Stage: Shall We Dance – Playhouse Opera, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
KWAZULU-NATAL’S longest running show, Shall We Dance is now in its 27th year under the direction of local dance stalwarts Neville Letard and Caryl Cusens, and once again it proves a hugely entertaining, colourful and deft mix of professional and amateur dance in various styles.
A massively popular annual showcase for dance studios falling under the umbrella of the South African Dance Teachers’ Association, the production is presented in association with The Playhouse Company, and runs until September 15.
It’s an entertainment that invariably showcases many familiar faces and familiar backdrops each year, but, like a comfy annual holiday spot, it is always fun revisiting. There are always surprises stemming from the thrill of varying fancy footwork from a cast of some 100 performers of all ages, a changing parade of sparkly costumes and a diverse choice of music.
Designed to entertain and, in some cases, enthrall, the show certainly delivers.
It is hosted for the 11th year by radio jock Damon Beard who, as is customary, also gets a moment to feature in a dance routine, this year wearing a tiger mask.
The production features the current Danish Latin and 10 Dance champs, an impressive team that has dance titles from throughout Europe and Japan. The duo, which made its Shall We Dance debut last year, is Danish dancer Nikolaj Lund and Polish dancer Marta Kocik, who present a number of Ballroom and Latin American displays, including a fun Viennese Waltz and a feisty Argentine tango especially commissioned for the production.
Also among the professional contingent this year are two standout teams. They are attractive South African husband and wife duo, Ryan and Angelique Hammond – fresh from their national Barnyard Theatre tour with the vibrant Rhythm of the Night – and muscled Gerhard van Rooyen alongside wondrous blonde Amor Kruger.
The Hammonds are powerhouses with panache, always a joy to behold, and present three striking routines, one set to music by Queen. They also dance alongside Van Rooyen for an amusing and inventive piece titled Scooby Doo.
Van Rooyen and Kruger, recently returned from Cyprus, are constant scene-stealers in this year’s show, his control and strength and her energy and rubbery limbs leaving many with open mouths during excellent acrobatic-style adage work filled with lifts and splits. The team offers truly spellbinding displays of rhythm, fluidity and artistic expression.
Completing the line-up of special guests are newcomers to the show, Lezariah Blignaut and Nkululeko Khumalo, both from Durban, who have a string of titles to their name. A couple that has been dancing for six years together, they offer two ballroom dance routines
Of the various other groups appearing – offering everything from Spanish to a spot of ballet, bellydance and classical Indian dance – the clear standout is the versatile and vibrant Young Dancers’ Project.
As the group did in the 2017 production of Shall We Dance, with their What Are You Afraid Of, they offer among their diverse offerings this year a lyrical piece set to the spoken-word. Set to Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, it is a big highlight, being both powerful and hypnotic.
Young Dancers’ Project is headed by versatile Pavishen Paideya, who also choreographed the show’s lively tap routine. He also heads the exciting Rudra Dance Theatre which closes the show’s first half with the colourful Kalank and combines with the Young Dancers’ Project to blend Indian dance and Spanish dance for a second-half standout, Indialucia.
Another clever meshing of dance styles – ballet with ballroom – crops up in an item set to Ariane Grande’s 7 Rings. It features Strictly Ballroom and the Young Dancers’ Project.
Special mention must also go to the cute-as-buttons Dance Basic Juniors, three boys and three girls in delightful routines set to The Rainbow Connection, La Bamba and Cha Cha Slide.
Shall We Dance also offers bellydance group Raqs Arabia with the Hammonds in a good piece offering a twist on the Dance of the Seven Veils theme, set to A Whole New World; while items by the Mark Wilson Formation Team and Dance Basics full out the programme.
Tickets for the show range in price from R100 to R160, with concessions offered on specific dates. Booking is through Webtickets or at Pick ’n Pay supermarkets or hypermarkets.
Don’t miss it!