Her Name Was Carmen at the London Coliseum
Prima Ballerina of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, Irina Kolesnikova performs remarkably in a new incarnation of the original classic. Her Name Was Carmen, at the London Coliseum, pays homage to the migrant crisis and in collaboration with Oxfam’s Refugee Crisis Appeal, one pound is donated to the charity for every ticket sold.
Transforming the scenario to that of a refugee camp, Carmen (Kolesnikova) attempts to escape her ill-fated love affair with evil mafioso Garcia (Yuri Kovalev) by hiding among Syrian refugees. Garcia is obsessed with Carmen, who has no idea that he runs a migrant smuggling ring. Exhausted emigrants desperately trying to reach the coast are subsequently intercepted by policemen, volunteers and paparazzi and taken to a camp. At first dressed as a boy, Carmen reveals herself and helps a little lost refugee girl. Her eventual love affair with policeman Jose (Dmitry Akulinin) and Garcia’s jealousy, however, lead to ultimate tragedy.
In two acts with 50 dancers, Bizet’s original orchestration has been recreated, played here by the English National Opera Orchestra. Choreographer Olga Kostel has infused the piece with elements of tango, flamenco and paso doble, and a full scale background screen of video art by Natalya Naumova shows moving skies and a huge vibrant moon that adds a soulful, romantic mood.
Opening with figures swirling in black capes, like a dust storm of dancers, at first glance their coordination appears slightly less than seamless. That said, it is important to view a work of art in its entirety, and as such this ballet is remarkable. The heartfelt emotion and passion therein are striking and moving and the innovative elements are intriguing. Performers dressed as police incorporate barriers within the dance, others in T-shirts, sneakers and baseball caps combine traditional technique and music as if to show a contrast of worlds, and alternately appear in Vladimir Firer’s colourful, fluid costumes, perhaps as a dream of a better life.
A poignant addition to the storyline, the refugee child is played by a very accomplished little ballerina. Kovalev and Akulinin are excellent as the two lovers, but the star of this work is Kolesnikova; her solos and pas de deux with both partners are highlights of this piece. Her dance with Akulinin is romantic and soulful, but the prima ballerina’s passionate, sensual, almost violent Argentine tango/paso doble-influenced duet with Kovalov is extraordinary – ballet at its best. In its entirety, Her Name Was Carmen is a moving, inspiring work.
Her Name Was Carmen was at the London Coliseum from 23rd until 28th August 2016.