Gallery/Video/Review: Sacredspace is a revelation in three-part harmony


“A sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces. A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning” (that’s what Google says and, I think they might be right).

It seems that fate has decided I should attend at least one ballet each year at the National Arts Festival. In 2015, it was a last minute decision to attend a performance of “Blue”. Once again, I wandered into the same Saint Andrews venue to watch a ballet by the Cape Dance Company and left — as I did 2 years ago — utterly spellbound.


Photos by Kyle Prinsloo

I experienced Sacredspace as a ballet of contrasts. The initial frame of this triptych presents a stage organised with both male and female dancers dressed in black pants and jackets. But, where the female dancers were dressed in white blouses that reflected the minimal light in the first part of the piece, all the male dancers displayed the sinews of their chests, in a muscular performance that drew distinct lines like shooting stars against a black sky.

The casting of all black male dancers and all white female dancers continued this theme of contrast as the music alternated between sensual blues and evocative classical music.

Silence also plays a significant role in contrasting against the music in this piece. Like a vinyl LP that completes the rotation of the tracks on one side, the silence arrives like the white noise at the centre of a record. The dancers make as much out of the silence as the music. The white noise is held just long enough to allow the movement to reach its own strongly articulated conclusion.

The piece concludes with the lead male dancer stretching his arms out, head tilted back and eyes facing the sky, as he seems to be buoyed by the cluster of dancers behind him. The silence ends and we flip the vinyl over to the next side.

In the second movement, the look, sound and movement calls modernity into a space previously inhabited by black suiting of a bygone era. In this piece all dancers are dressed in horizontal stripes that follow a colour grading of an off-white at the neck — with a cohesive blue in the mid-section — to the black bottoms that end just high enough at the leg to display the physical strength required to dance this energetic piece. Fluidity in gender and movement conclude with pairs of dancers exiting in formation to leave the stage.


Video by Thingo Mthombeni

The third and final act, opens with a different lead male dancer than the first. Sitting and then standing, away from the congregation of dancers, who sit in Vajrasana pose, hands on knees, with their backs facing the audience as the lead appears to be in direct communion with a force above him.

The piece features the most strongly punctuated movement seen in the show and evokes thoughts of self-flagellation. Dancers dressed in full-body, hooded monk habits gesticulate powerfully towards their chests and each other, to a soundtrack that melds eastern meditation and paso doble music in a piece that is both meditative and, combative.

The piece reaches a crescendo that features the cast stomping the floor and finally breaking their silence to release agonising cries stifled throughout the preceding two parts of the performance. Finally the dancers fall to the floor in exasperation with the lead dancer taking advantage of the quiet moment to release an anguished sob. Where the first part concluded with the lead dancer stretching his arms out to the sky, the audience witnesses the collective taking on this movement.

The performance concludes with each of the three parts having distinguished itself from the others. From the individual to pairs and ultimately to a group formation, the link between the physical and the spiritual is the ultimate thread of contrast in this astoundingly woven tale.

Review by Mandiso Mpulo
Photos by Kyle Prinsloo
Video by Thingo Mthombeni