Russian company is reaching for the top
IN Krasnoyarsk the temperature rarely gets above freezing for more than seven months of the year even though the city is sheltered by forested mountains.
The third biggest city in Siberia, with a population of just under one million, Krasnoyarsk would just be a stopping point on the Trans-Siberian Railway if it wasn't for its two claims to fame.
It is one of the largest producers of aluminium in the world and it has an internationally famous ballet company.
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia is currently back in England for the 11th time, touring major venues with four productions – three of which can be seen at Leicester's De Montfort Hall this month.
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With a growing reputation both in and outside of Russia, the company is driven forward by artistic director Sergei Bobrov, who has one burning ambition – to make them as famous and as respected as the Bolshoi.
He says: "When I started with the company (in 2002) it was not on a very high level but I set out from the start to achieve the standard of the Bolshoi Theatre – which is the main company in Russia and the most famous."
To achieve this Sergei has courted the best young dancers and collaborated with all the leading artists in Russia, inviting them to Krasnoyarsk to give masterclasses to both the ballet performers and the orchestra.
His strategy certainly seems to have paid off.
Sergei says: "I think we are now highly rated as we are invited all around the country and, when we put on a new production, people come from all over to see it and it is highlighted in the press."
Certainly British ballet lovers have taken to the company.
"We like very much to be in England," says Sergei. "And audiences always gives us a warm welcome."
Sergei believes the long tradition of ballet in Russia is responsible for the number and word-leading quality of companies in the country.
"We have the people with the knowledge and have a log history with the ballet, " he says.
"I think it is part of the Russian spirit.
"Maybe we have problems somewhere but we like to dance and see beautiful things that make us happier, more comfortable.
"Russians work hard to create beautiful things in their lives."
However, he does admit that the changing nature of his homeland means that it is becoming harder to find the best dancers as young people have more choices these days.
"You have to work hard and be really dedicated, so it's not for everybody," he says.
Sergei began at ballet school when he was just 10 years old.
"It was a big decision as nobody from my family was a dancer."
Born in Moscow in 1963, he graduated from the Moscow State Choreographic Academy and joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 1981.
He became a principal dancer and choreographer with the Bolshoi, before becoming artistic director of what was then the Krasnoyarsk State Opera and Ballet Theatre back in 2002.
Now, the company is proud of its dancers, who Sergei says are acclaimed worldwide for their unique interpretation of both dramatic and comic roles.
Now back in the UK, that skill is being put to the test with a demanding tour that's also a major logistics exercise for the company.
"Each venue in the UK is different, with varying facilities, so time is critical," says Sergei.
"But we are used to this now and everyone is really professional. So we just carry on."