Review BH Raymonda English National Ballet 2022
Strictly classical ballet
If I was a judge on Strictly Come Dancing then Raymonda which opened with a cast of 100s at the Bristol Hippodrome this week would get straight 10s from me.
Okay, this is without the razzamatazz of the BBC television programme but what this classical ballet does best is make the exacting roles especially by the principal dancers look effortless.
As the Strictly judges would say its physically and musically are fab-u-lous.
The set is simple but effective, the costumes minus floaty feathers and over-the-top sparkle all swish and swirl in the right places and you don’t even miss the memorable camp parts of say a Matthew Bourne production.
But the best bits for me and the audience on Wednesday night were the dramatic lifts, jumps and twirls – absolutely breath-taking.
Symbolic tapping sounds on pointe mimicking marching, tableau moments, corps de ballet in a circle reminiscent of the Swan Lake death scene, commanding folk dancing and solders in pincer movement – wow, wow, wow.
The skill and talent combined with imaginative choreography make it a must-watch theatrical treat.
An enthralled 12-year-old granddaughter who trains with Adele Stitch School of Dance classes in Nailsea said: “Taking weekly classes I can appreciate how difficult it is to make is make it look easy, this is so good.”
Set against the background of the mid-19th century Crimean War which Russia lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom there is a poignancy about a conflict not resolved nearly 200 years later.
The ballet opens with projections of discoloured old newspaper cuttings then switches to an English country house where genteel women sew warm clothes for a faraway army and an old-fashioned photographer follows as the story begins to unfold.
It is without the gore and guts that maybe more modern audiences are used to seeing as it concentrates on the romance of ‘she loves one man but she loves another’ rather than battle-tired images.
Images of ladies with lamps casting a ghostly glow, the Turkish tent full of Eastern promise with fez hats, harem pants and colourful flags all linger long after the show has ended.
The story is inspired by the pioneering spirit of the women who supported the soldiers in Crimea at the time, such as Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and Sister Mary Clare Moore.
I counted a 50-strong orchestra with every conceivable musical instrument known including a very big drum, cymbals and harpsichord.
And I had butterflies in my tummy in the finale but go watch for yourself as we won’t give the ending away.
Raymonda is surely one of the great classical ballets and plays until Saturday, November 26.
Carol Ann Deacon