Cape Town City Ballet

Spinning ballet dancer
At the risk of sounding uncultured and like a broken record, I'd have to say that I'm not a ballet-appreciating kind of guy. The thought of watching an entire performance would normally draw tears from my eyes (or yawns from my jaw).

But, hugely to my surprise, while shooting photos only a couple of metres from the stage, I somehow developed an affinity and appreciation for the art. The show put on by Cape Town City Ballet (at Aqua Festival) was absolutely amazing! The precision by which the dancers moved every part of their body, the perfect timing, their flexibility - it was all out of this world (see the photos here). I think for me it made a huge difference being able to see the dancers really close up (with my zoom lens). I was able to see expressions on their faces that told the story of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I was even able to see the perspiration on their brows that revealed how much effort they were exerting and exactly how strenuous and non-nancy-pancy the performance was! :)

Guys, seriously, at least once, take time out to watch a ballet performance. And, when you do, buy the most expensive tickets that you can, as close to the stage as you can. And, once you've done all of this, take along your pair of Bushnell binoculars (or riflescope if you really want to look macho). ;)

If you're in Cape Town, you could try to make a date to see dancers from the Cape Town City Ballet company perform The Sleeping Princess, the story of Sleeping Beauty. It's still showing until 10 January at the Artscape Theatre Centre and tickets cost between R70 and R105.

17 thoughts on “Cape Town City Ballet

  1. Paul

    Post author

    Hi Elizabeth (it is Elizabeth, right?)

    It’s a pleasure – the performance really was deserving of the praise the article above gives, which is why I’m sure that The Sleeping Princess will be worth the outing. :)

    I would like to take you up on your offer to photograph a rehearsal – I think it would make for great photos. I’ll send you an email in a little while to make arrangements.


  2. Beverley

    I agree Paul everyone male or female should see a Ballet at least once in their lifetime…I saw Swan Lake in London and it was wonderful, I’m so glad you appreciated it.

    The chance of being able to take photo’s at a rehearsal is an opportunity not to be missed – have fun and I’ll look forward to seeing the photo’s!

  3. Emm

    Ha! Ha ha. We would never, ever get to see ballet in London for between £5 and £9. I’ve paid £60 for theatre tickets before (only because I had a smallish crush on one of the actors).
    That photo is great – how come they let you take a camera in? Do you have any tips for taking photos in lighting like that?

  4. Paul

    Post author

    Emm, I was actually shooting for the organisers, so getting my camera in wasn’t a problem. ;)

    Regarding a tip… I found that my camera would most often overexpose because there was a huge amount of darkness on the stage, with a dancer being illuminated by a bright light (and being dressed in bright white clotes!)

    I most often shoot in programmable mode, which means that I have to “underexpose” on average 1 stop to correct the cameras incorrect exposure… in retrospect however, I should have been shooting in manual – it would have made life far simpler.

    The other thing is to get your shutter speed as fast as possible. The dancers tend to move pretty fast, so even though the shot looks fine in the viewfinder, it could be unusable.

    I found that zooming in so that the dancer(s) fill the entire frame gave me the best results.

    I was using a monopod (for mobility), but a tripod would work better for stability.

    Oh, and lastly, don’t even bother with “Auto” mode on your camera – it won’t work. The dancers will be hugely overexposed.

    I hope this helps!

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  6. Mary-Louise Stein

    This is exactly the kind of input we would like on our just developed page – Save the cape town city ballet – the thought of this wonderful company closing due to lack of funds is just too awful to comtemplate. Join us and make suggestions as to how we can help keep this company thriving.

  7. Paul

    Post author

    Mary-Louise, I wasn’t aware that they were in such dire need of funds. You’re right though, it would be a shame if they were to close down.

    (Oh, there was a problem with the link that you used above. I fixed it point to the Facebook group) :)

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  9. Paul

    Post author

    Thanks Chris for letting me know. I’ve just published an article here. Heading home now after a *long* day at the office, while on the top half of our globe Kerry-Anne is heading back to her hotel after an evening at the Louvre. Some people have all the fun. ;)

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