The Christmas Show by Mzansi Ballet
Lesley Stones: It’s not often that you see an infectious delight playing across the face of ballet dancers.
Often they have an impassive aloofness as masters of their art who take it all tremendously seriously.
There’s none of that in The Christmas Show by Mzansi Ballet. The dancers are smiling so broadly that you instinctively smile back, and that kindles a festive spirit that infuses the entire show. As director Dirk Badenhorst said in a brief introduction, we have to be able to create escapism in this world gone wrong.
Mzansi Ballet productions are often riddled with an unstuffy verve and sense of fun that makes ballet accessible, so you can still enjoy it even if you’re not a purist. In fact a purist might not enjoy it as much, with all those smiling faces and choreography that blends in a little jive and occasional acrobatics.
Not all the songs are about Christmas – some are just an excuse for lively dancing with open shirts flowing artistically. At times the inspiring swell of the music calls out for more dramatic leaps and bounds, but it’s graceful and energetic and altogether lovely.
Many of the pieces are choreographed by husband-and-wife team Michael and Angela Revie, with Michael also dancing and making a delightful Santa Claus. Other numbers are choreographed by Xola Willie who also performs, and he’s excellent, with his lithe movements sometimes looking more sprite than human.
While the music is all recorded the singing is live, with Dikelo Mamiala and Abel Knobel weaving in and out between the dancers. Mamiala’s voice is rich and syrupy while Knobel’s is light and versatile. He plays the guitar too, and one couple dances a lovely duet while he performs his own composition, Mountain Man.
The show flows easily thanks to a variety in the mood and styles. Some numbers are quiet and intense, with excellent lighting by Simon King. Others see the dancers make full use of the polished surface in the centre of the stage, helping them to glide and slide with ease.
There is a succession of different costumes without blowing the budget and a homely background of a Christmas tree and a statuesque reindeer. If you know in advance you can take a gift for underprivileged children and go on stage to place it by the tree during one of the songs.
While the four male dancers are an even mix of black and white, it bugged me that the five female dancers are all white. Is ballet still only a dream for little white girls, or are the opportunities still not there for others? Tickets to The Christmas Show would be a wonderfully inspiring present for artistic youngsters.
The Christmas Show by Mzansi Ballet runs at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre until December 5. Tickets from Computicket or the box office on 011 511 1818.
Lesley Stones is the 2016 Arts Journalism Awards winner in the reviews category, presented by the National Arts Festival and Business & Arts SA.
This former Brit is now proudly South African. She started her career by reviewing rock bands for a national UK music paper, then worked for various newspapers before spending four fun-filled years in Cairo, where she ended up editing a technology magazine.
She was the Information Technology Editor for Business Day for 12 years before quitting to go freelance, specialising in travel & leisure writing and being opinionated about life in general. Her absolute passions are travel, theatre, the cinema, wining and dining.
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