Ballet on ice is a beauty

24 May 04 - Daily Telegraph - Troy Lennon

Ice shows have an undeserved reputation as lowbrow entertainment.

The Sleeping Beauty, by the Imperial Russian Ice Stars, blows that idea out of the water. Elegant, sophisticated, stylish and above all, supremely accomplished, this show is stronger because it is faithful to the original Tchaikovsky ballet.

That did not go down well with some members of the audience, both young and old. When you're expecting it, a ballets divertissements (dances diverting from the main story) can seem like they're going on forever.

The blame for the long divertissments belongs to Tchaikovsky and the choreographers who, to their credit, did not dumb down the art form to fit it to a new medium. By staying true to the format of the ballet, this troupe imbued the ice show with class.

Sleeping Beauty might not be ideal for kids (or parents) with short attention spans, but there were plenty of children in the audience who loved it.

Although it is faithful to the art form of ballet - indeed the Lilac Fairy (Olga Sharutenko) dons point shoes to take to the ice in one scene - the ice skating adds a new dimension. A pirouette becomes a spin on ice, and a pas de deux can feature "death spins" and "twist lifts", which are not in the repertoire of the ordinary ballet artist.

Aerial acts are also thrown in for extra spectacle. Each new amazing trick was greeted with spontaneous applause from the audience, building to thunderous applause for the finale.

The opening night got off to an inauspicious start after problems with the curtain, and the recorded symphonic soundtrack suffered from terrible bass distortion at times, but that failed to detract from the amazing action on stage.

Mandy Woetzel was enchanting as Princess Aurora, her acting as good as her skating.

But the skaters who stole the show were Anton Klykov as Catalabutte and Maria Borovikova as the evil Carabosse, Klykov with his incredible skating prowess and cheeky working of the audience and Borovikova because she made bad look so good.

Comparisons to the Disney ice show franchise are unfair, I think, in that that is aimed at different audiences or at least will please different (by no means mutually exclusive) audiences. Disney is great at what it does and so are the Imperial Russian Ice Stars. There is room enough for both. It all depends on your expectations.

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