Romeo and JulietMoira de Swardt
Moira de Swardt: Sumptuous sets, costumes and lovely dancing in the SABT production of Romeo and Juliet made for a great evening at Joburg Theatre.
Romeo and Juliet is not a new ballet for The South African Ballet Theatre, having first been seen in 2002, but local audiences haven't seen it since 2007. The set, based on the original designs by Johan Engels for PACT Ballet and adapted by Innovation, is both functional and evocative of medieval Verona. The costumes are also after the original PACT Ballet designs by Johan Engels. The costumes for all the non-dancing roles are authentic Renaissance costumes, extravagant in their design and creation. The costumes for the dancers have to be lighter, shorter and more practical.
Burnise Silvius was in the title role on opening night. She, despite her considerable experience as a ballerina, has an air of innocence and fragility about her which makes her very plausible as a very young, inexperienced girl on the threshold of womanhood. Her acting abilities complement her considerable technical abilities. She was accompanied by Juan Ledo, a guest dancer from the Teatre Colon of Buenos Aires. The role of the corps de ballet in Romeo and Juliet is quite small outside the marketplace scenes and it is on the strengths of the individual dancers and, more particularly, on the various partnerships between them, that the success of this ballet is built. Silvius and Ledo worked well together physically in that Ledo is compact and economical in his movements setting off Silvius' lightness and graceful movements beautifully but Ledo is not a skilled actor and I never totally bought into the love between them. What was missing were the little sideways glances, the commanding, adoring touches that makes Romeo the world's most legendary lover. The bedroom scene was particularly lovely in its balletic execution. However, I would have liked to have seen more hormonal sizzle between them.
Benvolio was danced by James Fraser, Hyun Kyung Cho was the taunting Mercutio and Iain MacDonald a credible, arrogant and handsome Tybalt. Right from the opening scene with its first nerve-wracking sword fighting scene, the choreography (after Nicholas Beriosoff), staging and dancing was thrilling. Thulani Chauke from the Vuyani Dance Theatre played the non-ballet role of Escalus, Duke of Verona. This was an innovative and positive reaction to the critical shortage of male ballet dancers in South Africa and will hopefully benefit him, and other young contemporary dancers, in his exposure to this particular dance form.
Andre de Beer, Fiona Budd, Manuel Noram and Natasha Ireland all brought their magic, and a touch of nostalgia, to the production. Ireland particularly comes across as a loving, if somewhat funny, nurse. Other people to look out for during the run will be Kimbrian Bergh, Michael Braun, Humberto Montero, Thomas Thorne, Robin van Wyk, Shannon Glover, Lauryn Summerley, Laura Bosenberg, Celeste George, Yolandi Olckers, Chase Bosch, Alexander Vivian Riding, Jonathan Rodrigues, Carlos Santos, Anya Carstens, Nonkululeko Ndwandwe, Hunt Bosch, Alexander Todd, Lauren Dixon-Seager, Daniella Baker, Lara de Villiers, Golda Rabe and Thabo Kobeli. There are various other dancers in the corps de ballet, and many of these dancers are from the SABT/AIR Products Development programme in Alexandra.
The death scene is the climax of the ballet. Silvius, plunging the dagger into her midriff, manages to wilt away to her demise charmingly. What disturbs me about this is that the “prettiness” of ballet triumphs over the passion, the ugliness, the tragedy of two families feuding, two more young people senselessly dead. The ballet is visually and physically gorgeous; however the story is perhaps compromised.
This visual abundance is accompanied by a live 18-piece orchestral ensemble, the SABT Sinfonia, under the baton of Timothy Roberts. Samson Diamond was the ensemble leader and the Prokofiev music was a pleasure because of its modernity, familiarity and general beauty. The arrangement for the ensemble worked on many levels, and was particularly charming at the point when Juliet showcases her musical talents.
I had, as usual, a great time at the ballet and recommend it to all balletomanes and newbies to the world of ballet. Romeo and Juliet can be seen at the Joburg Theatre until 19 June 2011.
Moira de Swardt
011 482 7320
082 553 2457
Web site: http://www.saballettheatre.co.za
Joburg Theatre Complex, Loveday Street Braamfontein Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa