I must come clean. I had never been to a Ballet until a couple of months ago when I went along to watch a performance of Cinderella by the Russian State Ballet of Siberia. I was genuinely surprised at how much humour and comedy there was considering there was no dialogue. I simply loved it, bowled over by the exquisite movement, costume and music.
This week I joined a sell-out audience for the first night production of Sleeping Beauty, by the same ballet troupe, who are back at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate to perform three more of the world’s most popular ballets, Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia and Swan Lake from Monday 27 to Wednesday 29 January. An ideal way to help forget the January blues!
Sitting next to me for the performance was a young child of about six or seven, her mother had collected a booster seat so that she could see the stage. I half expected her to have fallen asleep by the interval, but she sat keenly throughout the performance observing the dancers and taking in the stirring music of Tchaikovsky. Ballet is thriving in Northampton and will be for many years to come if this young theatregoer is an indication of the popularity of dance and Ballet.
Sleeping Beauty is the classic story of love and innocence, mystery and magic set to Tchaikovsky’s sublime score. Based on the fairy-tale by Charles Perrault, the Sleeping Beauty tells the tale of Princess Aurora, cursed at her christening by the evil Carabosse, to prick her finger one day on a spindle and die. Thanks to the timely intervention of the Lilac Fairy, she doesn’t die, but sleeps for a hundred years. After being poisoned by the evil fairy, she is awakened by a kiss from her Prince, after which they marry, followed by some mesmerising dance routines.
Stunning choreography and sumptuous costumes create a fantasy world in which the Lilac Fairy struggles against the evil fairy, Carabosse. Egor Osokin as Carabosse was simply wonderful, both suitably sinister and comedic in all the right places. Carabosse stole the show during the prologue, sweeping around and looking suitably menacing. It was interesting to see the role played by a man.
His first appearance on stage riding a small carriage pulled by the four mice was memorable. His appearance at the curtain call also prompted pantomime hisses and loud boos from some of the audience, a signal of how effective he had been.
Right from the opening act the audience were transported into a fairy – tale world of enchantment, fascination and magic. The incredible dance sequences seemed to defy gravity at times. This was illustrated from the opening scenes where fairies arrived to provide gifts at the christening of the baby princess Aurora. The heavily costumed King Florestan and his Queen sat quietly throughout as they watched their daughter’s love story unravel.
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia has established itself as one of Russia’s leading ballet companies and has built a global reputation for delivering performances of outstanding quality and depth. The company which includes over 40 dancers were all exceptional, delighting the audience with their breath-taking physical ability and beautiful costumes as the story was revealed to the live accompaniment of a thirty strong orchestra.
“With a full company of dancers as well as highly skilled musicians performing some classic scores, it is very special to have the power of a symphony orchestra bringing the choreography to life on stage. It is always a pleasure to bring the unique traditions of Russian Ballet to the British public.”Artistic Director, Sergei Bobro
Tchaikovsky`s music for Sleeping Beauty dates to 1890 when the ballet premiered in St Petersburg but last night`s production is more much more recent, having been choreographed in 2008 by the company’s artistic director Sergei Bobrov.
The clever choreography throughout this production makes full use of the score. The music is bustling and slightly fragmented for some of the time and the choreography matches this. The choreography is at times very funny, complimenting the music at various points in the production. I found myself smiling throughout!
The dream-like music for Sleeping Beauty, the prince and the fairies are matched by beautiful, flowing choreography, performed and danced perfectly by the whole company of dancers. The corps de ballet were all superb, executing their movements with refinement, elegance and poise. Dazzling costumes were complemented by a spectacle of wonderfully choreographed group dance routines and some truly awe-inspiring solo performances.
Sleeping Beauty included authentic court dances, romantic ballet, mime scenes, grand processions and folk dances. The performances combines a mixture of grandeur and subtlety leaving the audience captivated throughout.
Sleeping Beauty helped showcase the artistry and technical ability of the two principal dancers Anastasia Belonogova and Francisco Gimenez. I especially enjoyed the rapport between the prince and princess during pas de deux sequences. There were also some stand out performances from Anastasia Osokina as the Lilac Fairy and Marco Di Salvo as Bluebird, some special moments!
The stunning lifts deserve mention, being executed with seemingly effortless grace and ease. The moment when the princess and the prince first meet each other was magical, the other dancers all being frozen in time.
It was interesting to see Sleeping Beauty and her prince among the storybook characters as they are often omitted in English productions. Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood & The Wolf went down very well with the younger members of the audience as did the unusual appearance of the Maypole dance, which was very well executed by the dancers.
The stage set was minimalist but effective allowing the dancing to take all of the spotlight. The most was made of the projection of images as a backdrop – a framed screen at the rear of the stage reflecting the drama on the stage with passing images of waterfalls, castles and brambles. The costumes were simply stunning, a luxurious range of fabrics and styles combined with fabulous colours.
Mention must also be made of the orchestra, conducted by Anatoliy Chepurmoy. The live orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s magical score helps build up the atmosphere to the scenes.There were some excellent violin solos from leader of orchestra and lovely flute and clarinet playing especially during Bluebird pas de deux.The clarinet solos showed virtuosity and the flutes provided the slower, lyrical melodies. So many touring companies rely on recorded music, so it was immensely refreshing to hear a live orchestra.
Overall a beautifully conceived production which was brilliantly brought to life by all the dancers and orchestra. This ballet has everything, beautiful music, stunning choreography and fabulous dancers both in ensemble sections and dazzling solos.
There is both drama and comedy. Sleeping Beauty provided memories of a wonderful evening out which I shall cherish long after the final curtain fell.
Coppélia can be seen tonight on Tuesday 28 January at 7.30pm and the final ballet Swan Lake tomorrow Wednesday 29 January at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets – priced from £19.50* – can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at www.royalandderngate.co.uk.