The Nutcracker lives onMoira de Swardt
Moira de Swardt: The Christmas perennial The Nutcracker by the South African Ballet Theatre (SABT) is a treat for young and older balletomanes alike.
The prologue introduced Iain MacDonald, the Artistic Director of the company, production and person responsible for much of the adaptation of the Marius Petipa choreography as Uncle Drosselmeyer, much to the delight of a very knowledgeable Gauteng audience. It was certainly good to see him on stage again.
The Nutcracker is a lively, magical ballet, complete with elaborate costumes, fancy stage props and wonderfully talented dancers. The company was supplemented by young dancers of the SABT Outreach programmes in Soweto and Alexandra as well as from the South African School of Classical Ballet and Natasha Ireland's School of Ballet. These young people appear only in Act 1, Scene 1 (the party at the home of the Stahlbaum family) and in this production their “bratty” behaviour was toned down and even I, notorious for my loathing of brats, managed to find them all perfectly charming. Jacob Mosehla nearly stole the scene a few times in the role of Grandfather Stahlbaum.
Act 1 established characters Louise Stahlbaum (Burnise Sivius) and her fiance (Michael Revie) and Clara (Shannon Glover) and The Christmas Tree Fairy (Chloe Grove) as well, of course, Uncle Drosselmeyer (Iain MacDonald) as character actors in addition to being dancers and I was able to sit back and enjoy Clara's dream.
Act 2 is always a spectacle of choreography and stunning costuming. Perhaps most remarkable was the solo dance of the Russian, flawlessly danced by Patrick Mngeni. Mngemi thrilled the audience with a series of sleek moves. The famous Act 2 Grand Pas de Deux is always a visual pleasure. “Stunning”, “spectacular” and “graceful” are words that always come to mind when describing a performance by world class dancers like Silivius and Revie,
The little adaptations to the story help to keep it fresh and lively and were much appreciated.
One of the greatest delights of the ballet was the live music by the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Allan Stephenson. Tchaikovsky's glorious music was beautifully played.
The Nutcracker is a traditional outing and this production will warm the hearts of those who enjoy this ballet in its conventional Eurocentric guise.
The Nutcracker is at the SA State Theatre in Pretoria until December 19.
Moira de Swardt
011 482 7320
082 553 2457
SA State Theatre Complex, Pretoria Gauteng South Africa