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Kirov Ballet: The Ballets of Mikhail Fokine

'Chopiniana', 'Scheherazade', 'The Firebird'

by Cassandra

April 23, 2005 evening and matinee-- Wales Millenium Centre, Cardiff

If there is one thing I don’t like about the Millennium Centre, it has to be the practice of starting matinees at 1.30. Unless you’re a local, it’s cutting it very tight and I had to miss “Chopiniana” after encountering appalling weather and a resulting crawl on the motorway. A 2.30 afternoon start is pretty standard everywhere and unless there is an exceptionally long programme to accommodate, such as a Wagner opera, I don’t see any reason for an earlier start.

The evening performance of “Chopiniana” was danced seamlessly by the corps de ballet, but Ksenia Ostreikovskaya’s bad luck with her shoe was an irritating distraction with her ribbons trailing across the stage as she danced. The other soloists were Yana Selina, Daria Sukhorukova and Evgeny Ivanchenko, all adequate but not outstanding.

I have made my feelings plain before concerning the emasculated version of the Kirov’s “Scheherazade” and I find the only way to view it is to concentrate on the soloists and try to ignore the production as a whole. The matinee performance featured Igor Kolb’s debut as the Golden Slave (Y Gwas Aur in Welsh) dancing opposite the magnificent Zobeide of Irma Nioradze. I had wondered how Kolb would cope with the hot-house goings-on apparently so at odds with his natural classicism, but he was fiery and passionate, inspired no doubt, by his lubricious Zobeide, who visibly throbbed with desire at the very sight of him.

In the evening Nioradze repeated the role, this time with Farukh Ruzimatov in one of those roles he was born to dance. The last time I saw him as the Golden Slave he appeared to struggle to find the necessary stamina, but this time around he was totally back on form and a joy to behold. Great dancing all round: pity about the production.

In the title role of “The Firebird” neither of the dancers I saw was up to scratch. The matinee saw the return of Maya Dumchenko, a former soloist with the company. After what I presume to be a change of heart, she is back with the company, but on very poor form and not up to such a demanding role. The Firebird at the evening performance was Tatiana Serova who was even more unsuited to the role than Dumchenko. She actually flashed smiles to the audience in her opening jetés across the stage, totally disregarding the fact that she is supposed to be fierce magical creature possessing no human emotion at all. Nioradze is one of the great Firebirds and it was a pity we couldn’t have seen her in one of these performances.

These two apart the rest of the ballet (same cast matinee and evening) was actually rather good with Viktor Baranov perfectly cast as the reckless Ivan-Tsarevitch. As he gets older Baranov seems more and more to bear an uncanny resemblance to Harrison Ford (and that is far from being a complaint!). I don’t think I’ve seen a dancer bring so much vigour to this role. When Kashchei’s monsters surround him, his bravado evaporates as he makes a run for the wall and unlike other Ivans I’ve seen, he fights back tooth and nail to escape. As his princess Yana Serebryakova has little to do except look beautiful, which she does very well.

At least with the dishy Baranov the ‘love at first sight’ scenario makes more sense than usual. The other main role, that of wicked old Kashchei, was danced by that master of character roles, Vladimir Ponomarev. How he relishes this role! Bent and ugly, he still believes he possesses a certain charm as he beckons to the captive Ivan with his long-nailed misshapen finger before unleashing the full force of his evil powers. And Ponomarev stays in character for his curtain calls, sneering at the audience until he is rewarded with the boos Kashchei deserves, only then does he turn away in triumph with a gesture of dismissive contempt for the lot of us – what an artist!

Edited by Staff.

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