Curtains down for the Joburg Ballet Company’s SCARCITY, a quartet of ballets which explored pressing social issues.

Comprising of four individual ballets that came together as one body of work, Joburg Ballet’s recent season at the Joburg Theatre from March 15-24 responded artistically to the issues of social, political, and environmental scarcity in South Africa.

Four choreographers were involved in the production of SCARCITY. Joburg Ballet’s CEO, Elroy Fillis-Bell, said the quartet aimed to portray the idea of scarcity from an “array of emotional responses in a range of storytelling styles”.

Ballet is a universal artistic form open to individual interpretation, and this is where its strength lies. Neo Moloi, a member of the ‘corps de ballet’, the group of dancers often assisting soloists or principal dancers, likened each of the four ballets to a puzzle piece, and when put together, created a beautiful body of art.

Dancers Bruno Miranda, Tammy Higgins, Chloe Blair and Alice le Roux during a pre-performance class. Photo: Victoria Hill

Ukukhanya Kwenyanga: A Moonlight Waltz, meaning “moonlight” in isiXhosa and isiZulu, by South African Craig Pedro was created to “attract our people [and] show them that classical ballet can have an African name, and that classical ballet can be danced in African attire”. It represented how our nation, when faced with many social issues, “continues to make something out of nothing and dance in the moonlight,” he said.

Jorgé Pérez Martínez created Azul, a ballet that used movement to personify the feelings of being alive and spirited. Dancers described this work as representing inner peace and grace, capturing fluidity and musicality.

This was starkly contrasted by Hannah Ma’s The Void which symbolised the vastness of human souls and highlighting the beauty of human existence and value of life. This evoked raw emotions from audience members, with audible gasps being heard throughout the entire performance, me included.

Salomé by South African Dada Masilo interrogated the kind of desire, power, and passion that destructs. It spoke to the universal issues of lust and greed. The movement in this piece was fast, intricate, and awkward, telling the story of how scarcity of resources in one’s life can lead to a very vulnerable state of living and being.

Dancers Luhle Mtati and Miguel Franco-Green during a centre exercise in class. Photo: Victoria Hill
Josie Ridgeway assisting Savannah Jacobson with her hair in the dressing room before the performance. Photo: Victoria Hill

Fillis-Bell said this is one of the first instances where ballet has been used to communicate in the form of a social movement in post-Apartheid South Africa. Interrogating the discovery and/or loss of one’s identity was at the core of this performance, eliciting transformative thoughts and reactions from all who watched he added.

Tumelo Lekana, a member of Joburg Ballet’s ‘coryphée’, the leading dancers of the ensemble, described ballet as an “edutainment”, where stories told in this classical art-form depict South African contexts and lived experiences.

I have always been a lover of ballet, and being a dancer myself, I have an appreciation for it that will never cease to be. My favourite choreography from the show was hard to choose, but The Void spoke to me on a personal level. The way loss was portrayed on the stage left behind philosophical meanings that life is worth living, even when you think there is no point in struggle and strife. It left me with a sense of hope, and I wish I could play the performance on repeat in my mind’s eye.

SCARCITY showed audiences the variety of emotions that are simultaneously living in many hearts. Joburg Ballet brought these feelings and people together to reflect in the light casted by the social awareness left behind on stage.

Vuvu rating: 8/10

FEATURED IMAGE: Pointe shoes lined up in a principal dancers dressing room ahead of a performance. Photo: Victoria Hill