Dance Review: Mzansi Ballet’s Christmas Show – Here’s One Yule Know, Or In The Timing Of St Nick

November 27, 2021

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Mzansi Ballet’s Christmas Show // Choreographed by Michael and Angela Revie and Xola Willie // Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Fourways, Johannesburg


Running a dance company (or theatre, or any other arts-related enterprise) during a pandemic requires a great deal of flexibility – pun unavoidable – and a willingness to take any gap that presents itself. Off the back of a successful production of The Queen Show, inventively staged in a shopping centre, thus welcoming in new audiences, Mzansi Ballet headed straight into rehearsals for this piece; a bringing together of classic and contemporary dance and (mostly) Christmas music, well-timed for introducing the festive season proper.

The dancers are joined on stage by singers Dikelo Mamiala and Abel Knobel, who either duet or sing solos as accompaniment to many of the choreographed pieces which, in Mzansi Ballet’s trademark style, are linked together with hardly a pause, making for a vibrant, uplifting mood – and a challenging task for the dancers.

The songs danced to include enjoyably fresh and different takes on tunes such as Little Drummer Boy and The Christmas Song – during which audience members who heeded the company’s call to bring gifts for under-privileged kids are encouraged to come on stage and place them under a beautifully decorated tree – as well as original compositions (Knobel’s Mountain Man is excellent, if not particularly Christmas-themed) and instrumental compositions drawn from The Nutcracker and elsewhere.

It’s a mixture that aims to offer – and likely succeeds in doing so – something for everyone in the audience, with the classical technique in the pas de deux featuring Xola Willie and Alison Lee Sischy complementing the fierce energy of Willie’s show-stopping solo and the elegance of Veronica Louw’s solo, all balanced by the fun and frivolous cheer of former international principal dancer Michael Revie goofing around in a Santa suit and Knobel having to dodge a sleigh while making Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer a country hoe-down.

The straightforward pitch for the show – it has to do with Christmas, people – means that the bulk of the audience arrives in a festive mood, and there are regular, enthusiastic efforts to clap along with the music. This does make an extended piece of the second act in which there is no obvious thematic link to Christmas feel a touch odd, but from the company’s perspective, it is a good opportunity to stage items from their repertoire that have their own standalone appeal, and even if you’re no longer able to sing along to seasonal hits as you watch, it’s certainly possible to appreciate the choreoraphy, athleticism and costumes on display.

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