Astana Ballet Present, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House

Astana Ballet’s London debut is clearly the show to be seen at. All three nights of this run from The Republic of Kazakhstan’s leading ballet company, who only formed in 2013 but already gained a sizeable following at home and abroad.

Astana Ballet’s Linbury Theatre programme will not disappoint ballet aficionados nor alienate those, like myself, relatively new to ballet. Their four act programme taking us through cultural icons like Edith Piaf, classic tales like Salomé, a tango inspired act that wouldn’t look out of place in Strictly Come Dancing and dances celebrating their national identity.

LOVE FEAR LOSS is inspired by the life and work of Edith Piaf, a passionate woman who struggled with a tough upbringing but is continued to be known for her passionate voice and songs. Whilst technically good I struggled with this one the most; it was slow, it was a dance between two people and it wasn’t immediately recognisable as Piaf due to the instrumental interpretations of the songs. Piaf’s songs are as much about the lyrics than the music and it was a shame not to seem them utilised here

SALOMÉ was possibly the most mesmerising performance of the night, making use of the whole company in this electrifying tale of Salomé and her unrequited passion for John the Baptist. Though only 35 minutes this was a production I could see expanded into a full show. It has familiarity of a well-known story but really explores what makes Astana an interesting company, putting their cultural slant but also embracing an internationally diverse and experienced cast. It felt contemporary without taking away the traditions of ballet.

THE HERITAGE OF THE GREAT STEPPE was probably my favourite; beautiful music that was expressive and paid tribute to traditional folk heritage and really showcased Astana as a contemporary ballet company that is proud of its roots in a modern Kazakhstan . It incorporates 4 all female dances with solos from Darina Kairasheva and Anel Baltenova and groups performances from female members of the company. This is a great piece of dance that engages and fascinates its audiences.

A FUEGO LENTO (‘Burning desire’) is a an act that feels aimed as those who have gone to a few tango shows and fancy a step up. It showcases the young cast but much like Love Fear Loss it doesn’t feel as electrifying as the group performances. They are a really talented young cast but this felt like a concession between the modern and the traditional and not as seamless as Salomé or The Heritage of the Great Steppe

Overall this is a great introduction not only to the company but its team of choreographers Mukaram Avakhri, Tati Aigul and Ricardo Amarante. It feels fresh and interesting to those new to ballet but not alienating. This is purely a display of talent and affirming their identity as a new company. I look forward to welcoming them back to London

Astana Ballet’s run at the Royal Opera House 12-14 September 2019 is sold out. For future performances please see their website Astana Ballet

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