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Saturday, September 8, 2018


(Nikolaj Lund & Marta Kocik)

Shall We Dance extravaganza still a sparkling highlight on the South African dance calendar. (Review by Clinton Marius)

Now in its 26th year, the annual dance event has grown from a programme of Ballroom and Latin American dancing into a wider showcasing of dance types. Hip Hop, ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, show and line dancing, Bollywood and belly-dancing all feature in the line-up  - in their relevant genres, and also in several combined routines where the fusion of styles creates exciting new variations.

The show is hosted by the urbane and charming Damon Beard of East Coast Radio, and brings together a number of choreographers and dance groups - under the direction of Neville Letard and Caryl Cusens - and each bring their special magic to the event.

International guest artists, Nikolaj Lund (Denmark) and Marta Kocik (Poland) make their debut in the country, demonstrating the flair that sees them currently reigning as Danish 10 Dance Champions. After an upbeat opening featuring the full cast against shimmering backdrops of silver, gold, and white, the guest couple sets the tone for the evening in a distilled and elegant waltz, with feather-light rise and fall.

A Viennese waltz follows, from dance companies, Strictly Ballroom and Young Dancers’ Project; and then three young couples from Dance Basics Juniors entertain in a jolly and lively jive.

And then, kicking it sideways, is the Line Dance troupe, Denims & Diamonds, with a toe-tapping, audience-participating routine choreographed by Warren Duffield, complete with stetsons, cowboy boots, fringing, and a truckload of rhinestones. 

Mark Wilson celebrates his 26th year of association with Shall We Dance, and choreographs the Mark Wilson Formation team. The group perform in several combined routines, as well as in two dazzling spotlight numbers.

A cool and sophisticated rumba follows, from the Dance Basics team, and then Nikolaj and Marta return, in black and gold, for a brisk and brooding tango that dramatically pushes up the tempo of the evening.

This leads to another programme highlight, a Chicago medley from the Young Dancers’ Project. Bathed in dramatic red and purple light, the youngsters are slick and in sync, clearly enjoying themselves.

Looking East is the belly-dancing group, Raqs Arabia, under Senta Duffield, adding a touch of exotic variety to the programme, both in the spotlight numbers, as well as in the combined dances.

Young Madison Bromfield partners, in turn, with newcomers, Sibusiso Ndlovu and Siphosethu Ngcobo. The result is an electric samba, and a slick, jazz-infused slow foxtrot.

The Rudra Dance Theatre then follow with the ease of a company on their home turf, revelling in an ancient dance tradition. The company wow in their first spotlight act, and then top it off with a second half routine that is a rich and joyful explosion of movement.

Also adding local flavour is the Durban duo, Statik. Selwyn Rautenbach and Clinton Green have been dancing together since 1995, and their show dancing skills display the ease and effortlessness that a long dance partnership brings.  Breaking conventional dance style boundaries, and giving a nod to Michael Jackson, also makes this duo an audience favourite.

The European guests, Nikolaj and Marta, return with a gorgeous Latin routine, full of delicious Cuban motion and gravity-defying lifts. And then South African star, Gerhard Van Rooyen takes to the stage, introducing his new partner, Ecaterina Jeleznii, from Moldova. While both are award-winning dancers in their own right, Shall We Dance marks the first time they appear together. This exciting new partnership is one to watch, and their chemistry and prowess in exhibition dancing and adage style is not to be missed.

The first half of the show closes with a full stage of dancers joyously stamping through a paso doble, complete with castanets and capes.

The fun continues in the second half with a colourful jive and tap combination from the full cast, before the tempo is slowed down with a romantic rumba from Nikolaj & Mart. Avoiding fussy choreography, the couple rely instead on flawless technique and pinpoint execution.

The delightful youngsters from Dance Basics Junior then rev up the audience with a Mexican flavoured cha cha, followed by the Strictly Ballroom team, who are all Hollywood glamour in white suits and salmon pink dresses, delivering a dreamy Beauty & the Beast waltz.

Line dancing and belly-dancing then meet in a quirky and upbeat samba. The teaming up of Denim & Diamonds and Raqs Arabia perfectly captures the ebullience and effervescence of this Brazilian dance - another highlight of the evening.

After a quickstep from the visiting ten-dance champions, with Marta in a beautiful ballroom dress in shades of fuchsia, host Damon Beard steps out to cause much merriment as the young lads from Dance Basics teach him, and the audience, to dance The Floss.
Another notable performance on the programme is the Young Dancers’ Project’s Tap Dogs-inspired routine, danced to broomstick and dustbin-lid percussion. Strictly Ballroom’s Dance Tango proves to be this group’s best and most striking dance.

Nikolaj and Marta then crown the evening with a spectacular jive, reminding everyone why they are the Danish 10 Dance Champions, and the evening rounds off with a high-energy all-cast routine with audience participation.

Special mention should be made of the many stunning lighting effects and fabric flies, and of Ryan and Janelle Yunnie, Pam Gandy, Penelope Lundall, Candice Danielz, and Pavishen Prideya – the choreographers who worked with the youngsters, with amazing results.  Pavishen is also a charismatic and talented dancer to keep an eye on.

Hats off to Neville Letard and Caryl Cusens, the dancers and choreographers, and The Playhouse Company for pulling off another incredible showcase!

Shall We Dance runs in The Playhouse Opera until September 16, 2018, and tickets are available through Computicket. – Clinton Marius