Ballet Is Beautiful, at Theatre On The Bay until October 29

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OVER the past few months, from the time when theatres were not allowed to sell full houses because of social distancing (does that also feel weird to you now, or is it just me?) to this very week when no such restrictions apply, I’ve been fortunate to attend several productions at Theatre On The Bay.

Sitting in the second row from the front on Wednesday evening, watching Ballet Is Beautiful, I let my mind drift back to some of them, and silently marvelled how a stage can be transformed to take the audience on so many different journeys. There was the musical The Last Five Years back in April. Your Song – The Music Of Elton John, written by Christopher Dudgeon, with Anton Luitingh on the grand piano in May. Fordsburg’s Finest was a used car lot circa 1996 with Paul Slabolepszy in August, and in September, we were wowed by Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? with the incredible cast of Alan Committie, Robyn Scott, Sanda Shandu and Berenice Barbier. A round of applause please for all those set designers who created all these worlds in which we spent mere hours.

Now, for Ballet Is Beautiful, the set is no set, just a bare, stark stage, with a plain backdrop on which lighting is played. It gives the sense of a huge space and allows the dancers to be the pure and only focus. There’s no room to hide, especially from those sitting so close, who can see the minute trembles in the male dancers’ hands as they support their ballerinas en pointe. Such a thing of beauty, those shoes. And bearing witness to the physical strenuosity of the dance is welcome.

They all make it look so easy, with their lithe young bodies, that it’s sometimes easy to forget how hard it is, how long they train and rehearse, the sacrifices they make. Respect.

Ballet Is Beautiful is a collaboration from South Africa’s most renowned choreographers: Veronica Paeper (classical ballet), Sean Bovim (modern ballet), Adele Blank and Dane Hurst (contemporary ballet). The South African National Dance Trust (SANDT) company of dancers is accompanied by guest artists from Joburg Ballet and Jazzart Dance; and soloist guest artist from The Royal Ballet, Romany Pajdak. As such, the programme is varied to incorporate all these styles.

Each dance is introduced by petite Tracy Li, with quotes from dancers, choreographers, writers and humorists (not verbally by her). George Balanchine, one of the greatest choreographers, said: “Ballet is like a rose. It is beautiful and you admire it, but you don’t ask what it means”. Ballet Is Beautiful is a celebration of the ideas that have been expressed about this art form. Some are inspiring, some are down to earth, some are revealing and some are amusing. They each have something to say to the audience. In the words of Lord Byron, “See the music. Hear the dance.”

My favourite was the Table Duet (above), choreographed by Sean Bovim and performed by Calden Gibbs and Bronwyn Craddock (whose height added even more drama to the piece). Not only was it exquisite and creative but it included an element of breathtaking danger as you marvel at what the dancers are doing, and what could possibly go wrong, just the slightest slip or misjudgement. It was exhilarating to watch.

Ballet Is Beautiful runs until October 29. The duration is approximately 1 hour 40 minutes including 20 minute interval, and there is no age restriction. Book here or call 021 438 3301.

PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Ward

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