The Russian State Dance Company claim to be unrivalled in their field; delivering two hours of exhilarating dance, music and song with performers fiercely dedicated to the Cossack heritage – a tradition demonstrating warriorship, freedom and a zest for life. Moreover, Saturday’s performance was intensely uplifting, not least because of the performer’s ear-to-ear grins – I’ve never seen such a display of barefaced glee.
The dances were nothing short of breathtaking, with gravity-defying air-spins, vaults and cartwheels and the occasional knife and dagger battle routine – complete with sparks. The men were extremely manly; slapping their thighs and stomping about in tremendously attractive boots with fierce mannish strength. Apparently, Cossacks were ‘male chauvinist in the extreme’ – with such sexy vigour, I am happy to disregard my feminist tendencies for one evening.
The costumes were scrumptious – rich fabrics, layers of colour and texture, oodles of ornate accessories. The women’s dresses were a performance in themselves, clearly designed to become part of the dance they twirled creating wonderful patterns and revealing contrasting colours and fabrics. There were even a few cheeky knickerbockers that I think may have actually stolen the show.
The music was loud and proud – again, extremely energetic and varying from fun to fiery. There was an array of unusual instruments scattered about the musicians who were casually sitting at the back of the stage in a sort of school-production fashion (in fact, the lack of stage set and relatively dodgy sound system gave the show an authentic edge – raw, unprocessed tradition).
Humour and farce were played out in a number of the routines, and throughout the show the overly made-up faces and exaggerated expressions evoked a sense of being at the circus. Each display of feeling and exploit was over the top, though evidently heartfelt and hugely engaging.
For all the frivolity, the Company clearly enter their performances with a sincere, impassioned desire to convey the Cossacks’ spirit: the evening was an elevating feast of sensational comedy, camaraderie and combat.