Swansea Ballet Russe - Giselle - Crescent Theatre, Birmingham
The Crescent Theatre is quite a small venue, seating perhaps 400 people. Generally the theatre is home to dramatic works and musicals, and it has a reputation of staging quite adventurous new works. I have always felt that this is an ideal theatre in which to stage small works of ballet, such as an evening of diverstissements. Now Giselle is not really a "small" ballet and as I sat waiting for the curtain to rise, I wondered how it would translate to the small stage.
The CD music quickly revealed a problem either with the theatre's PA system or perhaps it was the ballet company's equipment. There was considerable RF interference either from the radios of taxis or the walkie-talkies of the house staff. The were odd snatches of "duck-talk" repeated during the score. Quite off-putting really.
The set consisted of a nicely painted backdrop of some mountains scenes and there was the obligatory rustic cottage to stage left. At stage right was a rock and a bench. Small ballet companies often dispense with scenery and it was nice to see that there was some real sets in use. The rock proved to be very convenient for hiding a sword and a cloak.
I checked the companies web-site before I attended (www.balletrusse.narod.ru). It has some nice background information about the history of company and small biographies about some of the dancers. The links section includes a link to this very web site; this shows their web-designer has impeccable taste! Interestingly the web site is hosted in Russia (.ru) and the company is based in Wales.
Generally I thought the production was well handled and there was some very capable dancing, especially by Svetlana Kozhanova (Giselle). Her first act solo was very capable danced, the sequence of pas de chevals being just as delicate as any others that I have seen . There were only 11 in the cast and so there were a couple of doublings up and abbreviations. Still most of the choreography is intact, including all the good bits.
The corps in the first act had 4 harvest girls, which was exactly the correct number for the size of the Crescent Stage. Had there been any more, there would have been numerous collisions. Initially I thought the corps looked a bit bored (just going through the motions) but as the performance went on, they looked more interested. The costumes were quite simple, consisting of a white tutu skirt and coloured bodice, but they looked OK.
For the second act, there is a small cross to one side of the stage and some head stone at the rear. Myrthe (Olga Ovchinnikova) was one of the harvest girls in the first act, her place in the corps being filled by Bathilde (Chika Temma). I suspect that they regularly swap roles around judging by photos on the flyer, the web site and in the program. The corps all looked suitably haughty during the Wilies scenes. I much prefer the second act to the first and I was not disappointed in what I saw.
On a slightly negative note, Hillarion (Yuri Demakov) looked perpetually worried. This is really a role that I feel offers little scope until the dance of death in the second act. This was danced well if a little ragged in places. Having said that if I could dance half as good I would be a very happy chap! Also Albrecht Oleg Kozhanov) has possibly the worse haircut ever (unless you count mine). Very wild, it almost had a life of it's own. Still I was there for the dancing and he gave a good showing, even if some of his sequences were a bit unfinished in places. Also the floor was very squeaky, to the point of being off-putting. I think it is the fault of the marley they used.
At a mere £12 for a night of ballet, I was extremely impressed with what I saw, and I will see them again if possible. They are much better than most of the other smaller Russian companies touring the country. All these present the same standard fare, Giselle, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, etc. Exactly the ballets I am quite happy to continue to see.