There is something enchanting about seeing a ballet in a park. The wind seems to ever-so-softly rustle through the trees at just the right moment to complement the music and the movement. You simply can’t beat the magic of Maynardville for open air theatre in South Africa. In the past, ballets at Maynardville were performed on Sundays, giving the public limit opportunity to see the amazing Cape Town City Ballet productions. This year, as part of the new look and feel Maynardville Open-Air Festival, they are onstage during the week too, until 28 January, with Les Sylphides and The Firebird.
When you hear the title Les Sylphides you may think that this ballet does not conjure up any definite images or memories in your mind. That in part is probably because this is a ballet without a story - there is no plot. It is described as “a ballet of mood” or "romantic reverie […] a suite of dances in the romantic atmosphere of a moonlit park”. Pair the Maynardville atmosphere with Frederick Chopin’s music and the romantic scene is set for a young man (presumably a poet) to wander through the wood and join the dance of the wood nymphs. The waltz pas de deux for the prima ballerina and the poet adds the necessary whimsy to this staging of Les Sylphides and makes it quite enjoyable if adagio dancing is your preferred ballet style. If so, then you will be swept away by the flow and movement of Les Sylphides.
Whereas Les Sylphides is all classical white tutus and slow movements, The Firebird (with music by Igor Stravinsky) follows with a burst of colour and energy in the vibrant telling of the Russian fairy tale of Prince Ivan as he crosses paths with the Firebird. When he captures her she bestows on him the gift of a summoning feather in exchange for her freedom. The Firebird later intervenes when the Prince wanders into the forest realm of the immortal evil magician Kotschei – she protects him from the demons under Kostchei’s spell and reunites him with his beloved. Everything from the performances to the costumes are beautiful. Special mention must be mace of Mariette Opperman. She is dramatic and dazzling as the Firebird. She casts a spell on you from the moment she dances (or perhaps rather flutters) onto stage. The Firebird perfectly illustrates how a story can be told merely through beautiful, theatrical movement. No words need be spoken.
Book your tickets to see Les Sylphides and The Firebird through Computicket, and go experience the magic of ballet under the stars at the Maynardville Open-Air Festival until 28 January 2018.