Review: Mzansi Ballet, The Queen Show online, streaming December 31 2020 to January 4, 2021

Show: Mzansi Ballet, The Queen Show online Format: Streamed recording – filmed Dec 2020, Monetecasiono Date of streaming: 1pm on Dec 31, 2020 until midnight Jan 4, 2021 Cost: R90 Booking: Tixsa and see below for other options Access: The online show is NOT geo-blocked. Watch anywhere in world Rewind etc: You may rewind, pause and resume play Info: or 012 880 26 35 (office hours)  

Last night, December 28, 2020 and President CyrilRamaphosa announced that South Africa is in lockdown level 3- with amendments. People are quipping that New Year’s Eve has been cancelled. It is not a joke. The pandemic is very serious. The rate of Covid infections is off the charts. Hospitals are turning people away. Please do not try and party, with people, outside your household unit. Stay home on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We did this in hard lockdown in March and we can do it again. Stay home and click onto the digital stage and watch Mzansi Ballet, The Queen Show. This beautiful show is online from 1pm on December 31, 2020 and will be available as video-on-demand until midnight January 4, 2021. Ten percent of ticket sales will go to Waiting in the Wings SA – a non-profit which was established during lockdown, initially “to raise funds to buy grocery vouchers for freelance performers” and which was subsequently extended to include backstage and stage management staff.” Check out its Facebook page: “Anyone who is a freelancer from the events industry is allowed to apply.”

Mzansi Ballet CEO Dirk Badenhorst has made the recording of The Queen Show available as a fundraiser. As of writing, December 29, 2020- 25 performances have been staged – in front of an audience – at Monte De Dios in Pretoria and then at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino in Johannesburg. The Joburg season was scheduled to end on January 3, 2021, but with the lockdown level 3 announcement, it looks like tomorrow – Dec 30- will be the last live Queen show- for a while. Regardless of whether shows may continue, most of us do not want to sit in confined indoor spaces. We need Covid rates to subside, before we feel ‘safe’ to sit indoors at theatre. The concept of a ‘measured risk’ that many of us were taking on for a few months, has shifted dramatically, in the current surge. Nothing beats live but for now, we have the digital stage.

The online Mzansi Queen show was filmed on Sunday December 12 at Montecasino, with an audience in attendance. Watching the recording and one catches glimpses of the masked audience sitting in their seats – belted – for social/physical distancing. I have watched shows as part of a masked audience, during lockdown and it is very strange. The act of sitting with the mask on, adds another layer; being witness to live performance during lockdown. This comes across profoundly in the recording of Queen. We see the audience in their demarcated seat spaces, masks on. We hear their gasps of delight, appreciation and bursts of applause.

The Queen Show is a re-staging of the same show that was staged early on this year in Joburg. With Covid rates seemingly stable, it was decided to present the show again, over the festive season, with safety protocols in place. The December 2020 season was, according to Badenhorst, “the first live professional ballet and dance performance in Gauteng since the lockdown restrictions”. It was about “celebrating life and positivity”. Sadly, Covid interrupted the physical season but not the ethos of the season – keeping the dream alive. I loved watching this online show. The experience calmed me down as I became immersed in the dance, the virtuosity of the company and the music of Queen. I would say that Tuesday December 29 has been a day of panic – with heightened anxiety over what lies ahead.  Most of us know many people who are sick, others who have not made it and others who are fighting for their lives. Within all that, we need to be resilient, hopeful – and responsible. The Queen Show hits the spot- elegiac with numbers like Who Wants To Live Forever (1986), wistful with Bohemian Rhapsody and triumphant with We are the Champions – “Bad mistakes I have made a few…We are the champions my friend…  We will keep fighting to the end .” Yeah. We need to hear that.

The Queen Songbook provides an on point soundtrack for this year – 2020- and the Mzansi company taps into all the multiplicity of emotions, with dance which is multi-layered in terms of reference and genre- ranging from classical to cirque (check out the hula hoops/wheels). Internationally acclaimed choreographer, Angela Revie has put together a stirring showcase which seamlessly interlaces solo performance and dazzling ensemble work. Angela Revie dances in The Queen Show, with her husband Michael Revie. He has danced in South Africa and with world ballet companies such as Zurich Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Queen Show includes include Alison Lee Sischy and Aviwe November and Sikhumbuzo Hlahleni, from Cape Town, award winning ballerinas Paige McElligot, Veronica Louw (with “permission of Cape Town City Ballet”) and Lize Mentz. I was wowed by Joshua Williams, who received a full scholarship to the world-renowned Zurich Dance academy, at the South African International Ballet Competition (2016). He is currently in South Africa waiting in the wings, to join the Stephen Delattre Company in Mainz Germany. By the way, he is 18 years old. Joshua Williams dancing to Bohemian Rhapsody – oh my. Spectacular to see him dance. Loved the dance; the Queen songs – uplifting, reflective, relatable- fabulous costumes by David Hutt. Stay home. Watch this show. You will feel heaps better, after watching and you will be supporting the theatre/events industry.

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Mzansi Ballet, The Queen Show- filmed on stage, in front of a socially distanced audience at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg, December 12, 2020. Pic: Lauge Sorensen.

Featured image: Supplied.