Requiem – The Journey (Part Six)

5 Oct 2023

With one week to go before the South African premiere of Requiem: Journeys of the Soul we caught up with our dancers in Cape Town to find out what it’s like working on the remounting of the double-bill, how the works have developed and changed, and what their time over there has been like so far.


“Every day here is a pinch me moment!”

Q: How is it being in Cape Town? How has taking company class at Jazzart impacted your movement and your learning process?

Dylan: It has been such an amazing experience to travel to South Africa and reconnect with the Jazzart dancers. Cape Town is a beautiful city and we definitely took advantage of the beaches after classes and rehearsals! Taking class here has been so much fun to have Phoenix with the Jazzart company and trainees all together; the studio is always full of energy and excitement. It is great to witness dancers moving throughout space. I have learnt so much from my teachers and peers here. It is inspiring to see how much the dancers commit to their craft. After watching them perform an excerpt of an upcoming work, I left feeling motivated to apply this power they had to my own movement during rehearsals for Requiem and After Tears. Every day here is a pinch me moment! I’m so grateful for the chance to tour with Phoenix and look forward to performing next week!

Dorna: Being in Cape Town, half way around the world, with Phoenix is so special. It still feels surreal.  So many things are similar to home but different. I feel really blessed that work has brought me here. Taking company class at Jazzart is inspiring. Meeting new people from a different culture and seeing how they move and understanding why gives a new perspective and it makes me rethink the reasons I show up every day.

Q: Can you tell us about how Requiem and After Tears have changed or been adapted for the Cape Town performances? Also, what’s it been like working with a different opera company?

Yasmina: Coming over here to Cape Town has been an incredible experience! For Requiem, the set has changed from a diagonal to a chevron shape in the middle, which allows us to use the centre as a beacon of light to leave the stage at the end of the performance. We’ve spent time adapting moments in After Tears to increase its richness and spirituality and the opera singers have also been included more in this work to create a sense of coming together. Working with Cape Town Opera has been great! They are a smaller group in comparison to Opera North in Leeds, so you really get the chance to meet and greet everyone. They have brought new energy to the works, especially After Tears and we’ve been so lucky to have the experience throughout this production to work with two opera companies.

Hannah: Bringing the Requiem and After Tears double bill to Cape Town audiences currently feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and an experience that I will never forget. It was so special to premiere the works in our hometown of Leeds, but the South African air is bringing a new energy to the pieces and it’s wonderful to revisit them so soon after they were initially created. With this new collaboration with Cape Town City Opera has come new staging possibilities. For Requiem, the chorus are still raised on platforms throughout, but the soloists now enter the space through a stream of light upstage, setting the tone for what the audience is about to be drawn into. Our main adaptation is the dancer’s interactions with the chorus, when they move into space, we physically connect with different individuals which heightens the humanity within the work.

Choreographically, as we have had more time to rehearse, some sections have naturally tightened up and Dane has developed some of the movement to create stronger motifs between dancers. We close the piece walking towards the same pool of light that the soloist entered through which feels like a fitting closure to the space. After Tears is only in the early stages of rehearsal with the Chorus so we are sure there are more adaptions to come. So far, it has been exiting to work with dramaturge Mhlanguli George who has passed over many words of wisdom into building connections in the work and keeping power and meaning within the different sections. The chorus now join in with Lihle (a dancer with Jazzart) when he sings his prayer, this is a beautifully soulful moment and feels honorary of the many ancestors we are paying our respects too. The opera company themselves have been a dream to work with, live music has a massive impact on both pieces and the enthusiasm from everyone in the room is making for a wonderful rehearsal process and I’m sure for even more exciting live shows.

Q: This is the first time Phoenix dancers have performed in South Africa. What’s been the best thing about being in Cape Town? What are you going to be taking back to the UK from your experiences in South Africa?

Aaron: One of the best things about prepping to perform in Cape Town is revisiting the work after what feels like an age away from it. We’ve been doing such varied rep since we put Requiem: Journeys of the Soul to bed in May so it’s nice to get back to something familiar with bodies that have experienced so much in that time away. The work feels like it’s been given a new life because of this, and I can’t wait to put that new life on stage in Cape Town. It’s also exciting to be reunified with the Jazzart dancers. We built such great bonds when they came over to the UK and shared so many moments with each other, so to be able to continue those relationships in person and not just over social media is a real blessing. It’s been beautiful thus far and there’s still two weeks to go so a bunch more opportunities to create lifelong memories. I think what I’ll take away from my experience in South Africa is going to be how rich the culture is. We got a glimpse of how vibrant it was when the dancers came over to Leeds, but to be over here and see it first hand is a real joy. There’s so much to soak in and digest. I’ll definitely need to come back to really appreciate all this beautiful country has to offer.

Carina: The best thing about preparing to perform in South Africa is working with the incredible artists out here. From the Jazzart trainees to the Cape Town Opera Conductor and everyone in between, they all bring so much energy and spirit into every rehearsal. The choir have been totally mesmerising to listen to whilst also being a great laugh to work with. They bring such light and joy into the space as well as a strong ambition to make the work the best it can be. And of course, it’s been a dream come true to reunite with the Jazzart dancers after performing with them in the UK earlier this year. I will definitely be taking away the grit, determination and light from the South African artists I have met out here. They put their soul into everything they do and I am so inspired by their passion.

Q: You’ve returned to Phoenix as a Guest Dancer for the South African dates. Has your connection to the two works changed or evolved by revisiting and restaging them after four months? Why is this? 

Teige: So far it’s been a blessing to be able revisit this work. Working with the incredible dancers at Phoenix is always a pleasure, as well as getting to reconnect with the ecstatic dancers of Jazzart has been extremely inspiring for me. Although it was only four months ago since I last saw them, I can see the growth in everyone. My connection to Requiem has also grown. I find that this time round the movement is much more settled in my body. I also know the piece better now and because of both these things I’ve found myself being able to express myself and tell the story more easily than I could before, and really being able to bring my attention to doing that. This seems to be the case for others too which only increases the amount we are able to express and tell the story together. It’s been a great pleasure to hear the choir and the soloists sing again, it really helps bring the work alive when you feel their voices in the room. All in all my connection has only deepened, my understanding of my part in the piece, how I connect with everyone else including the choir and soloist singers, the journey we travel as a group and my understanding of the movement. I can’t wait to take it to the stage.

Featured image at the top of the page (from left to right): Lihle (Jazzart) Dylan, Rian (Jazzart) Aaron (front), Teige (back), Yasmina, Hannah, Chesney (Jazzart) Carina, Dorna

Read our Requiem – The Journey blog series and discover more behind-the-scenes content, interviews and insights into the production here.


A selection of images of our dancers in Cape Town, from rehearsals and studio work to well-deserved relaxation time with Jazzart dancers, courtesy of Cape Town Opera and Phoenix dancers.