By BRUCE DENNILL
Joburg Ballet’s Cinderella / Artistic direction by Iain MacDonald / Joburg Theatre
Joburg Ballet has had a very busy – and successful – year, bouncing back from a difficult political situation, adding an extra season to their schedule and welcoming a new CEO. Sadly, since their triumphant version of Romeo & Juliet in July (one of their best productions in years) some of the company’s top talent has moved on to contracts elsewhere, and other key dancers, including principal Michael Revie, have picked up injuries.
As a result, Joburg Ballet have reached Cinderella, their final major showpiece for the year, with a very small company to draw from. Add to this Cinderella’s relatively lightweight structure – both male and female leads are given very little of consequence to do in Act 1, for instance – and it’s perhaps not surprising that making a significant impact on the audience turns out to be something of a challenge this time around.
Prima ballerina Burnise Silvius is predictably good (and that’s not just a trite statement; she’s incredibly consistent) in the title role, and Jonathan Rodrigues, when his character is belatedly given some stage time, delivers both flawless deportment and star quality – a no-brainer casting as a Prince Charming character. In the other major roles (they have more time in the spotlight than anyone bar Cinderella herself), Keke Chele and Chase Bosch are goofily flamboyant throughout. The latter is particularly effective, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the comic pantomime aspects of the part and stealing many of the scenes he’s in (aided by outrageous make-up and some garish frocks).
The overall feel of the production – and it’s generally the case with this ballet, versus something more thoughtful and sombre, like Swan Lake or Giselle – is closer to the aforementioned pantomime (tinsel-laden carriage drawn by prancing horse-headed corps members) than the dramatic, heart-in-mouth action of Romeo & Juliet’s fight scenes or even the similarly child-friendly The Nutcracker.
That’s not a problem in itself, but it’s one of the reasons this production doesn’t fully engage its audience. There are moments to savour, certainly, with the final pas de deux being a notable athletic and artistic feat, packed with difficult lifts and requiring immense stamina from Silvius and Rodrigues. It’s worth waiting for, and its placement in the piece means it’s the choreography you’re most likely to remember come the final curtain.