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Monday, September 14, 2009


Superbly polished troupe danced up a storm. (Review by Lynne Goodman)

This superbly polished Cossack troupe danced up such a storm that you could almost see the sparks flying from their swords.

The presentation in the Playhouse Drama at the weekend gave a new glow to the word exuberant. It overflowed with high spirits and lavish ornamentation and, though it certainly did not lack spectacle, it was not a matter of pyrotechnics at any cost. Most pivotally it was full of heart.

Though Cossack dance usually conjures up images of sky high leaps and athletic feats, this one also highlighted the soul of folk dance with joyous commitment from the 20 strong cast who earned a standing ovation from a full house at the Sunday matinee.

There was no lack of martial attack in the line-up of numbers featuring sword fighting, jousting and juggling, with an array of traditional weaponry from rifles to spears - all tossed off with military precision. The men also performed those familiar Cossack kicks and kazatsky (knee bending) feats with superb finesse. The females added a balletic dimension with their melting port de bras (carriage of the arms). And the brilliantly performed spins from every one of the dancers made the 32 fouettes in classical ballet pale by comparison.

Humour added a special dimension in the boy/girl interactions, with some inventively witty routines - fooling with army boots or rotating giddily on a large ceramic bowl.

And though simply backed by a blank screen, the show offered a feast for the eyes in the artistically ornate costumes, which combined military gear with a kaleidoscope of colour and accoutrements in turbans, boots, red sashes, pink cushions, lilac and white lace.

Singer Dmitry Pavlychev added to the impact with his powerful tenor, best in a soulful love song. It was just a pity his commanding tones were a little distorted by the amplification. And of course the inclusion of the Kuban Cossack Chorus that is linked to this dance troupe would have been the ultimate treat.

Folk dance entails a lot more than aprons and polkas - as the company’s long serving art director/folklore historian Victor Zakharchenko proves. This was folk dancing with the ultimate finesse - a tour de force performance from the whole ensemble, which captured both the charm and the proud spirit of those spunky Kazaki warriors. - Lynne Goodman