Peter Tromp caught up with DEBBIE TURNER, who was appointed CEO of Cape Town City Ballet almost a year ago, upon the eve of the company’s staging of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the Artscape Opera House as part of their exciting Autumn/Winter Season.
How have things been for you since becoming Cape Town City Ballet CEO in 2018?
Thus far, it has been one of the most stimulating and challenging periods of my career. I am very ambitious for the company and want to make sure that the company thrives and develops artistically in the context of the 21stcentury – ballet and dance in South Africa has to be underpinned and promoted as a viable career option. All careers are tough, but we have the talent in this country to align standards with the global dance community, given the time and the resources to do so.
What are your shorter term goals, as well as some long term visions for the company?
The short term goal is to revitalise the repertory with new works – this has already commenced and will continue at quite a pace over the next few years. Once we have a substantial stable of works, both full length and shorter ones, we can really spread our wings in terms of the number of performances we do per year.
More long term I would like to see the company touring throughout the country, especially serving areas that do not get regular ballet performances, as well as some international engagements as we progress. My goal is to reach 120 performances per year within the next three years.
Cape Town City Ballet’s Autumn/Winter Season has really made waves this year and has felt more ambitious than previous years. Tell us a little about the planning behind this Season and what you guys envisioned for ballet lovers in the city.
Dance is an ambitious space the world over – there is constant innovation and stretching the boundaries, as well as a commitment to maintaining and celebrating the classics. Cape Town City Ballet needs to be a ballet company for a broad spectrum of tastes, and have a diverse repertory that appeals to an audience of all ages and interests. While one cannot be everything to everybody, art reflects society; therefore the company must reflect a broad and diverse repertory within the framework of being a ballet company. South African dance needs to be aligned and up-to-date with global trends and to this end we are bringing choreographers, dancers and teachers from all over the world to engage with us culturally, set works on the company and take the unique experience that is South Africa home with them. We strive to be members of a global dance community.
Next up for CTCB is ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Why should fans be excited for this production?
‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a timeless classic and a traditional classical work that really makes significant demands technically and emotionally on the dancers. It is a fairytale yes, but also an exploration of love and romance, jealousy and spite, joy and sadness – these are all real aspects of life. It is thrilling to have guest artists from all parts of the globe performing, as well as the featuring of our own principal dancers and soloists in the major roles. Denise Schultze Godfrey, a household name in South African ballet, has staged this ballet for us, while Peter Cazalet, set and costume designer extraordinaire, has upgraded the overall look of the production. The dancers are enjoying and thriving on the demands of this production – it is also an absolute treat to have the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra play for six performances.
What can ballet lovers look forward to from CTCB for the rest of 2019, and early 2020?
We have another two seasons in 2019: a triple bill of works opening on October 26 at the Artscape Opera House, followed by a festive season production in the Artscape Theatre. The programming for these two seasons will be announced shortly. 2020 will be just as jam-packed as 2019, with three seasons in the Opera House and a festive work in the Theatre in December. I am also working very hard on taking dance to more areas of the City and its environs, as well as to service the province more extensively. The challenge is always finding suitable performance venues that are able to cater to the needs of a ballet company. We want to grow our cultural value to the city, the province and the country and take ballet and dance to all who want to see it.
* ‘Sleeping Beauty’ can be seen at the Artscape Opera House from August 17 to 31.
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Visit www.capetowncityballet.org.za for more information.