Stage: Shall We Dance – Playhouse Opera theatre, Durban
(Final performances this weekend, September 9 to 11 – 6.30pm Friday, 2.30pm and 6pm on Saturday and 11am and 3pm on Sunday)
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER a break of two years, all thanks to the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, Durban’s longest running stage show is back in what should have marked its 30th anniversary. And what a pleasure to be able to again enjoy this joyous whirl of glitter and glam on the great Playhouse Opera stage!
As is customary, this showcase of local dance by both amateurs and professionals is presented by the South African Dance Teachers’ Association in association with the Playhouse Company. As expected, it has a bit of everything – ballroom, Latin American, adage, brief bursts of traditional and contemporary ballet, Irish dance, Bollywood, smooth tap and some elegant show dancing.
This 28th production is co-directed, as always, by Durban dance stalwarts Neville Letard and Caryl Cusens, and this year it has a new presenter in vivacious Durban singer-actress Marion Loudon. She has taken over the microphone from radio personality Damon Beard, who, having done the Shall We Dance honours for 11 years, is now living in the UK.
Loudon is truly a breath of fresh air, all fun and zest. Plus there is the bonus of her offering three vocal performances in this production – Sway, performed on her own (for which she could have used the large stage more), and covers of Freshlyground’s Fire is Low and Mango Groove’s Home Talk.
For Home Talk, Loudon, by day a drama teacher at Glenwood Boys’ High, is joined on stage by pupils from that school, Durban Girls’ High and St Henry’s, most of whom haven’t been dancing too long as an extramural activity. This combined team is also making its Shall We Dance debut this year.
Shall We Dance is 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 80 or so performers of all ages, a changing parade of sparkly costumes and a diverse choice of pre-recorded music.
Designed to entertain and, in some cases, enthrall, the show certainly delivers.
Special guests this year include versatile and captivating Cape Town couple Keanan McClune and Chantelle le Roux, the 2021 SADTA All South African Ballroom and Latin American Champions. However, every bit as commendable, and bursting with sass and sparkle, is an on-the-rise KwaZulu-Natal couple, Brian Booth and Londeka Mngadi, that draws thunderous applause. I would have liked to have seen more than just two items from them.
Also special guests are a sweet couple, Khulu Khumalo and Nonhlanhla Mbata, a picture of grace and elegance in their ballroom treats.
On the bill, too, are specialist exhibition dancers from Gauteng, Gerhard van Rooyen and Bianca Prinsloo, but Loudon announced at last night’s preview that, sadly, Bianca had to undergo emergency surgery this week so the programme had to be altered for Gerhard to perform solo and with some help from other cast members.
Highlights are many in a production where the dancing is of various standards, but for me the show’s star has to be versatile dancer-choreographer Pavishen Paideya, of Durban’s Rudra Dance Theatre and also Young Dancers’ Project.
He is simply everywhere in this show, most impressing tapping up a storm in Anything Goes and as part of two rousing, beautifully costumed Bollywood routines which, for me, mark the best two moments of the show. Paideya is also fun dancing and lip-syncing through a fun delivery of America from West Side Story.
Also of note is a fast-footed Irish spectacle, presented by KZN Academy of Celtic Dance and set to Lord of the Dance music. It’s a big crowd-pleaser and on another level to the group’s earlier performance set, rather awkwardly, to Queen’s We Will Rock You.
Special mention must also be made of the show’s That’s Dancing opener, featuring the whole cast in a spectacle of white, black and silver; an enchanting routine combining Spanish and samba dance; and a grand finale which, for the first time in memory, does not end with the audience being asked to rise to be taught some basic choreography.
Tickets for Shall We Dance cost R100 and R150. Booking is through Webtickets or instore at Pick n Pay Supermarkets or Hypermarkets.