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This ‘Soldier’ holds audience’s attention

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to Laura Bosenberg (Paper Ballerina), Thomas Thorne (Tin Soldier) by Pat Bromilow Downing

Pat Bromilow-Downing

LYRICAL PARTNERSHIP: The Tin Soldier (Thomas Thorne, right) with his beloved Paper Ballerina (Laura Bosenberg).

The Tin Soldier
Production & Choreography: Robin van Wyk
Cast: Members of Cape Town City Ballet
Accompaniment: Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Allan Stephenson
Venue: Artscape Opera House, Until: Tuesday
Rating: ***

 

Sweet and Christmassy as a candy cane, Robin van Wyk’s new ballet The Tin Soldier is calculated to captivate young audiences this festive season – and instead of the tragic denouement of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale (on which it is based), Van Wyk’s version has a happy ending to send everyone home in high spirits.

For more mature patrons of the ballet, a significant pleasure is the original choice of music: instead of the perennial Tchaikovsky, Alexander Glazunov is the composer whose work has inspired Van Wyk’s choreography, and its richly melodic quality is an invitation to dance. Sleek execution from the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of veteran conductor Allan Stephenson delights the ear, while strong leads in all four cast changes please the eye.

The production is not without shortcomings, however. The first of its two acts has some tedious passages in which attention strays because of lack of dramatic impetus, such as the protracted frolics of Kitty Barlaqua and her male companions. What starts off as a well-choreographed and entertaining diversion in the course of the soldier’s misadventures outstays its welcome, and not even the feline elegance mustered respectively by Kim Vieira, Claire Spector, Mami Fujii and Mariette Opperman compensates.

Another aspect that needs to be addressed is the Tin Soldier’s disability, as it seems his broken leg is only intermittently dysfunctional – more the fault of the choreography than the executants.

Act Two is a different matter as the narrative gathers momentum and the calibre of dancing rises noticeably. Once the offending leg has been repaired, each of the male leads is free to exhibit prowess in both solo and pas de deux.

Van Wyk has done an excellent job with the grand pas de deux preceding the finale, and his choreography is handsomely served by the four leads. As usual, Laura Bosenberg (the Ballerina beloved by the Soldier) and Thomas Thorne shine in lyrical partnership, with equally appealing performances from Daniel Szybkowski and Angela Hansford, Jesse Milligan and Kirstel Jensen, and the duo of Ivan Boonzaaier and Elizabeth Nienaber.

Milligan injects warmth into the Soldier, a persona naturally inclined to stoical impassivity; Hansford’s poise matches Szybkowski’s authority, and the Boonzaaier/ Nienaber partnership is well-matched in physique and proficiency. Jensen is an exceptionally attractive Ballerina whose performance gains confidence throughout the work.

The well-rehearsed corps is impressive in the sub-aquatic sequence featuring the Water-Babies, as well as offering above-average ensemble in the jolly finale, a fitting end to this Christmas fairy tale.

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