due to visa’s not arriving on time they will showcase the work at 2023’s Carnival.

The project will return to South Africa during the Artsability festival at the end the year. The main mission seeks to promote social cohesion, contribute to nation-building and global solidarity through the pursuit of excellence in performing arts. The main aim of this project is to pursue an inclusive approach to a more cultural democratic process of ‘artistic creation’ where all have the right to access high quality work that engages with participants (those taking part) and audiences.

The UK dancers are Pallavi Nair, Chinyanta Kabaso and Jia McKenzie who is a deaf dancer.

The Unmute Dancers are Nadine MacKensie, Yaseen Manuel and Tasmin Andrews.

Left to Right:
Pallavi Nair, Chinyanta Kabaso, Marlene Le Roux, Nadine MacKenzie, Yaseen Manuel, Tasmin Andrews and Jia McKenzie.

 Tickets can be purchased at Computicket or via Artscape Dial-a-seat 021 421 7695.

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