Fire and Ice is a double bill which swoops one from the classical ballet of the 19th century in the form of Raymonda (Act 3) through to the 21st century “fresh as this morning’s news” with the world première, Whispers Of My Soul, choreographed by the internationally acclaimed Redha.
Raymonda was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa with Alexander Glazunov’s Opus 57 being used for the première in 1898 by the Imperial Ballet in Saint Petersburg with the Italian ballerina, Pierina Legnani, in the title role. Opening night of the Joburg ballet 120 years later found Shannon Glover in the title role, partnered by Ruan Galdino. Glover’s dancing technique is sound, but she fails to bring any warmth and humanity to the role. Act 3 is simply the wedding scene of the ballet and adds nothing to the storyline. Nicole Ferreira-Dill’s variation was the highlight of the classical part of the evening, followed by Ruan Galdino’s variation. It is the first time I have ever heard variation dancers get more applause than the title role dancer, but both Ferreira-Dill and Galdino were superb. The costumes for this section are beautiful.
Raymondo was staged by Brazilian producer Guivalde de Almeida, but while he worked magic with the female part of the corps de ballet, there were some bizarre distractions amongst the men, one of whom seemed to be working to a different beat entirely.
Redha (Beteifour) is a dancer and choreographer of mixed French and Algerian descent. His work is not new to South Africans and we have seen his Giselle and his more recent CrashDance in 2011 (which premiered on Redha’s 57th birthday. At the time I wrote of CrashDance “This work is out of the box, on the wild side. It cuts into the psyche of the viewer and confronts whatever it finds there. It is dangerous and exciting.”
Whispers of My Soul is a dark work, set in the hours between midnight and 05:00 and it is no less challenging to its audience than the last work of his that we saw here. Whispers of My Soul is an ensemble work and there is very little scope for our senior company members to shine as individuals. The programme cast lists the dancers in “waves”- Shannon Glover, Claudia Monja, Nicole Ferreira-Dill, Monike Cristina, Sanmarie Kreuzhuber, Ana Paulino and Kitty Phetla holding first wave position in the cast list, if not in the actual dance work.
The set and lighting, both by Wilhelm Disbergen, is magnificent. The full extent (which we very seldom see) of the Nelson Mandela’s stage is utilised with bleachers on top of stadium type stands which eventually revolved a full 360 degrees on an otherwise empty stage, brought to life only by lighting effects which added to the sombre work.
Redha doesn’t explain his work and the audience is left to draw its own conclusions. There is not even a note in the programme. Whether one gives it the nod as a celebration of masculinity couched in football references, both the current FIFA World Cup or the spectacle of a slow motion scrum being formed later in the work, one can’t help but feel the initial brashness of youth disintegrate as the action unfolds.
The choreography is busy, with more than one focal point at a time and as the macabre spectres move around one is reminded of vampires and zombies – it smacks of death from the early stages through to the conclusion. The pre-opening publicity photographs made me think “pornography clothed” and the sexuality of the work is strong although there is no overt sex moves which one would have to explain to one’s pubescent children, although I don’t think the work is suitable for children by virtue of its unredeemed blackness.
The soundscape was interesting, and not always in a good way. I was unsure what to make of the Frido Kahlo and Diego Rivers tale as there was no visual context which matched the story. The sound system at Joburg Theatre is not the best and at times I found it distracting when I was perhaps not meant to have my attention drawn to what I was hearing rather than what I was seeing.
The costuming was black, strange and ugly, yet curiously sensuous, adding to the general depravity of the night hours, with contrasts between the corporate world with its conventional jackets and the manly men in shorts with peculiar aprons in front of them. The women fared little better in terms of costuming, but it never became distracting.
The richness of the stark and daunting imagery makes me want to see this work again so as to better absorb all it has to offer. Whispers Of My Soul lacks living energy (although nothing of the kind in terms of choreography) and it is dark and dangerous never resolving itself in hope and happiness.
I loved the work and gave it rare tribute from me by actually standing up for the now almost obligatory standing ovation.
There are only 8 performances of the Fire and Ice season. In the company’s continuing drive to make dance accessible to everyone, this season also sees the return of free seats for tertiary level students for all performances (subject to availability) and there are discounts for pensioners and groups.
Dates, Times, Prices:
Fri 29 June at 19:30 – Half Price: R100, R138, R188, R205, R238
Sat 30 June, Sat 7 July at 19:30 & Sat 30 June, Sun 1 July, Sat 7 July, Sun 8 July at 15:00 –R200, R275, R375, R410, R475
Wed 4 July at 11:00 – All tickets R100
Where: Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein (GPS -26.191316, 28.038519)
Patrons can also book and pay via the Nedbank app and at selected Pick n Pay stores (full list at www.webtickets.co.za/pnpoutlets.aspx)