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KZN DANCELINK DURBAN DANCE AWARDS (article first published : 2007-09-4)

The eThekwini dance community was honoured in Durban on Saturday night when KZN DanceLink presented the Durban Dance Awards 2007 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Against the backdrop of company closures and limited performances, the awards were given in recognition of the enthusiasm, tenacity and passion of a dance community which has been battered by lack of funding and audience support.

The special Abalolongi Award for services to dance in KZN went to choreographer and producer Mark Hawkins, who has been at the forefront of the arts and entertainment scene for more than 20 years.

In her tribute to Mark Hawkins, KZN DanceLink chairman Lynn Maree said it was ironic that he was unable to accept his award in person as he was rehearsing for the official Springbok World Cup rugby send-off ceremony in Johannesburg. “From a beautiful principal dancer to choreographer, artistic director, dance mentor, show producer and event manager, there is nothing Mark hasn’t done to promote and popularise dance,” she said. “The fact that his most recent creative ‘works’ are staged at Springbok rugby events is a lesson for all of us. We do what we have to do to find a viable platform for dance and the arts.”

Mark Hawkins said receiving the award was an unexpected honour. “It is wonderful to get recognition from my peers – these are the people who have inspired me, supported me and encouraged me when I was ready to throw in the towel. I believe in Durban and the commitment of its artists – and it’s thanks to all of them and our loyal supporters - that I constantly strive to keep the flame alight.”

After the closure of the Playhouse Dance Company, Mark Hawkins founded the internationally acclaimed Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company which was forced to close this year. However, as the director of Very Very Big Productions, Hawkins continues to produce a variety of musicals, industrial theatre and dance works.

The award for Dancer of the Year went to Sifiso Khumalo, S’fiso Magesh Ngcobo and Nkululeko Ntombela for their dynamic performance in Three Men in a Square Space, produced by Flatfoot Dance Company.

Varsha Sharma, an accomplished classical Indian dancer and young contemporary choreographer, was awarded the Breakthrough/Newcomer Dancer floating trophy.

Award-winning choreographers and teachers David Gouldie and Lliane Loots were jointly presented the Choreographer Award for their inspiring collaborative work, Premonitions, staged at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre earlier this year.

In the Costume Design category “backstage uber babe” Megan McKenzie took the honours for her innovative costumes in Gouldie’s Premonitions: Part 1.

Two new awards were given this year. In the Best Production category, Mark Hawkins and actress, poet and playwright Gcina Mhlope took the prize for Lungile, the most beautiful girl in the land – a children’s show staged at the Playhouse Loft.

Graphic artist Peter Bircham of the Sunshine Factory won the award for Poster Design for his consistently striking posters for productions including Giyani Lusha 2006 and 2007, Indumezulu Yomdanso 2006; Three Men in a Square Space and Premonitions.

Keynote speaker Gary Gordon, Professor of Drama at Rhodes University and Artistic Director of First Physical Theatre Company, praised all the nominees and winners for their “passion and contribution” to uplifting dance in Durban and South Africa.

KZN Dance Link board member Ntombi Gasa thanked all the dancers, choreographers, judges, the Centre for Creative Arts, the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Jomba! and the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, which is DanceLink’s primary funder.




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