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RUSSIAN NATIONAL BALLET - REVIEW (article first published : 1999-11-4)

While Durban ballet lovers, starved of good classical works, rejoiced in the second tour of the Russian National Ballet, I had reservations about the performance presented in Durban - particularly on the opening night. This is a top class international company and so it was therefore distressing to watch the dancers performing to a distorted soundtrack and, while the principals acquitted themselves well, the corps de ballet were less disciplined, appearing out of step and uncoordinated.

In Ludwig Minkusís Paquita, a full-length one-act ballet which was first produced in September 1847 in St Petersburg, Russia, Natalia Koungourtseva seemed unsure of herself. On the other hand, the opening item set to the Allegro movement of Tchaikovskyís 6th Symphony saw a strong male ensemble execute Vitaly Zabelinís flamboyant choreography with control and panache.

Tsofia Tomilina and Nurlan Abugaliev were completely at one in their performance choreographed by Boris Messerer to Sergei Rachmaninov's Spring Waters but, for me, the highlight of the evening was the performance by Renata Petrova (who fast became an audience favourite) and Vladimir Gousev in Isaac Albenizís Spanish Duet Legenda choreographed by Serguei Radtchenko.

The second half of the programme was given over to Act III, the wedding scene of Sleeping Beauty. This was beautifully presented but I was concerned to note the lack of concentration and occasional upstaging by members of the corps de ballet placed at the back of the stage. Not the kind of behaviour one would expect from such a company.

All the costumes were superb, particularly a flowing red dress and its partially transparent frilled underskirt worn in Legendaas well as the frothy delicately-coloured tutus in Paquita.




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