The curtains open on a beautiful scene. A little village in a small forest; flowers covering a cottage from top to bottom. The fearless young prince steps onto stage. For an hour and a half the audience are thrown into a beautiful fairy tale. With the grace and presence of some of the greatest dancers in the world, the Cape Town City Ballet thoroughly impressed the audience in three sold out performances of Giselle at the National Arts Festival.
Giselle is classic ballet at its best and it had the audiences streaming into the Guy Butler Memorial Theatre. The set was incrediblydetailed and it transported the audience to the Rhineland Village, Giselle’s hometown. In the second act the mysterious and smoky set mystifies the audiences at Giselle’s grave when the Wilis materialise to create havoc for the men in the ballet. Giselle is initiated into the Wilis and so begins the dramatic and heart wrenching dance meant to punish her lover.
The cast included dancers of the Cape Town City Ballet’s graduate programme as well as external dancers. On opening night the stage was graced by the Senior Principal Ballerina, Megan Swart, accompanied by her partner of fifteen years Thomas Thorne. This will be the last season for Swart as she hangs up her pointe shoes at the end of Giselle.
A surprising and beautiful new partnership of Kim Vieira, previously from the Dutch National Ballet, and Swedish-born Daniel Szybkowski, caused quite a stir in their performance on the 30 June. Vieira’s superb body and dancing was matched by the gallant and heroic talent of Szybkowski and the pair brought the audience (including myself) to tears with their passionate and beautiful portrayals of two of ballet’s favourite characters. The final routine, where Giselle leaves her lover Albrecht to sorrow and loneliness, definitely caused a shortage of tissues in the venue. Angela Hansford’s portrayal of mysterious and beautiful Queen Myrtha was also breathtaking.
If I had to critique something in the show, it would be that the orchestra did not fill the auditorium as much as it should have. The venue was just too big for an un-miced orchestra. Led by Graham Scott, whose conducting experience dating back to his days at the CAPAB Ballet Co., the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra provided the soundtrack to the piece. Scott led them through the complicated score flawlessly. It is a pity that the orchestra was not loud enough because the music together with the spine chilling foot work by Vieira and Szybkowski caused prolonged goose bumps on our arms for a while after the show.
A triumphant season for the Cape Town City Ballet left audiences stunned in Grahamstown and everywhere else they have performed. All-in-all a splendid night at the ballet. Giselle was, to say the least, exceedingly beautiful, flawlessly danced and magnificently choreographed.
Words by: Emily Corke