Winter ballet to warm hearts in Norwich from the Russian State Ballet of Siberia
- Credit: Archant
They may hail from one of the remotest regions in the world but that has not stopped the company, back on their 15th tour, from becoming one of Europe's most popular and respected.
For 35 years, the Russian Ballet of Siberia has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as one of Eastern Europe's finest ballet companies.
It may be based in one of the world's most inhospitable regions of the globe but its home of Krasnoyarsk mixes cold temperatures with high culture and is known for its high quality and mix of performances in a host of genres.
Despite its remote locations, the city boasts some of Russia's most beautiful architecture, and is proving to be one of Northern Asia's cultural hot-spots.
The company itself was formed in 1981 under the artistic directorship of Sergei Bobrov and has attracted dancers from across Russia who have built on their skills and artistry with an ever-expanding repertoire of ballet favourites mixed with new works.
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Each piece is also performed to the live accompaniment of the Russian State Ballet Orchestra of Siberia meaning a 70-strong company of dancers and musicians.
Sergei said: 'It is always a pleasure to bring the unique traditions of Russian ballet to British audiences. Touring with a full company of dancers as well as highly skilled musicians is always exciting. For me, it is very special to have the power of a symphony orchestra bringing the choreography to life.'
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The company have proved to be popular visitors and in 2017 they return to both Norwich Theatre Royal this week following their sell-out dates last year.
Sergei has both extended the repertoire and created his own versions of many ballet classics with the company and that is very much in evidence on the programmes of their two visits to the region.
On the programme is La Fille mal gardée, renowned as one of the oldest ballets to be performed. With an English translated title of The Wayward Daughter, it follows the story of a gentle farm boy who is also in love with a popular but flirty farmer's daughter.
As Sergei explains, the situation is made more complicated as 'the mother wishes to marry her daughter off to a rich fiancé in this comic ballet which sees true love crush all obstacles.'
La Fille mal gardée was the creation of Jean Dauberval, one of the greatest choreographers of his day. He was trained under the influential teacher Noverre, and is further distinguished as the teacher of Charles Didelot, known today as 'the father of Russian ballet'.
Recreated by Alexander Gorsky, the gentle story mixes romance and rivalry, and features maypole and clog dancing as well as the virtuoso pas de deux, and is a must-see for fans of classic ballet.
The company also performs a ballet popular with families — and ideal for first-time ballet goers. In Norwich that comes in the shape of Coppélia, telling the story of Franz who finds himself falling in love with the doll in the title who is created by the eccentric toymaker Dr Coppelius, and set to Delibes' very lively score. It is left to Franz's sweetheart Swanilda to try and tempt him back, but how?
Completing the run will be the greatest romantic ballet of all time Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky's haunting and poignant score is the setting for this tale of doomed romance complete with stunning set-pieces in the opulent Palace ballroom and the moon-lit water which is home to the swans.
Sergei said a lot of work goes into each performance. He stresses is the amount of time he spends on each production from the initial idea through to bringing the finished piece to the stage.
He said: 'From the moment of conception of the idea to realization of the performance takes around one and a half years.'
With rehearsals in Siberia running from 10am through to the end of an evening performance or rehearsal. Even on days where the company is resting, there is still work to be done.
'At that time, I am busy with art workshops because each production requires very spectacular costumes and scenery,' he said.
And he promises the local audiences will be able to enjoy something very special. 'During a tour all is clear and calm. We come completely ready. My task is only to maintain the quality. The number of performances on the UK tour is very big compared to the number we would do in Krasnoyarsk so it is not easy.'
One of the company who will be performing is principal dancer Anna Fedosova, who is looking forward to being back on stage in the region.
She said: 'I will be performing in all the ballets and my favourite is Swan Lake, because this is the most beautiful and the most elegant role for ballerina. Every little girl learning ballet dreams of dancing this character during her career.'
But the joy of being part of one of her favourite ballets is matched with a need to keep her discipline high to ensure she gives a tip top performance. Anna explained: 'I get up early in the morning and have my breakfast which I prepare the day before going outside for a walk. After that, I travel to the theatre and start doing ballet class. After that, there is a rehearsal, a short time to get ready for performance, and then the show starts.
'Normally I need half an hour to warm myself up before going on stage and I do warm up in my special way flexing and stretching legs and arms. I also need to keep my muscles warm between rehearsals and between show acts and for that I use wool warmers and sweaters.'
But despite the demands of the performance, she enjoys the opportunity to be in England. 'It is a country that I like a lot. I would like to learn more about British culture and I have liked everything I have seen so far. Before joining this company, I did not travel much in my life. I have visited Turkey and Bulgaria recently though and had a great time with my friends,' she said.
And does she have any advice for young people wanting to follow in her footsteps and aim to become a global performer? She suggests: 'You need to fall in love with dancing and everything you do on stage, and then the audience will fall in love with you.'
So good advice from one of Europe's rising ballet stars who is looking forward to sharing her expertise, style and flair with East Anglian theatre audiences and those across the rest of the country.
t Russian State Ballet of Siberia will be at Norwich Theatre Royal performing Coppélia on January 26, 7.30pm/La Fille mal gardée, January 27, 7.30pm/Swan Lake, January 28, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets £36-£8-£36, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk