2013 South African Theatre Retrospectives: Dance and Physical Theatre
As the year draws to a close, it is time to wrap up our South African Theatre Retrospectives here at BroadwayWorld, with a look at some of the dance and physical theatre productions that appeared on stage in 2013. This is the fifth retrospective column, with four earlier columns having been focused on new South African plays; revivals of classic South African plays and South African productions of international plays; stand-up comedy, variety and storytelling and musicals, opera and cabaret.
Dance, in its many forms, appeared on many stages around the country. In Gauteng, Joburg Ballet mounted a season that included DON QUIXOTE, CINDERELLA and THE NUTCRACKER, while in the Western Cape, Cape Town City Ballet performances included a new ballet, THE TIN SOLDIER, as well as classics SLEEPING BEAUTY and CAMILLE.
Robin Malan, the owner and manager of Junkets, an imprint that specialises in the publication of new South African plays, found this last-mentioned ballet, featuring choreography by Veronica Paeper that was restaged here by Elizabeth Triegaardt, to be a 'really memorable experience'. He continues: 'Seven years after retiring, Tracy Li's comeback was nothing less than triumphant. She was sublime in this role. As soon as she is onstage, your eyes never leave her. Of course, she is a superlative dancer, but what makes her performance of this role so special is that she is also an actress. Everything about her - her eyes, the tilt of her head, her lips, the position of her shoulders - tells you exactly what is going on inside Camille at that moment. I say you never take you eyes off her, but that is not entirely true, because Cape Town City Ballet have a star in their midst. Li chose a 22 year old relative newcomer to Cape Town City Ballet, ex-London, Jesse Milligan, to partner her. And he is wonderful! Grace, poise, fluency - and also an actor. His air of disdain on entering Madame Flora's salon was palpable; his joy and elation in his love for Camille made one's heart feel light; and his terrible sadness at her sliding into death was heart-wrenching. Together, their various pas de deux were wondrous to behold. The equation Truth + Beauty = Art was never more applicable. The only adequate response was tears.'
Contemporary dance was also well represented on stage, with presentations such as WAITING FOR RAIN from Jazzart and CADENCE from the Cape Dance Company. CADENCE, in particular, was a landmark production, showcasing the Cape Dance Company's exquisite dancers in a series of diverse and engaging pieces.
Physical theatre was represented this year in full scale productions such as the First Physical Theatre's CELLARDOOR, which deconstructed traditional concepts of beauty, and Magnet Theatre's VOICES MADE NIGHT, which physicalized the stories of Mozambican writer, Mia Couto. The two productions were like bookends for the two divergent approaches to physical theatre in South Africa in the contrasting methods employed to explore the various relationships between the physical body and verbal language.
Perhaps one of the most interesting concepts to be realised on South African stages this year was URBAN DEATH, a co-production of Cape Town's The Mechanicals and Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group from Los Angeles. Directed by Jana Wimer, URBAN DEATH is a live theatrical horror experience, part sketch theatre and part physical theatre.