|Nariman Bekzhanov and Lina Seveliova|
The Imperial Russian Ballet Company,
Canberra Theatre 22nd August.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
The Imperial Russian Ballet Company is a large company of classical ballet dancers drawn from top ballet schools around the Soviet Union. The company was formed in 1994 by former Bolshoi Ballet soloist Gediminas Taranda who continues to be the troupe’s Artistic Director. The company undertakes extensive International tours presenting well-known ballet classics.
On their last visit to Canberra, The Imperial Russian Ballet Company presented “Swan Lake”. This time, as the first city visited on an extensive three-month Australian tour, Canberra had the privilege the Australian premiere performance of their production of "Sleeping Beauty" , and attracted by the opportunity of seeing a large troupe of Russian dancers perform this classic, the company was greeted with a full house.
In many ways it’s an impressive production. The elegant painted backdrops are very grand, and the pretty fairy tale costumes (despite some unfortunate wigs) are befitting the familiar story of the Princess Aurora, who at her 16th Birthday party, pricks her finger and falls into a sleep which lasts 100 years until she is awoken by a kiss from a handsome prince.
|Lina Seveliova and members of The Imperial Russian Ballet Company|
The choreography is attributed to Petipa (revised by G.Taranda). One can only guess at how much of the original Petipa remains. However it looks authentic enough, particularly in the set-pieces such as the graceful Garland Dance in Act 1 and the various fairy-tale character pas de deux in Act 11, even though much of it appears very simple by today’s standards. In any event it was beautifully and respectfully danced by the company with all the hallmarks of the Russian style, careful foot placement, graceful arms and well-arched backs, much in evidence.
The story-telling is fairly perfunctory so a program is necessary to follow the action. There’s little attempt by the dancers at characterisation, with much walking around and meaningless gesticulating, particularly from the men.
|Anna Pashkova (Lilac Fairy) and members of The Imperial Russian Ballet|
With her sparkling smile, long limbed Lina Seveliova, is a lovely Princess Aurora. Anna Pashkova is appropriately regal as the Lilac Fairy and the rest of the soloists dance pleasingly, but only Nariman Bekzhanov as Prince Desire, manages to bring any real sizzle or excitement to the proceedings.
Perhaps it was because it was the first performance of the tour. Perhaps the dancers had yet to become accustomed to the recorded music, which seemed to catch some flat-footed, or perhaps they were just under-rehearsed. Whatever the reason, this opening night performance seemed curiously muted and lacking in confidence.
However, for some, watching this distinctly old-fashioned production was very much akin to a pleasant visit to a museum, strongly reminiscent of a Borovansky Ballet performance more than 50 years ago, or even watching archival film of the Ballet Russes, and perhaps the more precious for that. But, a lot has happened in the presentation of ballet in the last 50 years and on the evidence of this production, Russia seems to have been passed by.