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Big City, Big Dreams

Ballet meets its Modern Match

By Jaco Lotriet

A lot has been said recently about collaborations and the effect it can have on the power of the final product. This theory has yet again been proven on the Mandela Stage of the Joburg Theatre when Joburg Ballet collaborated with Vuyani Dance Theatre and Moving Into Dance Mphatong to create the energetic, vibrant and commanding dance spectacular, Big City, Big Dreams.

Oscar Buthelezi, centre & the Company

So many aspects of theatre came together in this production. Unfolding in scenes that platform the exhilaration of South African dance, Big City, Big Dreams fuses styles, from classical ballet to contemporary and street dance, combining influential technique with effervescent emotion. It is a common fact that ballet, and more so all the different styles of dance, require a lot of space to showcase the performers’ talents, leaving very little for proper set design. With this being said, the set, as designed by Wilhelm Disbergen, was nothing short of breathtaking.

The element of awe was undoubtedly the 9 x 15 metre mirror wall, as designed by Disbergen, which was elevated at a 45 degree angle above the stage. The three dimensional effect projected by this mirror wall created a spectacular illusion, adding the majestic and powerful energy to the dancing below. Together with visual elements and a 4 x 2 metre table in one scene, this show was not just enthralling, but also ground-breaking in many ways.

Revil Yon, Claudia Monja & Ivan Domiciano with the Company

While space seemed to be in abundance, props seemed somewhat scant throughout the show. Ironically this provided the aforementioned space for the dancers to move around the stage with relative ease, while these effects still featured with great result. This was clearly the hand of experienced and well-known Director, Fiona Ramsay. With many credits in all aspects of theatre under her tutu, uniting so many diverse elements of the stage, was a daunting task made easy.

The theme and story of Big City, Big Dreams revolves largely around a young man who steps confidently onto the first steps of the Joburg corporate ladder. He then discovers an unexpected, yet fascinating new window into the world of dance, revealing itself to him. It is a love story, with various aspects of Jozi life illustrated through many forms of astounding body movements. Phumlane Mndebele and Claudia Monja were cast in the leads, but the ensemble of nimble dancers supporting this story, did not fall short of the overall magic of this production.

Kitty Phetla and Ruan Galdino with members of the Company

Shannon Glover from Joburg Ballet, Sunnyboy Motau from Moving Into Dance Mophatong, and the Vuyani Dance Theatre’s Lulu Mlangeni, collaborated as the choreography threesome. Mlangeni acknowledged that it is no easy task for three choreographers to work together on one production. With this being said, the eclectic weave of different styles coming together in one performance, was something that is seldom seen on stage…

The music of Big City, Big Dreams, sets every meticulously choreographed dance step into a seamless motion, capturing the essence of the show’s theme effectively. Composer and musical maestro, Nik Sakellarides complimented the storyline through the use of many music genres. In his words, the music is relaying the “undercount of that is happening at the top”. This statement was evident in the score, capturing the mood with fine finesse. Whether light, sweeping or even declamatory in an emotionally-laden scene, the melodic compositions provided an emotional anchor in a perfectly sequenced marriage with dance.

This mesmerizingly beautiful production feels fresh and invigorating to say the least. Big City, Big dreams are on the Mandela Stage of the Joburg Theatre, until Sunday, 6 June 2017.


Photos by Bill Zurich

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