A ballet in need of a bit of clog*

La Fille Mal Gardée

Russian State Ballet of Siberia

Wolverhampton Grand

****

I DON'T know the Russian for clog irons, or even if such things are available in Mother Russia but this ballet sure needs some.

A feature of Frederick Ashton's whimsical comic ballet of rural life is the clog dance performed by Widow Simone, the rich farmer's widow and perhaps the nearest you will ever get to a pantomime dame in ballet.

Alexander Kuimov milks the part for all it is worth - oh yes he does – so it is a pity that when it comes to his celebrated solo he is provided with an elaborate pair of clogs with what appear to be rubber soles – he might as well have been handed a pair of slippers.

The result is rather like someone doing a tap dance in trainers. The steps might be there but the whole purpose of Ashton's choreography dictating clogs, the clatter and rhythm, are lost, which is a great pity as Kuimov did a fine job as the widow, giving the part a real sense of fun.

Star of the show was Natalia Bobrova as her wayward daughter Lise who refuses to marry the village idiot, Alain (Denis Pogorely), son of rich vineyard owner Thomas (Arseny Bormotov) preferring instead the young, and not so rich, farmer Colas (Vyacheslav Kapustin).

DELIGHTFUL DANCER

She is a delightful and graceful dancer and her partnership with the athletic Kapustin, another fine dancer, always worked well. It would bee interesting to see her in a more demanding, classical role from her repertoire such as Odette/Odile from Swan Lake..

Pogorely is also worth a mention playing Alain who is more than a few kopecks short of a rouble. He manages the exaggerated expressions and movements of an advanced case of idiocy well appearing with hobby horse, butterfly net and umbrella, wobbly legs, fear in his heart and confusion in his wide eyes under a shock of red hair.

But when he has to actually dance he manages some deft touches and skill in making some difficult moves not only look easy but also gave them an ungainly tweak

The production might not have the opulence or budget of Birmingham Royal Ballet's version of last March  – which even had Peregrine the miniature pony making an appearance – but it makes up for that with its charm and the enthusiasm of the young cast.

The costumes are bright and cheerful and the orchestra, under Alexander Yudasin gave a good account of themselves hidden away in the depths under the stage. It might not be a spectacular production, but it is a solid one with a couple of real stars. All it needs are some wooden soled clogs or some irons . . . . 20-02-12

The Russian State Ballet will perform  Swan Lake tonight (21-02-12) and Sleeping Beauty on Wednesday (22-02-12)

Roger Clarke

*It appears after some investigation that the clogs used in this version of the ballet are traditional Russian clogs so in Russian eyes it is seen as a clog dance. Cultural differences you see. The views from the reviews, which are after all impressions of the performance, still stand.

Meanwhile from the back of the tractor . . .

***

AS in most theatre events, there is a moment in this comic ballet which people in the audience eagerly look forward to - when rich widow Madam Simone gets her clogs on in the second act.

It's a classic scene, but sadly in this Russian version it lost much of its impact. The clogs seemed to have rubber soles, so the exciting clatter of the dance was largely lost. Nor did the music create the expected thrill.

Such a shame, because overall the ballet, recreated by Alexander Gorsky, contained many amusing items as well as beautifully choreographed dancing and delightful costumes.

There is a splendid pantomime-dame-style performance from Alexander Kuimov as Widow Simone who is determined to marry off her pretty daughter, Lise, to Alain, the dimwitted son of a wealthy vinyard owner.

The arranged marriage plan stalls, however, because Lise, superbly danced by Natalia Bobrova, is in love with Colas, a young farm worker, played by Vyacheslav Kapustin. The couple dance perfectly together, and Denis Pogorely proves that although playing a simpleton, he is an exceptional dancer.

This ballet was staged on Monday, with the company performing Swan Lake on Tuesday and Sleeping Beauty on Wednesday. The orchestra was conducted by Alexander Yudasin.

Paul Marston 

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