Why you should see Russian State Ballet in Hull this week

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It’s the return to Hull New Theatre this week of the Russian State Ballet of Siberia who bravely bring a different ballet to audiences each evening. Last night’s production was Giselle; a favourite of mine and I was really looking forward to seeing it.

I love the music and I adore the choreography. This is a ballet I could watch time and time again.

It’s a charming and yet dark tale of a young village girl, Giselle, who falls in love. The young man she falls in love with is Count Albrecht (she doesn’t know this) and they become betrothed. Unknown to Giselle, the Count is already betrothed to a noblewoman (the cad). Meanwhile, Giselle’s mother is hoping that Giselle will marry local forester Hans, but Giselle spurns his attentions.

One day a local hunting party rest in the village and among them is the noblewoman that Count Albrecht is betrothed to. Giselle, who loves dancing, dances for the nobles and is given a necklace by the noblewoman after she tells her that she too is engaged, albeit neither knowing it’s to the same man.

The noblewoman rests in Giselle’s home and when the hunting party arrives back, she goes out to meet them. Count Albrecht meets her as his betrothed and Giselle sees this and realises the meaning of  this greeting.  This is too much for Giselle and the innocent village girl goes into shock, madness and then  kills herself.

Unfortunately, the spirits of the betrothed young women who die before they are married join the Wilis. Ghostly apparitions who haunt the forest at night.  Local superstition is that if a man crosses their path he is doomed to dance until he dies.

That’s the first act.

Giselle was beautifully and sympathetically danced by Anna Feosova, portraying the innocence of a young village girl.  She danced sweetly and shared a beautiful pas de deux with her betrothed the elegant and long limbed Yury Kudryavtsev  who danced with an air of nobility.  Although I felt his face could have expressed more feeling his dancing is beautiful and elegant.   Hans, the forester was more expressive and it is a pity this character does not receive better choreography.  Giselle is supported in the first act by her villager friends who  were made up of the Corps de Ballet and who were a lovely addition to the first act.

Act two takes place in the forest.  Hans is keeping vigil by Giselle’s grave. As midnight approaches Hans flees as he knows the Wilis materialise at midnight. There was clever special effects on the rear scenery to represent the Wilis rising from their graves which gave the act an ethereal feel. I have not seen another company do this and it was charming.

Related: See what’s on at Hull New Theatre

Myrtha (the Queen of the Wilis and danced by Miryam Roca Cruz) appears and summons the Wilis who all join her on stage.  Together they summon Giselle from her grave to join them.    Count Albrecht appears to lay flowers on Giselle’s grave and the Wilis disperse.  Count Albrecht sees Giselle’s spirit and follows her into the forest.

Meanwhile the Wilis have pursued Hans and force him to dance to his death.  He pleads for his life  with Myrtha several times and each time she denies him and he must continue to dance.  Hans dies of exhaustion.

The Wilis who know that Albrecht is in the forest now hunt him down.  Giselle tries to protect him and pleads with Myrtha.  We are treated to beautiful pas de deux from Giselle and Albrecht (one of my favourites) and Albrecht dances like fury (executing a superb set of entrechat six) but as he collapses, dawn breaks.  The Wilis power fades and they return to their graves.  There is a further touching pas de deux between Giselle and Albrecht before she too has to return to her grave and Albrecht leaves.    The romantic in me is touched that Giselle’s love for Albrecht helped to save him, the cynic in me tells me he didn’t deserve saving for being a two timing rat.

The Wilis were danced by the Corps de Ballet and the two senior Wilis were danced by Nerea Ballesteros and North Lincs dancer Perdita-Jayne Lancaster, two lovely dancers who complemented one another well.    It was a pity that Giselle slipped a couple of times – most notably in the second act but she recovered well and made the error seem part of the story.

This is a small company but well trained and their ballets are well put together.  Scenery is minimal for a travelling country but I didn’t mind as it’s the dancers who tell the story.  If you want a relaxing evening with a live orchestra and beautiful dancing then do go along and support this company.  I should add there is a further local connection in that ‘Matty’ Konstantinos Karavos (one of the dancers) is a local lad and it’s lovely to see him dance in his hometown again.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia are performing for two more days at Hull New Theatre. They’ll be performing Cinderella tonight (Wed 20th Feb) followed by The Nutcracker on Thursday (21st Feb). Tickets available from just £19.50 at hulltheatres.co.uk