The Mandela @ Johannesburg Theatre, 21 July 2012
What a delightful performance this was, an afternoon thoroughly enjoyed by my party and obviously many others in the audience, judging by the enthusiastic applause and smiles as we left the theatre.
It was such a breath of fresh air to see this first performance run of Le Corsaire, a welcome change from the usual ballet offerings we have seen over past years. The combined forces of the SABT and Mzansi, strengthened by the technique and flair of the Cuban ballet dancers, provided a magical performance reminiscent of the grand pre-recession stagings of yesteryear. The large cast of over 100, the superb stage sets and lighting, and the exquisite costume designs all added to the overall magic of the afternoon.
Le Corsaire encapsulates all the best aspects of classical ballet – challenging solo parts, beautiful pas de deux, graceful choreographies for the corps de ballet, and the prerequisite storyline of good and bad men fighting for the love of a fair lady. The ballet is set against a tapestry of ballet music by numerous composers (Delibes, Minkus and others) and this version is based on an adapted choreography by Petipa, with additions by our own Iain MacDonald and Angela Malan.
The performance sparkled on many levels - the female solo performances by Michaela DePrince (as Gulnare) and Burnise Sylvius (as Medora) were beautifully executed. DePrince’s strong dancing, superb grand jetés and remarkable leg extensions raised more than a few gasps from the audience. In contrast, Sylvius’ interpretation of Medora was delicate, sylphlike and beautifully expressed with lovely arms and strong technique in the solos.
The lead role of Conrad was well-danced by Michael Revie, with strong supporting leads from the Cuban Humberto Montero and Luis de Castro (as Ali), who offered an outstanding and memorable solo performance. Keke Chele’s cheeky interpretation of Pasha raised a few laughs and Andile Ndlovu’s impressive dancing should be an inspiration to those young boys and girls who filled the theatre, both as onstage extras and the many who queued for autographs at the end of the show.
If you can still find a ticket, this is one ballet performance that should not be missed. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come and that the combined forces of the two ballet companies will bring more excitement and freshness to South Africa ballet audiences in the years to come.
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