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Cape Dance Company celebrates 20th year in Grahamstown

Published on 14 May 2015

The Cape Dance Company has performed at the National Arts Festival since the company was established in 1995 – and, if artistic director Debbie Turner has anything to do with it, they’ll be there for the next 20.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][FESTIVAL NEWS] It has been 20 years since the Cape Dance Company (CDC) first took to the National Arts Festival stage in Grahamstown – and they’re celebrating this year with Blue, a production of four pieces by three choreographers.

Artistic director Debbie Turner, who established the CDC in 1995, considers the National Arts Festival as a major highlight on the company’s calendar. The Festival runs 2 to 12 July this year.

Why Grahamstown? ‘It’s one of the biggest arts festival in the world,’ Turner says. It offers her company the opportunity to hone its profile and allows her dancers to perform on stage ‘in front of a very appreciative audience’.

The Festival offers dancers a ‘fantastic learning curve’ and ‘many of the CDC’s young dancers who have gone on to the world’s stages cut their teeth in Grahamstown’, she says.

‘Everything that could have happened to us, has happened in Grahamstown – including lights going out 40 seconds before the curtain falls,’ Turner says. But the years of experience have given the company a deep confidence in staging a show under any conditions – and they’re now able ‘to put up a show in two hours flat’.

The Company’s passionate investment of time, energy and focus, has led to it being regarded as one of South Africa’s most impressive contemporary dance companies. ‘The CDC celebrates the beauty of the human form,’ Turner says. ‘While other companies may be driven by socio-political issues, our chief motivation is to communicate the beauty of the human form.’

‘Blue’ can be regarded as the embodiment of this desire. The four works by acclaimed choreographers will see CDC dancers working in their trademark neo-classical style to deliver their remarkable technical virtuosity and artistic skill in four pieces:

  • The all-male work choreographed by Christopher Huggins for ‘Blue’ is a favourite of Turner’s, who says she relishes working with an all-male cast.
  • Huggins’s ‘In the Mirror of Her Mind’, danced to Gorecki’s Symphony No 3 Opus 35, sees a woman reflect on her loves and losses.
  • Bradley Shelver’s ‘Scenes’ was inspired by the notion of creativity, and is danced to the music of Gallasso, Bach, Beethoven and Riley.
  • ‘FadeOut.Five’, a work by South African-born and trained dancer/choreographer Belinda Nusser, is a contemporary work commissioned last year by the company.

Turner’s personal highlight each year is the great warmth the company experiences from National Arts Festival audiences. ‘We’ve been to Edinburgh Fringe four times, but Grahamstown is really something special,’ she says of the experience of performing in front of a ‘captured market’ of fellow artists, patrons, retired dancers and young students.

Turner says she’s noticed a change in the make-up of the audience – especially in the past five years. ‘We get very diverse audiences in Grahamstown’, she says, from the Xhosa grandmother with her young grandchildren to 21st-century sophisticates. ‘This is because dance is interpretable by everyone – we communicate the heaviness of art, but also the lightness of life.’

The Cape Dance Company will perform ‘Blue’ on 2,3,4 and 6 July. Tickets are R77-R90. Book here 

Other unmissable dance at the Festival includes:

  • The University of Johannesburg presents #ToyiToyi, choreographed by Kieron Jina, on 8 to 11 July. Tickets R45 to R50.
  • Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Luyanda Sidiya and the Vuyani Dance Theatre will perform Siva (Seven) on 6, 7 and 8 July. Tickets R65 to R70.
  • The Last Attitudeby Mamela Nyamza and Nelisiwe Xaba on 2, 3 and 4 July. Tickets R65 to R70.
  • Portrait of Myself as my Father by the Tumbuka Contemporary Dance Company on 3 and 4 July. Tickets R65 to R70.
  • Cape Town City Ballet with two works by John Neumeier – Spring & Fall’ and ‘Le Sacre, 2 and 3 July in the Guy Butler Theatre. Tickets R75 to R105.
  • Jilted by the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, which is a feeder company for the CDC, 3 to 6 July. Tickets R60 to R70.


Bookings can be made via the website:
Ticketing call centre: 0860 002 004


Pick up a Festival programme and booking kit from selected Standard Bank and Exclusive Books branches. The full programme is available online at


The National Arts Festival is grateful to its presenting sponsors: the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Standard Bank, the Department of Arts and Culture, and the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture. City Press and M-Net are our media partners.


The National Arts Festival is an important event on the South African cultural calendar, and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent. This year it runs from 2 to 12 July 2015 in the small university town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. The programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, tours (of the city and surrounding historic places) as well as a children’s arts festival. As no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown, the Festival served as an important forum for political and protest theatre during the height of the apartheid era, and it continues to offer an opportunity for experimentation across the arts spectrum. Its significance as a forum for new ideas and an indicator of future trends in the arts cannot be underestimated.


Gilly Hemphill
The Famous Idea Trading Co
+27 11 782 0085
+27 82 820 8584


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