By BRUCE DENNILL
Joburg Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty / Production and staging by Maina Gielgud / Mandela, Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
The ongoing presence of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra in the pit for Joburg Ballet performances adds to the buzz leading up to the beginning of each production. The musicians warming up beforehand and (in this production) the longer stretches of Tchaikovsky’s score that link different scenes, filling the gaps during which the large sets are moved around, create the authentic feel of an important theatrical event; something rather diluted during the years when recorded scores were the only option.
The look of experienced dancer, artistic director and producer Maina Gielgud’s production is as classical as the music, in the sense that the sets are not hugely technical and gimmicky, being relatively plain, which allows the luminous splendour of the costumes of the featured characters to shine brightly. Particular cases in point on this score: Kitty Phetla’s peacock-rivalling outfit as Cabosse, the Wicked Fairy; Ruan Galdino’s sparkly skin-tight leotard as the Blue Bird and Anaïs Chalendard’s magnificent wedding cloak.
Expositionally, it does feel like some of the longer sequences int the four scenes (two on either side of interval) could be trimmed, but the relatively relaxed pace at which the story is unpacked allows for a number of pas de deux and solos in which ballerinas and dancers can display their virtuosity. There is beautiful work from Sanmarie Kreuzhuber (Fairy of the Enchanted Garden); Savannah Ireland (Fairy of the Woodland Glade); Alice le Roux (Fairy of the Songbirds) and Monike Cristina (Fairy of the Golden Vine), whose shimmering tutus all reflect the colours and moods of the fairy kingdoms they represent. Phetla is gracefully threatening as Cabosse and Claudia Monja as her adversary, The Lilac Fairy, is typically elegant and confident, making the most of some extended stage time.
Guest artists Anaïs Chalendard, of Boston Ballet, and Florimond Lorieux, of Opéra National de Paris, are both excellent in their roles as Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund respectively. Chalendard is a petite dancer with a wonderfully fluid style and superb balance that allows her to comfortably handle some difficult choreography. Lorieux fits the part well – not least in almost sharing a name with the Prince – and adds a commanding presence to good technique, with poised leaps and robust lifts.
This production of The Sleeping Beauty looks and sounds wonderful and moves beautifully; another in a very convincing run for Joburg Ballet.