St Petersburg Ballet’s no doubt heartfelt take on the refugee crisis is undone by poor plotting, weak choreography and some astonishingly ill-judged costumes
The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre was founded in 1994 by Konstantin Tachkin, a former soldier turned impresario. In 1998 a promising young graduate named Irina Kolesnikova joined the company, and 18 years later she is its uncontested star. SPBT’s repertoire is built around Kolesnikova; the publicity for its new production, Her Name Was Carmen, describes her as “the world’s leading ballerina” (a claim unblushingly repeated on Kolesnikova’s own website), and the programme contains page after page of photographs of her.
The production relocates the Carmen story to a present-day refugee camp. With Oxfam’s help, Kolesnikova visited camps in the Balkans, and was moved by the plight of the people she met there. But scrappy storytelling by librettist Roman Smirnov and woefully amateurish choreography by Olga Kostel result in a work that is creakily sentimental, expressive neither of the suffering of displaced peoples, nor of the drama of Carmen. The plot centres on the efforts of Carmen (Kolesnikova), a Spaniard of Syrian descent, to escape the violent and lustful attentions of people-smuggler Garcia (Yuri Kovalev), while indulging the love of José (Dmitry Akulinin), a policeman.
This production is trying to have it both ways, reducing the objects of its compassion to an Aladdinesque human backdrop
Source: Guardian Dance News