Review: Maina Gielgud’s evocative staging of Giselle for Cape Town City Ballet- March to April 2022

What: Maina Gielgud’s Giselle, presented by Cape Town City Ballet
Featuring: CTCB and guest artist (s) on selected performances, Cape Town Philharmonic (selected performances) and recorded music at other performances
When and where: March 18 until April 9, 2022 in the Artscape Opera House

Bookings: Artscape Dial-A-Seat 021 421 7695 or through Computicket
Details regarding performances:

Cape Town City Ballet has presented an astonishing array of dance, during the Covid pandemic, working within the constraints of reduced seating and other lockdown challenges. It has danced through the pandemic and enthralled us, so it is not as if it has been sleeping and is now awoke but the current season of the iconic classical ballet, Giselle, at Artscape [March to April 2022], is a biggie, so it is a return to “normal” pre-pandemic ballet – with international guest stars and The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, playing at some performance.

This production of Giselle is testament to the sheer versatility that underpins the company. Debbie Turner, CEO of Cape Town City Ballet, has worked magic, by bringing out international guest artists to partner with principals at the ballet company. Maina Gielgud’s evocative choreography (after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot) is mesmerising and so are the dancers, with the creative team (Peter Cazalet, Michael Mitchell and Wilhelm Disbergen) conjuring up the pastoral ghostly landscape of Giselle. The ballet is technically and dramatically complex and the company aces it. I was not able to attend the opening, with the Cape Town Philharmonic and attended on a night, when there was recorded music but it was still a stirring experience.

The fantasy/dream/nightmare romance of Giselle has a freaky narrative and Gielgud nails the mysteriousness of the story in her choreo, heightened by the striking lighting design by Wilhelm Disbergen. Last year [2021], Cape Town City Ballet brought us dazzling dance, including George Balanchine’s neo-classical ballet, Concerto Barocco and Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels. I described the latter, as “cirque/circus/warrior dance” []. In 2021, I was totally bowled over by CTCB’s extraordinary double bill of Les Sylphides and Mthuthuzeli November’s, Olivier award winning, Ingoma.

Les Sylphides, like Giselle, is also part the canon of classical ballets which are much loved by ballet enthusiasts- and for good reason. Giselle’s fantastical story – yearning and aspiring for love – is romantic, timeless and universal. It is bliss to be swept up in the spectacle of this impeccably crafted, dreamy classic. Fabulous attention to detail and gesture- watch the face of each dancer. With this season of Giselle, CTCB, demonstrates that it is a contemporary ballet company which is a vital platform for classical ballet and innovative, cutting edge contemporary work such as Mthuthuzeli November’s Ingoma. It is a company which is stretching in multiple directions – elevating the barre –but still incorporating tradition and convention.  Throughout its expansive body of work, there is unwavering attention to form, technique and precision.  Giselle is on until April 9, 2022.

Fantasy romantic freaky ballet: Mikayla Isaacs and Kyle Baird in Giselle, presented by Cape Town City Ballet, March-April 2022, with choreography by Maina Gielgud, after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot.

✳ Featured image: Kirstel Paterson and Lêusson Muniz. Photo: Paul Seaby. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: