La Fille mal gardee/The Sleeping Beauty – The Russian State Ballet of Siberia: New Wimbledon Theatre, 30 & 31 January 2012

Feeling hot, hot, hot

I’m sure you need a boat for water-skiing. Anna Aulle and Dmitry Sobolevsky pull the strings in La Fille mal gardee.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia put on a couple of impressive displays at the New Wimbledon Theatre. The opening night pastoral delights of La Fille mal gardée may not seem the obvious repertoire for a Russian company but it was superior to The Sleeping Beauty performed the following night.

This was not the Frederick Ashton Fille that regulars of the Royal Ballet will be used to. The pretty choreography is based around Alexander Gorsky’s 1903 revival, the humdrum music is by Peter Ludwig Hertel and the silly plot is played down (there’s much less emphasis on Alain’s character, for example, and, praise the lord, there are no chickens). There are still pink ribbons, a maypole and a clog dance to enjoy (although the rubber clogs could do with a microphone).

Anna Aulle and Dmitry Sobolevsky made excellent leads. Aulle is an utterly charming Lise; easy to fall in love with she possesses an elegant grace of movement and a fine habit of holding tambourines above her head and whacking them with her feet. Sobolevsky made a cheeky Colas with a prodigious leap and a dazzling pair of azure blue tights. Together they were the epitome of joyously frustrated young lovers.

Alexander Kuimov downplayed the wackiness of Widow Simone to just the right degree and Denis Pogorely made the best of Alain’s gormlessness. There was plenty of clean, unfussy work in the corps too.

The Sleeping Beauty, by contrast, was stodgy in its storytelling, exemplified by Kirill Litvinenko’s untidy landings as Prince Désiré. However, after a shaky opening salvo, Maria Kuimova recovered to deliver a perfectly balanced rose adage and become a graceful Princess Aurora. Litvinenko and Kuimova danced perfectly correctly together but were missing an inspirational spark to bring the story alive, although they weren’t helped by the orchestra’s leisurely tempo and its regular replacement of Tchaikovsky’s notes with squeaks and scratches.

It was left to the well-executed ‘fairytale’ dances to bring a bit of extra sparkle to the show. Ivan Karnaukhov and Natalia Bobrova’s notoriously tricky Bluebird pas de deux was performed with particular panache, especially through Karnaukhov’s soaring leaps, and Alexandra Lukicheva made a delicious Little Red Riding Hood.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia produces its dancers through its own school based in Krasnoyarsk and the incredible control on pointe of all the girls and the strong jumps and partnering of the men is testament to that. An excellent company.

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