Cape Town - So what makes dance romantic – is it the music, movements, scenery, costumes or a combination of all of these? I recently saw two performances featuring very different types of dance at Cape Town’s Artscape theatre, which set me thinking.
The first of these was by a company I had always wanted to see: the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. What an explosion of energy! US dancers are renowned for their athleticism and technique, and this ensemble did not disappoint – I am willing to bet that few Springboks would be able to keep up with their practice routine.
The second item on the programme was given as ‘After the rain pas de deux’. Set to dreamy modern music by Arvo Pärt, this dance-for-two featured a girl dressed in a neon pink leotard and a guy dressed in white trousers with a bare torso.
(Akua and Jamar Roberts. Photo:Paul Kolnik)
The set was simple and sparse and some of the movements distinctly (and provocatively?) un-balletic. Yet the dancing was tender, moving and unmistakably romantic. It clearly struck a chord with the wildly appreciative audience.
According to programme notes the choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, is steeped in classical ballet and it certainly shows – the controlled beauty of the dancers’ movements clearly reflects the discipline of their classical schooling.
The second item on my list is Giselle:
Giselle is one of the great classical ballets and has just finished a series of performances by the Cape Town City Ballet.
I refer specifically to the second act. Here Giselle, having died of a broken heart after being betrayed by the man she believed she was going to marry, is initiated into the ranks of a group of similarly jilted ghostly maidens. Led by a tough cookie, they emerge from their graves at night and mercilessly make any hapless male who enters their territory meet his end by forcing him to dance to exhaustion.
(Laura Bösenberg and Thomas Thorne. Photo: Pat Bromilow-Downing)
When Giselle’s faithless swain appears, contrite and heartbroken, she extends him forgiveness and shows her enduring love in one of classical ballet’s famous and most tender duets. Here you have it all: a spooky, ultra-romantic stage setting and a ballerina dressed in filmy long, white tutu with her partner clothed in a velvet tunic (he makes his appearance wrapped in a sumptuous cloak and bearing a bouquet of lilies). All of this is set to a beautiful score played by full symphony orchestra.
Which of these is more romantic – the pared-down modern version or its classic counterpart with all the bells and whistles?
Truly, it would be hard to tell. I think it just goes to show that dance, in all its glorious varieties, is a celebration of the full spectrum of human emotions. And as with most things in life, there is no short cut: without the technique, the training and the right moves, you just can’t make it happen.
Watch an interview with the ballet dancers here:
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