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Journey through another world

Review: A Thousand Shepherds by Cape Dance Company at Artscape Theatre, Cape Town

A Thousand Shepherds takes your breath away as it screams out to all your senses, most loudly to the sixth one.

Inspired by the concept of pilgrimage, the African première of Spanish-UK choreographer José Agudo’s acclaimed work skillfully takes the audience on a spiritual journey that borders on the religious.

The invitation to start the journey is flamenco-inspired, rhythmic and flowing movements where the costumes mimic the dance, magnifying the seduction. I didn’t really understand the costumes (original design by Kimie Nakano) when I saw them on the pre-show stills but, boy, did they make sense once they started to dance!

A Thousand Shepherds: José Agudo’s acclaimed work skillfully takes the audience on a spiritual journey that borders on the religious

Barely imperceptible shifts in style and speed build to a tribal tempo, which is both haunting and thrilling.

And then it is over too soon, leaving us feeling like we had only just glimpsed another side where we too are at one with sound and movement.

We are fulfilled, but long for more.

Then Cape Dance Company Artistic Director Debbie Turner hits the reset button with two short ballets. We catch our breath, but keep moving on this journey where we are always slightly above ground level.

The hypnotic buzz fades but the spell is maintained through the pas de deux from Bradley Shelver’s ballet Scenes, set to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Live accompaniment by the Czechoslovakian concert pianist Michaela Mala-Simpson adds an additional layer of intimacy.

Enemy Behind the Gates
Enemy Behind the Gates: A cast of 46 dancers creates a powerful rendition of Christopher Huggins’s award-winning ballet. Photo: Pat Bromilow-Downing

Christopher Huggins’s neo-classical quartet, In the Mirror of her Mind, is up next. These two pieces, known to many in the audience, confirm that the journey we are on is both familiar and brand new.

We have been soothed and sonata-ed when the curtain lifts on a double volume stage and an intensified staging of Christopher Huggins’ award-winning Enemy Behind the Gates. We are lifted another few feet off the ground.

This is pure athletic alchemy as a cast of 46 dancers creates a powerful and ominous rendition of Huggins’s glorious, lightening-fast choreography.

This again ends too soon and we must snap out of our reverie and come back to earth. Bubbles by Graham Beck at the after-show party ease the transition.

Debbie Turner is a magician, the choreographers Agudo, Shelver, and Huggins are wizards, the dancers are translators, psychics, and mediums.

As we have come to expect, Cape Dance Company (CDC) continues to sprinkle a little bit of gold dust on everything they touch.

This show, a celebration of 21 years of CDC, was supported by National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund , Fruit and Veg City, and Business and Arts South Africa

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