A highlight of Dance Umbrella, celebrating its 26th anniversary from August 31 to September 7, as part of the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival, is the ballet ‘Les Nuits’ (The Nights).
The internationally celebrated French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj will bring his renowned ballet company, Ballet Preljocaj, with a contingent of eighteen dancers, to perform ‘Les Nuits’ (The Nights) for the first time in South Africa on September 2 and 3 at the Joburg Theatre.
‘Les Nuits’ (The Nights), a lavish, sensual and enchanting ballet inspired by ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ is brought to South Africa by the French Institute South Africa and Total South Africa.
“Total has a long history of supporting the arts in South Africa and we are proud to be sponsoring a cross-border exchange of cultures between France and South Africa of such a high calibre,” says Total South Africa Managing Director and Total Southern Africa CEO Christian des Closières.
Preljocaj, the artistic director of Ballet Preljocaj, explains why he used ‘A Thousand and One Nights’, on which ‘Les Nuits’ is based, as inspiration: “Beyond the mystery of this text, which was most certainly written by several people and featured extremely varied tales, the text has also allowed generations of readers to dream… intrigued and attracted down the ages by its fantastical and erotic dimension. The tales contain some very sensual aspects, which I wished to represent through dance. What makes ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ particularly captivating is the device established through the character of Sheherazade. With her words, culture and intelligence she represents a bastion against barbarism and challenges us to question the role of women in society. It is evident that a great many avenues are opened up by this literary monument and each theme pushes me to develop dance as a concept and take the actual writing of the movement further. The Nights delves deeply into the mystery of a mythical Orient, where the body represents symbols, like a calligraphy expressing moods and emotions.”
Preljocaj, born in the Paris region in France, began studying classical ballet before turning to contemporary dance. He studied with Karin Waehner and Zena Rommett and Merce Cunningham in New York. He later resumed his studies in France and his teachers included the American choreographer Viola Farber and the French choreographer Quentin Rouillier. He then joined Dominique Bagouet, before founding his own company in December 1984.
He has made short films and several full-length films for which he was awarded the “Grand Prix du Film d’Art” in 2003, the “Vidéo-Danse” First Prize in 1992 and the Prague Video Festival Prize in 1993. In 2009, he directed ‘Snow White’ and he has collaborated on several films on his own choreographic work: ‘Les Raboteurs’ with Cyril Collard (based on the painting by Gustave Caillebotte) in 1988, ‘Pavillon Noir’ with Pierre Coulibeuf in 2006 and ‘Eldorado/ Preljocaj’ with Olivier Assayas in 2007. Several books have been written about his work, the most recent being ‘Angelin Preljocaj, de la création à la mémoire de la danse’ (2011).
He collaborates regularly with other artists and his productions are now part of the repertoire of many companies, many of which also commission original production from him, notably La Scala of Milan, the New York City Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet.
A preview of Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Les Nuits’ extracts on screen can be seen on Wednesday, August 13, from 6pm to 7.30pm at the IFAS headquarters in Braamfontein. This will be presented together with Joburg Ballet performing Angela Maree’s award-winning ‘My Reverie’ and Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative Thami Majela’s ‘Metamoffiesies’ and an open discussion with the choreographers.
This diverse mix of filmed and live performance is part of Without Words in Women’s Month – a collaboration between inner-city organisations promoting unity and using influence to shed light on issues affecting women and society in South Africa.
* For Dance Umbrella 2014 bookings, visit www.computicket.com.
For more information, visit www.joburgtheatre.com, or www.danceforumsouthafrica.co.za.
The Joburg Theatre Complex is situated on Loveday Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.