World class ballet rarely reaches Bristol stages but when it does, it tends to be genuinely memorable and this was no exception.
A cast of 64 dancers and a 61-piece orchestra so extensive that the Hippodrome had to take out the first six rows of the stalls ensured this rare glimpse of the English National Ballet was a genuine treat for dance fans.
Having received its world premiere in London in January this year, this new production of Raymonda has been choreographed by English National Ballet’s Tamara Rojo, a former principal dancer with The Royal Ballet.
With Alexander Glazunov’s score, it has been updated from the original 19th Century ballet and the setting is now the Crimean war, with inspiration from the work of women supporting the war effort, including Florence Nightingale.
As main character Raymonda, a young woman with a calling to become a nurse, Brazilian lead principal Fernanda Oliveira produces a masterclass of perfect balance, elegant movement and featherlight footwork.
Raymonda’s soldier fiancé John de Bryan is played with smouldering intensity and athleticism by Italian lead principal Francesco Gabriele Frola. A couple of his mighty leaps were so extraordinary, I did worry he would end up in the lighting rig above the stage at one point.
Michigan-born dancer Precious Adams - whose CV includes ballet schools in Canada, Monaco and the Bolshoi in Moscow - was a stand-out performer who brought grace, sensitivity and superb footwork to the part of Sister Clemence. Other notable performances came from first soloists Ken Saruhashi and Fabian Reimair.
With stunning and lavish costumes - and so many of them - and technical perfection throughout the two and a half hours, this was a dazzling spectacle of a ballet and it entranced the audience from start to finish.
On the way out of the auditorium, members of the audience were encouraged to vote for the ‘people’s choice award’ for English National Ballet’s ‘emerging dancer 2023’. After such a faultless performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if all 64 dancers win.
English National Ballet’s Raymonda is at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday. For tickets, click here.