KAZAKHSTAN ASTANA BALLET GALA | Monaco, Grimaldi Forum

The highlight of this evening’s mixed programme was the 45-minute, kaleidoscopic “The Legacy of the Kazakh Steppe” (referring to the vast region of open grassland in northern Kazakhstan). Split into nine, short pieces, the styles varied between costumed traditional and modern, set to popular orchestral and folk music from Kazakhstan.

The first piece of “The Legacy” was Illumination, choreographed by Kazakh artist emeritus Moukaram Avakhri, like a celestial “Snowflakes” from The Nutcracker, in front of a giant projected starfield. Avakhri’s startling Scythian Fresco sees men and women in skirts, whirling and plunging, a very striking piece.

The finale was choreographer Ricardo Amarante’s A Fuego Lento (To Simmer), a 26-minute tango-inspired piece. Silhouetted against a full-colour screen, shifting between bright oranges and reds, couples weaved in and out in increasingly dramatic lifts. The opening, Amarante’s 15-minute Love Fear Loss, inspired by the life and music of Edith Piaf, was purely classical in form and extremely arresting, particularly Aynur Abilgazina’s grace and emotion in the second duo.

Because this is a touring show, the musical accompaniment throughout is pre-recorded (including a misjudged, heavy-handed keyboard track for Love Fear Loss), and every now and again the dancers just fall short of perfection in choreographed lines, or mirrored movements. But overall, an exhilarating show, and an exciting opportunity to get to know Kazakh culture through first-class dance.

Kazakhstan visits the Grimaldi Forum for two nights only this September 2018.

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