The Performing Arts Network of South Africa is a national network of individuals, NGOs, service providers and mainstream institutions that are engaged in the practice or support of the performing arts in all forms - dance, music, theatre, opera, musical theatre.

They maintain a database of industry practitioners, facilitate networking and skills development opportunities for the industry to connect, they advocate on behalf of the industry for better working conditions and more open and transparent industry relationships. In other words, PANSA encourage a positive attitude and work towards building a bigger and better performing arts industry… Together.

Currently working in KwaZulu Natal, the North West, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces, PANSA tends to open a branch in every South African province.

2014 has been a busy and exciting year for PANSA. July 2014 saw the inaugural PANSA awards for new scripts at the National Arts Festival. Although we had planned a single award for a debut script, we ended up giving three awards because, when faced with the wealth of exciting and extraordinary talent that South Africa has, it becomes an impossible task to select only one winner.

After 22 months labour, PANSA completed and published a coffee table book on South African contemporary dance. Compiled and edited by Michael Britton and Kurt Egelhof, and called I Praise the Dance, the book is a celebration of the vibrant diversity and palpable passion of contemporary dance in South Africa. Officially launched at the Baxter Theatre during the Baxter’s annual dance festival in October, the book is available on the PANSA website (www.pansa.org.za) and, for Capetonians, at the Book Lounge in Roeland Street.

Also in October, at the PANSA national AGM, the organisation approved a name change from the Performing Arts Network of South Africa to the Performing Arts Network of Southern Africa.  The change is minor, but the implications for the organisation are enormous. Motivated by the recognition and acknowledgement that PANSA has an increasingly important role to play beyond the borders of South Africa, we have already begun cultural and skills exchanges with Nhimbe Trust in Zimbabwe and are actively involved in discussions with arts practitioners in Botswana and Swaziland.

In part, this has been motivated by the fact that PANSA is now the South African Centre for the International Theatre Institute (ITI) and there are ITI centres in Botswana and Zimbabwe. But it also goes beyond this, in that art and artists should not be constrained by borders and boundaries.

Another ground-breaking project for 2014 was the Eastern Cape Youth Theatre Project, in which students and youths from the Port Elizabeth area were taken on a seven-month journey on how to make a play. Beginning with a script writing workshop in January, students were instructed and guided by professional theatre practitioners who presented workshops and mentored students in all aspects of theatre, from developing a script, through directing and set building, to presenting and performing their own plays. One of the outcomes of this project was the production of a theatre-making toolkit so that the project becomes easily transportable.

As we wrap up our final projects for 2014, we are finalising our plans for 2015. These include rolling out the Arts Admin workshops to other rural provinces, such as Limpopo and the North West; finding new areas to which we can take the Youth Theatre project; and expanding and cementing our cross-border, cross-cultural initiatives.