CAPE TOWN CITY BALLET.
Veronica Paeper, artistic director of the recently baptized Cape Town City Ballet (known since the sixties as CAPAB Ballet, an acronym for the previous government's subsidized Cape arts council), has choreographed many full-length ballets for the company since becoming resident choreographer in 1974. It might well be argued that this company--once vibrant, now rather limp--needs a repertory and policy revamping as well as a new name. Her 1975 Cinderella, however, on show for this past Christmas season, is one of Paeper's most successful works, making intelligent use of the original Prokofiev score (composed for the first Bolshoi production in 1945) to structure the action, and offering a gentle, humorous reading of Charles Perrault's resonant tale.
Paeper has clearly taken her lead from Frederick Ashton's seminal 1948 version for the Royal Ballet in many things: the ugly stepsisters in caricatured drag and their humorously contrasted characters in classic pantomime tradition; the dancing lesson that precedes the ball; the Fairy Godmother's retinue representing the seasons; the heroine's radiant entrance to the ball; the discovery of the matching slipper.
But Paeper adds some successful touches of her own in Cinderella's household friend, Buttons, an extra solo for the Fairy Godmother, and a very funny scene when the overexcited stepsisters return from the ball.
What this Cinderella makes clear is that Paeper's talents as a choreographer lie in the successful deployment of ensembles and in exaggerated character effects--not in the actual composition of movement and a consequent evocation of personality or motivation.
Her Cinderella and Prince are bland stereotypes; she is pretty and sweet, he is handsome and royal, and their respective solos and pas de deux tell you only that they are the hero and heroine of a "classical" ballet.
Perhaps stronger performers could have made more of their material. I saw the unobjectionable Elisa Celis and Peter Ottevanger (both former Birmingham Royal Ballet members) in the principal roles; both are technically competent, but neither knows how to musically phrase or accent the dancing so as to infuse poetry or meaning. And neither appeared to attempt the presentation of a character (harder, admittedly, for the Prince, who appears late in the game and is largely a foil). Would Cinderella really recover her boringly good mood just after her stepsisters had torn her only decent dress in half?
In marked contrast to the principal couple was the lucid, musical dancing of Janet Lindup as the Fairy Godmother. Lindup has been a company principal since an astonishingly promising debut in her teens, and this Cinderella (in which she also danced the principal role) saw her last performances before early retirement. Innately musical and lushly textured, Lindup's dancing deserved a wider audience than it has received. The authority and magic that she conferred upon the stage was both appropriate to the role and noticeably lacking when she was absent from it.
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|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||May 1, 1999|
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