THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. Classical ballet in four acts. Music Tchaikovsky. Produced by Cape Town City Ballet’s artistic staff. Lighting Shamiel Abrahams. Presented by Cape Town City Ballet. Artscape Opera House until Sunday. SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews Laura Bosenberg as Princess Aurora and Thomas Thorne as Prince Florimund.
TCHAIKOVSKY’s brief from Marius Petipa ( Sleeping Beauty’s original choreographer in 1890) demanded he compose predetermined bars per dance sequel. Petipa also charged Tchaikovsky with composing easy danceable rhythms such as polkas, waltzes and marches.
The result? A glorious score synonymous (today) with Perrault’s fairy-tale classical ballet. However, back then, direct involvement between choreographer, composer, set and costume designer tended to be somewhat haphazard – each setting out their own ideas without much (if any) consultation with the other.
The one uniting factor was ensuring the prima ballerina took central focus. A focus that hasn’t shifted in over a century – although many choreographers have rewritten or revised The Sleeping Beauty.
Cape Town City Ballet has presented various versions – sometimes called Sleeping Princess, sometimes Sleeping Beauty. Yet always centre of attention is Princess Aurora (Laura Bosenberg). And rightly so. The pas d’action is all about Aurora’s christening; her 16th birthday celebrations; awakening by Prince Florimund (Thomas Thorne) after a 100-year sleep, and their wedding celebrations.
Aurora is generally considered the trickiest role in classical repertoire. Not only does it call for exceptional technical skills, it requires that the dancer looks young enough to portray an unspoiled/unsophisticated 16-year-old.
Not an easy marriage, since with the technical prowess necessary to cope with the famous Rose Adagio, final Grande Pas de Deux and pas seulusually comes maturity. And with maturity too often youthful glow goes. Not so in Bosenberg’s Saturday night performance. As she grew from spirited young girl to radiant bride she proved again what a talented and versatile dancer she is. And while her “balances and promenades” with her four suitor princes were marginally less than exemplary, Bosenberg’s sparkling smile never wavered. She didn’t allow any strain to show and, no matter how fleeting, she succeeded in lifting her arm fifth en haut between her four suitor princes’ handclasps… the ultimate test.
Thomas Thorne, once again partnering Bosenberg, showed how well matched they are, despite height disparity. Their lines match beautifully. They dance musically together and she trusts him no matter how fast or intricate the presage or movement is (one wondered why their well-timed pirouette into fish dive received no spontaneous applause).
Thorne is maturing. He is developing more “oomph” behind his technique which helped him deliver Kenneth MacMillan’s act-three solo neatly and securely. Thorne has an easy jump and good ballon. Now he must challenge himself to execute double, instead of single, cabrioles, and increase the number of pirouettes he does in his final-act pas seul. He has the ability to do so.
Mime plays an essential part in this tale, and Johnny Bovang – as Carabosse – is a past master. In dark green, flowing dress and exaggerated make-up, his strong gestures made clear his evil intentions. As did his body language. However, a few extra rat attendants would have added to his malevolence.
As the Lilac Fairy, tall, elegant Angela Hansford’s mime swiftly negated Carabosse’s wicked spell. And handsomely partnered by Daniel Szybkowski, their pas de deux and soli brought dignified elements to fairy proceedings which – excepting Mami Fuji’s crisp footwork and sharp port de bras as the Golden Vine Fairy – were otherwise somewhat dull. A “fuzzy” recording didn’t help the fairy retinue look ebullient either.
Other disappointments were fourth-act divertissement which lacked polish; fly-in sets where a dash of paint would have spruced them up; and Shamiel Abrahams’s spot-lighting which often failed to timeously highlight a solo.
What delighted was seeing so many young, up-and-coming dancers from Cape Junior Ballet and the UCT Dance Department acting as corps de ballet. Classical ballet is often seen as dying elitist art. It’s good to see youngsters learning their stagecraft alongside professional dancers.
Principal casting with orchestral accompaniment conducted by Graham Scott will be Mami Fuji and Romiro Samón, Wednesday at 7.30pm, with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra; Burnise Sylvius and Trevor Schoonraad, Friday at 7.30pm, with recorded music; Laura Bosenberg and Thomas Thorne, Saturday at 2pm, with CPO, Mami Fuji and Romiro Samón, Saturday at 7.30pm, with CPO, and Burnise Sylvius and Trevor Schoonraad, Sunday at 3pm ,with CPO.
l Tickets are from R100 to R300. To book call Computicket at 0861 915 8000, or Artscape Dial-a-Seat at 021 421 7695.