Theatre interview: Elvis Sibeko talks about taking Dance Can Dance from album to stage, Artscape, May 2021,

 What: Dance Can Dance, The Spirit of Enchantment Where: Artscape- 7.30pm on Fri May 14 and 3pm and 7.30pm on Sat May 15 , 2021 Bookings: Computicket and Artscape Dial a Seat 021 421 7695. Presented by: Elvis Sibeko Studios and The Cape Town Philharmonic and Artscape    

Birthing musical theatre is not an easy process. In pandemic times, challenges are multiplied. With a slow vaccine rollout in South Africa; the risk of tightening of lockdown regulations and the suspension of live performance; it takes extreme stamina and determination to keep going. One of the visionaries, leading the way is internationally acclaimed theatre maker, Elvis Sibeko of Elvis Sibeko Studios, Cape Town, who is presenting Dance Can Dance, The Spirit of Enchantment, on-stage at Artscape on May 14 and 15, 2021 (three performances). The show is a partnership with The Cape Town Philharmonic and Artscape. If it is not possible to have an audience present, watching in the theatre, the show will be filmed for streaming on the digital stage.

The genesis of Dance Can Dance – the stage show – emanates from Sibeko’s album of electronic music- of the same name -released in August 2020. In making the album (his debut album), he was inspired by Australian duo, Dead Can Dance and its philosophy, “that everything in this world can dance.” Sibeko: “If you read the title [Dead Can Dance], backwards, it is still the dance. It is like an affirmation statement. It’s a 360 degree movement of life.” His album, Dance Can Dance, is his “first affirmation …to ignite the spirit of dance to chant.” Dance Can Dance – the stage show – at Artscape is taking that affirmation further – into the realm of live performance.

Sibeko approached Artscape and The Cape Town Philharmonic, with the idea of doing a launch of the album. His proposal was enthusiastically received by Artscape and by the CEO of the philharmonic, Louis Heyneman. Artscape’s CEO, Dr Marlene Le Roux pledged the use of Artscape as venue. The original idea of an album launch was soon extended- beyond merely being a compilation of musical pieces, accompanied by dance. The show took on shape as a fully-fledged piece of theatre – with dance and music.

The subtitle of the stage show- The Spirit of Enchantment- amplifies Sibeko’s core principle, which he embarked on, when he made the album. The album was conceptualised as a means of affirming dance. It is the spirit/ethos of dance – and music – which unites us. We transcend time and place through dance and music – and become enchanted by what is on stage. Enchantment is core to the stage show which will feature comedic magician, to take audiences on a magical journey. Sibeko: “For me, music and dance is about creating magic.” The stage show features comedic magician, Mawonga Gayiya. Sibeko: “There will be a “fusion of dance and music …The magician will play a role of a wizard which creates the world of the enchantment.” Other performers, include Fleur du Cap Theatre winner, Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu who will sing works from her latest album, Ndiyehlela and the  South African Youth Choir.

The music from Sibeko’s Dance Can Dance album has being arranged for the orchestra by Damian Philander. In terms of choreography, Sibeko is collaborating with Indoni Dance Academy, Arts and Leadership Academy and its artistic director- Sbonakaliso Ndaba and other choreographers: Mzokuthula Gasa, Maxwell Rani, Janine Booysens and Tercia Alexander Amsterdam. The show is being tagged as a “concert”. How does Sibeko describe Dance Can Dance – the stage show? “I would say. My vision is to develop a cinematic theatre in South Africa. The cinematic part will be covered by the orchestra; dance by Indoni and the choreographers, musical theatre by me when putting everything together.”

This first staging of Dance Can Dance, The Spirit of Enchantment, May 2021, features 10 songs. Sibeko explains: “The album consists of 10 songs and on stage, there will be 10 sets of works. In addition, I have also included two songs. One of the songs is for the opening and is the theme song from my musical Kingdom Of Ubuntu. There is also a new song written by Zimbini Makwetu and composed by me.”

Sibeko envisages a series of musical theatre productions- each one tied into a musical album:  “My vision is to release an album every two years. The next album is titled, Dance Can Dance: The Company Season: first edition South African.  I hope to partner with theatre companies to compose music for them. For instance, I will go to Jazzart and we will have intense musical workshops. That will result with a soundscape of song which defines Jazzart and will result in an album.” Africa, USA and Europe will be brought into each edition, in various forms.  “Eventually all of the editions will have a musical production. “

In addition to Dance Can Dance, Sibeko has three musicals in development: The Kingdom of Ubuntu -The Musical; I can’t Breathe – music concert and I am Next. The Kingdom of Ubuntu was staged in September 2020, at Artscape but because of lockdown, there was no audience and it was streamed on the digital stage. It is scheduled to be on stage, at Artscape, in September 2021. Sibeko explains how The Kingdom of Ubuntu journey began: “I had an opportunity to see the Lion King several times in Netherlands and meet musical theatre makers and we all discussed that it will be great to see a new musicals from South Africa on a some standards like the Lion King and that was my inspiration to start working on a musical. Musical direction is by Zimbini Makwetu.” The plan is for the three productions, to be staged under the banner of Elvis Sibeko Studios which has multiple platforms which include performance (dance), music and production. With his experience as choreographer, teacher and curator in the Netherlands, in Johannesburg and in Cape Town, Sibeko is gearing up to be at the forefront of musical theatre in South Africa – which draws on an African aesthetic and on genres and practices in this county and on the continent. Bring on the Rona vaccine, the cessation of the pandemic and theatres being able to operate again – at full capacity- with visitors from abroad – pulling in to see what is on the South African stage.

Elvis Sibeko of Elvis Sibeko Studios, Cape Town, who is presenting Dance Can Dance, The Spirit of Enchantment, on-stage at Artscape on May 14 and 15, 2021 (three performances). The show is a partnership with The Cape Town Philharmonic and Artscape. Supplied.