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Fresh flavour but a little flat

Don Quixote. The Imperial Russian Ballet Company. Canberra Theatre, May 5 and 6.

Most Australian ballet goers are used to a particular production of Don Quixote – that of Rudolf Nureyev, which was first staged here in the early 1970s. It is something of a staple in this country now. So it was  refreshing to see a different production, one that follows the same story but that has a quite different flavour to it. There is, for example, much more sense of it being set in Spain. This is especially so towards the end where a tavern scene before the wedding of the main characters, Kitri and Basilio, has a fiery flamenco encounter between the hostess in the tavern and a street dancer. The encounter is accompanied by much standing on tables, stamping and shouts of encouragement.

The evening, however, got off to a slow start and I felt the lack of live music to animate the rather lack-lustre opening scene, even though most of the cast were entertaining enough. Things warmed up as the night went on. The gypsy leader, Dinu Blmaga, stirred things along a little at the beginning of Act II with some fine dancing and  the audience fell in with his assertive performance and began to become more involved with the action.

As Kitri and Basilio, Lina Seveliova and Nariman Bekzhanov performed the showy choreography well enough and some of Seveliova’s pirouettes in a circle and on the diagonal were nothing short of brilliant.

But the standout dancer for me was Radamaria Duminica, who played one of Kitri’s friends. She has a beautifully proportioned body and a clean and controlled technique. With her stretched, straight back she looks elegant without seeming superior – every inch the dancer. And she has a gorgeous smile that lights up the stage. Another dancer, who I think was Dauren Nurzhanov, also stood out for me. Still in the corps de ballet, he had an expansiveness to his movements that made him stand apart even in his very minor roles.

This company sets out to entertain. I enjoyed being entertained but I would love also to be transported by dancers who inhabit their roles with a bit more depth. I always get the feeling from the Imperial Russian Ballet that they are doing a good job but that it is just that, a job.

I want the heart and soul, and love that the program talks about  showing up more through the dancing and characterisation. The performance doesn’t always ring true to me.

I also wish the company would announce who was performing on a particular night, either with a cast sheet to supplement the program or just over the public address system before the curtain goes up. Guessing (sometimes wrongly I am sure) from photographs in the program is not ideal.