Press: Cuban duo join star line up for the return of ‘A Spartacus of Africa’ at Oude Libertas 22-26 Nov

November 9, 2016

A Spartacus of Africa, featuring the original music of Khachaturian, will be presented for a limited season at the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre from 22 to 26 November 2016.


Renowned choreographer Veronica Paeper has re-designed her original ballet that she created for CAPAB Ballet in 1984, in which she incorporates contemporary dance with classical ballet.  This production was made possible by a grant of R949 000.00 from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC).


Casey Swales and Elzanne Crause reprise their roles (as Amari and Payola) that they danced to great acclaim at the world premier season of A Spartacus of Africa in 2015. Also dancing the lead roles (Amari and Fayola) will be Cuban ballet stars who are currently members of Joburg ballet, Juan Carlos Osma and Dayana Acuna. She shares this role with Capetonian, Elzanne Crause. Osma and Acuna are both Cuban and appear by kind permission of Joburg Ballet. Nadira will be danced by Kristin Wilson and Elzanne Crause. The role of Nagash, Amari’s nemesis, will be danced by Xola Willie and Milwhynne Williams. Lwanele Masiza takes the part of Badu. Alfonzo Freemantle dances the role of Isenyaya, the African Spirit. South Africa’s most exciting and talented dancers from all around the country make up the cast of twenty, further perpetuating SANDT’s collaborative approach. 


It’s long been Paeper’s ambition to reproduce this ballet - arguably her finest.  Drawn to the similarity between Rome’s treatment of their captives and the many downtrodden peoples in Africa, Paeper has given the ballet a mythical African slant, naming it, A Spartacus of Africa. The South African National Dance Trust (SANDT) is thrilled to bring this romantic and dynamic two-act ballet to Stellenbosch.


The story mirrors the original ballet about slaves fighting for freedom, Spartacus’s deep love for his wife Phrygia and Aegina’s guile helping her lover, Crassus, to quell the revolt. The tale makes ideal material for an exciting ballet and love story calling for a technically strong cast able to act. Nelson Mandela’s fight for freedom for which he and others were prepared to die, links to the message behind Spartacus.  It is also relevant to several states in Africa.  Innovative set designs that capture the spirit of Africa were created by KMH Architects, whilst ingenious costumes by the late Dicky Longhurst, an award winning designer, allow the athleticism of the dancers to be vividly dramatized. 


Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who escaped in 73 BC to lead a major slave uprising against the Roman Empire, has inspired revolutionaries, politicians and writers ever since then.  The fact that he was defeated in no way detracts from his courage and that of his fellow slaves, in pitting themselves against mighty Roman legionaries led by the General, Crassus. It’s a tale that, finding favour with the communist regime, saw Leonid Yokobson choreograph a three-act production for Kirov Ballet in 1956. In 1968 Yuri Grigorovich choreographed his version for Bolshoi Ballet. Both accounts use Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s superb score.


A key element of SANDT’s strategy is to include local communities in as many aspects of the production as possible and to mentor up-and-coming talent.  Part of the set was constructed by a group of Masiphumulelo women plaiting thousands of recycled green plastic bags into vines. Another project involved City Varsity students filming an educational documentary about bringing a ballet of this magnitude to the stage.  The eight-minute DVD illustrates the diverse disciplines involved and forms an inspiring introduction for previously disadvantaged learners who will attend the final dress rehearsal at each theatre. 


The season at the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre in Stellenbosch runs from 22 to 26 November at 8:15pm with tickets from R200 to R220. Group and special discounts are available. All bookings can be made through Computicket or 08619158000.





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