An integral part of Cape Town Culture is undoubtedly any event held in the gorgeously lush Maynardville Open Air Theatre. A refreshing change to a stuffy auditorium, here culture vultures are seated beneath the stars, while the summer breeze plays amongst the trees.
Cape Town City Ballet – now celebrating its 80th birthday – treated its longstanding followers and new fans alike to a relaxed yet elegant event showcasing two very different, yet equally breathtaking productions, as the eager audience members sat under light blankets, hot chocolate in hand to fend off a surprisingly chilly evening.
With the trees as a stage backdrop and the stars adding a twinkle that stage lights could never muster, a production of Les Sylphides could not ask for a better stagehand than Mother Nature. This non-narrative piece sees the beautiful, mythical Sylphes (spirits of the air) dancing to works by Chopin, enhancing the already esoteric air of the works themselves. With no storyline to follow, the audience merely has to sit back and enjoy the beautiful music and the equally beautiful dancers.
The evening’s main performance is The Firebird which offers a fable-like storyline set in a forest under the spell of an evil magician, though naturally it is not so much the story as the performance that has the crowd enthralled. For novices to the ballet scene, a tale such as The Firebird is unfamiliar territory, but the Cape Town City Ballet along with the UCT Dance Dept are remarkable not only for the expressions in their dance, but in their faces too, and our audience was kept utterly enthralled and entertained. The character of the Firebird, performed by Laura Bosenberg that evening but by Angela Hansford for some other performances, gave a breathtaking portrayal of the protector of the forest, down to the fluttering of her feather-like fingers.
With a drama resembling a Spanish telanova, and a resounding Hitchcockesque soundtrack, The Firebird is steeped in tension, love and suspense – a wonderfully fitting celebration of 80 glorious years.
The Firebird and Les Sylphides are performed every Sunday until 16 February 2014 at the Maynardville Open Air Theatre.