The classical ballet company Russian State Ballet of Siberia returns to Norwich Theatre Royal in January with three different ballets from their repertoire. The company, which was founded in 1981, is touring the UK for the eight year in a row and will be performing La Fille mal gardée, Giselle and Cinderella on January 14-16, all danced to music from the live ballet symphony orchestra. According to Sergei Bobrov, the Artistic Director for the company, “it is very special to have the power of a symphony orchestra bringing the choreography to life.” The large company includes dancers from Russia, Spain, Italy Hungary, France and the UK, and their varied repertoire contains comedic, romantic, and even supernatural elements. Head of international touring Sergei Selivanov stated in an interview with the Norwich Theatre Royal that, “Some companies come with just one or two ballets and it is usually, inevitably, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. People do love those stories but it is sometimes not interesting for dancers to dance the same thing for the entire tour.”
The literal translation of “la fille mal gardée” is “the poorly guarded girl.” It is a comedic ballet that first premiered in 1789 with a choreograpy by the French ballet master Jean Dauberval, and has proven very popular in the UK. Legend has it that Dauberval was inspired by the painting Le reprimande/Une jeune fille querellée par sa mere by Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, which depicts a young woman with her clothes askew who is berated by an adult woman in a barn, while her lover can be seen fleeing up the stairs to the loft. Despite, or perhaps because of the story’s naïve simplicity, La Fille mal gardée has turned out to be Dauberval’s most popular and enduring work. The performance has gone through several changes and has had six different scores – the version currently touring the UK with the Russian State Ballet of Siberia is a traditional Russian production performed to the music of Peter Ludwig Hertel.
Giselle is a romantic ballet that was first performed in Paris in 1841. It tells the story of the peasant girl Giselle who dies of a broken heart when it turns out her lover is betrothed to someone else. She is revived by a group of supernatural nymph-like creatures called “Wilis” or “Vilas”, young women who in Slavic mythology was said to have died unmarried and could dance men to death (this undoubtedly inspired the “Veelas” in the Harry Potter saga.) The story of Cinderella is well known, and this version, with music composed by Sergei Prokofiev, first premiered in 1945 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and features one of his most melodious scores (Prokofiev broke off the composition halfway to produce and opera based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace). The ballet is famous for its beautiful staging and costumes, as well as the comic role of the wicked stepsisters who are often played in travesti – by performers of the opposite sex.
Selivanov has explained how the company now uses digital video staging, which enables them to quickly change the backdrop: “It means there is no confusion where scenes are taking place, if it is set in a forest or in the palace, we can help the audience to see it. It helps technically but it also means it can be more spectacular.” He also claims that British audiences seem to particularly appreciate Russian ballet: “This is something that goes back for about a century or so, when Russian ballet became very famous then later with the very first tour of the Bolshoi Ballet in 1956,” he told the Norwich Theatre Royal. “Even now the Bolshoi or the Mariinsky Ballet hold a magic, but they are very big to tour across the country, however Russian ballet is still famous and people love it. And if the standards are still high people will come to see the ballet.”
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia comes to the Norwich Theatre Royal in 2019, with La Fille mal gardée playing on Monday 14 January, 7.30pm, Giselle on Tuesday 15 January, 7.30pm, and Cinderella on Wednesday 16 January, 2.30pm & 7.30pm.