‘A Spartacus of Africa’ ballet staged at Opera House

2016-10-26 06:00
Casey Swales will be dancing the title role of Amari in the A Spartacus of Africa production which will be coming to Port Elizabeth in November. Photo: BILL ZURICH

Casey Swales will be dancing the title role of Amari in the A Spartacus of Africa production which will be coming to Port Elizabeth in November. Photo: BILL ZURICH

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THE ballet, A Spartacus of Africa, featuring the original music of Khachaturian, has returned due to popular demand and will open at the Port Elizabeth Opera House on November 3.

It will be the first of several upcoming seasons of this all-new touring version of the ballet that captivated audiences when it premiered last year in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Renowned choreographer, Veronica Paeper, re-designed her original ballet that she created for The Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) Ballet in 1984, incorporating contemporary dance into the classical ballet style.

South Africa’s most exciting and talented dancers from all around the country make up the cast of twenty, further perpetuating The South African National Dance Trust’s (SANDT) collaborative approach.

It has long been Paeper’s ambition to reproduce this ballet which is arguably her finest. Drawn to the similarity between Rome’s treatment of their captives and the many downtrodden peoples in Africa, Paeper has given the ballet a mythical African slant, thus naming it, A Spartacus of Africa.

The story mirrors the original ballet about slaves fighting for freedom, Spartacus’s deep love for his wife Phrygia and Aegina’s guile helping her lover, Crassus, to quell the revolt.

Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who escaped in 73 BC to lead a major slave uprising against the Roman Empire, has inspired revolutionaries, politicians and writers ever since then.

The fact that he was defeated in no way detracts from his courage and that of his fellow slaves in pitting themselves against mighty Roman legionaries led by the General, Crassus.

Nelson Mandela’s fight for freedom, for which he and others were prepared to die, links to the message behind Spartacus.

Innovative set designs capturing the spirit of Africa were created by KMH Architects, while ingenious costumes by the late Dicky Longhurst, an award winning designer, allow the athleticism of the dancers to be vividly dramatized.

A Spartacus of Africa Port Elizabeth cast:

. Amari – The title role will be shared by Casey Swales, who danced the same role at the world premier season of A Spartacus of Africa in 2015, and Juan Carlos Osma

. Fayola – Dyana Acuna and Elzanne Crause, a Capetonian, will share the role of Fayola

. Nadira – Kristin Wilson

. Nagash – The role of Amari’s nemesis will be danced by Xola Willie and Milwhynne. Both are from the Eastern Cape

. Badu – Lwanele Masiza, also from the Eastern Cape, will dance the role of Badu

. Isenyaya – Alfonzo Freemantle will dance the role of the African Spirit.

Osma and Acuna are both Cuban and will appear in the production by kind permission of Joburg Ballet.

The production of A Spartacus of Africa was made possible by a grant of R949 000 from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC).

Promising to be a dynamic spectacle, the opening night performance of A Spartacus of Africa on November 3 will be the first major dance production for Port Elizabeth’s beautiful newly renovated Opera House where the season will run until November 6.

Ticket prices range between R100 and R220 with group and special discounts available. All bookings can be made through Computicket on 086 1 915 8000.

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