REVIEW: Big City, Big Dreams

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Joburg Ballet's Claudia Monja & Mahlatse Sachane in Big City, Big Dreams. Photo Lauge Sorensen
Joburg Ballet’s Claudia Monja & Mahlatse Sachane in Big City, Big Dreams. Photo Lauge Sorensen

Big City, Big Dreams is an exciting new collaborative work by three leading Johannesburg based dance companies. The show promised to be big, bold and exciting featuring dancers from Joburg Ballet, Moving Into Dance Mophatong and Vuyani Dance Theatre. This show did not disappoint, with a simple but effective story-line that tied in many of the dreams of Joburg residents, dreams of dancing, dreams of career and business success, dreams of love and laughter. The show was billed as a new ballet. I don’t know what makes a ballet a ballet, but this story set to music told through dance contained elements found in a ballet, but I don’t think calling this work a ballet is a fair description of what it is.

Eugene Mashiane in Big City, Big Dreams. Photographed on location in Joburg by Lauge Sorensen.
Eugene Mashiane in Big City, Big Dreams. Photographed on location in Joburg by Lauge Sorensen.

The co-operation by three creative teams led by their respective choreographers Sunnyboy Motau (MIDM), Shannon Glover (Joburg Ballet) and Lulu Mlangeni (VDT) was successfully tied together by award winning actress Fiona Ramsay who directed the production. The original score by Nik Sakellarides held the story together and helped tie together the different styles of dance. A simple set, comprising a massive tilted mirrored wall at the back of the stage, reflected projected images shone from above on to the stage floor. This depending on the positions of the dancers on stage, and your seat in the theatre, resulted at times in the number of dancers on stage appearing doubled.

Kwazi Madlala (Vuyani Dance Theatre) & Claudia Monja (Joburg Ballet), Big City, Big Dreams. Photo Lauge Sorensen
Kwazi Madlala (Vuyani Dance Theatre) & Claudia Monja (Joburg Ballet), Big City, Big Dreams. Photo Lauge Sorensen

The blending of contemporary dance styles from Vuyani Dance Theatre and Moving Into Dance Mophatong, with the classical ballet dancing of Joburg Ballet could have come across as contrived or forced, but the story-line helped blend the styles giving each their own time on stage, as well as some impressive collaborative scenes. The closing scene the most impressive of these, reminded me very much of a scene from a Baz Luhrmann film, where he brings together seemingly contradictory styles and they not only gel seamlessly but together create magic. The story was set in Joburg, and although there are many similarities between big cities across the globe, this show summed up Joburg in a romanticised yet authentic way. I love my city, and this show does Joburg justice. Putting together Big City, Big Dreams was a massive undertaking and congratulations needs to go to everyone involved.

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