Let me first start by praising this event and how the birth of the digital age has been fantastic, not just for ballet companies and audiences but independent, arts-based cinemas such as the QFT. In the last number of years, we have seen more and more of these types of events, firstly with theatre but ballet is perfect as there is a vast audience who do not have the opportunity to see world-class ballet, we either have to travel or do without but now that cinemas have the technology for satellite link-ups, it brings us company that is undeniably the finest in the World. What I also really enjoy about live satellite link-ups, is that audiences around the globe are watching it at the same time and you can connect via social media and discuss what we have seen in each act, during intervals. The audiences have also been very strong for these performances with many sold out which is encouraging, although, I would comment that the majority of the audience was in the older age bracket so it would be nice to see some younger members in the audience, especially some children as this is such a great opportunity to see some of the finest dancing in the world and be inspired by the spectacle.
This was my first look at the newly renovated home of the Bolshoi and the spiritual home of ballet. The theatre is imperial green and gold with balconies in a light cream, it reminded of the design of a Faberge egg. The ballet was introduced by former dancer, Katya Novikova as we see the dancers warm up behind her. The ballet was a collaboration between the elder choreographer and one of the greatest in ballet, Petipa and the young composer, Glazunov. Glazunov was pupil to the old master, Petipa whom we are informed, gave him every step. This was not a ballet I had seen or heard of but the choreography was sensational, scene after scene, dance after dance, we are left breathless and gob-smacked by the choreography and how it is beautifully executed. The first act is a pure classical affair with young lovers in all their purity, wooing each other, enjoying a birthday party but also the young Nobelwoman, Raymonda, seeing her fiancé off to war for the Hungarian King. The costumes follow blocks of colour which creates an interesting back-drop but we all know that the real are stars are in the costumes and we don’t need anything to add to this. Blue is the stand-our colour of the first act, golds and oranges in the second and black and white in the third with leading dancers bucking the colour trend to stand out from the crowd. The leads establish themselves as the romantic characters that they are going to be throughout the ballet. As her fiancé leaves, he gives her a veil which is a pledge of his troth and he heads off to war leaving Raymonda to wander alone in the enchanted garden. The Bolshoi have around two hundred dancers in their company which is a phenomenal resource and a lot of dancers are put to good use. As Raymonda falls asleep, the garden, at its most enchanting best, sees the corps arranged as a magnificent flower with its petals closed and then blooming open to reveal Raymonda’s love. We are treated to another romantic pas de deaux and although the two main characters are a dreamy romantic couple, I did not tire of them and there is enough going on with the corps, solo dancers and character artists to keep attention riveted. The Principles, this evening danced by Maria Alexandrova and Ruslan Skvortsov as Jean de Brienne, the heroic knight. At the end of this enchanting pas de deux, we are introduced to the last of our leading characters but a character role, rather than a pure classical role, Abderakhman, danced by Pavel Dimitrichenko. Abderakhman is the antithesis of Jean de Brienne, he is pure character with large, accentuated eyes that take Raymonda in and he shows off his prowess by leaping high into the air in a challenge against the romantic character. He basically says look at me in a show of virility and the leaps are magnificent and the audience gasp as we realise the power that must go into springing him up and turning over in the air. We were mesmerised by this character but like Raymonda, a little scared. She suddenly wakes from the dream as she foresees her capture as her heart still lies with her knight.
The second act began with the continuation of her birthday party with Raymonda dancing with her two friends again and all the members of the court. The menacing Abderakhman arrives with his entourage of Turk dancers to wow his possible conquest and although Raymonda shows moments of being impressed, she is also repelled and ultimately, despite his strength and strength of feeling for Raymonda, after a long scene of showing off his court, she rejects him but we are treated to a large variety as the character roles befits. There are some gorgeous solo spots as well. One half of the corps is dressed in Turkish costumes and do a lot of leaping and stamping of feet, the other half are classical with tutus and surround Raymonda and just as her dream which turns into a nightmare is to be fulfilled, her hero returns from fighting for the Hungarian King, to rescue his maiden from the arms of the brigand or in this case, the combined power of a corps of ballerinas. The King is the one that this can only be settled by some one on one sword fighting. Sparks literally fly off their swords and Abderakhman looks as if he has the strength and power over de Brienne but his downfall is that he doesn’t just want to cart Raymonda off to have his wicked way with her and hold her captive but what is driving him is her love and as he looks at her, this is when de Brienne strikes him on the head and he falls dead, looking at his love, Raymonda. The two betrotheds are reunited and blessed by the King. Act two closes with such a tender pas de deux. I wish that all love and love stories can be represented like this and given this strength of feeling. I was swept away by the beauty and tenderness of the love and that love can be demonstrated so powerfully whilst maintaining its’ purity and that it can also be a happy ever after.
The third and final act is the wedding with it’s festivities and dancing. The style of dance is Hungarian, more foot stamping and clapping of hands. In contrast to the normal wedding costumes and the black and white, Raymonda is in blue. Again the leads dazzle as their chance to show off their prowess comes round. There are soloists, male and female in an Eastern-style dance and costume and her friends who encouraged her pure relationship with de Brienne who bless this union. The ballet ends with the Knight and his beautiful bride walking up the steps and we all wish them well and the corps of the Bolshoi turn to their leads and they are eventually left on their own to take their applause.
The cast certainly deserved this applause. This was a traditional ballet with all romance, dastardly baddie trying to pull the young lovers apart, a breathtaking corps and some of the most superb dancing that I have seen as befits the world’s leading ballet company, leading in the size of their company as well as their technique and schooling. This ended the season on a high and in perfect classical style. The last ballet that I saw was the Royal’s Prince of the Pagoda’s, I couldn’t fail to make comparisons and unfavourable ones, at that. Pagoda’s was a classical, romantic ballet but the choreography did not capture my attention and astonishment the way this did. The choreography was a masterclass, there were many different styles and characters. The music was another massive part of the success of this ballet and Glazunov’s score matched the choreography and the orchestra were superb. The Russian dancers are so confident in their technique and well-schooled that they seem to have so much time and their arm movement and placement is gorgeous and so expressive where there faces may be a little bit two dimensional, happy/ sad but who cares about this. I love the way their feet on retire is higher than any other dancers, about half-way up their thigh. The male dancers were well served with the choreography and did not just provide an arm or two for the Prima Ballerina but were strong, characterful, although the part of Abderackhman is very memorable as it is so full of character and we all love to boo and hiss at a good baddie but the dancer who danced Jean de Brienne, you couldn’t help but fall in love with.
The only slight downside and one that we should agree on and that is an etiquette for watching live theatre, should we clap or not or maybe the beauty is that it is spontaneous and that fact that the performers are not affected by the applause, although, it does show our appreciation to the film theatre staff who may be moved by the palpable demonstration of our enthusiasm. This is a very brilliant time for us and the digital age has allowed us to enjoy ballet that is global and world-leading whilst sitting in comfy seats and getting closer to the action than the audience themselves and actually get to see behind the red curtain which is fascinating and real. The clapping and bowing during the performance is a particularly Russian thing which makes me laugh but at times slightly frustrated as I would like to see the work all the way through with the dancers maintaining their characters but as long as are aware of this, doesn’t get in the way of what a delight this was.
This was a superb afternoon’s entertainment and only wish that I could have gone to more and is a slight shame that they are only offered on one day but I will be looking forward with great relish to the new programme and there are some really interesting ballets below although maybe not all will be screened, so keep checking cinema listings at: http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com/home/
Sunday 30th September, La Sylphide
Sunday 21st October, Swan Lake
Sunday 25th November, Pharaoh’s Daughter
Sunday 16th December, The Nutcracker
Sudany 27th January, La Bayadere
Sunday 10th February, Don Quixote
Sunday 31st March, The Rite of Spring
Sunday 12th May, Romeo and Juliet