Monday, 5 May 2014

An Even Better Show: the Bristol Russians by the Sea

On 16 Feb 2014 the Bristol Russian Youth Ballet Company and their special guest stars Arionel Vargas and Elena Glurdjidze danced Cinderella in Stockport to raise money for Reuben's Retreat. It was a good show which I reviewed in "Good Show - Bristol Russians' Cinderella in Stockport" 19 Feb 2014. Yesterday, substantially the same cast danced the same work at the Playhouse Theatre in Weston Super Mare.  In my view, in that of others who had seen both performances and in the view of at least one member of the cast, they did even better this time.

There are several respects in which yesterday's performance appeared to be better than the previous one. The first is that they danced with greater confidence and panache.  The visual jokes such as the faux pas of Cinderella's sisters danced again by Caitlin Anstis and Paige Pullin or the tussle over the outside orange between the king (David Wilson), his minister (William Griffin), the sisters and their mother (Yury Demakov) seemed funnier. The Spanish princess's dance was performed haughtily yet alluringly by Ellie Wilson. Even the stars, Vargas and Glurdjidze, seemed to sparkle more. The second respect in which yesterday was better was that the choreography appeared to have been revised. It was slicker and smoother - especially the children's dances in Act I. In this production there were birds as well as mice with boys as well as girls. All the important bits were retained such as the pas de deux when the prince spots Cinderella at the ball and falls in love with her, the comic attempts by the sisters and mother to force their feet into the glass slipper and the delicious moment when Cinderella produces her slipper to the prince. The third respect in which yesterday was better was that the company had an even more receptive audience in Weston than in Stockport. The auditorium was full. There were very few empty seats in the stalls and not many in the circle so far as I could see. Overhearing conversations in the bar at the interval and in the seats around me it was clear that many had seen ballet before and knew what to look for. Certainly, the audience knew when to clap.  Ballet, like the other performing arts, is a two way communication and the mood of an audience can make or break an evening.

There are several reasons for yesterday's success.  First, the cast had danced this work before in Stockport. They knew that they worked well together and that the audience had liked them. Hence the confidence, panache and sparkle. Secondly, they were on home turf before a West Country audience. This is very much a Bristol company. It was clear from the conversations that I overheard that there was lots of local pride.  Very much the same pride as I had noted in Chelmsford when the Chelmsford Ballet Company performed The Nutcracker on 19 March 2014 (see "The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy" 20 March 2014). In Stockport, the Bristol Russians had to enlist the help of local dance schools for some of the roles and their students danced very well. But in Weston the company could use their own pupils, all of whom are good and some of whom show considerable promise.

That promise was demonstrated by the Underwater Kingdom Scene from The Little Humpbacked Horse, one of the classics of the Russian ballet but one that is rarely seen in England. The music is by Cesare Pugni who also wrote the score for Diana and Actaeon which Michaela dePrince and Sho Yamada of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company dance so well  (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam" 24 Nov 2013) and are soon bringing to London.  The Underwater Kingdom had big and little pearls, corals, star fish and seaweed for students of all ages and both sexes swimming in the ocean that was the domain of David Wilson. That ballet was danced immediately before Cinderella and was a lovely taster. Most importantly it showed what the school and company can do without English National Ballet superstars. It has turned me into a fan and I shall follow and support their future productions.

The only respect in which yesterday's performance might have been improved was in the operation of the curtain and the lights. The music started when the house lights were still blazing. Somewhat disconcertingly as I was in the middle of a tweet about the show. Twice the curtain rose after the applause had ceased and one of those was for the youngest children who deserved a roar but received somewhat less acclaim.

After the show I met David Wilson at the stage door again. I had a slightly longer chat with him this time about the performance and his job in Silicon Valley.  I am delighted for him. My graduate school was in California and I know the state well. There is a lot of good ballet there.  I am sure all my readers will join me in wishing him well.  David started DaveTriesBallet blog and took his first ballet lessons in New Jersey.  It will be interesting to read his adventures in the West.  While waiting for Dave I was introduced to Ellie Wilson who is as delightful to meet as she is to watch on stage. She is in her first year at the Rambert School and again I am sure everyone will also join me in wishing her all the best.   Last but not least I met Alex or BristolBillyBob in Weston, one of the regulars at BalletcoForum.  It was good to make his acquaintance and I look forward to meeting him again.

Finally, a word about Reuben's Retreat. Before the show one of the managers came on stage and told Reuben's story, the efforts of his parents to remember him and the success of the charity so far for which he received thunderous applause. Recently, the charity announced that it had acquired property in the Peak District for accommodation for families of children with life threatening or limiting conditions (see Grace Nolan "North West charity announces property purchase" 25 April 2014 Huddled). The Bristol Russians and their guest stars have helped to make that possible for which all of us in the North are grateful.

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