LAST EDITED ON 25-11-01 AT 12:16 PM (GMT)
St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, a 45-strong company directed by Konstantin Tatchkin, commenced its four-month UK tour in the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton in mid-November. The repertory consisted solely of the three Tchaikovsky classics - "Swan Lake" "Nutcracker" which already toured Britain last year, and above all a new production of "The Sleeping Beauty" which just premiered in its home theatre in Liteiny Prospect in St. Petersburg several weeks ago. This new production of "Beauty" was first seen in Britain last Sunday at the Swan Theatre in High Wycombe.
I saw each of the three classics once last week in both venues. The new "Beauty", with attractive sets and costumes designed by Semion Pastukh and Galina Solovieva respectively, is mainly based on the previous Kirov Ballet's version by Konstantin Sergeyev but has some unexpected innovations. Aurora is pricked by a rose instead of by the needles fulfilling Carabosse's curse, hence the Rose Adagio earlier is danced with carnations instead. In the hunting party scene there is a dancing bear introduced. Curiously Florimund doesn't kiss Aurora in the pavilion to awaken her, but instead touches her with a rose.
The text of Konstantin Sergeyev's 1950 version of "Swan Lake", which is danced by the Kirov nowadays, is also faithfully reproduced in St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre's production of "Swan Lake".
Of more interest is the company's "Nutcracker" based on Vasily Vainonen's 1934 production for the Kirov, which the Kirov performed in London Coliseum in December 1996. Vainonen's production is stretched into three acts instead of the customary two acts. The first act ends with the departure of the party guests, and the second act begins with Clara returning to the drawing room at night to retrieve her nutcracker doll. St. Petersburg Ballet's production has some additional choreography in the snowflakes scene by Svetlana Efremova, a former Kirov dancer who is now a ballet mistress of the company. Efremova has introduced two demi-soloists in the snowflakes scene. There is a solo for the Snow Queen set to some music from Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana (which Balanchine made into a masterpiece in 1981). And there is also a beautiful additional pas de deux for Clara and the Nutcracker Prince in the snowflakes scene which ends memorably with Clara balancing on pointe on a veil dragged across the stage by the Prince.
In this Vainonen version the grand pas de deux in Act 3 in Confiturembourg is danced in the presence of four attendant cavaliers. The Waltz of the Flowers has a curious moment when the corps de ballet girls along a line are lifted high by their respective cavaliers.
The ending sees Drosselmeyer retrieve the nutcracker doll from Clara who is still asleep and places a crown on her head. And when Clara awakens from her dream, she touches the crown which she clearly remembers that she wore when she danced the grand pas de deux.
The dancers of the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, which was only founded in 1994, were mainly recruited from the Vaganova Academy, which perhaps explains the good schooling of the corps de ballet. While this young company is obviously not Kirov-standard, their overall dancing is nevertheless very decent. The male dancers howver make more of an impression than the women.
The company possesses an excellent pure classical danseur in the 21-year-old principal Yuri Gloukhikh who trained in the Vaganova Academy. Tall and handsome, this blond dancer has a pleasing long and thin line and a noble bearing that reminds me of Vladimir Malakhov when he was still dancing with the Moscow Classical Ballet in the late 1980s. Gloukhikh has a high elevation in his jumps, and his acting has a naturalistic style. His Siegfried and Florimund were outstandingly good.
A younger and even taller principal dancer is the 18-year-old Kiev-trained Aleksandr Zhembrovskiy (who was two years below the Royal Ballet principal Alina Cojocaru in the Kiev Ballet School). His Nutcracker Prince was stylishly danced, revealing his great potential. He also danced Blue bird.
Unexpectedly the first nights of each the three classics in Wolverhampton and High Wycombe had the same dancer - Irina Kolesnikova - in the ballerina role. Kolesnikova was at her best as Clara in "Nutcracker". Anastassia Kolegova danced gorgeously in the Snow Queen solo.
The orchestra of the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre played beautifully each night under the baton of Aleksandr Kantorov. The company will eventually reach London on Sunday 13 January 2002 when it will give a single performance of "The Sleeping Beauty" at the Royal Albert Hall.