Production: Elizabeth Triegaardt after Cecily Robinson
Choreography: David Poole
Cast: Members of Cape Town City Ballet and UCT Dance Dept
Venue: Maynardville Open-Air Theatre
UNTIL: February 16
A study in contrasts best describes this double-bill from Cape Town City Ballet: twinning the monochromatic delicacy of Les Sylphides with the vibrant and vivid Firebird, the muted beauty of Chopin’s music with the feistiness of Stravinsky’s, creates a production designed to please a broad spectrum of taste.
Staged under a summer sky in the leafy intimacy of Maynard-ville’s al fresco theatre, CTCB’s first offering of the year (the 80th year of its existence) is a winner.
With no plot to distract from the dancing, technical demands made on executants of Les Sylphides are considerable, and the artists of CTCB exhibit not only the requisite stamina, but also the discipline and precision that make this ultimate “ballet blanc” a visual delight.
The corps offer well-honed synchronisation as they group, divide and re-group in elegant, ever-changing formation on a stage perfectly sized to accommodate them.
A plus is the glossier-than-usual surface of the Maynardville stage, which reflects the dancers’ collective image to give the illusion of a performance on water. This, together with the sylvan back-ground, enhances the natural beauty of the setting for the collage of moody dances originally known as Chopiniana.
If the corps are up to the mark, the same may be said for soloists. Laura Bosenberg is sheer thistledown in solo and pas de deux, with the unhurried artlessness that comes from long practice – a quality matched by her partner Thomas Thorne. Their pas de deux on opening night was lustrous.
Mami Fujii seldom fails to impress, and her performance in the Girls Mazurka has a power and elevation many a male might envy.
Elizabeth Nienaber is all charm in a neat and musically accurate execution of the Little Waltz, and she has the additional merit of appearing to enjoy herself, unlike the majority of her fellow artists who seem a tad morose. Fortunately their serious demeanour does not detract from the calibre of their dancing.
After interval comes a drastic change of tone and mood with The Firebird, and here top marks have to go to Kim Vieira in the eponymous lead. Willowy, supple, and crackling with energy, she fills the stage with her presence and lyrical response to Stravinsky’s athletic music.
An on-form Xola Putye provides a pleasing foil to her dynamism in their pas de deux, and his gentle expressiveness in later partnership with Angela Hansford makes him a sympathetic Prince Ivan.
Hansford’s leading role as the Tsarevna is immediately apparent from her strong stage presence amid the captive princesses under the spell of the monster Kostchei: effortless domination of the group, and a facial repertoire equal to the demands of her role, are requisites that she meets with aplomb.
A particularly successful sequence is that introducing the horde of demons under Kostchei’s control. The large corps writhe and gyrate to the explosive, menacing music, their costumes luminous against the gloomy verdure. Johnny Bovang, as the grotesque magician, radiates malevolence until succumbing to the Firebird’s spell.
Best of all when it comes to spectacle is the radiant finale, as gorgeously costumed dancers assemble in an atmosphere of deliverance from evil; the tempo accelerates and festive chords peal forth, the Prince is formally united with his beloved, and their union is blessed by the Firebird, borne aloft in her brilliant plumage and fluttering with avian elegance.
This is an auspicious start to the new season of offerings from a venerable company.