When I hear certain Elvis Presley numbers I recall my parents dancing to “Seven Singles” in the lounge, my father gyrating his hips and my mother “swooning” into his arms. It was always a time of family revelry and celebration and on those evenings all was right with the world as I understood it.
I was born in the year Elvis – the Pelvis – Presley was drafted into the US military for the Vietnam War (1958-1960). He was old hat, providing music for my parent’s generation. It would, however, have been strange for me not to catch their liking for Elvis Presley, regardless of whether I would admit it at the time or not. The King of Rock and Roll had a voice of liquid honey and the more than thirty hit tunes (out of approximately 700 recordings) were all catchy and musically delightful. The King would go on to become a 20th Century icon.
Bovim Ballet from Cape Town is currently visiting the Joburg Theatre with their latest production, Private Presley. This is not grand culture or amazing ballet, but it is enormous fun and a good night’s entertainment.
Next to me were a party of three. They sang, loudly, to all the Elvis Presley recordings, particularly the well known ones. I loved it. At one point the “ringleader” of the three caught my eye to see if it was worrying me. My grin must have set his mind at rest because they all sang louder after that. It was not disturbing. It is that kind of production.
The programme was clever, not the wonderful perpetual calendar of artist information we got for Queen at the Ballet last year, but rather a programme in a cover such as those used for vinyl records. The cover proclaimed that there were 36 original tracks including 18 No 1 hits.
Dancing for us on the night I was there was Henk Opperman as Elvis. I was a little disappointed. Sven-Erik Muller is more the Elvis Presley type. Remember always that Elvis had several generations of women perving over him, with the younger ones kissing his photographs and generally making themselves particularly silly (I was that half generation too late for that, giving my silly paper kisses to David Cassidy instead). I was not sure who danced the role of Priscilla Presley on the night we were there, but I think from the photos that it must have been Nicola van der Merwe. I thought she was a really lovely dancer, both in looks and body type and with beautifully executed ballet. The only dancer I recognised was Craig Arnolds from bygone days at the Joburg Ballet (or at least its predecessors in title).
Bovim Ballet’s Artistic Director and Choreographer is Sean Bovim, and Private Presley was produced by Bovim Ballet and The CoLab Network. The very charming minimalist set was by Ulrich Binedell with lighting by Faheem Bardien. All the photographs are by Pat Bromilow-Downing, Bill Zurich & Essie Esterhuizen with costumes for the men by Craig Port and really lovely costumes for the ladies by KLûK CGDT.
Private Presley can be seen at the Mandela Theatre, Joburg Theatre, until 31 October 2015.