I really enjoy being able to attend Joburg Ballet productions. On 30 September, 2016, Joburg Ballet opened its spring season with Iain MacDonald’s sumptious Cinderella. I was present in September 2013, when this ballet had its world premiere and I enjoyed it then. I enjoyed it again, perhaps even more than the first time round.
The Joburg Ballet abandoned the Prokofiev Cinderella score because of costs and turned to Johann Strauss II for his only ballet score, “Aschenbrodel“. It was a late work of his, set in a then modern department store, and while he wrote all the principal parts of the ballet, he died in 1899 leaving it incomplete, and the ballet was finished by Josef Bayer in 1900. It was first choreographed for the Berlin Royal Opera in 1901 by Emil Graeb, after Mahler had spurned it on behalf of the Vienna Court Opera. It was only premiered in Vienna in October 1908 where it was regularly performed until the outbreak of World War I. Thereafter it was neglected until 1975 when the ballet by Strauss was again resurrected. If one is a little disappointed in the music, one must realise that it is free of rights, and the MacDonald choreography is wonderfully true to the classical tradition (neo-classical ballet) and remarkable for its ability to charm children (and the young at heart).
The much loved Cinderella story is familiar to most people raised with traditional fairy tales and MacDonald stayed true to the story, although I seem to remember that the picture of Cinderella’s real mother had her wearing the string of pearls that Cinderella (danced, as it is fitting, by our prima ballerina, Burnise Silvius, on opening night) takes from her pocket, a detail which was missing in this one. Perhaps it is my faulty memory, but I found that a tender moment.
I once again loved the mice, danced by Angela Revie, Alice le Roux, Shannon Glover and Jessica Lombard on Friday 30th. Their dresses are bright and their mouse masks cute. It was, however, the children in the ballet drawn from the Joburg Ballet School, The Dance Junction and the Diana Ward Hull Ceccetti Ballet at Redhill School who stole the lighthearted mouse scenes.
The wonderful sets by Andrew Botha have a grand feel while never cluttering the action. flow of the dance. Simon King was responsible for the lighting design.
Burnise Silvius recreated the title role with Jonathan Rodrigues as her prince. Unsurprisingly they shone, both technically and dramatically, despite the fact that the stepsisters, magnificently created by Chase Bosch as Louise and Keke Chele as Carla, upstaged the romantic leads whenever they appeared. This comic duo are wonderful precisely because MacDonald reigns them in and keeps them almost serious. It prevents the pantomime feel and gives the unfortunate ugly sisters an empathetic audience. Kitty Phetla reprises the role of the stepmother. Albertus Dreyer danced the King, while Claudia Monja created the Fairy Godmother. The role of the Jester was danced by Thabang Mabaso who is not yet, in my opinion, ready for the role. It highlights the dire shortage of male dancers in the company. Now if only we had a magic wand …
I sat with a young couple who were seeing their very first ballet ever. They loved it. They want to come back to other ballets in the future. I am sure that pleases everyone at Joburg Ballet as much as it pleased me.
I will be seeing other performances of Cinderella to catch other casts, and will comment on these in due course.
There are only ten performances of the ballet in this season which ends on 9 October 2016.
The Cinderella programme reminds ballet lovers of the forthcoming ballet movies Live from Moscow with the Bolshoi Ballet which will be screened at Cinema Nouveau. The Bright Stream (from 22 October 2016), The Golden Age (from 12 November 2016), The Nutcracker (from 17 December 2016), Swan Lake (from 18 February 2017), The Sleeping Beauty (from 11 March 2017), A Contemporary Evening (from 22 April 2017) and finally, A Hero of Our Time (from 13 May 2017).