International Dance Residency at UJ

Top Luxembourg choreographer, Hannah Ma, brings her love for South Africa to the University of Johannesburg for a week-long development residency and performance on 21 March at the Con Cowan Theatre.

In line with its philosophy of creating local and international collaborative partnerships with role players in the arts industry, UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) look forward to welcoming contemporary choreographer and dancer Hannah Ma and development team Sebastian Purfürst and Sergio Mel to the UJ Arts Centre and Con Cowan Theatre stage this March.

Hannah Ma will be presenting an intensive workshop from 17–20 March with 30 professional contemporary dancers based in Gauteng. The residency will culminate in a performance on the 21st of March at 19:30. This engagement will lead to the selection of up to four South African dancers to join Hannah Ma Dance in Luxembourg for the premiere of ONDA/Wave in 2021.

Ma is a German-Chinese choreographer and founder/director of Hannah Ma Dance and HAN SúN. She was educated at the Conservatory in Vienna and the John-Cranko School, Stuttgart and the University of Hagen in Germany. She was a scholarship student at Kirov Ballet / St. Petersburg and Hong Kong Ballet. She has won several ballet competitions such as ÖTR- Contest in Vienna and the International Ballet Competitions in Györ, Hungary and Bologna, Italy.

She has worked with Theater Freiburg (GER), Museumsquatier (A), Theater Trier (DE) and the Expo in Shanghai (CHN) amongst others and as a freelance dancer all over the world. Her focus lies on contemporary rituals and the translation of archaic roots within our society. She teaches the method “Speaking Body” – an improvisation method she created from the base of contemporary and classical dance, yoga and acting methods. Hannah also studies cultural sciences with focus on philosophy.

She describes her continuing partnership with UJ Arts & Culture as a critical bridge between the continent of Europe and Africa and considering UJ Arts & Culture as “a home in South Africa”.

“It’s strange, maybe not so strange, that I feel so at home at UJ. UJ Arts & Culture has a great spirit and I love the people and what it stands for. It’s open and contemporary and a kind of melting pot in the world, and being able to share that makes it a very strong place with its own unique vibration,” says Ma as she prepares for her arrival in South Africa later in March.

“I totally think I am able to find the hidden treasures that are within in me in South Africa and that is why it is very close to my heart,” she adds.

The 2021 work ONDA/Wave that Ma is currently creating is based on research by German philosopher Walter Benjamin who explored the connection between the digital world and real world. In the 1970s he wrote an essay on art and its reproduction in the time of digitalisation with respect to the rise of photography and film and the possibilities of a mechanical reproduction having an aura.

“Aesthetically, I want to work on the collective frequencies in his work and also with the movement of the group. In my work I always want to refer to the political situation in the world and how we can solve our problems and how we can overcome our prejudices, colonisation and colonial thinking. We will also work on the relationship of human body and water. Besides the political, I want to find out what the essential conditions are of being a human and I think that is something that is the same with everyone in all cultures, countries and political systems; finding out how we can find our roots, our heritage and our ancestors.”

Ma feels that her art is well understood in South Africa and because her art comes from her Bavarian roots, she likes working with ritual and the connection to our roots. She believes that this is something that is much more vibrant and alive in South Africa and talking about politics and her use of the body as a political territory is something that South Africa is receptive to.

“At UJ Arts & Culture, we really believe in the importance of international partnerships and friend-raising abroad. To work with creatives like Hannah is such a privilege and so important to the richness and diversity of our offering and the cultural and artistic legacy we hope to build,” says Lakin Morgan-Baatjies, Marketing Coordinator at UJ Arts & Culture.

The Hannah Ma International Dance Residency will run from 17–20 March culminating in a development performance, which will take place on 21 March at 19:30 at the UJ Con Cowan Theatre. Tickets are free of charge and is available at

About UJ Arts & Culture

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni, and the general public, to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA ( offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.