Lina Seveliova enchants in Imperial Russian Ballet’s Swan Lake
Sarah Navin, Bachtrack,
19th October 2019
Stepping into the regal grandeur of Sydney’s State Theatre, you’re immediately transported into a truly magnificent bygone era. Sweeping marble staircases, sparkling chandeliers, lavish velvet drapes and exquisite copper detailing… with even more surprises as you arch your neck to survey the intricacies of the vast ceiling. What better backdrop for the world’s most famous ballet, Swan Lake? And even more fitting to see it performed by the Imperial Russian Ballet Company, with Russia home to the first ever Swan Lake, premiering at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1877.
A gothic tapestry shields the stage before curtain-up, in moody greys. The performance is presented in four scenes over two acts – opening to a party in the garden of Prince Siegfried’s castle, to celebrate his coming of age. Flowing dresses with embroidered bodices in soft lemon, and later apricot and olive tones, fluttered across the stage in this cheerful scene. The dancers displayed excellent control, lightly skipping across the floor with silent landings out of jumps. The Jokers are a crowd favourite throughout, performed by Denys Simon and Ruslan Soengoshev. As the cast surrounded the stage sipping from grand chalices, Simon executed a series of straight-legged barrel roll turns, becoming increasingly horizontal to the floor – met with robust applause. The jokers whipped themselves around in springy double-turn jumps… the speed and silliness of these much-adored characters giving the audience a chuckle.
The arrival of the swans is one of those exhale moments – it’s what we all came for, a sea of textured white bell tutus embellished with feathered wings and pearled headpieces. Swan Lake is quintessentially a dance of the arms and the Imperial’s corps de ballet perfects ‘feminine’ and ‘floaty’. At one stage, the dancers made two vertical lines and as their arms lowered, they aligned in a soft, satisfying symmetry. The brokenness of the swans trapped under an evil spell was beautifully captured through the collapsing wing motif and the drooped wrists, delicately forming the head of the swan. The much-anticipated Dance of the Cygnets to the wonderfully familiar Tchaikovsky score was near precision… the four dancers feet moving as carbon copies of each other, but the heads falling just short. Mist rose from the floor to create a haze beneath the tutus in an eerie blend of white against the shadows, closing the first act.
Lina Seveliova has been the company’s Principal Dancer since 2012 and was an absolute stand-out as Swan Princess Odette. There was a divine moment in the pas de deux with Prince Siegfried where her developpé froze in the air, before she lifted her leg even higher in a showcase of remarkable strength, then collapsed backward into her prince’s arms in a beautiful backbend. She also delivered more than thirty continuous fouettées and razor-sharp quadruple chaînés at remarkable speed. Seveliova’s biggest credits though were her stunning grace and vulnerability, shifting to a more seductive and deceptive persona as Odile. At every stage, she was perfection. Odile’s black tiara bejewelled with rainbow gemstones was the most exquisite costume-piece.
Nariman Bekzhanov’s sky-high leaps sliced the air as Siegfried and while his technical skills were strong, the emotional depth wasn’t there for the portrayal of a believable love story. The synergy between Vladimir Dorofeev as the Sorcerer, shadowing the Prince, made for a dramatic storm scene to Tchaikovsky’s intoxicating music. However, Bekzhanov didn’t carry the audience through the feelings of adoration and betrayal – so integral to evoking the triumph over tragedy (or rather trickery) that is the essence of this romantic fairy tale. Seveliova’s journey of love and longing was visible throughout as Odette, and it was not quite matched by her prince.
The company, led by Artistic Director Gediminas Taranda, has impressive technical prowess. Sweeping extensions and romantic choreography was interspersed with a scattering of playful jokers and vibrant cultural dances, Spanish fans and frills included. The alluring beauty of the swans was a sight to behold in this strictly traditional and most enchanting production.
The Imperial Russian Ballet Company’s Swan Lake will dazzle five more Australian theatres, before touring New Zealand in November.
Reviewed by Sarah Navin, Bachtrack
From Russia With Love.
Damien Lee, Brisbane Spectrum,
11th October 2019
There was a buzz of excitement at the Ipswich Civic Centre last Friday night, as local ballet enthusiasts prepared to take in the majesty and technical brilliance of the Imperial Russian Ballet Company as they presented “Swan Lake” to the appreciative crowd.
Leading this company of 40 dancers, selected from the major ballet schools of Russia, is the Bolshoi’s Gediminas Taranda, who has tweaked and scaled this production so that it can play as many regional centres as possible.
“Swan Lake” is one of the iconic and much loved classical ballets of all time. While this production largely follows the traditional storyline and choreography, Taranda has added his own flair and interpretations in part which certainly brings this piece into a new era. The light and shade gains the perfect response from laughter to emotional sighs, as they audience is swept from the palace to the lake and back again.
Lina Seveliova, dancing the dual roles of Odette-Odile is an absolute tour de force on stage. Her principal ballerina status is well deserved as she displays such strength and skill in her performance. Seveliova was captivating from start to finish.
The ensemble of dancers are well drilled, rehearsed and get the opportunity to showcase their talents individually as the ballet progresses. In true Russian style, their technique is precise, and well executed, and they all look beautiful to watch.
The costumes, scenery and lighting is befitting any company, and bring the colour and energy to the ballet. The company fills the stage in a brilliant performance of ballet, all set to the sweeping Tchaikovsky score. The much anticipated “Dance of the Cygnets” didn’t disappoint scoring a heartfelt round of applause from the appreciative audience.
As the Company was taking their bows, the audience were cheering, yelling for more and bravo. I agree whole heartedly. Bravo Russian Imperial Ballet for bringing Swan Lake to the regions. More, More and More please as I know many leaving the Ipswich Civic Centre were already thinking toward 2020 and the next chance to see the company present “The Nutcracker” and “Don Quixote.”
Don’t miss this company, it’s ballet at its finest that will leave you wanting more.
Reviewed by Damien Lee – Brisbane Spectrum
Lina Seveliova is a true ballerina. Her Odette perfectly captured the gentle preening and serenity of the swan, contrasting the seductive flash and technical brilliance of her dazzling Odile.
Bill Stephens OAM, Canberra Critics Circle,
15th September 2019
For many people “Swan Lake” IS classical ballet. No surprise then that these two Canberra performances by The Imperial Russian Ballet Company have been sold out for weeks, providing an auspicious start to an extensive tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Through its annual visits over the years with colourful productions of classical ballet favourites, the company, under the artistic directorship of Gediminas Taranda, has built up a well-earned reputation for the quality of its dancers and its excellent production values.
This year’s production of “Swan Lake” lives up to that reputation. It’s a very traditional Russian production in which the four scenes are presented in two halves. Danced to an excellent recorded soundtrack, the ballet opens with a party in the garden of Prince Siegfried’s castle where the guest gather in preparation for a ball that night at which Siegfried is to select a bride from four young women selected by his mother.
This scene introduces the company by providing opportunity for a series of well-staged ensemble dances which are beautifully executed by the dancers costumed in pretty softly flowing costumes in muted shades. The costumes for the ballroom scene retain the muted palette with the soloists costumed in brilliant reds, blacks and golds for the specialty dances.
For the most part, this production adheres to the original Petipa choreography, but Taranda is himself an inventive choreographer, and has taken the opportunity to add pizzazz, particularly to the ensemble dances in the opening scene, and in the ballroom, with masterful flourishes and groupings to heighten the excitement and spectacle.
He wisely left Petipa’s original choreography intact however for both the white scenes, and with 18 swans moving in perfect unison, filling the stage, costumed in elegant, gently drooping tutus, the effect is as mesmerising as you could wish.
Dancing the dual roles of Odette-Odile, Lina Seveliova is a true ballerina. Beautiful placement, graceful arms and back, impeccably phrased dancing, she appeared completely engrossed in each of her characters. Her Odette perfectly captured the gentle preening and serenity of the swan, contrasting the seductive flash and technical brilliance of her dazzling Odile.
Offering a rather under-stated interpretation as Prince Siegfried, Nariman Bekzhanov nevertheless partnered Seveliova attentively and negotiated the technical demands of the role with aplomb, while elegant Vladimir Dorofeev successfully captured the dark menace of the evil Sorcerer.
The national dances in the ballroom scene provided opportunity for tantalising glimpses of the depth of talent among the handsome well-drilled ensemble which impressed with the attention paid to the detail of the choreography. Outstanding, not only because of their eye-catching red costumes, The two Jokers, Denys Simon and Ruslan Soengoshev, danced with irresistible verve, with Simon displaying particular panache with his characterisation.
Between now and the 27th October, The Imperial Russian Ballet Company will visit 22 centres throughout Australia during their 2019 tour, before heading to New Zealand. If they head your way, don’t miss the opportunity to see this lovely production.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens – Canberra Critics Circle
‘Carmen’ stands out in triple bill
Penny Neilson, Otago Daily Times. Regent Theatre,
24th November 2018
The Imperial Russian Ballet Company return with their triple bill featuring Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides and Carmen.
Act one is the final act from Sleeping Beauty: Princess Aurora’s wedding to Prince Desire. The partnering of Lina Seveliova and Nariman Bekzhanov was strong and technically adept, but lacked a little in chemistry.
The wedding guests included many favourite fairytale characters, but it was Puss in Boots and the White Pussycat that charmed with their coquettish playfulness.
The pair of Bluebirds were gorgeous with their lyrical and expressive performance – he with his impressive elevation and allegro, and she with beautiful delicacy.
A change in the order of the programme saw Carmen performed as the second act. It provided the drama and intensity for the evening – something that really would have been better as the finale.
The iconic character of the gypsy Carmen is an independent free spirit; she is a seductress and was performed with fierce attitude by Anna Pashkova.
Her suitors Don Jose (Bekzhanov) and the Torero (Ivan Zviagintsev) valiantly fought for her affections, but this act, and in fact the evening, belonged to Pashkova, who owned every step, every pose, every look.
After such high drama the programme returned to another classical and more subdued ballet, Les Sylphides.
Offering dancers resplendent in long white tutus, this is a romantic ballet that has no real narrative save for a young poet stumbling upon a group of “Sylphs”, and is set to a series of pieces by Chopin. It is demanding on the corps, who were unwavering in their positions (often long held).
This triple bill is a brilliant way for the company to showcase different ballets and for the audience to get an evening of classics with a bit of sass thrown in to excite and entertain.
Reviewed by Penny Neilson – Otago Daily Times