Sleeping Beauty review
Another Cape Town City Ballet production of The Sleeping Beauty

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY REVIEW. Prologue. Four-Act Classical Ballet. Staged by Denise Schultze Godfrey. Music: Tchaikovsky. Set, costumes: Peter Cazalet. Lighting, design: Wilhelm Disbergen. Brandon Phillips conducts CTPO at select performances. Presented by Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) until 31 August 2019.

SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews

The Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au Bois Dormant) fairy is classed as a 410 tale type – meaning it concerns an enchanted Princess awakened by a Prince’s kiss –  the underlying moral is good – evil will be overcome and there’s a happy ever after ending.

When in 1890 French born Russian dancer/choreographer Marius Petipa approached Tchaikovsky to write music for a ballet, he intended choreographing for St Petersburg’s Maryinsky Theatre. Tchaikovsky enthusiastically tackled Petipa’s commission.

Glorious danceable tunes

Not only did Tchaikovsky compose glorious danceable tunes, he devised distinctive music for Act 1 Fairies Variations (Mariette Opperman’s Golden Vine Fairy delighted) and Act 3 Divertissement (look out for Chante Daniels and Stephen Underwood’s airborne Blue Bird pas de deux and Meghan Henegan and Jordan Roelfze’s comic Puss in Boots and White Cat). He also wove through leitmotifs for the good Lilac Fairy (Kirstel Paterson) and evil fairy (Olivia Parfitt) Carabosse’s characterisations.

Referring to the music – under Brandon Phillips’s baton, the CTPO were in grand form – special honourable mention goes to oboe, cello, trumpet, violin and harp solo players who brought aural joy to listeners.

Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s collaboration produced a four hour long ballet. Too lengthy for today’s audiences. And because that length would place considerable strain on CTCB’s resources, previous productions trimmed ‘Beauty’ to a couple of hours – one 20 minute interval and two short pauses.

For this 2019 staging Denise Schultze Godfrey chose to remount the Royal Ballet’s famous 1946 production, reproduced for PACT ballet in 1971 by John Hart. Bruce Caldwell contributed Act 1’s pretty Garland Dance. Schultze Godfrey, as a past ballerina, PACT’s former co-artistic director and Ballet Mistress for Salt Lake City’s Ballet West, was well-placed to reproduce this much loved historic ballet.

By international standards CTCB is numerically small and, with a few exceptions, low on technical expertise. So one admires Schultze for enlarging this production to a Prologue followed by three acts – two intervals and a pause before the finale. She delivered well rehearsed soloists, a well honed corps de ballet and clear mime – vital to promoting this fantasy.

Wilhelm’s Disbergen’s lighting design and Peter Cazalet’s sets and costume upgrades contributed to Beauty’s charm. Cazalet is a wonder marrying previously used designs with fresh ones in his favourite muted hues. He, together with lighting designer Wilhelm Disbergen, introduced modern technology to represent climbing thorn bushes covering the castle, and mystique as ‘water fell’ from a waterfall in the dream sequence.

Sleeping Beauty review
Andile Ndlouv and Precious Adams

Precious Adams and Andile Ndlovu

Opening night saw American born Precious Adams debut as Princess Aurora and South African born Andile Ndlovu as Prince Florimund.

Does height matter I kept asking myself watching Adams and Ndlovu’s first pas de deux? Individually their variations showcased two technically adept young dancers. Adams, blessed with long limbs and beautifully used feet, dealt easily with complex choreography. Experience will find her coping with those nail-biting Rose Adagio attitude balances, promenades, and teach her to vary facial expression and movement qualities.

Thanks to Martin Schonberg’s training Ndlovu’s technique gives him power to leap high, nonchalantly execute double tours en l’air and he has first class batterie.

Using his acting ability he advanced his character of lonely prince seeking love, to elation finding Aurora.

However, in a traditional classical ballet, certain principles must be followed – one is that a prince be tall enough to comfortably partner his princess. Adams and Ndlovu’s height differences caused Ndlovu difficulties in lifts and he can justifiably be proud he didn’t let Adams fall in tricky en dedans pirouettes into the fish dive in their final grand pas de deux.

Suspending belief comes naturally in fairytale ballets. But when the King (Eduard Greyling) sports a white beard, and looks like Santa Claus it’s difficult to believe he is 16 year-old Aurora’s father.

Any new mounting on young dancers of a historical classical ballet, takes time to become valid. A good starting point for CTCB dancers is studying Sleeping Beauty’s history and from there intellectually and physically understanding what it is each role player’s character can contribute to bringing this masterpiece into the 21st century.

What: The Sleeping Beauty review
Where: Artscape Opera House, Cape Town
When: Until 31 August 2019
Book: www.computicket.com, 0861 915 8000, Shoprite Checkers
CTCB: https://www.capetowncityballet.org.za/
Social media: @ctcityballet, #CTCB
WS