Review: Chopiniana and Scheherazade by The Abay Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre

Abay Kazakh Ballet in Scheherazade. Photo by the press office of the Abay KSTOB

The Abay Kazakh State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre gave London audiences an opportunity to see two of Mikhail Fokine’s one-act ballets, that many may not have seen before. The one-off performance at the London Coliseum was presented by the country’s UK ambassador, who explained that the visit by the company was part of a ‘cultural assault’ from the country that has a long history of taking rich cultural pickings from other countries around the world. This was their opportunity to show ballet, inspired by their Russian neighbours.

And while the Abay Kazahk Ballet isn’t a top tier company, they did come to London with a quiet confidence that shone through both of Fokine’s ballets. Chopiniana is a classic, dreamy, white romantic ballet, and considered one of Fokine’s masterpieces, set to the score of Chopin. The corps de ballet is central to their purest piece and the company’s dancers were wonderfully in tune, as they created the dreamlike lines and groups of tule with wings on their backs and flowers in their hair.

Zhanel Tukeeva in Chopiniana. Photo by Elena Petrova
Zhanel Tukeeva in Chopiniana. Photo by Elena Petrova

Although a simple looking ballet, the challenging choreography was performed admirably, with strong footwork and long lines with barely a wobble or a hop. It’s this confidence in their technique, that shone through, and in this piece they resisted every urge to overextend and remained understated in their movements.

This delicate performance was in contrast to the confident and expressive performances by Malika Alchibayeva and Azamat Askarov in Scheherazade. With the stage full of jewel-coloured harem girls and bold embellished sultans, the company took Fokine’s tale of desire, betrayal and death and gave their all. Malika, as the Sultan’s wife Zobeide, was quite stunning dressed in bright blue with her super high extensions and glorious deep backbends.

Abay Kazakh Ballet in Scheherazade. Photo by the press office of the Abay KSTOB
Abay Kazakh Ballet in Scheherazade. Photo by the press office of the Abay KSTOB

The robust Azamat, gave a dramatic performance as the Slave love interest, dressed in gold and black, with impressive high jumps and leaps across the stage. Together they shimmied, swirled and snaked around each other with true desire. And while the troupe needed a little extra pep, the supportive audience was appreciative of the company’s presentation of one of Fokine’s ballets that revealed the obsession of the time with the Far East. A good opportunity to see Fokine’s two ballets and enjoyable night at the Coliseum.

Reviewed on 17th of November at the London Coliseum

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