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While Peter Pan is a favourite pantomime and play, there aren’t many ballet versions. So CT City Ballet Artistic Director and choreographer Robin van Wyk is using the JM Barrie story to give the CT City Ballet youth programme a chance to dance with the adults in a professional setting.
Talking the audience through the ballet in the insight evening, van Wyk explained that students from their Sizodanisa – Let’s Dance! community dance project will also take part in the performances.
Since there’s practically no budget they have turned a set from Orpheus and the Underworld into the mermaid’s lagoon, re-jigged costumes from Sleeping Beauty for nymphs and created a new treehouse for the lost boys and fins for the mermaids. The children range from six-year-old lost boys to 18 year old sea sprites.
“There are moments when the little ones just stop and stare, but I’m going for the cute factor,” van Wyk explained with a wink to the audience.
Explaining that Peter Pan is the “most proppy ballet in the world” he called the grown up pirates onto stage.
“You have to set it,” he reminded one pirate about a prop glass before talking Captain Hook through a particularly niggly lift.
Ivan Boonzaaier dances with a prosthetic hook, making lifts difficult as he can only use one arm. In a sequence with Tinkerbell, Laura Bosenberg balances her on one hand, with Smee dancing alongside in attendance just in case.
“We’ve enjoyed adding sound effects to everything,” said van Wyk, before handing over to Professor Elizabeth Triegaardt, CT Ballet CEO, who introduced Raymonda.
Almost 32 years ago to the day, David Pool of Capab did a lecture ballet to introduce the then new version of Raymonda by Norman Furber, which has never been performed by CT City Ballet.
The sets and costumes are the 1980 version and the current dancers are having to be taught from videos of the ballet, as there are no choreology notes (the dance notation which documents the production in written form).
While they can find music CDs with the correct score, the tempo is often different and it creates an interesting work environment for dancers who have to figure out whether to go faster or slower to eventually work with a live orchestra.
Since CT Ballet now employs less than 30 permanent dancers, they had to draw on graduates of their ballet programme and freelance professional dancers for the corp de ballet.
Still, Raymonda is different to other classic ballet productions in that there is not a lot of corps de ballet work. “Giselle and Swan Lake can stand or fall on corps work, but here there’s lot of solo and pas de deux work,” explained Triegaardt.
It also features pirouettes to the left, an uncomfortable move for the dancers, but unusual and interesting to look out for.
“Ta da, da da, di dum... In my next life I’m going to be an opera singer,” Triegaardt sang to a measured beat for the dancers as she put them through their paces.
“You dare not drop your eyes, the audience is going to look where you look,” she admonished the women.
Another challenge presented by Raymonda is the proliferation of mimed sequences which CT Ballet are cutting down to suit a modern audience.
As in most classic ballets the guys do the heavy lifting and stand around looking pretty, but Raymonda does feature one especially strong male dance sequence, and this year in Cape Town, soloists from the Norwegian National Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet and the English National Ballet.
• Peter Pan and the Lost Boys is on at the Artscape Opera House from August 8 to 12. Raymonda features at the same venue from August 24 to September 1.