Russian National Ballet
Tsuen Wan Town Hall
Reviewed: October 7
Given Russia's remarkable dance heritage, its ballet continues to be a compelling brand. In recent years, several small companies have capitalised on this and begun making a living by touring abroad.
One such is the Russian National Ballet Theatre, led by Vladimir Moiseyev, formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet and a member of one of Russia's great dance dynasties.
Fresh from touring Australia with a controversial Romeo and Juliet (including a nude scene), the company stopped in Hong Kong for three performances of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty.
The pinnacle of 19th-century ballet, Sleeping Beauty demands absolute classicism and grandeur of style. Sadly, this production failed to come anywhere near doing justice to this masterpiece.
Numerous cuts had been made to the choreography - understandable for a touring production, but, in this instance, more like butchery than surgery. Recorded music and less than brilliant costumes are forgivable when resources are limited, but that shouldn't affect the quality of the dancing.
The corps de ballet looked under-rehearsed, and most of the soloists were below the standard expected of a professional company.
Honourable exceptions were the dancers in the White Cat and Little Red Riding Hood duets of the last act, often vulgarised but here done with genuine charm. In the title role, Natalia Kungurtseva had a pleasing personality and sound, although not outstanding technique. Her Prince, Maxim Romanov, had good elevation, but was handicapped by the small stage.
The evening was redeemed by the magnificent performance of artistic director Moiseyev as Carabosse, the wicked fairy who curses the Sleeping Beauty. The tradition of mime and character dance, so little seen elsewhere, is alive and well in Russia, and it was a real pleasure to watch Moiseyev's mastery of his art as he dominated the stage.