One of the most amazing and memorable experiences a young dancer could wish for is to dance at the Artscape Theatre. In front, a large red curtain is drawn, the lights are low and an eager audience awaits – admittedly composed mostly of anxious parents about to find out
whether their hard earned cash has been well spent.
The Sarah Daniels’ School of Dance opened the show with the playful ‘Scaramouche and Friends’ composed by Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Immediately I knew that tonight’s dancers were no amateurs. Well, they were… but… you know what I mean. The first to appear were the youngest performers of the night, a little girl and an even smaller little boy dressed in a blue and black striped tailcoat and top hat that made my heart melt.
Then clowns in ballet shoes, girls from ages 6 to 13, appeared from all directions, dancing effortlessly with sweet grace. I tried to think what I was doing at that age. Making mud pies probably. I would have never had the patience, let alone the mental capacity to learn and remember all those technical dance moves, choreographed by Roxy Levy.
The bar was raised still further by the Stellenbosch Academy of Dance’s contemporary ‘Before You Snap’, tightly choreographed by Anthea Turck-Niehaus. It was astonishing to watch how these young dancers expressed a feeling, setting a tone in the way they moved, articulating the emotion of the music so vividly.
Carnival from Interdance Incorporated then took the stage, filling it with about 40 students, all in bright, flamboyant costumes, dancing a showgirl-inspired piece in perfect unison. They executed the fast-paced, lengthy routine with ease, leaving it to me to huff and puff on their behalf, fixated on this mirage of shimmering colour that jumped and spun, flipped, curved and twirled.
It was great to see how many teenage boys participated when Debbie Turner’s Cape Academy of Performing Arts took the stage with ‘Lastdays’, a song composed by Max
Richter. James Bradley was the choreographer for this intense, passionate dance, where the boys in tight hot pants and unbuttoned shirts lifted and flicked girls wearing flowing, red
dresses as if they were rose petals blowing in the wind.
A definite highlight of the night was the American guest dancer DuJuan Smart, who took ownership of the stage with his solo contemporary dance routine. Like a perfectly carved
Michelangelo sculpture, this solidly muscular yet supremely graceful dancer moved with incredible flexibility, elegantly contorting himself into positions I never thought possible.
But in fact it was the last two performances of the night that were the most memorable. Choreographed by the inimitable Adele Blank, the Viv Pullin and Jen Stretch Dance
Company showed off their moves to ‘Time’ by Pink Floyd, where the girls got creative with a simple white shirt. It was a clever, detailed and intricate modern dance, stunningly put
together. Then the students from Deborah McFadden’s Northern Dance Project performed to an extract from Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, composed by Devotchka. The girls executed
moves superbly choreographed by Nicole Haskins and Bailey Snyman that required 100% trust and confidence in their dance partner. Working mostly in sets of two this piece was a
magnificent ending to a spectacular night of dance.
What stood out in all the performances was the passion and determination of the dancers.
With ear to ear smiles, charismatic expressions and immense concentration, every single one of the dancers impressed the socks off me. I can barely comprehend the amount of time
and work that goes into presenting something so beautiful and professional. It was truly inspiring to see the level of talent we have among our South African youth. Bravo.
by Caro Malherbe
The Western Province Dance Teachers Association’s Showcase of Dance runs until 25
March at the Artscape Theatre.