Interview: Debbie Turner – CEO of Cape Town City Ballettalks about collaboration in time of lockdown

Cape Town City Ballet CEO, Debbie Turner talks about  the short dance film created by Cape Town City Ballet and Norval Foundation, inspired by William Kentridge’s sculpture exhibition, Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture, at The Norval Foundation, Cape Town. The Norval is open again to the public – as per level 1 lockdown regulations.

TheCapeRobyn: This is first time that Kentridge has collaborated with a dance company to make a film around his exhibition, Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture?

Debbie Turner. This is the first time that William Kentridge’s exhibition Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture has been used as the inspiration for a dance film.  The film is a collaboration between Cape Town City Ballet and Norval Foundation and Mr Kentridge in consultation with Elana Brundyn, Executive Director of the Norval Foundation, kindly gave his consent for his sculpture to be the inspiration and stage for the film.

TheCapeRobyn: Was Kentridge involved with the making of the film ?

Debbie Turner. No, he was not directly involved.  Dancers from CTCB’s Choreolab programme, an initiative that seeks to give opportunity to company dancers wanting to explore their choreographic skills, each selected an artwork from the exhibition and created a short dance/movement response to the chosen sculpture work. A story board for the film was compiled by producer Francois Schreuder of Frames and Mortar with co-directors Kirsten Isenberg and Nathalie Vijver and the cinematographer, Pascale Neuschafer. Peter Johnson created a score in response to the edited material and drawing from the dancers’ performance, almost as live sculptures. The film was edited by Hanno de Vos.

TheCapeRobyn: How did this collaboration come about – between the Norval and Cape Town City Ballet? Who initiated the project?

Debbie Turner.  I have been in conversation with Elana Brundyn of Norval Foundation for some time to find avenues for partnership.  With the closing of both of our organisations to our audiences due to Covid-19, we felt it was more important than ever to combine our artistic offerings to celebrate and sustain our creative outlets during this time. With the Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture exhibition sitting behind closed doors, their beautiful, light-filled space sitting empty and our dancers not able to perform on stage, this seemed an ideal opportunity.

CTCB’s Choreolab mentoring programme was also unable to take place in its original form, so this initiative provided a platform for the Choreolab participants to exercise their imaginations. We are grateful for the support of the City of Cape Town which has made these projects possible.

TheCapeRobyn: In  the past, there have been wonderful collaborations between dance companies and artists- abroad – I cannot think of this happening in South Africa, so this is very exciting – to see CTCB collaborating with Norval Foundation. Any other projects that you can tell us about – that we can expect from, CTCB in the months ahead- ie dancers from the company – dancing in a venue like The Norval or The Waterfront? 

Debbie Turner:  Indeed, we are always exploring ways of how we can engage with creative partners, identify different spaces and reach new audiences. During lockdown we collaborated with Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra for the Lockdown Waltz, where dancers filmed a clip at home and the video was set to CTPO playing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Waltz. The clip has received more than 40000 views! AlsoCape Town Opera and kykNET in collaboration with Cape Town City      Ballet, Camerata Tinta Barocca and Wyrd Films, present Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. This is an emotional and artistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, conceptualised specifically for filming and digital dissemination. It will premiere on October 11, on kykNET.

TheCapeRobyn: We are in a hybrid space of Covid and lockdown – with some physical performance which is possible but not yet feasible to open up a huge venue like Artscape – the stage for CTCB. Anything we can look out for- blended staging – a small audience and then filming that performance and making it available as video on demand?

Debbie Turner: We are considering all options that are available to us while complying with regulations. Having lost all of our box office income this year with the cancellation of our entire 2020 programme, we have to continue to find alternative income streams.  As mentioned above, partnerships with organisations such as Norval Foundation and Cape Town Opera are already happening. We hope to be able present small performances at our studios in the near future.

Film booking details: short dance film created by Cape Town City Ballet and Norval Foundation, inspired by William Kentridge’s sculpture exhibition, Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture, at The Norval Foundation, Cape Town

Duration: 11 minutes

Booking link:

Tickets: R50- valid for 48 hours from purchase

Image credit: Supplied. Debbie Turner with Chairperson of the Board of Cape Town City Ballet, Suzette Raymond

Film review: