Eastern Cape to dance to the rock

2011-02-10 12:19

British rock band Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury once said: “A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.”

So he’d probably be thrilled that a dance company has used his music as the inspiration for a show. And Somebody to Love is a theatrical event he’d probably appreciate.

Of course, Queen’s music draws audiences too. Also, ballet coupled with popular music widens the net of potential viewers, making what many erroneously consider to be an elitist artform seem less highbrow and scary.

Somebody to Love is one of two shows that Mzansi Productions is taking on a tour of the Eastern Cape.

For one of the company’s principal dancers, Craig Arnold, it’s also a homecoming.

A native of Port Elizabeth Arnold hasn’t performed on his home turf for six years, so he’s excited to be going home. This tour is part of the company’s programme to not only service their existing audiences but to grow new ones.

To that end the second piece the company will perform is Sproetjies. Co-choreographed by Arnold, it is a contemporary take on the Cinderella story set to well-known Afrikaans songs.

An odd combination, but one that’s likely to make ballet a tweeting point in the schools the show visits. Which is the point.

“Somebody to Love is more of an abstract piece. It’s like a season of soloists, but Sproetjies is character driven,” says Arnold, which means the dancers are hard at work getting both pieces performance ready.

With dancer Angela Malan as ballet mistress, the company have had a mere three weeks to spruce up – usually they’d set aside three months to rehearse.

Malan says that Queen is a hard task master and the show comprises 18 of the band’s songs. “We have a lot of sore bodies. You have to have the strength to dance to Queen, the music is quite a competitor and you can’t get up on stage and be floppy.”

» Somebody to Love: A Dance Celebration of the Music of Queen is on at East London’s Guild Theatre from February 15 to 17, 0 043 743 0704; at Grahamstown’s Guy Butler Theatre from February 18 to 20; and at Port Elizabeth’s Savoy Theatre from February 23 to 27. Book at Computicket. Sproetjies will be performed for schools only, 0 011 482 3727.

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