Shannon Glover. Picture: Lauge Sorensen

This weekend saw the opening of Joburg Ballet’s production of Carmen, a ballet choreographed by Veronica Paeper. This much anticipated production, following a thought-provoking marketing campaign, does not disappoint.

Paeper’s ballet version of George Bizet’s opera, based on the original novel by Prosper Mérimee, succeeds in capturing the essence of the story, turning it into an excellent theatrical concept, imaginatively conveyed through dance.

The story, filled with drama and passion, is excellently told by a cast which Paeper transformed into what comes across as an ensemble of consummate actors who also happen to dance very well.

The dancers’ characterisation is captivating, and they manage to take the audience right to the heart of the drama.

Principal dancer Shannon Glover, dancing the role of Carmen, is simply mesmerising.

Her portrayal of the character, a feisty free-spirited gypsy girl, possessed of a wild and rebellious nature, with a charismatic appeal for the opposite sex, is superb. In combination with her remarkable technical prowess, and Paeper’s expressive choreography, her performance is a tour de force.

Ruan Galdino’s portrayal of Don José is equally convincing. One has deep empathy for his misfortune.

Revil Yon & Monike Cristina in Carmen. Picture: Supplied

The suave Escamilio, a famous and debonair toreador, is thrillingly danced by Bruno Miranda. He performs Paeper’s choreography, a merging of Spanish dance and classical technique, with great vigour and fiery masculinity.

Revil Yon, as Captain Zuniga, gives an exceptional performance. So does Shana Dewey as Don José’s fiancée, Micaela.

What a treat it is to have the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra back in the pit. The live music, under the baton of conductor Brandon Phillips, adds great lustre to the performance.

Bizet’s music makes for a number of electrifying dance sequences, such as the invigorating dance of the toreadors in the final act. The music also allows for effective story-telling, which Paeper brilliantly captures with her choreography and directing.

Carmen is both enchanting and entertaining and should not be missed by dance enthusiasts.