Posts Tagged ‘ballet’

Review:  SwingTime
Artistic Director:  Sean Bovim
Lighting Design:  Patrick Curtis
Set Design: Karl Staub & YWorks
Reviewer:  Astrid Stark

First published in The Cape Times
Give ‘em the old Razzle Dazzle. 

It was a time of smoky cabaret halls where vaudeville dancers toyed with shorter hemlines and hairstyles, wore suspenders, and exposed their limbs; epitomising the liberated spirit of the flapper sub-culture.  It was the roaring twenties.  A time when the Great Depression and prohibition drove rebellious boys and girls underground in search of hedonistic pleasures.  Sean Bovim’s revamp of his 2003 production of SwingTime is an uncommon marriage between Swing and Ballet.  Bovim combines Broadway, jazz and frenetic Swing steps like the Charleston, Hop, Jive and Lindy, with the controlled and delicate beauty of Ballet.  Bovim himself admits, “Putting the Charleston en pointe is extremely hard on the knees and requires a superb sense of balance.”

The curtain rises with the Bovim Ballet troupe performing to the fabulous Sing Sing Sing made famous by Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.  It takes a little while to wrap your head around the curious mixture of jazz and ballet, but the sheer delight on the dancers’ faces and the foot stomping music soon infects the crowd. 

Karl Staub & YWorks’ stage design is a breathtaking backdrop depicting a New York cityscape, complete with Empire State Building and twinkling lights. For the most part Bovim strategically places his dancers in front of the backdrop to great effect, though it may need another look before it could be considered fully effective. 

KLûK and CGDT, who designed the wardrobe for Bovim’s Tango Nights, again created the most exquisite masterpieces for SwingTime.  Slinky red satin dresses wildly twirl and glide as the dancers are swung through the air. Cute short flapper dresses that display generous amounts of flesh, and figure hugging hot pants around lithe ballet hips, had us all mesmerised.  It also helps that all 16 members of the cast are young, drop dead gorgeous, and glide about on slender limbs which are toned to perfection from punishing exercise regimes.

The musical score include Unforgettable, It had to be you, Mack the knife, Under my skin and many more adored Broadway, Big Band and Jazz hits.  What’s new to Bovim’s 2009 version of the production is the addition of vocalist Franscois Lliam who has performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and We Will Rock You.  I am not convinced of Lliam’s voice and performance as a sultry jazz crooner, but then I am a die-hard Sinatra fan, and so for me there really is only one velvety voiced croon master.  However, Lliam’s presence on stage adds a lovely personal touch instead of simply hearing the recorded music being played to dancing.  Another nice addition is the intermittent performance of a violinist, Francois Arzul.  Lliam only sings a selected few songs including Miss Jones, Fever, Mr Bojangles, and some others. 

The performance tells the story of Mr Bojangles which in turn is punctuated by the various songs and dancers.  Mr Bojangles – in his heyday – was the shining star of a Swing club.  The music takes us from Bojangles’ youthful romantic liaisons with guests at the club and playing rowdy drunken games with sailors, until he finds himself in his old age as lonely caretaker of the club; reminiscing about on his past pleasures.  The story line feels flimsy and can do with a bit more dramatic flourish. Maybe it’s the lighting, maybe it simply gets overwhelmed by the gorgeous, energetic cast, and the timeless music. It just does not really effectively gel the various dance performances together.  Grant Swift renders a heart wrenching performance of Mr Bojangles trying to do a youthful tap dance with his arthritic old body.

The dancing is energetic and the footwork fast and tricky. The choreography is at once old-school, fresh, weird and enchanting.  A dancer is gracefully lifted high into the air, she lands on her feet tapping to the Charleston before doing the splits; it looks very complicated and Bovim must be praised for his bravery and innovation.  At times the dancers seemed a little nervous and quite a few small mistakes slipped into an otherwise beautifully choreographed and interesting performance. 

SwingTime runs at The Baxter Theatre from Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at     6pm   From 2-12 December the performance will be on at the Oude Libertas in Stellenbosch.