Thwarted in Moscow a forthight ago to see the Bolshoi do "Futile Precautions" - their translation of La Fille mal gardee, I was taken to see last week in Johannesburg a show called African Footprint, a huge hit there.
It's a history of South Africa told through dance and some song. It takes place in a 19th century style theatre situated in the midst of a huge gambling and entertainment complex - the equivalent of a vast out of town mall.
It's an 80 minute show, no interval with a mixed cast, whites in the minority, hugely amplified though with live musicians - and is decidedly populist. It's very entertaining, making its obvious points in a light way.
The succession of numbers starts with tribal dancing, drums, spears, stamping, running, buttocks flashing - all the obvious cliches, but done with real energy and precision.
In the early scenes there are images of a rural life that form the sets, these gradually become more urban as we come upto modern SA. Costummes are colorful: energy of the performers, 24 or so, undimmed.
One of the early scenes, still in colonial times, is a pas de deux of a white man manipulating a black woman into submission. Later the situation is reversed: a white woman is subjugated by a black man (I'm using SA terminology). The point of this is clear - but the movement and performance make the points palatable without this becoming agit prop.
There's a scene with mine workers in their gum boots from the 1920 -30s with their traditional dances. This develops into a real blowsy, bluesy tap routine (very good) and mutates into a wonderful jive number (the costumes denote the passing of the eras). Some nights apparently the audinece join in too.
The best number is set in a prison camp - a black and a white man eye each other up in contempt, strip to their underwear, preen, disdain writ large - and fight. It's a wonderful duet of aggression - and ultimately acceptance. Neither wins. It's about balance. There are wonderful lifts and contorted balances, each man supporting the weight of the other - somewhat like the angels of light and dark in MacMillan's Orpheus or some of Kylian. They end up in harmony, recognising the vailidity of each other.
This gets us into the finale - a vibrant, high octane, rainbow colourful, disco: a celebration of the hope contained within the vision of the rainbow economy.