Joy Dancer

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


An artist, on a journey of healing, combines dance and music to explore the past, present and future of South Africa at a crossroads.


Gregory Maqoma’s highly original dance theater work probes contemporary problems in South Africa: segregation, extreme inequality, environmental destruction, corruption, and the corrosive legacies of colonialism. Tying in his own story, he explores identity – as a black, gay, Xhosa man growing up during apartheid. Against all odds he pursued his dream.


We have been interested for a long time in how people deal with conflict situations and how they reconcile their experiences and are able to somehow move forward. The idea for the film came about when Sylvia, the co-director, saw Gregory Maqoma perform in the US a few years ago. He was touring internationally showing a piece about his ancestor, a Xhosa chief who fought the Dutch and British colonizers, and was one of the first prisoners on Robben Island almost 100 years before Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there. The more we learned about Greg’s background, his upbringing during Apartheid, the more we became intrigued by how he managed to turn the trauma into something beautiful. The film shows the impact of conflict through a very personal lens, the eyes and life of an artist. The musical score will draw on South African musical traditions and powerful rhythmic drumming from Senegalese musicians who provided the live backing to Greg’s recent teaching assignment there.


Suzanne Smith - Producer and Co-director
Suzanne is a graduate of the New School’s documentary film program in New York. She worked with documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney and has written, directed and edited several short form documentaries and multimedia installations. Before she became a filmmaker she worked for 20 years in international economic development at the World Bank, taking her to more than 50 countries. Much of her work there involved managing large communications and technology projects to advocate for public policy reforms. This campaign work was hugely successful leading to hundreds of reforms supporting small-scale entrepreneurs worldwide. She lives in New York, has permanent residence in the US, and is a New Zealand and Irish citizen.

Sylvia Solf - Co-director and co-writer
Sylvia has 15 years of experience working internationally on social and economic development with international organizations in three continents. A German national, she developed a strong sense of social justice from a young age inspired by her mother who worked as a Nazi prosecutor for 20 years. Her professional career took her from organizing youth programs in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Mexico to working as a journalist to leading global teams in multinational organizations. She has traveled to over 60 countries, interviewed hundreds of political and social leaders worldwide and has extensive media experience. She is also a dancer. She has studied contemporary dance in Germany, UK, Mexico, US and Cuba. She holds degrees in Audiovisual Production and Communications, as well as International Economic Development, and lives in Washington DC.

Ellen Bar - Consulting producer
Ellen developed and produced the narrative dance film NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ, directed by Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes, which premiered at 2010 SXSW Film Festival and aired on PBS and BBC Four. In 2014, Ellen produced the feature documentary film BALLET 422, directed by Jody Lee Lipes, which premiered in competition at Tribeca Film Festival and was released theatrically nationwide by Magnolia Pictures. Before she was a filmmaker, Ellen was a professional dancer with New York City Ballet. In 2011, Ellen became the Director of Media Projects at NYCB, where she was responsible for developing and producing the Company's film and video content. During her 6 year tenure, she produced or directed over 30 short films for the Company each year.

Nkosinathi “Natty” Mncube - Co-writer
Nkosinathi “Natty” Mncube was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he studied his dance training at Moving into Dance. In 2001 Natty won the British Council & Rio Tinto Scholarship to study at The London Contemporary School of Dance where he worked with renowned international choreographers such as Wayne McGregor, Carol Brown, (UK), Sello Pesa (South Africa), Olga and Peter Kobos (Spain) and Philip DeCoufle (France). After moving to the USA, he served as an adjunct professor teaching dance at various universities in South Carolina. He is currently working with at-risk youth in Washington DC, but continues to dance, direct, and teach with DC-dance companies. He has toured extensively across Africa, Europe and the US. He has also had his own radio shows.

Motheo Moeng - Cinematographer
Motheo Moeng, SASC (South Africa Society of Cinematographers). Born in Cape Town, Motheo studied film at the National College of Photography in Pretoria. He has completed 5 feature films, the most recent being Catching Feelings released to critical acclaim in South Africa in March 2018, and released on Netflix May 2018. He has also shot for multiple TV series, documentaries, and music and dance videos. In 2018 he won the South African Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography in a TV Drama.


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