BWW Reviews: Cape Dance Company's CADENCE the Local Dance Highlight of the Year

The Cape Dance Company (CDC) has grown into one of South Africa's top contemporary dance companies. Working from a neo-classical foundation, the company has a reputation for presenting polished work of an excellent technical standard. Their 2013 presentation, CADENCE, lives up to that reputation, showcasing the talents of the CDC's core and second generation company members as well as those of their trainees and their brand new repertory ensemble. The six pieces in the show are a combination of original works, works new to the company and works from previous CDC outings that have been restaged, all of which push the dancers to extend themselves - to change and grow - and it is that openness to new challenges that causes the company to flourish in all its endeavours.

CADENCE opens with "KeepCover" a piece choreographed for the Cape Dance Company by Joshua Beamish. Adopting a vocabulary that is filled with isolations, asymmetrical rhythms and shifting planes and pathways, Beamish demands precise and articulate body work from the dancers, which they deliver. There is a huge sense of investment in the work by the company, but this is true of their approach to the entire evening's performance. Every piece is invested with unfailing integrity, but it is in this piece where their sense of ensemble is strongest.

Another key set piece for the company en masse is Bradley Shelver's "Scenes", which toys with the concept of meta-dance by exploring the creative impulse as it manifests itself in the dancers' bodies. This idea gains further resonance by allowing the dancers to witness one another dance, which in turn allows the audience not only to observe the dancers interrogating their creativity but also the way in which they interrogate each other's work. At the root of it all is a common theme to any self-referential work in any art form, a desire to explore the nature of our connections to one another as human beings, and the company members' committed performance challenges the audience to engage with this proposal deeply.

A spirited pas de deux from "The Nature of Being", created by David Krugel in 2011, opens the second half of CADENCE. Danced by Louisa Talbot and Grant van Ster, the piece is a stirring vignette danced with superb control by the well-matched pair. I have often seen Talbot perform on stage and she has always made a strong impact. In CADENCE, however, something has shifted and it is as if she has taken her dance to the next level. She is mesmerising throughout this show. Van Ster also catches the eye whenever he appears on stage, delivering choreography with remarkable strength and athleticism.

Christopher L. Huggins contributes a rousing "Bolero", choreographed to Maurice Ravel's iconic composition, to CADENCE. Sensual and passionate, the piece features fourteen members of the company, with each couple displaying some virtuoso partner work before the full ensemble comes together for a climactic finish. Although each pair of dancers has a standout moment in this piece, Londiwe Khoza, Lee Fennell, Alice Godfrey and James Bradley especially catch one's attention. Khoza contrasts her earlier, graceful performance from the first half with a playful persona, displaying a winning comic flair as she partners Fennell, who struts around on stage like a god, revelling in his height and perfect placement. Bradley and Godfrey are a brilliant pairing, she graceful and displaying a beautiful sense of line and he displaying a lithe potency that too often gets lost in many male South African dancers' pursuit of brute muscularity.

Godfrey displays the full range of her lyrical style in an earlier pas de deux with Shaun Oelf, "Love Always" which is choreographed by the artistic director of the Cape Dance Company, Debbie Turner, and which is the most traditionally classical piece in the programme. Oelf has delivered some memorable work under the Jazzart banner, notably in BIKO'S QUEST, and it is gratifying to see him graduate to work that demands greater discipline and emerge triumphant.

The newly formed CDCII Repertory Ensemble makes its debut in CADENCE, in "Treasures of the Heart". Choreographed by Michael Turner in 2008 and restaged by Turner and Bradley, along with Tracey Aaron, the piece is a challenging one for young dancers - as well it should be - and a handful of the members of this second company truly rise to the task, standing out head and shoulders above the rest. Generally speaking though, there are times when one could sense a lack of security in some of the young dancers' performances and moments when their unison lacks precision, although their knowledge of the choreography cannot be questioned. I am looking forward to seeing them blossom.

CADENCE offers Cape Town audiences an opportunity to see world class dance on a local stage, performed by local dancers. Over the past 18 years, the CDC has proved that they can be ranked alongside the best South African dance companies. In fact, it is their commitment to pushing the boundaries of their company members, to developing new talent and to not resting on their laurels that keeps them there. This season of CADENCE is a short one, with only six performances over a ten day period. It is the local dance highlight of the year, and should not be missed.

CADENCE runs at the Artscape Theatre until 7 December, with tickets ranging from R120 - R140. Bookings are through Computicket.

Photo credit: Pat Bromilow-Downing

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From This Author David Fick