Russian Return For Coppelia

The Russians are back! The incredible Russian State Ballet Of Siberia made a triumphant return to the Grand Theatre last month with a series of classic ballets including Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and my favourite Coppelia.

For those who may not know the plot its the age old story of boy meets girl, boy then meets robot girl, first girl pretends to be robot girl, boy realises he was happy with the first girl all along, they all dance. It’s a cracker. It’s nice to see that people dressed up for the occasion and everyone is very smart looking as the packed to the rafters audience file in and settle down to enjoy the show.

The curtain rises to the orchestra’s overture ( I do like a live band) and a set which is as simple as it is violently coloured is revealed. As bright as a dozen chocolate boxes the setting of a town square and simple fronted toy makers shop with second floor window is all the company needs to spin the tale, its all that is needed as nothing could compete with the company as they hit the stage. So many humans of absolute physical perfection are not often gathered in one place outside of an Avengers movie (not including The Hulk obviously). Every member of the dozen or so cast are the peak of what a human can be, they move with a grace that is almost tear inducing in its fluidity and the dance begins in earnest. Every move is considered, every sweep is refined to a balance that is simply astounding and leaves you wondering how a human body can do that. The costumes are a bright Eastern European blur of colour as the company weave the tale of misplaced affections and true love revealed. It is a masterclass in movement and grace.

For someone who doesn’t know the language of ballet Coppelia is a great start and way in to the form, it is all non verbal and the plot self evident, there is laughter and sighs of delight from the audience as the two leads Ekaterina Bulgutova and Gregory Bolsunovskiy glide across the stage. The rest of the cast are stunning as well as the jolly townsfolk (who at one point are dancing with cakes of all things) and to not mention Alexander Kuimov and Elena Latina as toy maker and his doll would be a crime as they are wonderful to watch as the main support. The show weaves towards its climatic wedding sequence via a section in UV which was like watching an 18th century version of Tron. The lovers are united in their passion and all ends well, lovely stuff.

When I told people I was going to the Russian State Ballet some were jealous, some raised an eyebrow, but some looked like I had told them I was going to shoot a puppy at the thought of it. I wondered why there was such a strong adverse reaction by some, and can only think that ballet, often like opera can seem quite intimidating to some, it’s very much the crystallisation of what is viewed as ‘high art’ and the lofty province of culture with a large ‘C’. This view can mean that ballet is off putting to a lot of people, an impenetrable experience that creates a wall between them and the subject that makes Donald Trump’s dreams seem small in scale.

The truth is that ballet is a more familiar experience than a lot of people think, the stories and themes are universal, the spectacle no different than a Cirque Du Whatever West End blockbuster, and the form an incredibly heightened (and infinitely more trained) version of the ‘strictly’ and ‘urban’ dance forms that are so popular these days. If The Russian State Ballet Of Siberia are anything to go by the doors to this delightful form of theatre are thankfully wide open to all.

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