ESTELLE SINKINS reviews The Ugly Duckling, presented by KZN Midlands Youth Ballet, in association with Cape Town City Ballet, at the Hilton College Theatre.
JOY – a simple word, but one which sums up what each of the young dancers felt and showed in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Youth Ballet’s production of The Ugly Duckling.
Director and choreographer, Robin van Wyk, enlarged Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of a duckling, who is ostracised for looking different from his fellows, before transforming into a graceful swan, to ensure that every one of the 75 dancers involved in the production was given the chance to shine.
The result was a colourful mass of ducks, chickens, cupids, hounds, swallows, skaters and more.
Providing the bedrock for the show were Hannah Ward, Ivan Boonzaier, Stephen Underwood and Sascha Knott, all members of the Cape Town City Ballet.
Ward’s graceful Swan Queen gave local audiences the chance to get a glimpse of what she delivered as Odette in Swan Lake in Cape Town, and her Grand Pas De Deux with Boonzaier, fresh from wowing audiences in Van Wyk’s new ballet, Earthwalker, was the undoubted highlight of the show. A tall, strong dancer, Boonzaier provided fantastic support to Ward in the lifts, while also captivating the audience with his emotionally rich portrayal of the Male Swan in the second act.
I was also delighted to see former ‘Maritzburg dancers, Sascha Knott and Underwood, on stage. These talented youngsters have grown in leaps and bounds since their own appearances in KZN Midlands Youth Ballet shows.
Underwood had fun playing Mr Rooster, who chases poor little Ugly Duckling (a role shared in act one by Jamie Knott and Amber Sandalls) away from the farmyard, the mocking and disdainful Mr Fox, who gives the titular hero a hard time, icy Jack Frost and – best of all Mr Pudding, who oversees the celebrations at the end of act two.
Sascha Knott was delightf to watch as the cheeky Red Hen and Mary Mary Quite Contrary, and senior dancer, Cydney Malcolm, held her own with the professionals as Mother Duck. Both girls are graceful dancers and more importantly they have the ability to tell a story – a critical factor when it comes to delivering good performance in dance.
Another ‘Maritzburg dancer who delivered was Bonwa Mbontsi, who is perhaps better known for contemporary work. Performing in his first ballet show, he played Mr Weasel, one of the many characters encountered by the Ugly Duckling. Together with his partners, Taylor Ebersohn and Sarah Macleod – who shared the role of Mrs Weasel – he impressed with his skill and wit.
The Ugly Duckling was a treat and the dedicated local teachers, Van Wyk and Cape Town City Ballet are to be congratulated for giving dancers in the city and the Midlands the chance to shine.