February 24, 2022
Latest stop on The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s tour of Britain brought it to Northampton’s Derngate, where an almost full-house enjoyed artistic director Sergei Bobrov’s Cinderella. The ballet follows the traditional spin on the well-known story and, although it takes a while to get going, it makes for a pleasant and sometimes interesting evening.
Bobrov mixes expressionist dance with pleasing light if not especially challenging classical steps. There’s not a lot in the way of virtuosity, for example. There are hints of that expressionism in the Act I kitchen for both Cinderella and the rest of the family, but it’s most apparent in his choreography for the Time Heralds, a constant reminder of that clock ticking towards midnight. Using movement that suggests the mechanics of a timepiece counting down, it’s the one slightly dark aspect of the ballet.
Act I essential introduces the family. As Cinderella, Elena Svinko was modestly graceful in her deep grey with a hint of purple tatters as she tended to the desires of Anastasia Osokina and Yaroslava Bolsunovskaya as her two Stepsisters and Georgy Bolsunovsky’s en travesti Stepmother. A repeated motif has them opening their mouths like fledglings demanding to be fed. It’s just a shame the budget didn’t run to a few bowls, the mime really does not work well.
Although there are other moments of light humour too, mostly from the Stepsisters and Stepmother, and all three are vulgarly flamboyant, Bobrov’s Cinderella never verges on the boorishness that some pantomime can have. Bolsunovsky became increasingly hilarious with his silly expressions, blowing kisses aside at the Prince at the ball, then later making a meal out of taking his lace-up boots off so he could try on the slipper Cinderella left behind at the ball. The latter in particular showed a real comedian at work. The Waltz of the Three Oranges has a neat joke with a smoothie too.
In the kitchen, the backing projections work well, and are used to great effect when Cinderella sees herself in the mirror. At the ball, they are quite garish, though. Backed by images of glistening chandeliers, the corps are in huge wigs and colourful layered dresses (costumes by Valeriy Kungurov). Their very non-classical look and choreography, not on pointe, comes as a surprise but does serve to emphasise that of the Prince and Cinderella. Marcello Pelizzoni was a picture, immaculate and refined in his white and gold suit. He and Svinko made a perfect pair.
After the interval, the Prince travels to find the owner of the slipper gives an excuse for Spanish and Oriental divertissements, the latter including a funny moment when Anna Salenkova’s four male attendants all present their feet to the Prince.
It ends with the romantic couple reunited and in a simple, quiet dance under the stars. Virtuosic it is not, but it probably does speak more of love than most traditional big closing pas de deux. I’m not sure about Cinderella’s skimpy outfit, though, even if it did show well Svinko’s gorgeous lines.
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella may lack the finesse of those of the bigger and wealthier companies, but it sent the Northampton audience home happy. And when many of them seemed to be attending ballet for the first time, you really can’t argue with that.