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's existential crisis.


Trailblazer, storyteller, imagemaker, the South African dancer Gregory Maqoma has been redefining dance theater and activism for over 20 years. Like no other artist, Gregory is able to express complex histories and emotions through his body and movement. Gregory’s work confronts South Africa’s existential crisis: how to move on after 350 years of racial segregation and colonial oppression. Through his work and his personal story, the viewer gets to travel in time and space, and experience on an emotional level the untold history of so many who lost everything through colonization and slavery. In an increasingly polarized world, this black South African artist combines dance and music in powerful story-telling, reclaiming the past to reshape the future.


We have been interested for a long time in how people process the trauma of widespread violence and intolerance, 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 and racism through a very personal lens, the eyes and life of an artist. The musical score will draw on South African musical traditions.


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 taking her to more than 50 countries. Much of this work involved managing large communications and technology projects to support public policy reforms for small business. She lives in New York, 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.

Nkosinathi “Natty” Mncube - Co-writer

Nkosinathi “Natty” Mncube was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he did 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. Most recently he was DP for Queen Sono (2020), a TV series that is Netflix’s first fully produced original series from Africa. The series was so successful a second season has been announced.


Connect With The Filmmakers:


The Gotham Film & Media Institute - Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2021


Help promote my fundraising campaign
Put our donation widget on your website

Get Widget Code



The Gotham Logo


© 2021 The Gotham. All Rights Reserved.
   Design by Andrew Martin

The Gotham Film & Media Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding, developing and celebrating the people and projects that shape the future of story.

Learn more about us or become a member