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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

CISNE NEGRO (article first published : 2000-09-14)

Space on artSMart is mercifully never a problem but unfortunately at the moment, time is. A punishing schedule does not give me the opportunity to write as extensive a review as Cisne Negro warrants. However, I considered it was important to give you my opinion of this excellent contemporary ballet company appearing at the Playhouse for another four days and hopefully persuade readers to go and see it.

Direct from Brazil, this is certainly one of the finest contemporary dance companies I have seen appear in Durban. Putting in impeccable performances whether the piece was classical humorous, or introverted the 15-strong company exploded onto the Drama stage and within minutes, the audience was hooked.

This I have to admit is hearsay as I was only able to reach the theatre after the first piece had started so I waited patiently in the foyer until the first interval. These ranged from “delightful” and “stunning” to “charming” and “beautiful”. These accolades are directed at a piece choreographed by Mark Baldwin to Stravinsky’s music titled Danses Concertantes (1998).

So it was with much eager anticipation that I took my seat in the theatre for the next part of the programme. I wasn’t disappointed. Titled Impromptu (199) … apparently improvised! it was set to Egberto Gismonti’s CD Childhood by choreographer Tindaro Silvano. It’s a very “busy” piece with much quirky humour. Figures move quickly to and fro, changing direction at the last minute and creating a frenetic energy which was always controlled. If there was any “improvisation” here, it was extremely well-rehearsed. The company is highly disciplined and their teamwork impeccable – it is no wonder they boast a major international reputation.

The favourite of the evening was undoubtedly Patrick Delcroix’s Beyond the Skin (1999) choreographed to the music of Eddie “Flashin’ Bowlkes, Doctor L, Suba and Muki. Quite a complex piece, it featured the dancers in pairs and the movement often suggested people in relationships stretched to their limit of endurance but their need of each other being too great to sever the ties.

Joyce Drummond’s lighting was simply stunning. Using white light, mainly through spots either in the wings or at the back of the theatre, she created an almost tangible environment. Subtle use of the smoke machine kept a sufficient haze to implement the effective play of lighting and the electronic music of the first part added to a sense of unreality.

Hulda Bittencourt, Cisne Negro’s artist director, has moulded a very fine and innovative company. Don’t miss this contemporary dance treat.

Based in Sao Paulo and celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year, Cisne Negro is the first Brazilian contemporary dance company to visit South Africa. They are appearing in the Playhouse Drama until September 17 with matinee performances on September 14 and 15 at 11h00 and one on September 16 at 14h30. Tickets R35 (R10 scholars, R20 Saturday matinee and R30 Sunday). Book at TicketWeb outlets or www.ticketweb.co.za. To book by credit card, Dial-A-Seat on (031) 369 9444. The dance company has its own website at www.cisnenegro.art.br




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