The company used to be known as the Swansea Pavlov Ballet, and the program I purchased still says this; obviously they are using up old stock. Several artists featured in the program are no longer with the company; in fact I saw some of them last week with the Russian National Ballet. The theatre itself is stunning, with a soaring round top proscenium arch, surrounded by a brightly painted plaster fruit frieze. Burgundy walls and plush red velvet seats. I found it a somewhat surreal experience, being in such an ornate theatre in such an obscure place (with my apologies to the locals!).
The program consisted of Les Sylphides and a Gala Concert, the later bring a series of pdd's from well known ballets. Sadly the auditorium was practically empty, with an audience of maybe 50. I guess the theatre seats about 750. The music was taped and sounded very "dirty"; not sure if this was due to the speakers, the building or the recording itself. All the dancers were unknown to me, although one lady did look familiar, so I have probably seen her with another of the Russian companies that are on perpetual tour of Britain.
Les Sylphides looked quite lifeless really. The man was danced by Alexander Mishchenko, who is quite tall. The program says he "uses his height to quite stunning effect. When he leaps he seems to become airborne." Well I did not get that impression at all. His leaps seemed very average to me. The mazurka was well danced by one of the company's guest artists Guzel Gareeva; she used her arms with a grace that I have rarely seen. For the pdd (Julia Papeeva and A Mishchenko), I got the impression she was very much better that he. In fact, watching the miles away expression on his face, bought memories of the Trocks doing Les Sylphides. On the whole I would rather have seen the Trocks! Incidentally part of the music sounded very much like Giselle (the part were she is going mad and remembering making her dress). Am I mistaken ?
The second half opened with "Carmen Suite - A Fragment from the ballet", which for me was the highlight of the evening. This was performed by Guzel Gareeva and Zhanat Atymtayev. Her costume was nothing more than a red velvet leotard with black tassels, but it worked very well. The program does not identify the horeography. Parts of it looked very Balanchine like to me, especially the very deep penchee where-by the lady turns under her own leg. She opens with a very impressive series of very high front kicks during which she catches her legs. The Toreador gave a good account of himself, although some of his hand gestures were very un-Spanish. Both made excellent eye contact with each other and with the audience. One could almost feel the Spanish heat rather than the Welsh rain.
Next came Odette and Siegfried, danced by Kathryn Alcock and Mikhail Vorona. This was the first of three Swan Lake pieces we would see. The piece had no sparkle but the choreography was by the book, so it was probably well danced. The audience quite liked it. I'm afraid I cannot be objective when it comes to Swan Lake, so I will was no more.
The third piece I did not know, being a pdd from Carnival of Venice. This was by Elena Alexeeva and A Mishchenko. I found this quite stilted and I felt it looked like a series of moves nicked from Swan Lake. After the first part, there was a look of visible relief in Mishchencko's face, unless he was just pysching himself up for his big solo. Both solos were without exuberance. Very restrained.
The Blind Girl was next, danced by Julia Papeeva and Yuri Demakov, and was again a piece I didn't know. Maybe someone out there in cyberland can tell me more about it, as I cannot find it in any of my books. The mime in this was obvious but well executed. I found this quite an emotional piece and would like to see it again.
Seeing as we are nearly in December the Nutcracker pdd was quite appropriate. This was by Evgenia Enikeeva and Viktor Pivovarov. Parts of it were very good and parts quite untidy. The exits from the pirouettes lacked crispness. Maybe I have been spoiled by seeing Leticia Muller and Andrew Murphy (BRB) dance this piece to perfection on more than one occasion. Sugar Plum Fairy made an appearance after the pdd; the audience were very audible in their recognition of this piece. This was quite pretty to watch, but then it usually is. The prince's big solo had some nice elevation.
Finally there were two more pieces from Swan Lake, the Spanish dance performed by Sara Knight and Mikhail Vorona and Odile and Siegfried by Chika Temma and Zhanat Atymtayev. The costumes in the Spanish dance were suitably good looking. While not brilliant, I quite liked this piece. Her backbends were very deep! The Odile/Siegfried pdd was the section centred on the 32 fouettes. She attempted these (no doubt with someone's finger hovering over the pause button). The first couple were doubles and it felt like about 24 to me. The audience were suitably impressed. I'm afraid I don't like to see this scene in isolation; I think it looks quite silly out of context. Still on the whole I liked this bit and Miss Temma looked very haughty.
She is the dancer I think I have seen before.
In spite of the fairly average performances, one certainly cannot complain about the cost. Entrance was a mere £5.50 and I reckon this was outstanding value for money. It is not often one can see an evening of ballet (with some quite good bits) for such a low price. If only there had been more people to share this vision with. These are the prices that will get bums on seats. During the intermission I overheard one audience member asking the theatre manageress if the company would be back next year ? High praise indeed.