DANCE REVIEW : Troupe Seems Out of Step in Pasadena Performance

If you like Russian folk dance devised as export commodity--all dressed up, enlarged and presented in fancy stage pictures and ambitious routines--then the Krasnayarsk Siberians, who Sunday came to Pasadena Civic Auditorium, are just the ticket.

In other words, if folk dance is interchangeable with straightforward spectacle a la Ice Capades, Rockettes and Ziegfeld Follies, then this ensemble is bound to please.

But if one comes in search of the echt experience, the sense of what actually happened long ago in villages far away, or any distinctive flavor of the people there, then this show will not provide the answers.

The musicians, for instance, are nowhere to be seen; they occupy the orchestra pit, allowing use of the whole stage for choreographed extravaganza. In one number, four dancers take up fake balalaikas and an accordion. So much for authenticity.

When the Don Cossacks appeared just a few weeks ago, also presented by the Ambassador Foundation, the instrumentalists took their rightful position onstage, keeping the whole enterprise in character.

The Siberians delivered beauty aplenty, though, both physically (the women could all pass screen tests and the men look like teen idols) and in their decors. In an opening number the women make stately models (snow queens?) for sumptuous silver-brocade costumes and matching headgear aglitter with rhinestones.

Here, and more so in another dance, they accomplish the oft-seen trick of gliding in perfect formation, like figurines on a mechanical conveyor; no motion can be detected because the feet, moving in tiny imperceptible steps, are completely obscured by full skirts that touch the floor.

Yet the whole exhibition is hopelessly removed from narrative lore. Even a Cossack dance, which features roughly 18 sword fights, done in unison no less, comes across as a trinket brought back from a foreign land, one hawked near the airport.

All the typical, upbeat whiz-bang feats are on display--one-handed cartwheels and such, accompanied by high-pitched whistling--but they seem arbitrarily thrown in and, like everything else, look simply formulated rather than in context.

The troupe appears Thursday at the new Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and Friday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

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