Melbourne City Ballet Presents NAPOLI

Impressive cast bring ballet to the suburbs

By Rachel Holkner

The professional dancers of the Melbourne City Ballet, performing alongside Finishing Year pre-professionals, recently gave a charming rendition of the 1842 full-length ballet Napoli at the Darebin Performing Arts Centre. The casting of the two lovers Teresina (Carolina Pais) and Genarro (Matt Dillon) was wonderful; both highly skilled ballet dancers, they shared real chemistry and were very compatible together.

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While the sets, costumes and props may be on the simpler side (being a short performance season) they more than fulfilled their roles, setting the scene for an Italian love story in a seaside town and then an underwater grotto as Teresina is kidnapped by Golfo, a water spirit (Brendan Bradshaw) and his Naiads.

Napoli, not produced as a full-length ballet in Australia for forty years, was a curiosity and an ideal choice for a small and nimble company. Artistic Director Michael Pappalardo mentions in the program the dancers’ difficult task in adapting to choreographer August Bournonville‘s unique technique. I wish I knew more of this; while certain of the combinations were unusual, it’s difficult to tell as a non-performer what makes them trickier than others.

As for the curious Napoli, it was soon clear why it is not performed more. Act One is a pantomime, acted in time to the music, with a profound lack of ensemble dances. The story is uneven and unnecessarily complex, relying overly on the dancers’ skills in mime rather than expressing character through movement.

The choreography as a whole is somewhat flat (there is no “Dance of the Cygnets” here), and the music insipid, the result of being composed by a collection of musicians inspired by a wide range of source material. While there is copious dancing in Act Three it also feels flat as there is no change in emotion: it is all celebration of the lovers’ reunion and tarantella.

However, none of these criticisms should be a reflection of MCB. They are a highly capable ensemble providing professional productions at locations and at price points for the general public. I would definitely recommend them to aficionados and the newly ballet-curious. This production of Napoli was definitely a case of the performers outshining their source material. Perhaps more of these rare or unusual pieces may be the key to drawing an audience of ballet enthusiasts.

Melbourne City Ballet‘s next production is the contemporary showcase Play Rewind at Metanoia Theatre, Brunswick
26-29 May
Tickets from $26.10
http://www.melbournecityballet.com.au

Image by National Photography

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