Following his passion

2008-04-24 00:00

HIT musical Chicago has ended its Cape Town run and moved to the Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg, running from April 22 to May 11. Dance captain for the run is Duane Alexander, who was born in Pietermaritzburg and was at Maritzburg College until his family moved to Cape Town when he was 16.

Margaret von Klemperer asked him about his Pietermaritzburg days, and his career in the theatre.

Who taught you dance in Pietermaritzburg?

I started at the age of six, when Susan Cleary spotted me dancing and fooling around with friends at a braai. She suggested to my mom that I take up dancing, and shortly afterwards I joined Sally Benyon’s studio.

Maritzburg College is known as a rugby school. How easy was it to to be a dancer rather than a jock when you were there?

I actually decided to stop dancing and try my hand at other things while I was in high school. I had amazing drama and art teachers at Maritzburg College who utilised my skills as a dancer in the school musicals — so I quickly became known as the “ballerina boy”. It wasn’t altogether pleasant at the time but it never stopped me from following my passion.

What is your favourite memory of your College schooldays?

I remember awesome teachers and mentors more than favourite memories. Antoinette Goosen, Colin Chapman, Lucy Usher, Mary Anne Hartley — all of them had an influence on me and my career.

If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be in performing arts — so if not a dancer/singer/actor then a director or choreographer. I do dabble in these areas and my focus might shift there a little later in my life. If I couldn’t do anything in the arts, then perhaps psychology.

What has been your best moment on stage?

Too many to mention, but one that sticks out was our final performance of Rent in Cape Town. It is such a special show and it had been the most amazing season of a show in which I played my first lead role. The final performance was filled with friends, family and “rent-heads” — groupies of the show — and the whole evening was intense, emotional and electrifying. I will never forget that night as long as I live.

And your worst?

I either have a selective memory or can genuinely not think of a “worst moment” on stage. Ironically I suppose the end of any show is a “worst” moment, because it’s the end of a chapter in one’s life. Colleagues become friends and the show becomes your life so when it ends, it always feels like a little part of me dies and only lives on in photos and memories.

Of all the musicals you have been in — Cats, Joseph, JC Superstar, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Rent — which is your favourite?

Tough choice, but I would have to say Rent, because it was my first lead role, and it’s a show that I have loved since I was 17. To finally have the opportunity to perform in it was a dream come true.

What stage role do you most want to play?

If I was 15 years younger, Billy Elliot. I’d also love to perform in Avenue Q and a Chorus Line.

When will we get a chance to see you dance in KZN?

I’m not sure but I hope sometime. Otherwise a drive up to Johannesburg is only a few hours away, and I’m happy to say that all the shows I’ve been involved in are certainly worth the trip.

What do you do to chill, away from the theatre?

I love spending time with my friends, at restaurants, movies, the beach etc. Otherwise I’m always content in front of my TV, either playing PlayStation or watching one of the many TV series I’m addicted to: Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, Prison Break, Pushing Daises, 6 Feet Under, and Alias.

• Booking for Chicago’s Johannesburg run is at Computicket at 083 915 8000 at any Computicket outlet or at www.computicket.com

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