Ballet

2 08 2016

There are consequences of an economy in a tailspin. One of the first sectors to feel the pinch is the arts and dance is no exception.

bb8

Symmetry

As a trustee of the Dance Trust of Zimbabwe I am all too aware of the impact of the imploding economy on our ability to remain viable. Two weeks ago at a board meeting I expressed concern that I had bought 10% of the tickets (8) for the gala performance of the upcoming Ballet Bouquet dance show.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

The Ballet Bouquet is the idea of Cape Town City Ballet choreographer Robin van Wyk. In the CTCB off-season (winter) he stages ballets in the smaller cities in the sub-region using dancers of all ages and capabilities. Senior dancers from the CTCB help bring a bit of glamour!

The fairy princess from the Nutcracker

The fairy princess from the Nutcracker

Robin came up to Harare to choreograph the pieces and then local teachers rehearsed the dancers until last week when Robin returned with the senior dancers and saw to it that the locals were up to his demanding standard.

The show consisted of a 45 minute adaptation of the Nutcracker and then after the interval there were several pieces from other well-known ballets. Yes, the Nutcracker is traditionally a Christmas ballet but in this case the theme was “Christmas in July” and the 450 orphans and disadvantaged children who attended the dress rehearsal each received a small gift.

Principal CTCB ballerina Angela Hanford shows how it's done!

Principal CTCB ballerina Angela Hanford shows how it’s done!

Six shows were staged over 4 days and with full houses for 4 shows and some 80% capacity for the other two the Dance Trust of Zimbabwe can survive for a little longer.





HIFA 2014 – Day 6

6 05 2014

HIFA is now over of course. My internet did not work for a full 3 days which is why these posts are late. It took an hour on the phone to a support centre and the good fortune to be chatting to a technician who actually did know what he was talking about to sort it out. It’s still erratic but at least it is working.

I thought the programme this year was good. I only saw 2 plays that I thought were sub-standard but that is the nature of arts festivals. I cannot answer the question as to which was my favorite show but I did really enjoy the acoustic guitarists, all of whom were exceptional in their own way. It is of course common knowledge by now that the government blocked the visas of the South African pop group Freshly Ground who were due to play at the closing ceremony on this last day sponsored by Old Mutual, an insurance company. This was apparently over a song that the group released some years back that mocked the president of Zimbabwe (see this link). In true HIFA fashion a plan was made, another German group stepped up to the stage along with a host of other international artistes and the show went on!

I did not attend the final closing but did get to see a few other things. First on the list was the local National Ballet production – the Breakthrough. A real crowd pleaser with a bit of contemporary ballet and just about every other genre of dance one could think of. It purported to show how all these other styles developed from classical ballet but I wouldn’t vouch for the accuracy of that. The crowd didn’t mind and it was well attended on both days.

 

It was with more than a bit of trepidation that I made my way to the finals of The Trash Queen fashion show but it was not at all what I thought it would be. Participants had to design and make a fashion attire from trash. Any sort of trash would do – air filter, bubble wrap, CDs and loads of other rubbish was used. Participants were individuals and self-help groups, remand centre children and local schools. Fun!

Right after the fashion show I moved nearly next door to hear a South African group John Wizards (apparently named after a band member). They seemed pretty chilled. And the music?  It sounded like it came from Cape Town. Afro something or other. Not my taste.

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Then it was time to go home, exercise and feed the dogs and come back to REPS theatre for Bend it Like Beauty with Ben Voss posing as a Zulu woman who succeeds in insulting just about everyone. Very funny but he had to excise rather a lot of political material and as a result I recognized a lot of stuff from a previous show a few years back. Freedom of speech is enshrined in our constitution but does not apply to everybody. I did not take photos – there are only so many photos one can take of a comedian on stage and anyway, I wanted a break!





HIFA 2014 – Day 4

5 05 2014

Friday was Day 4, also known as Golden Pilsner Day (a local brand of beer). I re-attended the DFC Baobab Shadows to get some photos that had eluded me the first time around. That done I watched Short & Sweet, a series of 5 short plays by local writers (though one was actually impromptu). Coming Out by Blessing Hungwe about a son’s clash with his father was excellent. What are the Odds was a bit Monty Pythonesque but not bad. I did not care for City Angel or A Woman Called Carol about a prostitute and social mores respectively. The World Ten Minutes at a Time was an impromptu show by Kevin Hansen and 3 others. Genuinely funny, it went down well.

I Wish Her Well by Norwegian contemporary dance theatre Panta Rei was beautifully danced at REPS. In two acts, it told the stories of 4 women closely related to the dancers in the first act and the second act was based on the diaries of a teenage woman now 82.

Any Other World was a dance production by local (and new) 8 Count Dance Company. Colourful, energetic and fun! They won a NAMA (National Association of Music and Arts) award earlier this year.





HIFA 2014 – Day 3

5 05 2014

Right, now that the internet is back I can post! Hopefully it will last long enough…

Day 3 was Coca-Cola day and quite a busy one for me. First off a play, The Maids, a French written tragi-comedy about sisters working as maids in Paris for a tyrannical and erratic “Madame”. Great direction by Giles Ramsey at the Standard Theatre.

Also at the Standard Theatre was a double dance bill starting with Push Pull by the Dunia Dance Company telling the story of illegal African immigrants into Spain who often die en route. Graphic stuff. The second half was Prelude by Aida Diaz and to quote the programme: “Prelude speaks of the systematic rape of beauty, the loss of innocence and ultimately of forgiveness
and redemption. A hymn to life, born from a deep sigh.”

Will McNicol’s second programme of acoustic guitar music by composers who had influenced him was next door at the NMB Recital Room.  Understated and unassuming he is an extraordinary player. I particularly liked his version of the blues – yes from and acoustic guitar! He has one more show today (Sunday) in the “Battle of the Guitars” with the other acoustic guitar players at HIFA but it’s sold out. Never mind, if he comes to a venue near you go and see him – you will be enthralled.

In the evening I caught singer songwriter Josephine from the UK. Not my style of music but it was a full Lays Global Stage and the rest of the audience enjoyed it.

In the evening was the first performance of the Dance Foundation Course’s “Baobab Shadows”. A collaboration with Dunia Dance Theatre of Belgium and Les Cliquets, trapeze artistes also from Belgium. It made innovative use of shadows and a backdrop. It was enthusiastically received by a small audience. At the second performance I tried a technique of blurring the shots to get an idea of movement. I think it worked well.





The election part 2 – where to now?

7 08 2013

As Helen said to me on Saturday; “If it’s such a landslide victory for ZANU-PF where are the celebrating crowds?”. They certainly weren’t on the street in Harare. Or anywhere else that I have heard. A client coming through the airport on Sunday night said the officials there were in “shell-shock”. The stock market, that perennial barometer of things economic, reacted on Monday by dropping 11% in value. Austin muttered at the gym that once again we’d failed to grasp the scale of what ZANU-PF was capable of doing. German Embassy officials I spoke to on Saturday commented that it was a blatantly fraudulent election and yes, it would be declared fraudulent in a court of law. But perhaps not a Zimbabwean one. The USA, UK and EC have described the elections as deeply flawed.

As I type this on Wednesday morning 2 ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) officials have resigned in disgust.

Jacob Zuma, the South Africa president, has endorsed the results as “free and fair” as has the African Union observer team. Other African observers have declared various degrees of reservations on the veracity of the outcome.

Botswana is asking for an audit (their president, Ian Kharma, and ours have never seen eye-to-eye).

ZANU-PF are crowing that they “have a mandate from the people” to change the constitution with their 2/3 parliamentary majority and will be enforcing the 51% indigenous ownership (that means black Zimbabweans) of all companies. Hence the stock market slump.

Most Zimbabweans I have met are continuing as normal. Yesterday I watched as a group of older women bought roses in the next-door nursery.

My doctor said she’d not prescribed any more Prozac than normal.

On Saturday night I attended the first graduation of the current Dance Foundation Course (DFC) for which I am a trustee. Politics could not have been further from anyone’s mind. The students had great fun showing off their new skills, proud families celebrated and even the guest of honour, the US Ambassador relaxed a little. So to answer the question in the title; I suppose we will just wait and see as we have been doing for the last 45 years.





Alice in Bollywood

6 07 2013

Yes, you read that correctly. Not Wonderland, Bollywood. This was a National Ballet production and is essentially the start of the ballet season here in Harare. I saw a rehearsal last Friday and was more than a bit concerned but it all came together well and we were treated to another quality production that comes to an end today.

Wonderland was replaced by a Bollywood theme directed/produced by Ketan Nagar and we had all the usual characters – caterpillar, a Cheshire tiger, Mad Hatter’s tea party and of course the White Rabbit in the form of Thabani Ntuli of South African Mzansi Ballet  – and good he was too. Faye Jackson, Jan Clayton and Bibi Eastwood choreographed/directed the more conventional dancing. Principal Dancer Natalie Bradbury gave her usual quality performance as Alice. What a relief to see all those girls wearing their hair long for a change!





HIFA 2013 – day 5

4 05 2013

A day of dance – mainly. The National Ballet put on When They Are Gone. Lots of colour and fun with a serious message highlighting the plight of the desperately endangered rhino. A great performance from and amateur dance group and completely choreographed in-house. Encore! (This show will run again at REPS soon – a chance to see it if you missed it at HIFA)

Dance Foundation Course put on their first show after only 9 months training! Seriously energetic, they seemed to revel in the dancing. The second half of the show was some aerial ballet on a rope by Belgian artistes les Cliquets

Last show of the day was Acoustic Night Allstars, a show by a group of local musicians supported by the German Embassy in Harare.