The sugar plump fairies

MARK NICHOLLS Imagine an act that lies somewhere between the lovable Roly Polys and a troupe of Russian shot-putters. Dress them in pink fairy outfits and tutus and you end up with The Big Ballet, an ensemble of eastern bloc dancers all weighing up to 20 stone yet giving a new perspective on Tchaikovsky's finest works.

MARK NICHOLLS

Imagine an act that lies somewhere between the lovable Roly Polys and a troupe of Russian shot-putters.

Dress them in pink fairy outfits and tutus and you end up with The Big Ballet, an ensemble of eastern bloc dancers all weighing up to 20 stone yet giving a new perspective on Tchaikovsky's finest works.

The Big Ballet is a dance troupe that is creating a sensation only days into a UK tour that rolls into Norwich and Lowestoft later this month.

The overweight ballerinas performing delicate manoeuvres are selling out shows across the country.

The evening performance at Norwich Playhouse on March 24 has already sold out, and the theatre revealed last night it was now to add a matinee show on that day due to demand. Tickets are still available for Lowestoft Marina Theatre the day before.

Most Read

Whilst the music may be serious, the performance is pure comedy with ladies of larger proportions performing some of the less challenging ballet moves.

Though as tour manager Alexej Ignatow explained: “We do have some of the ladies who do the splits or stand on their toes in the traditional ballet style - and they all wear tutus.”

The Big Ballet was created by the late Russian choreographer Yevgeny Panfilov in 1994. He set out to prove that grace, elegance, charisma and nimbleness is not the prerogative of the thin.

Mr Ignatow said: “The aim of the troupe was to challenge people's perception that only nice, slim dancers can do ballet. Panfilov wanted to prove that larger women could also move beautifully on the stage. He wanted to show that overweight and big girls can be as beautiful as slim ones.

“When people come to this show they will have the opportunity to see a first half of classical ballet pieces, though the show is comedy, with a second part that is of more contemporary music with hit songs and the girls doing routines. Our first night in Hull had everybody laughing - the way they dance is really that funny.

“They are not professional ballerinas as such, but despite the complexity of the dances and their size, they do perform beautifully on stage. It is very much a fun night.”

Along with parodies of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Nutcracker, there are pieces from Vivaldi as well as Robbie Williams, The Pet Shop Boys and Tom Jones's hit Sex Bomb. The company is based in Perm, in Russia's Ural Mountains, where the tradition of ballet goes back almost 200 years.

Norwich Playhouse general manager Caroline Richardson said: “When they approached me, I thought it would be good to have a look at this.

“I think this is fun and I think other people will think it is fun too. It has certainly got people talking - it is an enchanting idea.

“Their publicity has been mavellous - the only thing I am slightly concerned about is my stage floor. People have really jumped at the opportunity to come and see this, but they are ballerinas. They might be big but they are going to be doing ballet.”

There are also a number of lighter dancers in the company, and one man, but centre stage definitely goes to these Sugar Plump Fairies.

Lowestoft Marina, Friday March 23, box office: 01502 533200, tickets £16.50 and £15.50. Norwich Playhouse, Saturday March 24, box office: 01603 598598, matinee (2.30pm) tickets £15 and £13.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter