Ballet and jazz find each other in new fusion production
Edward TsumeleWho says a swinging number and a pas de deux can’t mix?
Ballet has always had a refined and rigorous association — not only because it calls for great discipline from its practitioners, but because not everyone can succeed in this art form without huge dedication.
So when you combine ballet with jazz — an art form with equally discerning followers — there is sure to be fireworks on stage. This is the promise to audiences of the When Ballet Meets Jazz extravaganza later this month in Johannesburg.
A pioneering SA performance, this experimental collaboration was created and first performed in 2016, when it was warmly received by audiences.
“There is no need for ballet lovers and jazz aficionados to watch their favourite art form in two separate theatres. When Ballet Meets Jazz brings together a group of young classical and contemporary dancers from Mzansi Ballet and Carstens Ireland Ballet Studio, and a formidable sextet of amazing jazz musicians,” the producers promise in a media release.
“Unfamiliar with each other’s worlds, these young and talented artists will take their audiences through a touching discovery of a diverse cultural heritage where dance and music become one.”
This production is a result of the efforts of Mzansi Ballet CEO Dirk Badenhorst, pianist, academic and musical director Andre Petersen and jazz executive Aymeric Péguillan.
Péguillan has paid his dues in the entertainment industry, particularly over the past four years when he and Kevin Naidoo, against sound advice from people who had travelled the same path and failed, launched The Orbit in Braamfontein. The club has since made its name locally and internationally as a home of good jazz in SA and its doors are still open.
The trio share an artistic vision that explores combining SA jazz with foreign and classical pieces.
John Motebejane Tsunke and Badenhorst are the choreographers. The band led by Petersen includes Siya Makuzeni, Mthunzi Mvubu, Neville Nhlanhla Radebe, Lwanda Gogwana and Sphelelo Mazibuko.
The dancers include Tsunke, Tayla de Bie, Veronica Louw, Michaela Louw, Angela Revie, Nehanda Péguillan and Aaron Smyth.
The music includes compositions from Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, Alan Silinga, Moses Molelekwa, Andre Petersen, Pablo Lapidusas, Leo Espinosa, Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse. The dances include neoclassical and contemporary choreography, and classics such as the cygnets from Swan Lake and the ever-popular The Dying Swan.
Also this month, Mzansi Ballet is presenting Bengingazi, a vibrant fusion of classical ballet, pantsula, flamenco and contemporary dance expressed through an inspirational SA story.
Mzanzi Ballet has brought together some of SA’s leading dancers, incuding ballet dancers Angela Malan, Michael Revie and Angela Revie; professional pantsula dancers Stembiso “Mada” Makhanya (Madamore) of Soweto and flamenco dancer Ndumiso Tafeni.
The cast will be joined by Smyth, recipient of the best performer award at the recent Shanghai International Ballet Competition and a previous medalist in the SA International Ballet Competition.
Bengingazi, which means “I did not know”, will be presented as a fairy tale about a Soweto man skilled in the art of pantsula who meets a classical ballerina. They have an affair and, unbeknown to the man, produce a son who is brought up in the world of classical ballet.
However, when the mother is one day introduced to the art of pantsula, she decides to introduce her son to his father and they go on to create an amazing fusion of the two different dance worlds.
The white swan pas de deux as well as solos from The Dying Swan and the grand pas from Don Quixote will also be featured in Bengingazi. The production is choreographed by renowned SA choreographer Adele Blank with contributions by Mada Stembiso, Angela Revie, Badenhorst and Smyth.
When Ballet Meets Jazz is at Montecasino from October 24-28. Bengingazi is at Montecasino from October 31 to November 4.