St Petersberg Ballet Theatre Gala

Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich Theatre Royal

This sumptuous gala was the opportunity to show off the talents of the stars of SPBT, in particular Irina Kolesnikova: a young prima ballerina who has captured Russia's heart.

And what technique, display and bravura were on offer!

Act One opened with Chopiniana: a stately bit of pastoral, where lovers cavorted around the green and bronze woods clad in ethereal white taffeta, glowing white garlands in their hair.

It is too easy to think of Chopin as all-aching melancholy like the Nocturnes: here the full orchestra under baton of Vadim Nikitin spun the mood to something almost skittish.

In Act Two, the curtains swished back to the lyric sound of solo oboe, revealing a sheet of twinkling stars and some impressively spiky chandeliers.

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After a controlled pas de deux, we were teased and uplifted by a charming Harlequin (Olesia Levchenko) and his Columbine (Slava Sunegin).

With their chequered black and whites, jumps and kisses, they positively whisked the stage.

The lightness of touch in the pas de deux was matched by the showmanship of the solos: Harlequin spun and sank to his knee in great swoops of comic passion, while Columbine leapt and twirled with plenty of umpah to show us her sheer delight in love.

As they tiptoed out, the chorus came bursting in to a rattle of castanets, all Spanish splendour, and the stage burned with deep orange, black and gold. Some impressive moves here from the male dancers strutting like toreadors who had won the prize.

Precise, cool whites and blues for Grand Pas Classique and then the real coup de theatre: Saint-Saens' dying swan performed by Irina Kolesnikova. A spotlight concentrated the eye into an intense space where we watched the star pulse, twist and flutter out the essence of that sinuous bird. A slight slip made no difference to the magic of this solo.

Act Three rounded off the show, with a circus-like beat in Paquita: yet another suite choreographed by Marius Petipa, arguably the last word in virtuoso classical ballet. His work dominated the evening.

t The Sleeping Beauty by this company plays until Saturda January 27. Box office: 01603 630000. Website:

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