Sean Bovim’s SwingTime at the Ballet - Cape Town City Ballet
Laura and Daniel in SwingTime at the Ballet

BOVIM’S SWINGTIME AT THE BALLET returns to the Cape Town stage. Cape Town City Ballet stages the production at Artscape Theatre. SHEILA CHISHOLM interviews Sean Bovim.

Out with the diary! Sharpen a pencil.  Now, choose a date between 20 December 2018 and 5 Jan 2019 for at least one performance of Sean Bovim’s SwingTime at the Ballet.

Yes! after too long an absence Cape Town City Ballet is once again presenting this swinging, feel-good two-act ballet. It forms part of CTCB’s end-of-year Festive Season holiday productions, and an entertaining one too.

Visceral choreography

Bovim’s SwingTime at the Ballet premiered in 2003 and has, since then, been popularly received on several later occasions. If you missed out back then – or even if you didn’t – Gavin Rajah’s gloriously sexy courtier costumes, Michael Mitchell’s glittering New York skyline, Shamiel Abrahams subtle lighting all amalgamating with Bovim’s visceral choreography, make SwingTime at the Ballet a ballet worth seeing … again … and again … and again.

Bovim’s SwingTime takes in the big band sounds and songs of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill.  Who can resist those swinging 1930’s and 1940’s music makers – the musical era of Tea for Two, It Had to Be You, Mack the Knife, I Get a Kick out of You and Irving Gordon’s Unforgettable? Add in CTCB’s vivacious dancers sparkling through Bovim’s choreographic flair and you have an effervescent 90-minute ballet.

Bovim’s storyline is based on Jerry Jeff Walker’s song Mr Bojangles. Mr Bojangles being nickname for Bill Robinson who, during the first half of last century, was America’s most highly paid tap dancer and entertainer.

Bovim’s Mr Bojangles, (Mervyn Williams), is retired from showbiz and working as a caretaker in a New York night club. His glory days may be over, but he constantly dreams of them, the women he loved, lost and the great people with whom he danced.

“Threading through SwingTime are joy, nostalgia and romance” says Bovim. “Although I have incorporated corps de ballet numbers, with love the principal theme, I’ve choreographed a number of duets. After all if I used three people in Dream a Little Dream of Me it might end in a nightmare. Or a Tea for Three instead of for Two could well end in a murder.Its in layering my choreography that I bring an unexpected depth and complexity to SwingTime.”

A lateral thinker

As a lateral thinking choreographer, Bovim has never felt bound by the rigidity of the classical vocabulary. Port de bras involves rolls, swings, shoulder shrugs, broken wrists, finger snaps. And, instead of  keeping his dancers upright on their axis, Bovim constantly devises movements in opposition – movements more tricky for en pointe women than for pied-a-terre (3/4 pointe) males. Bovim also uses movements rolling off pointe over the big toe as opposed to rolling off pointe through the foot.

A smiling Bovim demonstrated  his ‘budgie’ –  “I like to give legs a never-ending look. To achieve this, when the working foot is behind the supporting leg, I like it to rest on the instep. That’s very difficult – particularly when dancing at top speed – but the position gives a lovely look to the leg.”

So head out and get SwingTime at the Ballet tickets – as the ballet offers patrons of all ages an energised, glittering ballet danced to music drawn from memory-lane.

What: Bovim’s SwingTime at the Ballet
Where: Artscape Theatre Cape Town
When: 20 December 2018 – 5 Jan 2019
Swingtime tickets: www.computicket.co.za, 021 421 7695
WS