November 26 2013 at 10:43am By Adrienne Sichel
REAL MATCH: Joburg Ballets Prima Ballerina Burnise Silvius and Mexican guest artist Jonhal Fernandez star in The Nutcracker at the State Theatre in Pretoria.
It could be catastrophic for a ballet company to change its name and persona three times over 14 months. But Joburg Ballet (formerly South African Ballet Theatre, then South African Mzansi Ballet) has a number of secret weapons.
The institutional artistic memory inherited from Dawn Weller’s State Theatre Ballet (and its predecessor, PACT Ballet) is the key in continuing our classical ballet tradition.
The other remaining link to this priceless heritage is Burnise Silvius. So it was fitting that, on Friday after the opening performance of The Nutcracker, the company bestowed on this singular role model the title of prima ballerina, capping a 20-year career studded with persistence, international experience and excellence.
The Sunday matinee had its glitches – the recorded Tchaikovsky started off on a scratchy note and a dancer fell from a lift during Waltz of the Flowers – but Silvius and partner Jonhal Fernandez were superb.
Her aesthetic lineage and trade- mark finesse infuses every phrase in her combined roles of Louise, an ethereal Snow Queen, and The Sugar Plum Fairy, who exudes musical majesty.
As a partner Fernandez, guesting from Mexico’s Ballet de Monterrey, has a complementing lyricism and, in his solo variations, flaunts airy jumps with assured perfect landings.
The production, although still lacking the visual and dramatic power of the original, has a clearer narrative despite the imposition of the Christmas Tree Fairy (an injured Claudia Mona was replaced by Kitty Phetla).
James Fraser impresses as an elegantly authoritative Dr Drosselmeyer and Angela Maree’s Clara is impeccable.
lPretoria-born Silvius started dancing at the age of 4. She was trained by Pro Arte, Paula Olivier and Catherine Burnett.
Silvius joined PACT Ballet, renamed The State Theatre Ballet (STB), in 1994 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1999.
After the closure of STB (2000) she joined Hong Kong Ballet, followed by The South African Ballet Theatre (SABT) as principal dancer in 2001, and in 2003 danced in a SABT/Royal Danish Ballet co-production in Copenhagen. Sylvia spent 2004-2005 with the National Ballet of Canada, returning to SABT in September 2005, touring Russia in 2006 and Muscat, Oman last year.
Her impressive repertoire includes principal roles in the classics and productions by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Ronald Hynd, Kenneth MacMillan, André Prokovsky, Paul Taylor, Choo San Goh, Val Caniparoli, Jack Carter, David Lichine, Victor Gsovsky, Veronica Paeper, Kenneth Greve, James Kudelka and Gregory Maqoma.