About the company

Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre is a registered non-profit organization.  Income is generated through commissions, honoraria and funding grants. All commissions cover the expenses of performances. The core of these performances is their innovation, their uniqueness and their creative input into the cultural lives of people. 

The company has taken into cognizance that there is a lack of a developed culture of theatre going in South Africa, given historical and economic imbalances. The Company nevertheless seeks to make cultural products available to a wide range of the public by actively promoting works in public spaces where there is free access or when the work is commissioned by a Public Services organization where the motive is not one of profit.

We are also presently making significant contributions in terms of dance education, development and performances on local, national and international levels.

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Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre was founded in 1995 at the dawn of a new South Africa. Built upon an existing program to redress technical dance training for black youth in Durban, the company—named after the isiZulu term for “crossing over to a new place altogether”—was formed with eight performers under the directorship of Jay Pather and resident choreographer Simphiwe Magazi.

For over two decades, the company has broken boundaries with its intercultural and interdisciplinary productions, drawing from the classical and contemporary dance vocabularies of KwaZulu Natal, including traditional Zulu dance, isicathamiya, contemporary African dance, hip-hop, pantsula, classical Indian dance, and ballet. Collaboration, through improvisation and choreography, is central to the company, and members are both performers and creators in the development of new work as it cultivates new languages, images, and forms. This ownership of performance vocabulary gives the dancers a distinctive sense of intimacy with the subjects and themes they portray.

The company has travelled extensively across the globe, including India, Sri Lanka, Germany, the US, Zanzibar, the Netherlands, France, Algeria, the UK, and Oman. In an initiative to take dance outside of traditional spaces, Siwela Sonke began a series of site-specific works with the popular CityScapes and NightScapes series in early 2000. They performed The Beautiful Ones Must be Born at the Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, Qaphela Caesar (based on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) at the Cape Town City Hall and Johannesburg Stock Exchange, rite (based on Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps) in an old warehouse in Maboneng, Body of Evidence on the top floor of a medical centre, and Blind Spot—a three-hour work about immigration and displacement—on the main streets of Copenhagen. The company’s last visit to New York was for a site-specific work on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as part of an exhibition entitled Personal Affects.

Siwela Sonke has been named one of the Top 100 South Africans by the Mail & Guardian, along with being invited to open the World Social Forum, the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting, the 13th International AIDS Conference, the World Economic Forum, and the International Writer’s Festival. Their education and development program was showcased at the World Children’s Festival in the Netherlands. Siwela returned from Brooklyn Academy of Music presenting their recent  invited work UMSUKA Choreographed by Neliswa Rushualang  and the Company in 2018. Latest on Siwela’s Productions is the famous site specific work “Infecting The City with the Arts” at Mpumalanga Province in Mbombela with series of workshops in the following rural and urban areas of Nelspruit -Nkomazi, Matsulu, Barberton, Tswane University of Technology and Pienaar.


Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre is to be a world class company that shapes intercultural and interdisciplinary dance training and performance.


Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre is a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary platform for education, training and performance of classical, traditional and contemporary dance that probes the South African identity within a global context.

Guiding Principles

Create work that is routed in a framework that is socially aware. Promote the values of the constitution. Prioritise the training of historically marginalised black African youth


Transformation / Integrity / Transparency / Empowerment

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