Review: The Snow Maiden - The Russian State Ballet Of Siberia @ SDH
The Russian State Ballet & Orchestra of Siberia - The Snow Maiden
St David's Hall, Cardiff
Sunday 20th December 2015
I was thrilled to learn that The Russian State Ballet of Siberia is doing a tour around the UK this year.
I don't claim to know much about the ballet from a technical point of view, but being raised in Russia sooner or later you grow to love ballet as one of the finest and most sophisticated forms of performance art.
My first introduction to ballet happened years ago, when my mum took me to the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg to see Swan Lake. Needless to say, it was one fantastic performance that deeply touched the feelings of a 12-year-old. I've seen quite a few ballets since then, but the ones by Tchaikovsky always hold a special place in my heart.
During their UK 2016 tour The Russian State ballet of Siberia is doing several performances across the country: Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle and a new production of Snow Maiden. The latter happened to be my first acquaintance with the troupe.
The Snow Maiden ballet is based on Alexander Ostrovsky's play Snegurochka (From Russian: Snow Maiden) and it premiered in 1873 with incidental music by Tchaikovsky.
"Set in the snow covered landscape of rural Russia" (The Snow Maiden synopsis, The Russian State Baller of Siberia), at first glance The Snow Maiden might come across as a simple tragic love story. She's a beautiful creature that doesn't belong in our world and he's an ordinary merchant from the village - from the very beginning we know they're not meant to be, but The Snow Maiden is more than that. It's the story of circle of life, it's the contrast between the mercantile human world and the sublime natural world, it's the mourning of death and celebration of life itself.
To my disappointment I saw very little of that in a new production of The Snow Maiden by The Russian State Ballet of Siberia.
It seemed to me that most of the symbolism was buried under the layers of unnecessarily obvious acting with weighty, sometimes even clumsy gestures and miming of every emotion. Another thing that negatively surprised me was the costumes decision: instead of traditional-looking Russian folk costumes, most of the villagers wore clothes that reminded me of the skiing and ice skating outfits, which made the whole scene look somewhat ridiculous. More disappointing than that, though, was the dancing. Scenes with more than two people on stage obviously needed more rehearsing, however kids in the audience did enjoy snowflakes falling down and villagers getting accidentally wrapped in colourful ribbons.
On the other hand, the lead dancers Ekaterina Bulgutova (Snow Maiden) and Elena Pogorelaya (Kupava) both were excellent and natural on stage: the Maiden, light and charming just as the role requires, and Kupava, graceful and magnetising, proudly dancing her way into a new life. The two of them and the three dancers that played Skomorokhs have saved the show for me.
All in all, The Snow Maiden by The Russian State Ballet of Siberia is a captivating performance that I would recommend to see in future, a couple of seasons from now, when the show is in a better shape.
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