The Russian Festival Ballet returns to Taiwan this week for 11 performances in cities around the island and will treat classical ballet fans to its sumptuous productions of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty.
Founded in 1989 by Timur Faziev, the renowned choreographer and dancer, the Russian Festival Ballet has earned a reputation as one of the world's most experienced classical ballet troupes. Faziev has also poached many top dancers from the Bolshoi and Stanislavski schools since 1989, and now has 60 dancers maintaining a busy program of international tours.
The program this year is hardly innovative, but these three ballets have proved to have enormous staying power and perennial appeal. One reason is the enormous challenges for both the corps de ballet and principal dancers. Such displays of Russian virtuosity have become a fixture on the calendars of local ballet aficionados. Unfortunately this has been at the expense of Taiwan ballet troupes. "Audiences tend to reject classical ballet performances given by Taiwanese ballet companies since they believe that classical ballet remains strictly the art of the Western world and should be performed by Western dancers," said Kaohsiung City Ballet Director Chang Hsiu-ru (張秀如).
The perception of classical ballet as "foreign" and also the belief that it lacks originality has resulted in a weakening of Taiwan's own ballet environment. Visits by the Russian Festival Ballet may help change this, as they have a strong commitment to developing ballet as a dynamic art form -- to give the well-known classical ballets some fresh and innovative flavors. Its program will feature spectacular soloists and displays of superb techniques. Russian and European influence in the ballet world can be partly characterized by their "extension" virtuosity, which is under-used by Taiwanese dancers, who can kick well, but very few can slowly extend and hold a leg high. Therefore, expect to see the Russian Festival Ballet's dancers demonstrate their prowess in these challenging ballets.
Faziev's productions will include moments of great virtuosity by showing both pure ballet techniques and dancers' individual characteristics. As there are several folk-dance pieces in the three ballets, the audience can take a look at Faziev's interpretations of folkloric traditions while appreciating the legends that inspired the librettos of the three ballets as well as listening to Tchaikovsky's full-evening ballet scores.
The Russian Festival Ballet will perform at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (