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CISNE NEGRO (article first published : 2004-08-22)

Proudly presented by Petrobras (the biggest oil company in Brazil) in association with The Playhouse Company, Cisne Negro is an absolute must-see production.

Tonight, I saw the last performance of Programme One which will be followed by Programme Two next week. We saw this high-powered dance company in Durban four years ago and it still impresses with its impeccable standard, strongly influenced by the dancers’ discipline of classical ballet training.

The internationally-renowned company was founded in São Paulo in 1977 by artistic director Hulda Bittencourt with students from the established Cisne Negro (meaning “black swan”) Ballet Studio and gymnasts from the local Physical Education University. Today it is one of the most important and established dance companies in Brazil, combining originality and tradition and pooling Brazil’s rich mix of races and cultures.

Programme One included Earth Apples, with an all-male cast choreographed, costumed and lit by Itzik Galili. Set in a dream field with workers, dancers seemingly miraculously appeared as if out of the floor and several kilograms of potatoes (“earth apples”) played an important role as props or a surface for a dancer’s movement.

In Cânticos Místicos costumed by Helena Lozano, choreographer, set and lighting designer Vasco Wellencamp used excerpts from Handel’s Messiah. For me, this was the most inspired and stimulating piece as the structure of the music was mirrored brilliantly in the choreography. The fourth movement – “Come unto him ...” was achingly beautiful. I wondered how Wellencamp was going to top everything with “Hallelujah” and was rewarded with a glorious dance of joyful worship.

The mood changed considerably after interval with Trama choreographed by Rui Moreira, costumed by Eduardo Ferreira and lit by André Bottó. Here the company proved that they have strong comedic qualities in a provocative piece that had some hilarious moments, particularly where the female dancers turned into rigid dolls with a tendency to fall over. A time when you need to trust your partner implicity to prevent you from crashing to the ground!

The lighting in all pieces was simply breathtaking; imaginative costumes ranged from the earthy to the quirky and the choreography made full use of the company’s capacity for high energy and volatile passion.

With Jomba! 2004 currently running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, lovers of contemporary dance have a wealth of productions to choose from – but don’t miss this one!

Programme Two can be seen in the Playhouse Drama on August 25 at 19h30, August 28 at 14h30 and 19h30 as well as on August 29 at 18h00 Tickets R55 (R40 for the Saturday matinée/R15 for scholars). There is a special schools’ performance at 11h00 on August 27.

Early booking at Computicket is advised. Call Thanduxolo on 031 3699467 to book for the schools’ performance. – Caroline Smart




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