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Posted on: Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Poetry in Motion – Cape Town City Ballet

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Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion

On Saturday I took my mom with me to go and watch Poetry in Motion, the new ballet from Veronica Paeper and the Cape Town City Ballet. Saturday was their final performance and I am rather sad I had not seen the show earlier as I could have watched every performance of it.

I was very glad to see that the theatre was almost filled to capacity with only one or two seats empty, perhaps they had been caught in the infamous rugby traffic after the Stormers and Bulls game in Newlands. The packed theatre suggests to me that Cape Town was responding well to the CTCB plea to Save Cape Town City Ballet as this could be their last performance if they don’t receive the funding.

I try to attend as many shows as I can – ballets are no different and this one was quite a new concept from your standard ballet. Poetry, music and the spoken word was used very effectively to convey the story or mood of each piece. Some powerful poetry was used throughout the performance and the dancing matched the power of the words with energy, emotion and joy of movement. I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the pieces.

“How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”
Extract from How do I love thee? By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This was a powerful duet with simple costumes that showcased the dancers sculpted bodies but also did not detract from the movement and beauty of the piece. These two bodies moved in unison almost mirroring each other’s movements as two souls who are intertwined. I felt that this piece portrayed everything one would want to express to a person you were in love with.

“Let me pour my soul
into a cup
And drink it whole…
even the froth.
For you
Every drop
Is a kind thought.”
Extract from Vanilla Soul Latte by Ronberge

An Adele Blank piece, this trio was performed to perfection. The woman in the piece was torn between two men and their dancing showed angst, passion and longing. These dancers were magnificent and it was difficult to take your eyes off them.

Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion

The first half of the performance lasted an hour and I can only imagine how much time is spent rehearsing each and every day to ensure the dancers are fit and ready to perform their best every day. I am taking part in an eisteddfod in two weeks time and we have been rehearsing a minimum of four times a week for the last month and our dance is only three minutes long! I have immense respect for the dedication and determination of the Cape Town City Ballet even with the possibility of closure they did not disappoint.

The second half started with a bang to the tune of Poetry in Motion, UK number one single from 1961 recorded by Johnny Tillotson. This high energy piece was fun and fast paced. The energy from the stage was almost electric and it certainly got the audience excited for the rest of the show.

One of my all time favourite poems is Funeral Blues by Wystan Hugh Auden. This poem was part of my matric setwork, ten years later I am still able to recite it and every time I hear it tears come to my eyes. It is a powerful account of loss and mourning.

“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: ‘I was wrong’”
Extract from Funeral Blues by Wystan Hugh Auden

Sitting in the theatre the hair on my arms and the back on my neck immediately prickled on hearing the first lines of the poem. And while the dancing mourners glided onto the stage I knew this would be a special piece. The music was the theme tune from the movie Schindler’s List and together with the poem and dancing told the tale of loss. The devastation of the mourners was tangible and this beautiful piece was so intimate I felt like I was intruding on someone’s very personal moment and memory.

The entire show was magnificent and reiterated my thoughts that it will be a tragedy if the CTCB has to close due to lack of funds. There was energy and magic like I have never felt before from a ballet performance and it is a ballet that would be enjoyed by everyone.

The last verse of Poetry in Motion aptly describes this ballet;

“I love every movement there’s nothing I would change
She doesn’t need improvement she’s much too nice to rearrange
Poetry in motion all that I adore
No number nine love potion could make me love her more”

Photo Credits:
Photographs © Cape Town City Ballet

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Tania Stephenson


Tania loves to cook and create magic in the kitchen for family and friends (or even just herself). Be it finding a new recipe or making a tried and tested dish from her recipe folder - the kitchen is her sanctuary. Find her hanging out with friends round the braai or curled up on the couch reading the latest crime drama. With a spring in her step and a song in her heart you’ll find her supporting local artists in theatre, music and dance – from a hip hop competition or the latest musical on stage at Artscape in Cape Town. Enjoying all things culture she likes to share her experiences and delights with those around her.

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