2012 South African Theatre Retrospective: Dance and Physical Theatre
2012 is over and done with upon us and as part of a series of four columns that reviews the past year of South African theatre, this final column serves as an overview of various dance shows and physical theatre pieces that have appeared around the country during 2012. Previous columns have focused on the plays; musicals and operas; and comedy and cabaret that have been seen in South Africa this year. For now - on with the dance!
Cape Town City Ballet's 2012 season included classics like GISELLE and THE NUTCRACKER, as well as one of my favourite ballets thanks to the lush score by Alexander Glazunov, RAYMONDA. This version of RAYMONDA, which was presented at the Artscape in Cape Town, was created by Norman Furber for the CAPAB Ballet Company in 1980 and was recreated by Elizabeth Triegaardt from videos made during the 1980s and 1990s. The plot of the ballet is a straightforward one: Raymonda, who is betrothed to Jean de Brienne, is abducted by a mystical sultan, Abderam, who is besotted with her and she is saved by her beloved, which leads to much festivity. The simplicity of the plot means that excellent dancing must be the order of the day in any production of RAYMONDA and this production had many highlights, particularly in Acts I and III.
Contemporary ballet was also seen in Bovim Ballet's revival of their production of QUEEN AT THE BALLET. Passionately danced by the company, the show featured standout performances from Henk Opperman as Freddie Mercury and Devon Marshbank as Jim Hutton. Also prominent in the company were the graceful Tanya Futter, the personable Faye Dubinski and the elegant Nicola van der Merwe.
BURN THE FLOOR stopped in both Cape Town and Johannesburg as part of its current world tour. This exhilarating ballroom dancing extravaganza featured an internationally diverse company, including South Africa's very own Keoikantse Motsepe, the country's local Latin American Champion since 2004. The show takes ballroom dancing - everything from the Viennese waltz through to Latin American styles - and packages it in a sexy show for audiences used to popular dances shows on television like STRICTLY COME DANCING and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. Vanessa Harris and Ash Searle, the co-owners of Follow Spot Productions, picked this show as one of their personal highlights of the last year: 'We were blown away by BURN THE FLOOR. The energy was absolutely electric throughout.'
BIKO'S QUEST was presented by Jazzart and the Steve Biko Foundation at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, inspired by an exhibition at the foundation, "The Quest for True Humanity." In the piece, director Mandla Mbothwe and choreographers Jacqueline Manyaapelo, Ina Wichterich-Mogane and Mzokuthula Gasa explored not only Steve Biko's life and death, but also a reflection of the relevance of his philosophies 35 years after his murder at the hands of the security police during the apartheid era in South Africa.
Standard Bank Young Artist Bailey Snyman presented his new dance work, MOFFIE, based on Andre Carl van der Merwe's novel of the same name, at the National Arts Festival in July. Dealing with issues faced by gay people in the military, MOFFIE examined both the historical echoes and contemporary resonance of this theme in South Africa, arguing that 'although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had gone a long way to expose and exorcise some of the atrocities committed in the name of apartheid, very little has been revealed about the adversities faced by gay people under the old regime.' Within this context, Snyman explored love, sexuality, fear, denial and violence in his choreography for the piece, which went on to be performed at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg later in the year.