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Art, Culture

Sexy Street Ballet

by Rob Scher / Images by Sydelle Willow Smith / 12.03.2012

It’s a typical scene at this festival. A disgruntled woman is held aside as a ballerina exits the ‘stage’ for the ‘dressing room’. In this instance, the stage is the atrium of the Golden Acre mall and the dressing room is an employee entrance to a shoe store. All things considered, the woman’s confusion as to why her route to KFC is being blocked is understandable.

The Cape Town City Ballet has set up shop during the bustling lunch hour in the Golden Acre Shopping Centre. A purist would argue it’s a bastardisation of the art. The form and grace of the performances being lost on a crowd most thrilled by the part where the ballerina is hoisted into the air. Purists aren’t really welcome at Infecting the City. During last week in Cape Town, people were given the chance to witness art and performance, mostly removed from their usual gallery and stage confines. Outside of Black Swan, this is the closest a lot of this crowd has ever come to watching ballet. The company chooses accessible pieces with a number of overtly sexual routines from the show Black and White. A ballet philistine myself, not prone to frequenting the Artscape, I relish this opportunity, as do much of the audience. I’m reminded why ITC is an important landmark on the Cape Town cultural calendar.

In terms of the day’s schedule, the ballet is the least challenging to its audience. The programme becomes increasingly abstract as the afternoon progresses. By the time the route reaches Long Street, the location of the next show isn’t even apparent. Our motley contingent of ITC goers, intrigued passersby and most interesting of the group – a man bearing a pet budgie that’s shat all over his shoulder, stand around wondering when and where the infection will strike next.

Sexy Street Ballet - My Sound is Too Big for This Confined Space

A car guard smirks and points towards a car parked in front of us, “kyk die mal vrou!” He exclaims.

A middle-aged woman begins convulsing in her car to the beat of her radio. She’s suddenly in the back seat, her feet held aloft near the windscreen. The name of this performance, My Sound is Too Big for this Confined Space, starts to make sense. The woman takes controls of her seizure and drives away. The process repeats itself in the form of a smooth operator in a Golf, a soccer mom in a station wagon and an oke in a double cab.

The Slave Church Museum is the site of the next performance, Bricolage. The church, inconspicuously located next to the Grand Daddy Hotel, has been previously invisible to me – ITC is good at taking you to these kinds of places. The performance is described as a ‘multi-theatrical piece’, sampling parts from several different performances that occur around the practice of rituals, a collage of performance. It’s conceptual in nature, and whilst creating an interesting intersection of music in the form of an echoing double bass, movement, non-verbal theatre and flamenco, it seems somewhat lost in the space. At the least I’m thankful for the chance to experience this incredible venue.

*All images © Sydelle Willow Smith, African Centre and Cape Town Partnership.

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