Review: Ikigai – superlative triple bill, presented by Cape Town City Ballet as part of its Winter Season 2022

Ikigai– presented by Cape Town City Ballet as part of its Winter Season 2022

When and where: August 17 to 28, 2022 at Artscape
Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs and Kenneth Tindall’s Polarity. There are two intervals – 30 minues each for set changes

Dancers: CTCB and international guest artists
Orchestra: The Cape Town Philharmonic is playing at two of the performances – August 17 and August 28. Recorded music at other performances
Conductors: Internationally renowned ballet conductor, Jonathan Lo – August 17 and resident conductor of CPO, Brandon Phillips is conducting on August 28
Tickets: R175 to R475 for performances accompanied by Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Tickets cost from R175 to R350 for performances to recorded music

Lineup of guest artists etc here: 

I attended the opening of Cape Town City Ballet’s Ikigai on Wednesday August 17, 2022 and it was beyond expectation – another wow for CTCB. There are three ballets on the bill: Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs and Kenneth Tindall’s Polarity. It was like attending a rock concert with the audience, shouting out bravos. There were standing ovations, after the curtain came down on each ballet.

On opening night, Brandon Lawrence and Tzu-Chao Chouprincipals from The Birmingham Royal Ballet in the UK, were dancing in Les Patineurs (The Skaters). They are guest artists with CTCB. Ballet conductor, Jonathan Lo (Hong Kong born, lives in Britain) was at the podium, conducting The Cape Town Philharmonic. Then there was our own – Kirstél Paterson- principal ballerina of the CTCB. She has captivated us in CTCB’s Romeo & Juliet (also part of CTCB’s Winter Season) and she is totally owning it with Brandon Lawrence and Tzu-Chao Chou in Les Patineurs (The Skaters). The ballet is a divertissement, a term for a short ballet. It is not a narrative ballet. Ashton conjured up a Victorian skating party, with couples and two seminal characters, the Blue Boy and White Boy. They glide, whirl, soar on a frozen pond; with exits and entrances through arched trellises. This famous and much loved ballet was first staged in London, in 1937. At the premiere, the principal dancers, as the White Couple, were Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann. The striking design, features dangling Chinese lanterns. Les Patineurs is a showcase ballet and this CTCB presentation is a knock out showcase. The staging is by Isabel McMeekan from the UK, representing the Ashton Foundation. The costumes and set have been re-created, after the original designs by William Chappell.

The precision, grace, and artistry is breathtaking. At the opening, a dance aficionado, said to me: “Do you have idea what it is to be sitting in Cape Town – to see two principals from The Birmingham Royal Ballet and Jonathon Lo conducting.” It was extraordinary. As I mentioned, our own Kirstél Paterson is also mind blowing to watch. The entire CTCB is magnificent. Our city’s ballet company is flying the flag high for ballet and contemporary dance. There is one more performance of Ikigai, with the CPO and that is on August 28, with Brandon Phillips, conducting. The other two ballets- Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels and Kenneth Tindall’s Polarity are danced to recorded music. It is only Les Patineurs that has the CPO in attendance, for the two performances. So yes, on the opening night there was recorded music for Falling Angels and for Polarity and that holds for August 28, when the CPO will play, conducted by Brandon Phillips. There are two intervals of 30 minutes each, to accommodate set changes.

The programming of the triple bill, Ikigai is inspired- with the centre piece of Les Patineurs, flanked by Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels and Kenneth Tindall’s Polarity.  Falling Angels was staged in 2021 as part of CTCB’s Alchemy triple bill. It is wonderful to see this piece again – with its exactitude and hypnotic beat. []. One could hear the audience holding its breath, listening the mesmerising score by Steve Reich and watching the dancers as they become part the thrum of drums.

Tindall’s Polarity was created in 2019, for CTCB and has been extended for the 2022 season. Tindall is one of the UK’s most acclaimed independent choreographers. It is remarkable that this renowned British choreographer made this ballet for CTCB. That was before the pandemic and what a treat to see Polarity again. It has been widely quoted that Tindall is inspired by “the suggestion that opposites are interconnected and everything is duel….. A Yin and Yang… complimentary principles of elements that present as opposite, but are possibly two inseparable parts of the same thing….. Through the angst and push and pull, harmony and balance emerges ….” For him, the outcome “can only be peace.” Watching Polarity again in 2022 and I can say that everything has been heightened and intensified. In my recent review of Cape Town City Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet, choreographed by Veronica Paeper, I spoke about the athleticism of the company and marvelled how the dancers brought strength and aestheticism to the classical Romeo & Juliet. With CTCB’s Ikigai, the juxtaposition of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs ballet with the contemporary dance pieces of Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels and Kenneth Tindall’s Polarity; we get to see the company in full thrust, dazzling us with a fusion of dance forms and approaches. Do not miss Ikigai- finishes on August 28.

Falling Angels: iří Kylián’s Falling Angels, presented by Cape Town City Ballet. Pic: Danie Coetzee. Supplied.

✳ Featured image: Tzu-Chao Chou in Cape Town City Ballet’s Les Patineurs, August 2022. Pic: Kim Stevens. Supplied. Related coverage: