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I recently had the pleasure of seeing the Geneva Ballet, under the auspices of Cape Town City Ballet’s season, hosted by Artscape. As part of their presentation in South Africa they shared the stage with KZN Philharmonic Orchestra for the Grahamstown Arts Festival – I am still kicking myself for not going this year! Anywho they wowed the audiences there with Le Song d’une nuit d’été (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) with music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. My failings obviously mean I missed out on catching this performance. However I did get to experience something of pure magic on this side of the mountain.

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Geneva Ballet’s Lux & Glory had me at Hello; choreographed by Switzerland’s Ken Ossola and Greek choreographer, Andonis Foniadakis, respectively. I am a musician thus the soundscape would be my first port of call. Musically their approaches differed; and the 20 minute interval between the pieces seemed perfectly set up to allow the ear to settle and refresh. Lux found home in Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D Minor, Op 48 with its penetratingly simple and pure harmonies. Philippe Cohen (Geneva Ballet Director) muses: ‘the hypnotic quality of Ken Ossola’s Lux and its sculpted shadow play enhance the delicate nature of bodies wreathed by the sensitive, ethereal sweetness of Fauré’s music’ and rightly so. Throughout the piece I found the dancers challenging the lines of symbioses. Moreover the constraints and freedoms of the body; whether this was in pas-des-deux, highly physicalised solos or the larger ensemble pieces. The work, as a whole, captured the essence of music and dance as conjoined units without putting strain on either part’s individualism. 

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Foniadakis’ Glory on the other hand took me too on a different journey altogether; one with colour, vivaciousness and bursts of energy. The tone was set in the opening sequence, in costumes that would be fitting for any Met Gala Exhibition (created by Tassos Sofroniou), with a female soloist seemingly caught in the trance-linkeness of her own body’s grace; then after it was voluntary slipping into the underbelly of this transient world created by Foniadakis. Musically, we moved away the quietude of Fauré toward a more regal George Frederic Handal. But the music arrangement and sound design, by Julien Tarride, took to absorbing Musique Concréte technique alongside Handel’s oeuvre; such as Concerto gross Op 6, Messiah, Dixit Dominus, etc – it was helluva kickass! The virtuosity present in the music was almost directly adopted onto the dancers’ bodies. This compliment of body and sound made for some riveting dance. Philippe Cohen goes on to speak of Foniadakis: ‘He has a particular ability to coax an intensity of presence out of his dancers, without ever resorting to pathos, enabling him to be fully in the moment, enigmatic, daring, imaginative and proudly human’. 

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This evening of contemporary ballet delivered by The Geneva Ballet was nothing short of spectacular and true reflection of dance’s ability to spiritually elevate whilst allowing music to work its mysterious physical power on the body and mind.

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