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Dance has become a prime means of artistic expression, with dance companies expanding and exploring new territory.

Music and dance are pulling in new audiences and a number of home-grown productions, particularly those aimed at the popular market, have taken South Africa and, in some cases, the world, by storm.

Contemporary work ranges from normal preconceptions of movement and performance art or performance theatre to the completely unconventional.

Added to this is the African experience, which includes traditional dance inspired by wedding ceremonies, battles, rituals and the trifles of everyday life.

An informal but highly versatile performance venue in Johannesburg, The Dance Factory, provides a permanent platform for a variety of dance and movement groups.

The Wits Theatre (part of the University of the Witwatersrand) is also a popular dance venue. It is home to the annual First National Bank (FNB) Dance Umbrella.

The Dance Umbrella is an annual platform for South African contemporary dance at which new choreographic creations are presented. It is an open platform, which includes performances of youth and community groups, the efforts of young choreographers and commissioned works from professional practitioners.

Foreign dance companies also show their work, often with assistance from their respective diplomatic missions.

The FNB Dance Umbrella 2011, held in association with the NAC and the Market Theatre, ran from 24 February to 6 March.

There were performances at various Johannesburg theatres: the University of Johannesburg Arts Centre in Auckland Park, the Wits Theatre, Wits Campus, Wits Downstairs, The Dance Factory, The Nunnery and Goethe on Main.

The festival featured choreographers and companies from all over South Africa, and presented work ranging from community-based/youth groups, young up-and-coming choreographers and newly commissioned work from South African artists, to international companies.

The Cape Town City Ballet, started in 1934 as the University of Cape Town Ballet Company, is the oldest ballet company in the country.

The largest is the South African Ballet Theatre (SABT), based in Johannesburg.

The SABT celebrated 10 years of existence in February 2011. Marking this celebration, the SABT’s two full-length seasons in 2011 included productions of Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty, as well as its annual year-end concert.