The Russian Siberian Ballet here in Cardiff, is a staple of the Christmas period at St David’s Hall for what feels like many years now. Although there is some famous and safe material, there is the occasional lesser performed work which is also of interest.
Whilst the music is by Tchaikovsky, this Snow Maiden is not originally a ballet, but rather the incidental music for the play by Ostrovsky. This is where the flaws lie. It explains some of the odd structure of the story and includes some decent, not remarkable, music compared with other works. Whilst the musicians do a grand job of bringing all this to life, the brass had the odd hiccup. Conductor Anatoliy Chepurmoy is hard to observe in the dark, though he does have a mastery over these players. He lets it be known when we have not clapped enough for his players, gesturing that we should also give them applause as he drives to the podium.
The ballet itself is lavish. The Russian story is an intriguing one involving love rectangles, a father expectations for a child and finding love again after heartbreak. Even for ballet, this story is sparsely put throughout the ballet, with many dances routines. The troupe members here leave you spellbound in their physicality and grandeur. We might have detected the odd slip and trip, but the efforts these dancers pout into their craft should never be underestimated. A brief moment of colour does emerge as Spring, mother of the Snow Maiden comforts her child. Clad in bright greens, this is a refreshing interlude from the browns of the village and whites from the snowy landscapes.
The lead dancers are also noteworthy here as they tackle these roles with a determination. You cannot take your eyes off them, such is the whirlwind formulate around you. We feel for Kupava who loses her husband to the allure of the Maiden and her plight is all the more bittersweet when we see the outcome of this fickle relationship has formed between her partner and the Maiden. I did like how the Maiden melted away here, in a brief moment of theatricality, slipping down from the rostrum and hiding there till the scene change.
Although I usually gush about the Siberian Ballet, here I am playing if safe and recommending their other ballet offering this Christmas. The Nutcracker is an enhancing experience, which should win you over. Swan Lake is a classic and a must for anyone who ever wanted to see the ballet for the first time. My personal recommendation is for their Cinderella by Prokofiev, a shocking and moving twist on the story with a chilling opening and Midnight sequence. Take your pick!
Russian State Ballet of Siberia continues at St David’s Hall with further performance of Snow Maiden, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Cinderella till 31st December 2018.
This review is supported by Wales Critics Fund.