Making mischief with dance

HOW do you get other young members of the family into the magic of dance?

Tuesday, 11th September 2007, 9:30 am
Updated Friday, 21st September 2007, 9:27 am

A spot of Mischief might be the answer!

Mischief is the new show for the whole family that has enough dance for budding ballerinas but which is also boisterous enough for the boys – and has some moments of humour to keep mum and dad entertained too.

It's the latest production from the award-winning Theatre-Rites, under artistic director Sue Buckmaster, and South African choreographer and dancer Arthur Pita and it is a completely beguiling mix of music – provided by Charlie Winstone, who proves himself to be much more than an accompanist – great visuals, splendid physical comedy and even a shade of something mathematical in the way it takes the idea of what makes a line and grows the concept into a surreal fantasy, developed through the strong visuals created by designer Sophia Clist.

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The show is aimed at youngsters aged seven and upwards – just about the age that Arthur was first drawn to dance.

"I actually started in Latin American dance with my sister and then went into disco," he recalls.

"I wanted to be John Travolta in Grease and I knew I could learn that.

"And it was very good training for children, very freeing – ballet is very restrictive."

Watching him at work today, it's clear that he has retained the memory of those earliest lessons in his native Johannesburg as he encourages his team of dancers to let themselves go with their imaginations.

Arthur was, he concedes, immediately captured by the rhythm of those early and inspiring Latin beats, going on to study at the Johannesburg Arts, Ballet, Drama and Music School.

"I've never even been in any other profession!" he laughs as he explains how he eventually left South Africa in 1991 to join the London Contemporary Dance School, became a lead dancer and then found himself drawn increasingly to choreography, working on everything from contemporary dance pieces like Mischief to opera classics La Boheme and Carmen and even a Broadway classic like Showboat.

Mischief, he says, is a celebration of dance, the sort of piece to inspire a young audience in just the same way he was once inspired by Mr Travolta.

"We have to be child-friendly," he explains.

"You have to change every 15 seconds and if you get too internal and don't look at them you will lose them.

"We don't want them to think it is bland – we want them to think it is exciting."

For a company more used to performing for an adult audience, however, an auditorium full of children is bound to be a challenge.

"They are the hardest audience because they are at their most energetic," Arthur points out.

"They know so much, they're almost fully-formed people and yet they still have certain needs too."

That's why he has called the piece Mischief and why he hopes to discover in his dancers that sense of the unexpected that only children can display without feeling self-conscious.

"Mischief is quite freeing," he says.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

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Mischief is at the Lyceum, Sheffield, from October 11 to 13.