By BRUCE DENNILL
It’s a familiar story, but after a year and a half without a full-length production from Joburg Ballet, and without any sort of real audience in the theatre that hosts them, seeing a new production of The Nutcracker is, again, a wonderful experience.
Wilhelm Disbergen has designed new sets that, along with the wide variety of elegant and exotic costumes – especially those in the United Nations progression from the Spanish to the Russian dancers in the second act – frame and support the dancers beautifully. And some of those dancers are more involved than usual, with several members of the company contributing choreography for specific sections of the ballet, further freshening up the offering.
For the performance under review, Darragh Hourrides makes a convincing Clara, her movements true and seemingly unstudied, as a child’s would be. Armando Barros, as Dr Drosselmeyer, brings pleasing drama to his interludes, connecting the other characters and scenes smoothly and at one point sweeping up an errant pointe shoe with suave insouciance.
The first act is the more conservatively paced of the two, establishing the Christmas party set-up and the expectations from the assembled children. Ensemble dances, elegant pas de deux (Monike Cristina and Craig Pedro are excellent as Clara’s parents) and the occasional toy coming to life – ETA Hoffman’s estate should have sued Pixar when Toy Story came out (and Carlo Collodi for Pinocchio, mind you) – show that magic is possible in both the coming together of people, a post-pandemic theme to be embraced, and in the literal, abracadabra sense. Mind you, the whole infestation of mice thing is no picnic…
After interval, the spectacle is intensified as the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy (Shana Dewey, refined and precise) rewards the mouse vanquishers with a series of dances. Monika Cristina impresses again in the Spanish Dance, Savanna Ireland caps a strong overall production individually as one of the Mirletons, Cristina Nakos and Ruan Galdino up the energy and lift complexity in the Arabian Dance and Tumelo Lekana, Mario Gaglione and Craig Pedro (in his third role of the evening) show off effortless athleticism in the Russian Dance. The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy raise an unintentional hum of recognition and pleasure from the audience and Dewey and Revil Yon’s pas de deux is a strong focal point as the narrative winds down.
The Nutcracker has long been a Christmas season staple, but it works just as well out of temporal context (and is not so in your face about its Yuletide details that audience members who loathe decorations in stores in September will be distracted. It’s major tie to that theme now, if anything, is that getting to see the show now feels like a gift.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]