Trending

A hip-hop head goes to the ballet

2018-10-10 13:30

#Trending sent resident hip-hop head Phumlani S Langa to go watch Joburg Ballet’s The Nutcracker for a taste of that classical culture and a much needed break from trapping and auto-tune.

The Nutcracker
Until October 14
R200 to R475 at joburgtheatre.com
. . . . .

My editors get a kick out of sending me to places where I would not normally go. This week they figured I should try the ballet and, much to their surprise, I was really excited.

The ballet has this romantic undertone to it so I figured this might make a good date night. The Nutcracker opened last week on Friday at the Joburg Theatre and, after spending half an hour trying to find the parking lot, I eventually made my way up to the atrium.

If you aren’t familiar with the ballet, I have a tip for you: Get there on time. I rolled up to the lobby dressed to the nines, but for the streets, which meant sneakers and a healthy sag in my chinos. I collected my tickets and was told that because I was late, I had to sit in the atrium and watch the show happen on the TV. This came as a shock.

At a hip-hop event, if you’re smart enough, you will always be able to find another way into the venue. With this in mind I tried offering the guy at the door some cash or a drink but the well-dressed usher was having none of it. “What you need to do is head to those chairs over there,” he said, pointing at some bar chairs and a TV. Disappointed, I sauntered over the opulent red-and-black carpet and plonked myself down in front of an old-ass TV, like a mad old Philips with the box at the back and, of course, no HD. I’m sure the Joburg Theatre can afford a flat screen, but I guess they want this to feel like the naughty corner for latecomers.

Despite the antiquated TV, I settled down in front of it to watch the first act. It looked like a festive celebration in a banquet hall with dancers gracefully leaping from one side of the stage to another. Well, not leaping, exactly, more like floating on the air like a dream.

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Photos: Lauge Sorensen

As I sat, a few other latecomers headed over. One gentleman couldn’t believe the show started on time but, word is, true ballet fans get to the theatre a good two hours before just to secure parking and make sure they are able to be seated in time.

I was a little worried that I might be in one of those social situations where one can feel particularly black (if you know what I’m saying) but at the interval I noticed the place had a fair amount of melanin and these weren’t just old people. In fact, some of the principal dancers in the show were black, which was really cool to see.

Things quickly turned around when the doors were opened for the second act. My date arrived and we could take our seats in the actual auditorium. The next challenge was taking in the romance and drama of this ballet without looking like I was being klapped by waves of emotion. Tchaikovsky’s score alone is enough to reduce the hardest among us to emotional rubble but when this is matched with incredible choreography it really hits you hard.

The lifts and the dancers’ flexibility had the audience gasping in awe. At one point there were a few kids dressed as lambs who came out and gave the ballet a pinch of cuteness.

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Choreographer Angela Malan said she began work on the ballet with just this music in mind. “I started with the music, playing it continually. I wanted something very traditional and classical so when I was in the car or wherever, things would come to me, images I would like to see alongside the music.”

Preparations for the ballet began in earnest in April but Malan spent a year prior to this working on the production, researching the original and finding the right dancers.

I’d go to see this if I were you. I’ll be heading back to catch the first act – but not on that TV.

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October 21 2018