The Russian State Ballet of Siberia may be based 3,500 miles away, but you could say it does more to promote ballet in the UK than many of our own companies. This is its 18th UK tour, zigzagging across the country with a small troupe of dancers, a live orchestra and a bagful of classical ballets, mostly the obvious (Swan Lake, Nutcracker etc) and one lesser known story, The Snow Maiden.
Not to be confused with The Snow Queen, it’s the Russian folk tale of a magical snow maiden who wishes to live and love among people, but when given the capacity for human emotions, she melts under the sun. There’s plenty of potential for a ballerina to explore the limpid fragility of her icy form and emotional transformation, but Natalia Bobrova in the title role remains pleasantly impassive throughout (her dancing is perfectly nice).
Georgy Bolsunovsky puts in the most dramatic effort as cocky merchant Mizgir, an entitled cad who picks a wife out of a lineup of villagers but then drops her for the supernatural snow girl (shades of La Sylphide). When all goes awry, he finds angst and gusto in his grand allegro. And as his poor ex, Elena Svinko manages some elegant sadness alongside her lovely long lines.
The choreography by artistic director Sergei Bobrov and Mark Peretokin is unspectacular, although it has some nice lifts. There’s a general lack of brio – even on a small stage you can dance with energy and joy – and the tragedy is slight. They’re hindered by the score, made of incidental music Tchaikovsky wrote for a play of the same title (plus some other choice extracts); it’s missing the composer’s magnificent melodies and the magical affinity between music and steps. In the first act especially the sound is sometimes turgid, very much the mood of an orchestra midway through an 84-date tour.
But the fact is, it’s an 84-date UK tour. You’re never going to get the Bolshoi doing that, or the Royal Ballet. At under two hours, Bobrov and co keep things tight, with nice costumes and snowy CGI backdrop. If you take it for what it is, this is a perfectly serviceable evening at the ballet.