The Big Ballet is Back, Bigger than Ever
20 Stone Russian Ballet Stars set for extensive UK Tour
Having been a huge success in 2007, Russia’s alternative ballet company, The Big Ballet – comprising 16 female dancers each weighing a strict minimum of 17 Stone and a combined average of 20 Stone – presented by Amande Concerts, is set to return to the UK with an even bigger theatre tour in 2008.
Commencing in Croydon on March 25, The Big Ballet tour will include 65 UK theatres – 31 in spring ’08 and 34 in autumn – culminating in Bedworth on November 8. Alexej Ignatow, a producer for Amande Concerts, comments “We are delighted to bring back this superb Russian show to UK audiences – The Big Ballet proved to be a big hit last year. When such attention is being paid to issues of size and weight, we felt that being larger is not necessarily a restriction and we were right. The Big Ballet’s enjoyed by people of all sizes”.
The Big Ballet is a show like no other in the world. All performed on a black-box stage, with hand-made costumes, the first section of the show is a parody of popular classical ballets. The second section is rather more fast-paced as the larger-than-life dancers perform to more contemporary music, such as Robbie Williams, Tom Jones’s ‘Sex Bomb’ and (continuing the Russian theme) ‘Go West’ by Pet Shop Boys, and even perform to one ‘number’ in silky, buttock-less outfits.
Dion Clements, publicist for The Big Ballet UK tour, claims “Whether you admire the fuller figure or not, there is absolutely no denying the raw power emanating from the stage when 16 large ladies perform choreographed routines in sync to thunderous music – I’ve witnessed audiences go wild for this troupe”.
The Big Ballet was established fourteen years ago by top Russian choreographer, Panfilov. As a young man Panfilov had secured his position as one of the most influential choreographers in ballet. Never one to shy-away from controversy, Panfilov decided he was going to prove two things to the world; firstly, that people of larger build are able to move with similar grace, dignity and flare as traditional dancers, and secondly, that he would be able to create a professional ballet troupe out of dancers with no previous experience. Hailing from Perm, a beautiful city with two million inhabitants in Russia’s Ural Mountain range, also home to two of ballet’s pre-eminent geniuses, Peter I. Tchaikovsky and Serge Diaghlev, The Big Ballet was formed by Panfilov to challenge social standards in a world where slenderness and beauty seems obsessive – in testament to Panfilov’s achievement, The Big Ballet continues to be a massive success long after his renowned murder in 2002.
Often asked how they retain weight during such rigorous training sessions and demanding tour schedules, The Big Ballet’s Prima Ballerina, Ekatarina Yurkova, comments “We eat normal amounts of food, and the same kind of food, as everybody else – our size is in our genes. We had the opportunity and, under one of the world’s leading choreographers, we gained the ability and confidence to take to the stage and show that we are as good at professional dance as thin people”.
Fellow dancer Tatyana Gladkaya jokes “You definitely have to have a sense of humour to be in The Big Ballet, but we still take our work very seriously. Having said that, it’s easy to do the splits with 120 kilos of down-force”