The Russian State Ballet of Siberia's Giselle: Exceptionally accomplished… once they got on with it.
Courtesy of Norwich Theatre Royal
It is a truth universally known that Russian ballet companies love a bit of mime. Whether it's the Bolshoi, the Marinsky, or Russian State of Siberia, it seems like nothing appeals to Russian choreographers more than dramatic laps sprinted around stage (to no particular effect) and over-zealous prop interaction.
But, we forgive them, because when they do eventually get around to doing any dancing, they do so beautifully.
Giselle tells the tragic story of a young peasant girl who falls in love with a Prince – who inconveniently is betrothed to someone else – and dies of heartbreak upon her discovery of this fact.
The second act sees the Prince travel to Giselle’s grave, where he witnesses her spirit come back to life.
She endeavours to protect him from the Wilis (a group of ghostly women who you might have come across in Les Sylphide), and just about manages to do so before morning breaks and they all return to their graves.
So, cheery stuff.
What I love about Russian ballet is the dancer’s technical ability, which on the whole I would say is the highest standard in the world.
The female dancers all have incredibly strong ankles which allows them to hold their pointe positions with ease, coming naturally to the end of a pirouette instead of stumbling out of it.
Ekaterina Bulgutova, who danced Giselle was a perfect example of this, and handled the demanding choreography of her character with finesse.
Likewise, I was impressed by the corps de ballet – many of which seemed capable of dancing the principle role.
Their timing was spot on, their port de bras (the movement of their arms) soft and whimsical.
The only payoff there is for such strong footwork is often a lack of bounce in the dancers; because they centre themselves so well and often have less momentum to get higher into the air.
At times you could spot a jete which should have soared and instead coasted, but thanks to the beautiful pas de deux lifts in the second act, this didn’t detract too much overall.
Ms Bulgutova’s pairing with Yury Kudryavstev is a triumph, and resulted in the perfect execution of the iconic moments which Giselle is so famous for.
I was slightly irritated by Daniil Kostylev, who danced the part of Hans (a forester which Giselle cast aside for the Prince).
I appreciate his character drowns (I told you, it’s a cheery production), but that’s no excuse for lazy, sickled feet and a wobbly core.
Production-wise there was little to complain about; the staging was simple, costumes suitably medieval.
I must admit I snorted when it came time for the Wilis to return to their graves.
For as the dancers bourreed (the motion of elegantly shuffling en pointe) off stage, their CGI equivalents appeared on the backdrop before descending into a graveyard.
Despite its few shortcomings, I would absolutely recommend seeing this performance – which in its highlights has the ability to be truly breathtaking.