Imperial Russian Ballet Company at Aotea Centre

By Bernadette Rae

With a name like the Imperial Russian Ballet Company, you would expect a company steeped in tradition and performing to the most exact of classical standards.

Not so. This is one of many companies formed by the new breed of Russian entrepreneurs, who gather up dancers of very mixed ability and set off on world tours where flocks of innocent Westerners, eager for the big Russian ballet experience, await.

As such companies go, the Imperial Russian Ballet Company is not too bad. Its saving grace is the talent of the two principal dancers - the beautiful Aliya Tanykpayeva, as Odette/Odile and Kirill Radev as Prince Siegfried.

Tanykpayeva is an exquisite Odette, with gorgeous arms, who embodies the characteristics of both swan and maiden perfectly and expresses the passions of the role, her love for the prince, her anguish and despair, with convincing integrity.

As Odile, she bewitches with a dangerous sophistication.

She gives an intelligent and captivating performance which is more than matched by Radev, who shows off the strength of his Vaganova technique, its precision, line and control, in dashing style.

His Prince Seigfried rings satisfyingly true.

The lakeside scenes, with a full ensemble of swans, capture the core magic of this most romantic of all the white ballets. The lines are perfect, and produced in unison.

Again, the arms are exquisite and the Dance of the Little Swans (Act II) was picture-postcard perfect throughout.

But the first act is a thoroughly insipid affair, and the Grand Ball of Act III, apart from the appearance of Odile, her duet with Prince Seigfried and the frantic flutterings of the betrayed Odette through a window, is also a washout.

There simply are not the dancers to carry off what should be a serial display of virtuosity.

Two lacklustre jesters add little to the proceedings. And the Stalinesque version - in which a happy ending was decreed - contributed to the sense of anticlimax.

Von Rothbart is the Evil Genius in this version and he meekly slinks off to die at the end, for no apparent reason. The programme notes offer the concept of being carried away to "the temple of everlasting happiness" as a finale.

But it seemed just like the same gloomy old swamp.

 

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