Dance for all

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
The Cape Youth Dance Company is a recently formed group from South Africa which aims, under the direction of Debbie Turner, to give performing experience to young people, all of whom are in full-time education but pursue dance as a serious hobby.

The commitment shows. At their Fringe debut, company members - all white and aged 13 to 20 - displayed considerable technical ability. Their style is heavily influenced by classical ballet training but they delivered slick and appealing performances to jazz, rock and flamenco music.

It was guitarist John Williams's haunting theme from the film Schindler's List, however, which gave 13-year-old Lisa Schneider the opportunity to display her langorous fluidity, and the elegant Swan in Saint-Sa ns's Carnival of the Animals which allowed 18-year-old Pauline Adams to show off her maturing strength and artistry.

Twenty-year-old Richard Handler - the only male performer - caught the eye with his combination of taut, wiry strength and his ability to handle nifty footwork. Adept at classical ballet, he nonetheless gave this company the edge it needed in interpreting the rock and jazz scores.

But with or without shining soloists, Cape Youth work well as an ensemble. In Forest Creatures a powerful atmosphere builds up among the leafy glades. But it is a piece to a Bach score and based on Paul Taylor's sweeping brand of choreography that has the company at its best as they went with the flowing rhythms of a Brandenburg Concerto in an interpretation of remarkable maturity and infectious joie de vivre.

Watching Cape Youth would be a positively uplifting experience if one could ignore its dubious claim to be "the authentic dance voice of young South Africa".

For those seeking a more challenging experience, Common Ground Sign Dance Theatre's What We Want To Say to Juan Jose is well worth a look. An established British company with both deaf and hearing people, Common Ground fuses the arts - acting, music and dance - with sign language.

Two women play various male and female roles as they explore Latin American male macho behaviour in this age of the alleged New Man. Performer Isolde De Graal puts it beautifully. From Cuba originally, but now based in Liverpool, she asks whether she would accompany her visiting brother - caricatured as big mouthed and perpetually playing with his fly - to a night club in Liverpool. "No way," she breathes.

De Graal is a former high-flyer in the contemporary dance scene who now prefers the intimacy of the small theatre. Her technique and training still shine through, and so does her singing and drum playing. Nonetheless she does not upstage her partner - the profoundly deaf Denise Armstrong - who has a strong dramatic presence. For the hearing person this work is not, at every point, accessible. But still the point - and the jokes - eventually do come across.

* Common Ground, who this week also gave a presentation to a (sign language) interpreters' convention at Donaldson's School for the Deaf in Edinburgh, perform at Moray House Kabaret, Holyrood Road until the end of the Festival. The Cape Youth Dance Company, part of Youth International at St Oswald's, Montpelier Park, finishes on Saturday.

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