25th dance extravaganza

Ryan Hammond and Angelique Allison return to Shall We Dance at Durban’s Playhouse Opera this year. All pictures by Val Adamson.


THE Hilton Arts Festival, running from September 15 to 17 at Hilton College, and the crowd-pulling Durban dance spectacle, Shall We Dance, both celebrate their 25th anniversary this year.

Once again put together by Durban’s Neville Letard and Caryl Cusens, Shall We Dance is Durban’s longest running show and while primarily a showcase for ballroom and Latin American, also features other dance forms. It is always a colourful and hugely popular extravaganza.

It will be presented at the Playhouse Opera from September 8 to 17, and will feature close to 100 KwaZulu-Natal dancers from various dance studios, the cast including dancers as young as eight, family groups and top international award-winning professionals.

Damon Beard will once again host the event, at which professional dancers will include popular Ryan Hammond, of the South African version of  Strictly Come Dancing, and his new partner, Angelique Allison, both of whom were a delight in last year’s show.

Line dancers from Denim and Diamonds will show what they are made of, with a number of their dances having been staged at the recent World Championships in Blackpool.

They will once again show the grand Latin American style that got them crowned in the recent SA Latin Championships.

Also returning to the show this year is South African Professional Ballroom champion Penwell Nhlapo, this time with Lindelwa Mankangeni on his arm. They have been dancing together for six months and have multiple ballroom awards individually. Most recently, they were crowned the champions at the Sasol Championships in Mpumalanga.

Looking beyond Shall We Dance, the classical couple will be focusing on the Gold Cup in South African and then the USA Competition in Boston in February.

The final professional team among the Shall We Dance cast was crowned the Grand Finalists in the British Championship last month. Fresh from the UK, Gerhard van Rooyen and his new partner, Micheline Marmol, will take to the stage to exhibit the thrilling dance style of adage.

They promise a fresh, exhilarating and exciting take on this dance discipline that combines strength, fluidity and rhythm.

Flamboyant dancers from the Linda Vargas Spanish Dance Company will also be back this year, with two guest appearances. The first ,Ole Sevilla, will showcase the talents of the entire company and will include a guest appearance by classical Spanish dancer Carmen Zulueta from Sevilla, Spain.

The second, Alegrias, will be a guest solo performance by Ramon Fernandezm who is currently living and working in Spain. He will be accompanied by Demi Fernandez on guitar and Bryan Stone on percussion.

Cusens and Letard will be co-ordinating routines embracing ballroom and Latin, as well as ballet, belly-dance, tap-dance, Irish, Spanish and modern.

Shall We Dance is presented by the Playhouse Company in association with the South African Dance Teachers’ Association. Booking is at Computicket.

Ballet dancers from the Minette de Klerk Dance School will be part of the 25th Shall We Dance at the Playhouse Opera. Pictured are Drew Baillie and Pavishen Paideya.

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