Eugenie du Preez donned a mask to talk to Kirsten Isenberg about overcoming lockdown restrictions and keeping ballet on stage, despite the crisis caused by a global pandemic
Imagine you’ve been asked to create a ballet for a dance project. There’s just a snag or two: the dancers aren’t allowed to touch each other, and they can’t all be in the same room at the same time.
These were some of the challenges Kirsten Isenberg faced when she and four other choreographers were commissioned by Debbie Turner, the CEO of the Cape Town City Ballet, to create a suite of ballets collectively called Moon Behind the Clouds. The name comes from a Michael Franks song Turner liked to listen to during the hard lockdown. "It really is about a semblance of light coming out of the darkness, not as bright as the sun but at least the moon. This really stood out as a metaphor for being able to get back into the studio and back to work."
Isenberg takes up the tale as we sit in the foyer of an eerily quiet Artscape, with little sign of life apart from some maintenance men who wander in and out. "We were just able to come back to work. Debbie wanted to keep the company going, and she wanted the dancers to have something inspiring to work on." Turner’s brief was for each choreographer to create a work inspired by the way people were feeling during the lockdown.
"When I started working with the dancers, we were only allowed to have a certain amount of people in a studio and the dancers had to be 1,5m apart." Isenberg describes the mixed feelings they experienced: "We’d all been in our own little bubbles. It was wonderful to be back at work but also scary at the same time, as we had to remember all the protocols and the distancing.