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DANCE À LA CARTE (article first published : 2002-06-10)

Western, African, Eastern, contemporary, traditional, and all the exciting dance fusion that happens in between - this is the spectrum of dance tastes catered to on the main programme for the 2002 National Arts Festival to be held in Grahamstown from June 29 to July 6.

The classical ballet Coppélia tops the bill. It will be performed by Cape Town City Ballet with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Delibes' timeless score has inspired new choreography by Jean-Paul Comelin, adding fresh sparkle to the tale of the sparring lovers, the beautiful doll and the doll maker determined to bring her to life.

Contrasts is the ballet company's second programme, danced to recorded music and featuring seven shorter works that showcase the startling expressive vitality of supple limbs in often unconventional moves.

Durban’s own Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company also presents ballet-trained dancers in vivid contemporary style for three South African stories. Mainland includes Boyzie Cekwana's acclaimed interpretation of the Can Themba short story, The Suit. Robben Island stories from the Struggle years inspired Sbonakaliso Ndaba to create The Visiting. David Gouldie's tri contests stereotypes and visual persona.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Gregory Vuyani Maqoma is very much a 21st century African choreographer whose imagination resonates with the complexities of post-colonial society. His double bill, Colour Comfort is accompanied by the Vuyani Ensemble playing new music on stage with the dancers.

Original slam poetry and interactive computer-generated art and animation are part of PJ Sabbagha's emphatic vocabulary in The Double Room. His dancers are confined in a sandpit where, with bone-jarring physicality, they give shape to the existential dilemmas of living with HIV/AIDS.

Claiming the stage for popular South African dance forms, The East Cape Ensemble features top performers from a creative heartland in an exuberant medley of song, dance and music.

Five other eminently watchable East Cape groups will perform as part of The Studio programme. The Border Youth Dance Company and East London's Guild Theatre Dance Company share the stage for Umsitho - Dance Gathering. Three of the best from the 2002 FNB Vita Dance Umdudo (the local "Umbrella") will be honoured in a special Studio performance.

Also on the programme come the Odissi dancers from India and folk dancers from the Yunnan province of China. Sonal Mansingh is India's greatest exponent of Odissi, an ancient classical form. Presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi, she will be appearing with a troupe of five exquisitely costumed dancers.

The Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology and the Chinese government bring the Yunnan Hua Deng Art Ensemble to the Festival. They will perform as part of the free Street Theatre programme.

The National Arts Festival is proudly sponsored by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank and the National Arts Council, with support from Shamwari Game Reserve. Booking for the 2002 National Arts Festival is open at Computicket nationwide.




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