Ballet preview: Cape Town City Ballet Back On Stage, three performances only, December 2020

 What: Cape Town City Ballet – Back On Stage- December 2020 Dates: December 10 (Thursday) and December 11 at 7.30pm and Saturday 12 December at 3pm Where: Artscape Company: Cape Town City Ballet in collaboration with The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) Conductor: Brandon Phillips Programme: George Balanchine’s Serenade and Moon Behind The Clouds – a suite of works made during Covid-19 (SA choreographers South African choreographers Veronica Paeper, Celeste Botha, Kirsten Isenberg, Yaseen Manuel, Lindy Raizenberg, Louisa Talbot and Marlin Zoutman   Tickets: R300-R500 Booking: Computicket or Artscape Dial-a-seat 021 421 7695  

Ballet in the summer of Covid in Cape Town 2020? Yes, a season of ballet – a double bill -is scheduled in December- with an orchestra. Cape Town City Ballet in collaboration with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), is presenting, Cape Town City Ballet – Back On Stage, at Artscape. There are three performances only. Tickets are limited because of social/physical distancing of seats and the need to accommodate the creative team, backstage and other staff.  There are two parts to the programme- George Balanchine’s Serenade and Moon Behind The Clouds. Cape Town City Ballet will be accompanied by The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), playing works of Tchaikovsky, Massenet, Barber, Satie, Delibes and Mahler. The conductor is the charismatic Brandon Phillips.

The staging of George Balanchine’s Serenade has been facilitated by the Toby Fine Ballet Fund [run by the David Bloomberg and the Bloomberg family] established in memory of the South African ballerina, Toby Fine. The Cape Town born ballerina had a glittering international career but died young, after battling illness. After her international ballet career, she married David Bloomberg, mayor of Cape Town [1973-1975]. David Bloomberg died in October 2020, from Covid-19. He was a philanthropist and avid supporter of the arts. This season at Artscape is being staged to celebrate his life and memory.

According to CTCB’s website, the Cape Town born Toby Fine received her “formative ballet training” in Johannesburg. Her ballet awards “included the Adeline Gene Award for the highest marks in the British Empire. A highlight of her early career was dancing the Queen of the Willis to the Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin Giselle when these two great British dancers visited South Africa. Dolin taught Toby the role of Giselle which she performed subsequently. Toby was awarded a bursary to study in London with the renowned teacher, Vera Volkova. It was at a Volkova class that the esteemed George Balanchine chose Toby to join his New York City Ballet that was performing at Covent Garden.” []

It is lovely that this lockdown level 1 season of CTCB includes George Balanchine’s Serenade. It is beautiful way of paying tribute to Toby Fine who worked with the great artist. Balanchine’s Serenade is being staged for CTCB by Rebecca Metzger (via Zoom) for The George Balanchine Foundation and will be performed to music by Tchaikovsky. [About Serenade: “The first performance of Serenade was on June 10, 1934, by students of the School of American Ballet, at Felix Warburg’s estate, White Plains, New York… Serenade is a milestone in the history of dance. It is the first original ballet Balanchine created in America and is one of the signature works of New York City Ballet’s repertory. The ballet is performed by 28 dancers in blue costumes in front of a blue background…” Read more at]

The other part of the Cape Town City Ballet’s Back On Stage season is Moon Behind The Clouds. This suite of works was created during Covid by South African choreographers Veronica Paeper, Celeste Botha, Kirsten Isenberg, Yaseen Manuel, Lindy Raizenberg, Louisa Talbot and Marlin Zoutman. The suite components have been linked through the uplifting text of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, which will be narrated by Marcel Meyer.  Dramaturgy is by Nathalie Vijver. I quote a line from Desiderata [1952]: “Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.” Words of comfort that we can all do with at this time.

Debbie Turner, CEO of Cape Town City Ballet, says: “We are also delighted that the programme will include a performance by sopranos Siphokazi Molteno and Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, who will be singing The Flower Duet from the opera Lakme,”

As I write, on the eve of December 1 2020, the world is in the grip of the pandemic. No-one knows what is in store, in terms of increased lockdown restrictions, in South Africa. The vaccine may arrive on our shores and that could open up live performance. It may not. Everything may shut down. Our ballet company is dancing and hoping for the best. Strict Covid safety measures will be in place at Artscape, so get there early for temperature checks and noting of personal details for track and tracing.

Cape Town City Ballet dancer Mia Labuschagne, Cape Town City Ballet Back On Stage, December 2020. Photo by Helena Fagan. Supplied.

Cape Town City Ballet   Website: Facebook:@ctcityballet  Instagram: @CapeTownCityBallet Twitter: @BalletCape Invest in CTCB: e-mail  

✳ Image credit- featured image: Serenade, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photographer: Bronwyn Craddock. Photo supplied.