Review: Cape Town City Ballet soars with enchanting double bill, Summersnow, at Maynardville 2023

Summersnow at Maynardville Open-Air Festival 2023 – Cape Town City Ballet

When: March 1-5, 2023 at 8.15pm
Tickets: R190 to R300.
Bookings: Quicket
Programme: Double bill – Mikhail Fokine’s Les Sylphides and Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs

Info aboutMaynardville Open-Air Festival 2023:

Booking link: 

School block bookings: E-mail for information and block bookings

Weather line: Weather line: 083 449 1000 – after 5pm
Food: Maynardville Evening Food Market – food and drink may be purchased from food trucks at the evening market- no outside picnics into venue

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It was a treat to be in the audience, tonight, March 1, 2023, at the opening performance of Cape Town City Ballet, double bill programme, Summersnow, at Maynardville Open-Air Festival 2023. CTCB is presenting Mikhail Fokine’s Les Sylphides and Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs. The programme runs until Sunday, March 5, so this is a quickie review. I loved the experience of watching these ballets in the outdoor setting, performed to superb recordings, music played by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. The recordings were made when the ballets were recently performed at Artscape. CTCB is in fine form. The outdoor setting, lighting, sound and design makes for a beautiful evening of ballet. The performance started at 8.15 (actually 8.16pm one minute late) and we were done by 9.30pm (and that includes the interval).

I am not a ballet critic, so I am unable to critique whether the dance measures up to other iterations. There were some quibbles from balletomanes that there are no international guest artists for this season. I am not sure why this is an issue. For me, with my limited technical knowledge of ballet, I was captivated by the effortless grace and impeccable placing in both pieces.  Theatrically, this programme is a winner. As, I am not a ballet critic (saying that again), I am not going to start critiquing Blue Boy, Pas de Deux Couple, Blue and Red Girls (Les Patineurs) and the Sylphs, Prelude, Waltz, Mazurka (Les Sylphides).

A revelation for me was the sound, designed and engineered by Christo Davis.  I am usually not a fan of recorded music for ballet. I tend to find it “flat”. Davis told me that he has placed six sets of speakers in the auditorium space. I felt that I was surrounded by the music. The sound has depth and is layered. CTCB’s CEO, Debbie Turner, said to me tonight, that a lot of the sound quality depends on the wind factor. Tonight, there was no wind. There were no sirens going off. There is a police station across the road and that can happen – noise and activity. It was quiet and still. This is outdoor theatre and the weather is a factor. As I said, for me tonight, the sound was a revelation and a joy to hear the Cape Town Philharmonic’s presence – as if it was there. But, you may go on a windy night and it may be very different.

The lighting is beautiful. There is no loadshedding because of military what-what in the vicinity, which means that they do not have to contend with power strictures in creating the lighting plot. Many venues, have to design lighting which is loadshedding compliant – so if generators kick in – then there are no glitches. This means that for a lot of theatre, we are getting a reduced lighting plot. The lighting design on this ballet programme is wondrous – with layering, shimmering shots of colour.  In Les Patineurs, each paper lantern is rigged with its own light- magical. The lanterns swayed in the breeze, tonight (a slight breeze, not wind, okay). I loved that.

At interval, the set of Les Patineurs is taken down and Les Sylphides is danced on the bare stage, with the forest of trees as the set. The lighting heightens the whimsical, dreamy vibe of Les Sylphides, with the natural elements becoming the sets and props.

The Summersnow programme is a grand finale to wrap up Maynardville Open-Air Festival 2023- with two charming ballets – light and entertaining – danced with verve by Cape Town City Ballet, with excellent sound, lighting and staging. If you are wondering about the header of the programme, Summersnow: Summer is meant to be a reference to Les Sylphides, supposedly a ballet in a summer context and snow is a reference to winter because Les Patineurs features skaters on an ice rink- in the cold of winter. The header is a fun way of bundling the ballets together for this enchanting double bill, staged in late summer in Cape Town. To reiterate, the season ends on Sunday, March 5. Get there.

Precision: Cape Town City Ballet dancing Les Patineurs. Photo: Joan Ward. Pic supplied.

✳ Featured image: CTCB’s Les Sylphides. Photo: Danie Coetzee. Supplied.