Cape Town City Ballet’s (CTCB) new production of SATORI, which consists of a trilogy of ballets, is simply astounding. It is one of those dance productions you simply have to see because this show is of an incredible standard and an artistic delight. This must-see production is currently on at the Artscape Theatre.

South Africa is incredibly lucky to have two outstanding ballet companies, Joburg Ballet and Cape Town City Ballet. Ballet has survived the epithet of Eurocentric, which was bandied about a lot in the late 1990’s with the advent of democracy in South Africa. For a while there was great concern that art forms like opera and ballet would not have a future in South Africa. Fortunately for us, the human’s innate desire to express themselves through movement has persisted and over the last two decades dance, specifically classical ballet, has been actively transformed to as to be representative of our country’s demographics.

From this has risen two ballet companies each with its unique strengths and own artistic vision. Having actively followed Joburg Ballet for the past few years and having attended most of their productions, I can personally attest to both the technical and artistic aspects of that company which have impressed me no end. Having recently moved to Cape Town, this is only the second CTCB production I have attended, the first being the very lush staging of the Sleeping Beauty.

While I love classical ballet as much as the next person, I was very excited to attend SATORI which consists of three modern ballets. I was particularly excited about the evening because my partner for the night had never attended a ballet performance before, so I was privileged to also experience it through his eyes and share in his excitement for the evening.

The highlight of the evening was the first piece, Concerto Barocco, created by the legendary George Balanchine in 1941. Using the Double Violin Concerto by Bach as its soundtrack, this dance has no story, instead, it uses the dancers’ bodies to create intricate patterns to visually represent the music. It is a magnificent piece of work and demands incredible technique to achieve the precision required. The eight corps de ballet women, two ballerinas and the cavalier did an amazing job of it, under the expert guidance of Répétiteur Diana White. Having herself danced for Balanchine, she very expertly passed on the choreography, aesthetics, technique, musicality and obvious phoilsophy that underscores Balanchines work.

Watching this piece was an incredible experience. The dancers flowed beautifully from one sequence to the next, making it all seem so effortless and easy. When this ballet ended, to shouts to “Bravo!” (some coming from my own mouth), I wondered why they chose to put the best piece first on the programme? Surely this was the highlight of the evening?

Then the curtain went up on the second ballet for the evening, a piece called Sheeple, choreographed by award-winning local Michelle Reid. And it proved to be even better than the first ballet!

Very much in a modern style with an atonal/trance soundtrack, this ballet is about Community, Identity, Conflict and Irresolution. It is about people blindly following, without question, about group mentality, about being different yet all being the same, leading and following. Dressed in tight-fitting body stockings that shows every rib and bulge of their bodies, the dancers of CTCB moved with determination, with passion and with an energy seldom seen on stages in this country. This intense dance was fully embodied by each and every dancer, the discipline and obvious hard work required to learn and perform this piece at this technical level very obvious for all to see.

The foyer was abuzz with electric excitement during the interval, with the audience rushing back to their seats for the third ballet of the evening, Polarity, choreographed by Kenneth Tindall, award-winning choreographer and former principal dancer. This was the most challenging piece of the evening and against all expectation, even better than the first two offerings. From very simple movements to complex group work, this ballet is as modern as modern ballet can be (in my eyes, at least.) This exciting work spoke directly and clearly to the audience, who were on their feet (for a third time during the evening) and wildly applauding when the last notes died away and the curtain came down.

This spectacular evening would not have been half as good were it not for the amazing lighting design (I’m going to run out of superlatives soon!) by Wilhelm Disbergen. Ballet number one was lit in a classical way, bright with lots of lighting from the side to accentuate the dancers’ bodies. Ballet number two had a completely industrial lighting design concept, with stark white light shining down in beams to spot on the floor, the whole rig moving up from the floor to dramatic effect. Ballet number three had a very different style of lighting altogether, with large panels at the back used to great effect with contrasting lighting on the back wall. Each ballet was lit differently, but each was lit correctly for its content, each in its own style. A job truly well done.

All in all, this counts as one of the best experiences I have ever had with ballet in a theatre. During the third ballet, I found my mouth was hanging open (literally, hanging open like an idiot), in amazement at what I was seeing. Words will fail me every time when I try to communicate the magic that I witnessed. I can only hope that my excitement sparks your curiosity to take the action necessary to buy the tickets to go and see this triumph of a production.

Do it now.

SATORI is staged by the Cape Town City Ballet at the Artscape Theatre until 9 November 2019. For more information and bookings visit https://www.capetowncityballet.org.za