Review: Snow White The Ballet


Joburg Ballet’s brand new production Snow White had its world premier on 13 October at Braamfontein’s Joburg Theatre. It is an absolute delight.

Artistic Director Iain MacDonald has done a sterling job translating this classic tale into a beautifully choreographed ballet. Satisfyingly, the story is kept simple, not straying too far from the original. When people mess around with fairy tale plots, it can be confusing, particularly for younger audience members. MacDonald is on record as saying; “It’s an easy story to tell”. However, such an effortless retelling surely belies the expertise and hard work behind the scenes.

One thing that distinguishes Snow White from other fairy tale ballets is the potential for comedy. I’ve never heard so much laughter during a ballet performance. The Forest People, based on Disney’s dwarves with their distinct characteristics, are hilarious. It’s almost impossible to believe that the elegant ballerinas of the opening and closing scenes are also the chubby, silly, slapstick Forest People. Nicole Ferreira-Dill is an elegant Snow White, showing versatility and a capacity for comedy as she interacted with her 7 forest friends.

Kitty Phtetla as the The Queen brings surprising humour to her role and even worked what looked like a minor costume malfunction into her performance as she tossed it off stage with a conspiratorial cocked eyebrow. It made a refreshing change from the usual stock in trade, brooding stage villain.  

Dmitri Shostakovich’s music, known for incorporating various musical techniques and sharp contrasts, lends itself well to the production, which marries traditional ballet with the quirkiness of the Forest People.

The finale is the magical stuff that fluffy ballet dreams are made of with sparkly costumes, true love, a happy ending and even a brilliantly inventive human maypole.

Joburg ballet has benefited from an injection of funding over the last few years and has just announced that they will be partnering with Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra in 2018, ensuring live music for two upcoming projects.  It will be exciting to see what the future holds for this dynamic and relatively young company.

In the meantime, this is hopefully only the first of many runs of Snow White – The Ballet. It’s a breath of fresh air – a beautifully executed and much-loved fairy tale with a big personality and a healthy dose of humour.

Nicola Beach

Snow White The Ballet is on at Joburg Theatre until 22 October 2017.

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