Choreographers: Mikhail Fokine, Gulzhan Tutkibaeva and Toni Candeloro
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
London is in the midst of a Kazakhstan “cultural assault,” one which has seen a mini-film festival, a dance performance by the Astana Ballet Company at the Royal Opera House and inclusion in the Lord Mayor’s Show earlier in November. Now, for one night only at the Coliseum, Abay Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Company showcases its multi-talented performers with two one-act productions of Scheherazade / Chopiniana.
Chopiniana is a most romantic of dance pieces, in which a young poet imagines a troupe of dreamlike sylphs in the woodland moonlight, and with no plot as such becomes enchanted by their classical beauty. In fact, visual beauty is at the heart of this ballet choreographed by Mikhail Fokine and revived by Gulzhan Tutkibaeva which fills the stage with wonderful pictures as the four soloists and corps de ballet give elegant life to Chopin’s numerous piano pieces.
At every point, the wonderful corps create the frame in which the other dancers weave their magic, often still and in set poses they surround the stage with shape and different forms of composition, lines, circles and packs, moving only when needed to suggest emphasis and tone in the music. Meanwhile, soloists Rakhim Dairov as the poet, Dinara Yessentayeva, Zhanel Tukeeva and Arisa Hashimoto respond to Chopin’s changing mood with slow graceful movements, light and sprightly to reflect the dreamlike romanticism of this most classical ballet – gorgeous.
The second piece Scheherazade is quite different in tone and flavour, dramatizing an incident in which a jealous Sultan catches his favourite wife fraternising with a male slave when she thinks her husband is on a hunting trip. Here both Toni Candeloro and Daniele Ament’s costumes and Fokine’s choreography revived by Candeloro give the full flavour of Middle Eastern dance with movements drawn from belly dancing in particular, using the seductive swaying of the hip to imply the erotic charge between the furtive lovers.
With less for the wider company to do in the first half of this 30-minute ballet except watch the two nonetheless excellent soloist Malika Elichinayeva and Azamat Askarov, the large stage feels a bit too empty, the cavorting couple lost in the empty space. But in the final third a party erupts as different groups of dancers appear in striking colour, a sequence that is full of vibrancy until the Sultan returns for a doom-laden finale.
Together Scheherazade / Chopiniana are a delightful pairing that offer contrasting but enthralling depictions of love and community while this skilled and athletic company showing a flair for creating striking visual images as well as high-quality performance. The Kazakhstan “cultural assault” may be multi-faceted but London has already surrendered.
Runs Until: 17 November 2019 | Image: press office of the Abay KSTOB