Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This is a quote from the on-line newspaper, West Kazakhstan Today, which is a wonderful new resource for the expats in Atyrau:"

“Ballet Evenings”of Bolat AYUKHANOV’S ballet theatre will be on tour on November 5- 7 in  the Drama Theater named after Makhambet. The citizens of Atyrau will have the pleasure to see the scenes from such world famous ballets, as “Swan Lake”, “Carmen”, “The Master and Margarita”, “Eugene Onegin”, “Anna Pavlova”, “The young lady and the hooligan”, “Giselle” and other. The tour is dedicated to the 45th anniversary of the state academic ballet dance theater under the directorship of Bolat AYUKHANOV, the People’s Artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan." 

Last weekends we bought tickets.  When I say "we" I mean Sandra, I stood well out of the interference zone and took photos.  They were purchased at the box office using the AMOS.

(For those of you unfamiliar with AMOS, it is the Atyrau Menu Ordering System. This system, widely used in restaurants, involves being offered a wide range of choices (in restaurants often accompanied with pictures, in the theatre- a diagram of the auditorium).  After carefully making a selection one is told, Nyetto- not available.  So one reconsiders and makes a second choice, to be told again, Nyetto.  This continues for as many cycles as ones patience or innocence can handle.  Finally, one has to ask what one can have, and then is offered a choice of a few items from the extended list.  In our theatre case, a diagram showing 90% of the seats available ended up with us being directed to two seats near the front, which of course we then "chose".)

The Aukhan Kazakh National Ballet Theatre is, according to its website:

"Kazakhstan's most internationally renowned dance company. The companies founder and director, Professor Bulat Aukhanov is world famous in Ballet circles as one of the greatest living choreographers"   

We were looking forward to going to performances on both Monday and Tuesday, Swan Lake and Anna Pavlova, not the entire ballets, but selections from them.

On Monday night we left Sandra's office at 6.16 pm and walked the 20 or 30 minute walk to the Drama Theatre in time for the 7 o'clock start.  The theatre has a prominent position at the top of Abay street.

We popped into the Ak Zhaik Hotel to buy pastries to snack on as we walked, Sandra was not very approving!

The picture of the Theatre below is actually one that I took earlier.  I forgot to take one on this occasion, or perhaps it was more a case of being too preoccupied with my cheese stuffed pastry thing.

At the top of the theatre steps we entered through a fairly modest door. Our ticket stubs were taken at this door, so it was not possible to even enter the foyer without a ticket.  The lobby was very simple.  No ticket sales, just a long counter behind which the ladies were checking in coats  and hanging them on rows and rows of pegs.  There were no catering facilities and one just waited in the tiled foyer until the theatre doors opened and we could enter.  The picture show the foyer outside the auditorium doors.  down the steps to the left was the theatre entrance and the coat racks.  Behind to the left is the main door.

Inside the auditorium we took our seats.  Rather confusingly the seat numbers in front of our seats were not our seat numbers, they were on the back of the seats.  So we, like a number of expats who subsequently came in and sat near us, started off sitting in the wrong seats.  As you see number 14 is behind number 13, and I am sitting in number 15.  I am still wondering why they didn't put the numbers on the other side of the seat backs so they were easier to see.

We were in early and the theatre was fairly empty, Sandra's colleague Edwin, was there with his wife Ester, and he kindly took our pictures!  The seats were a little hard but there was more leg room than most London theatres, which were probably built when people were on average 15cm shorter!  The room was not exactly elaborate, but nor was it stark.  The thing I noticed immediately was how few lights (spots, fllods etc) there were in the wings and hanging from the roof.  It turned out that the performance did not rely on a lot of special effects lighting. 

 The were sitting in the third row from the front, just out of the above picture on the left.  Those large speakers at either side of the stage turned out to be the orchestra for the evening.  It worked perfectly well, though it was rather loud where we were sitting.  I think they were the sound for the whole theatre.

The front seats were the most expensive.  just behind the front six or seven rows was the row of VIP seats.  These were eventually occupied by rather smart looking local people.  They were seats that we tried to book (Nyet!) so we know they were not available to riff-raff like us.
The performance started on Monday with a disembodied announcement of a couple of minutes.  We don't know what it was about.  On Tuesday, the great Mr Ayukhanov (I think) came out and made a short speech. We don't know what it was about either.  

The Monday night performance was a series of dances from Swan Lake. After about an hour the curtain fell, we did all the appropriate applause, but then it opened again and we got about fifteen minutes of Carmen, with a ballerina who seemed very good if a little older.  We supposed we were supposed to know who she was.  Possibly a famous Kazakh dancer.  The performance was over in about 80 minutes.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was fast moving, intricate and energetic.  On Tuesday we had parts of Anna Pavlova, which lasted a little longer but with a 15 minute intermission.  Again, it was very good.

The pictures below were taken in poor light without a flash...some people were using flash, and there seemed to be no prohibition on taking photographs.  I have mixed pictures from both performances.

The costumes were fairly elaborate and colourful, and there were a lot of changes.  Not being a ballet buff, I cannot actually critique the performances, but there was a lot of spinning and jumping, high kicking and balancing in odd positions (these are not technical terms...) and nobody fell over, dropped anyone, got lost in a major dance routine, which I think is all good.  But above all they managed to make it look fairly easy and effortless, which I think is pretty important.  One doesn't like to watch ballet feeling like it is the final mile of a marathon.

One other thing that was rather different was the number of small children in the audience.  The first night there were two or three little girls abot 5 years old who seemed to mbe playing musical chairs, moving round the seats during the performance.  This was rather a distraction from listening to the people chatting to each other behind us during the quieter and less action apcked dances.  Some of the audience were very young.

Or if you want a little more detail...

We had a very nice couple of evenings.  

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