Cape Town City Ballet’s latest production includes a refreshing variety of works, featuring pieces by the Zama Dance School, Cape Junior Ballet, and Kirvan Fortuin. The title piece, Earthwalker, is a collaboration by Kirsten Isenberg and Robin van Wyk.
Zama Dance opens with My Heart Speaks Every Language. Atmospherically lit at the back of the stage while the dancers perform an intricate arm gesture sequence, it is a powerful opening image. With lots of fast-paced choreography by Leanne Voysey, the young dancers maintain a strong sense of focus throughout the numerous uses of canon and pattern changes. They are bright and vigorous, displaying a level of professionalism of which these young dancers can be proud.
Following them is the Cape Junior Ballet Company in Hubert Essakow’s Malevich Moves. A very clean and polished performance, the work possesses a neoclassic style which facilitates the geometric shapes that inspired the choreography. Unfortunately, this shape-focused arrangement coupled with very repetitive piano music does not allow for much light and shade in the piece. But this is no reflection on the cast who dance with technical accuracy and zeal, with Lauren Wooton giving an outstanding performance.
Also choreographed in a neoclassic style is Earthwalker, an epic tale of star-crossed lovers in a world of stars. Thomas Thorne thrives in this work, performing some great solos as the young star Taurus who falls in love with Virgo (played by Laura Bosenberg). Their romance takes us on our journey through the various star factions, each of which has a different movement quality. We meet Aquarius, danced by Ivan Boonzaaier, who has a demanding and masculine stage presence. The Librans, who pass the final judgement on this tale, have a statuesque energy, and incorporate an occasional quirky head and shoulder gesture which, although fun, seems incongruous with the rest of the choreography.
Kim Vieira shines as Pisces, and brings her joyful presence to the Artscape stage one last time as she says farewell to the Cape Town City Ballet. Rosamund Ford delivers a seductive performance as the head of Sagittarius and, as a whole, the group has a sharp and fiery dynamic. In Earthwalker the full depth of the stage is used, aptly serving the story and melodramatic elements such as the theatrical lifts. Powerful and emotional music also greatly aids the theme, although sometimes the climatic build of the melody overpowers the dancers themselves.
The most compelling piece of the evening is the more contemporary work Silver and Gold (You and I), choreographed by Kirvan Fortuin. It proves intriguing not only for the intricate partner-work but for the opportunity to see the dancers’ growing ability with a more contemporary movement vocabulary. Mariette Opperman, Craig Pedro, Hannah Ward and Revil Yon commit fully to the choreography, though a bit more release through the neck and more organic transitions into extensions would take this piece up a notch. Ward’s opening solo is especially captivating, moving with a mercurial quality as she grows up from the floor. Interestingly the stark black box setting of this alluring work has a particularly McGregor-esque aesthetic.
This is a very interesting and varied programme from the Cape Town City Ballet, pushing the dancers to try new things as well as introducing the audience to new styles and choreographers. An exciting prospect for the future.
Earthwalker runs at the Artscape Opera House from 9 to 11 June 2017.