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Power + grace = survival

Enemy Behind The Gates. Photo: Pat-Bromilow-Downing
Review: Sacred Spaces by Cape Dance Company, Artscape Theatre in Cape Town until December 10


At a time when the arts – like journalism and even life as we know it – seems to be under threat of extinction, Sacred Spaces gives us a peek at a wide scope of what survival might look like.

The show, by the neoclassical Cape Dance Company, comprises three pieces: Enemy Behind The Gates, Cliffnotes, and A Thousand Shepherds.

Christopher Huggins’ Enemy Behind The Gates has never seemed so relevant. This representation of power and grace really strikes a chord at a time when we seldom see the two combined in life.

In this powerful piece one gets glimpses of individuals – each one stronger, more beautiful, and even more certain than the next – but mostly we see a group united by a military precision and a graceful dedication to the whole.

Enemy is edge-of-your-seat dance that leaves the audience breathless, wondering what the hell could come next. It left me reflecting on the choices we are told we must make, the black and whiteness of it all, the idea that we can only have power or grace.

If these beautiful, graceful soldier-dancers are the enemy behind the gates let them in immediately please.

Cliffnotes. Photo: Pat-Bromilow-Downing

Cliffnotes, the premiere of the work by South African-born choreographer Andrea (Andi) Schermoly, leads us into a more reflective mode.

Schermoly trained at the National School of the Arts under Vyvyan Lorrayne before studying at Rambert Ballet and Contemporary School and the Royal Ballet School in London. She has danced with Boston Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theatre and now works as a freelance choreographer and performer. She lives in California.

The title of this piece is an American expression that refers to study notes, what others might call crib sheets. It is a series of vignettes, fluid, expansive movement set to the music of Tom Waits, Ludovico Einaudi and Rob Fidel, with lighting design by Wilhelm Disbergen.

We get glimpses of moments and feel flashes of emotion as we catch our breath and regain our equilibrium. Cliffnotes’ beautiful snapshots help us to transition from the breathless excitement of Enemy Behind The Gates to the deeply meditative A Thousand Shepherds. (I sense the hand of CDC artistic director Debbie Turner.)

A Thousand Shepherds. Photo: Pat-Bromilow-Downing

Sacred Spaces ends with Spanish-UK choreographer José Agudo’s acclaimed work that skillfully takes the audience on a spiritual journey that borders on the religious.

This is a piece that reminds one of how many choices there are, that power and grace are, in fact, not just opposite ends of a continuum. There two can be combined in millions of meaningful ways, just like one doesn’t have to choose between the course or the cliffnotes, most people settle on a combination of the two.

Sacred Spaces is on at Artscape until December 10.

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