Dance Review: Mzansi Ballet – The Queen Show, Or Delivering Under Pressure

December 13, 2020

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Mzansi Ballet: The Queen Show / Directed by Dirk Badenhorst / Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Fourways, Johannesburg


Given the range of contexts in which Queen’s music is used, from Wayne’s World to T20 cricket matches, it’s possible that hearing it repurposed again might simply further embed the various cliches that marketing types have drawn out of the lyrics. Thankfully, Mzansi Ballet’s interaction with the music via Michael and Angela Revie’s choreography consistently celebrates – rather than manipulates – songs that, thus respected, continue to reveal depth and meaning or propulsive energy, depending on the song.

An important choice, which is a great strength of this production, is the choice of the songs to be used. Queen have more than enough chart-topping anthems to fill the full running time of this show, but stuffing the tracklisting with tunes like We Will Rock You, I Want To Break Free, Another One Bites The Dust and Fat Bottomed Girls would align it with a thousand tribute or dinner theatre shows – no bad thing, necessarily, but nothing unique. Instead, among the soaring dynamics of Barcelona, Don’t Stop Me Now, Radio Gaga, Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions are the relatively lesser-known and so far more intriguing likes of Millionaire Waltz, You Take My Breath Away, Too Much Love Will Kill You, My Melancholy Blues and I Was Born To Love You. This makes the piece as satisfying for music fans as it is for dance devotees – and hugely enjoyable for audience members who love both.

This Mzansi Ballet company is generally youthful, with the experience of Michael and Angela Revie providing strong balance, as they both amaze with their aspirational professional longevity and physical capacity. With the confidence that comes with strong young bodies comes a certain brassy assurance, and the Revies have factored that into their choreography, much of which involves a high degree of risk and impressive strength and gymnastic (or even acrobatic) elements. Add to this a breathless pace – Act One has ten songs running directly into each other, while Act Two has eight, with barely a pause throughout – and the striking scale of the dancers’ achievement, in both artistic and athletic terms, becomes clear.

The mix of ballet and contemporary choreography means that purists in either camp will likely find reason to gripe about precise form and the like, but such nit-picking is like listening to a rock opera and moaning because nobody sang Nessun Dorma…

The energy, commitment, creativity and passion on display here – as well as the wonderful promise of a uniformly good (and often superb) company of young dancers for future productions makes for a show that leaves its audience buzzing. And on the point of promise for the future, a special mention to the even younger dancers from Jayd Swart’s studio, who performed a complex, edgy routine to The Show Must Go On (that song, in each performance, is allotted to a different dance studio, allowing developing dancers a chance to shine alongside the professionals). They are fearless and fierce, and already technically skilled and well-drilled enough to make this stage their own.

The Queen Show is exciting now, and there is capacity onstage to keep it so for years to come.

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