The Dulux Ballet: a backstage view


is characterising this new touring production, set during the 2011 revolutions, as a “missionary of the heart” rather than a “typical fanfare”. The combination of dancers and musicians is ideal, he says, to perform the Russian national anthem to the audience before the ballet starts, a genuine gesture intended to reach out to all countries.


He does not feel this need to “give the audience something they think is sacred”: “It’s an art form and a form of entertainment,” he says. “It’s in and out, not something that you should linger over. We do it, and that’s it.” Choreographed by himself and the London company’s artistic director, Kate Yard, it tells the story of a little girl growing up in 1917 Moscow in a family of artists and musicians; they join in a protest against the new revolutionary government and are rounded up. When the regime falls, they are released, and the resulting joy and celebration proves to be bittersweet.


The version I saw was a compellingly fresh, balletic retelling of the traditional Nutcracker story, filmed in situ by 24 cameras and shot on super-16mm with a 35mm camera. Close-ups of the dancers and odd encounters between heroes and villains were evocative and consistently bizarre, while the music – from Prokofiev and Basia Svęba – pulses with energy and emotion. “We took care to write a ballet that people would enjoy,” says L, praising the dancing, “a jazzier, slightly more energetic ballet than the TV version”.

‘Urban clash’ … Gennadi Nedvigin as Fritz and Oleksandr Tkachenko as Ratkin in St Petersburg. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

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The company has a strong following in Europe and Israel, and is also popular in other parts of the former Soviet Union; but, says L, the show has yet to be seen by many theatregoers in the west. The tour started in St Petersburg, where the National Theatre has been converted into a state-of-the-art performance theatre, and is also playing in Krasnodar in the south-west, Sharm el-Sheikh in the north-west, and Moscow. The production arrives at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver on 8 October.


The company’s costumes, much of them handmade in Moscow, are as inventive as any of its recent productions. When he first heard of a stray golden glitter ball in Sochi, L travelled to the city to hire it, seeking both its beauty and its symbolism. “I don’t think it’s a commentary on the Kremlin or the politics in the country,” he says. “It’s more that we like to make everything that we do as much like home as possible. It has a much more human aspect.”

Jeunet’s production of The Little Mermaid is also touring the UK, with ballet at the York Barbican from 13 October to 21 December; and by caesura in Glasgow (12 December to 16 January), from the Royal Scottish National Theatre.

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