The Mandela Johannesburg Theatre
The Imperial Russian Ballet has once again returned to South African shores for a whirlwind tour of the country’s major centres. Last stop was The Mandela Johannesburg Theatre, where the small cast presented a programme which included a repeat of the Maya Murdmaa choreography of Carmina Burana and a variety of showpieces from the classical repertoire (Don Quixote, Spartacus and Walpurgis Night)
Although there were a number of highlights throughout the evening, more so in the second half of the programme, the performance overall was somewhat disappointing. Russian ballet conjures up expectations of dazzling performance and superb technical ability, and while the dancers were technically sound, one was left with the impression that they were not used to their full capacity. This left the performance lacking in wow! factor.
Highlights in the Carmina Burana were the pas de deux featuring the beautiful lines and exquisite arms of the ethereal Ekaterina Tikanova, and the exuberant drinking scene with some energetic, athletic dancing from the male cast. The scenes depicting the more sensual aspects of the piece lacked the bawdiness and raw energy demanded from this 13th century-inspired masterpiece.
The cast appeared to gain energy in Act II, opening with a very pleasing performance of Gounod’s Walpurgis Night and a delightfully delicate scene where Pan plays his pipes while the three nymphs float across the floor gracefully with their chiffon scarves. The role of Pan was masterfully interpreted with playfulness and excellent acrobatic ability.
The highlight of the evening was the emotionally charged performance by Anna Pashkova of Don’t Leave Me to Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas. The contemporary choreography played to Pashkova’s technical abilities and allowed her to display in movement pain, rage and grief. Beautiful to watch!
The performance ended with a rousing rendition of Offenbach’s Can Can, with a memorable drag performance by Igor Subbortin as the Lady in Red. The two cavaliers impressed with the astounding speed of fouettés and their acrobatic tumbles. The final curtain closed to the Radetsky March which had the audience clapping with enthusiasm.
Altogether a pleasant evening, but one would hope that a return visit would include a more exciting programme that would allow the dancers more scope to truly show off their dancing prowess and interpretive abilities.
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