• Ballet
  • Composers: Peter Ludwig Hertel and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Choreographers: Swan Lake: Marius Peipa, Lev Ivanov, Sergei Bobrov
  • La Fille Mal Gardeée: Jean Dauberval, Alexander Gorsky, Mrk Peretokin
  • Producer: Russian State Ballet of Siberia
  • New Theatre, Oxford
  • 2-4 March 2015
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 4 March 2015
RSB - La Fille Mal Gardée and Swan Lake
4.0Reviewer's Rating

I got such real pleasure out of attending two performances by the Russian State Ballet of Siberia that my only regret is that I did not make the effort to catch this company earlier in its tour so that I could also have seen The Nutcracker and Coppélia danced by them. The sets and costumes are attractive if a bit old-fashioned; but they and the choreographies are also highly pleasing and apt. The music was brilliantly and idiomatically conducted both the nights that I attended by Alexander Yudasin who led what, to my ears, was a very fine if somewhat reduced orchestra. The ensemble of the company of dancers was about 99% spot on; and some of the soloists were memorably outstanding.

The comedy in La Fille Mal Gardée was achieved with charm and panache and with absolutely no cheap effects, thanks in large part to the superb work of Alexander Kuimov as Widow Simone and Denis Pogorelyy as a truly sympathetic, sweet and poignant Alain; while Elena Pogorelaya and Vyacheslav Kapustin as Lise and Colas conveyed the mischievousness and also the romance of their story. Indeed, the story telling in both ballets that I saw was very clear. It is a good company for introducing youngsters to the art form, if you ask me.

I have to praise the Swan Lake even more. It captured a wonderful sense of the fairy tale while also conveying an almost Jungian approach to the story, with choreography revised to make Prince Siegfried (a blisteringly attractive Ivan Karnaukhov) and Von Rothbart (strongly danced by Egor Osokin) bring to mind the Jungian concept of a character and its shadow, or even Adam and the serpent. Natalia Bobrova was touching as Odette and startlingly scary and manipulative as Odile, and again the her characterizations suggested psychological polar opposites. The new ending, which I don’t want to give away, really works.

But above all the sheer technical expertise of the dancing gave immense pleasure throughout both evenings. Karnaukhov in Swan Lake did breathtaking leaps and at times seemed to hover for a second in mid-air before descending. He has a terrific line and is also an excellent, attentive partner for his belovèd.

I liked the company as a whole; I definitely want to see them do more and catch more of their soloists; and I wondered if some of them had ended up in Siberia because they do not conform to the strict body shapes that ballet companies often demand. There were some tall and lanky men and women up there and a couple of chunky people; but they were every one of them none the less captivating to watch for all that. And I must say, I rather fell in love with Elena Pogorelaya who, according to my programme, also plays the Hungarian Bride in Swan Lake on some nights.  The audience in Oxford screamed and applauded vociferously the nights I attended.

This UK tour is nearly finished; but the company returns between December 2015 and March 2016, so my recommendation is that you think seriously about seeing their Snow Maiden, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle or Sleeping Beauty if they are performing near you. They seem to me to be a reliable, traditional and highly professional group who also know how to entertain and convey the sheer energetic pleasure they take in dancing. I think you would not be disappointed. Good for Raymond Gubbay for bringing them all the way from their home in Krasnoyarsk to a venue near you!

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