I take the opportunity to see the ballet whenever I can; there’s something about the utter strength of the dancers, the quiet passion behind their graceful moves and expressions, the music and, of course, the costumes. All are unique in their own way, but I’ve never been to a ballet quite like Amaranth, a glorious triple-bill production from Cape Town City Ballet staged in the Artscape Opera House.
Usually, you can expect to view a single-story show; however this production is split into three separate performances with intervals between which progress from neoclassical to contemporary, keeping your interest piqued the entire way through.
The first, choreographer George Balanchine’s masterpiece Serenade, is staged by Rebecca Metzger and is the closest to a classical ballet. Accompanied by the Cape Town Orchestra, ‘beautiful’ and ‘ethereal’ are the words that come to my mind as best describing Serenade. The dancers are elegantly synchronised, the blue and white costumes created a soft picture, the sensual, graceful movements betray muted emotions.
Then came Transfigured Night by Frank Staff, staged by Veronica Paeper, which lands on the opposite side of the spectrum: it is filled with powerful, raw emotion, drama and tragedy – and had me utterly gripped. The story is of two sisters and a brother. The older sister is domineering, to devastating consequences, and the dancer brilliantly portrayed her controlling nature and somewhat violent display of anguish. The music, too, wonderfully paints a picture of this character’s tumultuous feelings.
The entire theatre was utterly entranced by the third part of Amaranth. I have never actually, truly sat on the edge of my seat the way I did – for the entirety of the performance – or held my breath without realising it due to focusing so hard on what I’m watching. The contemporary Enemy Behind Gates has so much happening throughout, at a fast pace, and it is unrelenting and dizzying. Yet there is such harmony in all the busyness and activity that I can only say its creator and choreographer, the American Christopher L. Huggins, is something of a genius.
The entire stage was used for Enemy Behind Gates, with all curtains removed, creating a stark, industrial look, and there were around 40 dancers or so on the stage, moving with athletic grace. A huge production, perfectly pulled off.
All in all, Amaranth gave me a perfect taste of three uniquely different genres that satisfied my sentimental love for more classical ballet, my need to feel moved and my desire for something exhilarating and different.
Whether you love the ballet or insist it isn’t your thing, Amaranth defies your expectations.