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Kazakh State Ballet – Coliseum 17/11/19


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Chopiniana and Scheherezade

Knowing little about the Kazakh ballet except there would be recorded music instead of a live orchestra, which is understandable, I didn’t know what to expect.  A Kazakh representative introduced the evening as being part of Kazakhstan’s ‘worldwide cultural offensive’.  Kazakhs, descendants of Genghis Khan, were nomadic people who loved to embrace all kinds of foreign culture.  The two very contrasting items on the programme had been chosen to show just what this company can do.

 

Chopiniana was beautifully danced – not technically perfect, but charming.  However Scheherezade was gorgeous, luscious, and performed with panache – especially by Ulan Badenov as the Golden Slave and Malika Elchibayeva as the sultan’s favourite wife. The audience, which seemed nearly full from where I sat, was suitably enthusiastic.

 

As an aside, I noticed that the women dancers had much curvier figures than what we are used to nowadays; I’m not suggesting they were in any way overweight – they weren’t, but they did have busts and waists and hips reminiscent of earlier dancers such as Fonteyn, and as a result were more aesthetically pleasing than the board-shaped torsos we so often see today.  I wonder what types of exercise result in these differences, and if anything could be done to stop the androgenisation of some female dancers?

 

The company were only in London for the one night.  I mused on what a delight it was to enjoy this performance from young people from so far away, from a very different culture.  Ballet is a universal language with which they could communicate; our loud clapping was likewise an appreciative response which could be understood across language barriers.

 

I am unable to attach even small pics to this message so will try to do so in a separate one.

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30 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

As an aside, I noticed that the women dancers had much curvier figures than what we are used to nowadays; I’m not suggesting they were in any way overweight – they weren’t, but they did have busts and waists and hips reminiscent of earlier dancers such as Fonteyn, and as a result were more aesthetically pleasing than the board-shaped torsos we so often see today.  I wonder what types of exercise result in these differences, and if anything could be done to stop the androgenisation of some female dancers?

 

 

Funny you should say that, maryrose..., because I was sitting watching the Bolshoi this afternoon and wishing the dancers didn't all look so tall and skinny (they may not technically be tall, but it's all down to proportions).  Thanks for the report - I was wondering how it went, but the cheapest seats when I looked a day or two ago were £45, so I gave it a miss.

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"I noticed that the women dancers had much curvier figures than what we are used to nowadays" said maryroseatonapin ... they did, and delightful they were, cool and controlled in Chopiniana (which sadly the Trocs ruined for me a long while ago) and playfully lascivious in Scheherazade. But the men were also noticeably well-nourished : I don't know what the rations in the slave quarters were, but they were obviously not calorie controlled. Turkish Delight and Baclava maybe... Also, I think had I been Scheherazade I should have been very happy to have stayed true to the Sultan...

Having seen the Astana Ballet a few weeks back with a completely different repertoire it was interesting to see this take on classicism - the Kazakh Ambassador to the UK in his introductory speech did say that they had received considerable help from their friends in Russia with the sprucing up of the company. He also intimated that Kazakhstan was on the cultural offensive at the moment and is making appearances here in several branches of the arts. Good - it is always fascinating to see dance from far away!

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Interesting viewpoints.... I too hate this all too often merging of the genders when looking at physique that seems too often the popular choice of Artistic Directors & so has become the aspired to look for our young dancers. I love variety & that is what evolution has given us in this human race. I get it that uniformity is often used to great effect in ballet (nothing more stunning than a large wonderfully matched Corps of Swans!) but I also love it when in some more contemporary pieces a form of uniting is achieved just by costume.... either all the same or often just same colour but with the designs well matched to the individual body shapes which in turn are used to contrast & compliment each other. 

Vive la difference!!

to add... are they performing elsewhere in UK? 

Edited by Peanut68
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5 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

are they performing elsewhere in UK? 

I couldn't find any other tour dates at all, let alone in Britain.  It seems it was a one-off; maybe a trial, maybe the beginning of more. I also tried to find out more about Kazakhstan and it seems to be a relatively wealthy country (oil) so maybe they are in a position to nurture their arts, and maybe they are ambitious to gain greater respect in the wider world. 

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This is the second major ballet company from Kazakhstan to appear recently in London. Astana Ballet performed at the ROH for a few days at the end of September. (Links 22 September.) There is a huge push from Kazakhstan to raise its profile on the world stage in general as it redefines its national identity after years of being part of the Soviet bloc. For example,  the Astana cycling team is a major player in cycling. It’s a relatively wealthy country and is investing in the arts.

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9 minutes ago, rowan said:

There is a huge push from Kazakhstan to raise its profile on the world stage in general as it redefines its national identity after years of being part of the Soviet bloc.

 

I don’t want to stray into politics, but I think there are other reasons Kazakhstan might be looking to improve its image overseas.

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Yes, but let’s not go there... All sorts of geopolitical and diplomatic machinations behind the scenes, hence the cultural push from the embassy, etc. I didn’t see either company, though a friend of mine saw Astana Ballet on the off-chance and raved about them. 

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1 hour ago, rowan said:

Yes, but let’s not go there... All sorts of geopolitical and diplomatic machinations behind the scenes, hence the cultural push from the embassy, etc. I didn’t see either company, though a friend of mine saw Astana Ballet on the off-chance and raved about them. 

I saw Astana and thought they were very worthwhile. There were a couple of rough edges in parts but they had a lot of talent. I liked the tango fusion piece and the Edith Piaf songs best.

 

I really liked the variety in the programme.

 

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