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Bolshoi Ballet - Gala

by Cassandra

April 14, 2006 matinee -- Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, England

I caught up with the third leg of the Bolshoi’s tour in Nottingham where they were performing a Gala programme presumably in honour of the Easter holidays. Certainly a holiday atmosphere prevailed in the theatre where everyone seemed excited to welcome the company back after an absence of thirty years.

The first item on this gala programme was the Ballroom Scene from “Swan Lake” danced by newcomer Ekaterina Krysanova, a young dancer for whom the Bolshoi has very high hopes and on this viewing one can see why. Technically secure and full of confidence, she danced the role of Odile like an old pro with especially impressive fouettés with her arms thrown upwards into a V shape above her head. She can act too and wove her web of deception with a mixture of subtlety and determination. Her prince was Dmitri Goudanov whose courtly manner makes him one of the best balletic princes around. He danced with his trademark light, elegant exactitude that made an interesting contrast with Krysanova’s earthy virtuosity; they make an intriguing pairing.

The middle ‘diverts’ section began with “Les Sylphides”, though I question its suitability as gala fare. Taken out of context it lacks the romantic atmosphere so essential to the work, but Anna Antonicheva is such a beautiful dancer that had she gone on stage just to perform a handful of classroom steps I would still have been content. Her partner was a dancer new to me, Egor Khromushin, who is very good looking and appears promising, though he had little to do in this particular number but give sympathetic support.

Next came the “Flames of Paris” pas de deux, a piece I really love. It’s so seldom performed, but always a delight to watch, and on this occasion it was danced by the company’s new wunderkind, Natalia Osipova, a gala performer to her fingertips. She sailed through the opening jetés displaying the most impressive elevation I’ve seen since Tatiana Terekhova and in her solo she made the hops on pointe look like the easiest steps in the world to perform. Osipova is clearly a highly talented young lady who must already be seriously considered as one of the finest female virtuosos around. Osipova’s partner was Yan Godovsky, who matched the height of her jumps effortlessly and danced with speed and precision throughout, but the anxious expression on his face all the way through puzzled me as his dancing is so secure he has nothing to look anxious about. Even an audience that yelled approval at everything he did couldn’t put a smile on his face.

“La Fille Mal Gardée” pas de deux is not the familiar Ashton but a rather pretty earlier Russian version by Gorsky and was danced by the youthful Anastasia Stashkevich and Viacheslav Lopatin. Lopatin caught my eye as the jester in “Swan Lake” a couple of weeks ago, and this performance just confirmed my thoughts that I was watching someone special. A very musical dancer, he is what I can best describe as stylish and meticulous, and his weightless jumps and fleetness of foot make him look more like a French or Danish dancer than typically Russian. Unfortunately his partner couldn’t quite match him, as the somewhat difficult choreography seemed a little beyond her.

The middle section of the evening concluded with the “Don Quixote” pas de deux for which the company rolled out the big guns: Maria Alexandrova and Sergei Filin are now superstars of the ballet world, and they took to the stage as if they owned it. If top-notch performances are what you come for, these two are guaranteed to deliver. “Don Q.” requires dazzle and glamour. Alexandrova looked directly out at her audience and showed us how it ought to be done, Filin clearly thought “anything she can do I can do better”, and the result was one of those performances where the partners egg each other on to further virtuosity. Needless to say the result left mebreathless.

The second act of “Spartacus” is the act without any bad stuff in it (unless you happen to be a Roman of course). Opening with the shepherds welcoming the slave army, moving on to the reunion between Phrygia and Spartacus and ending with the defeat of Crassus in hand to hand combat, everything goes right for the eponymous hero in act 2, unlike the preceding and following acts. I was very happy to see Yuri Klevtsov in the title role again after a gap of almost two years, as he has grown in the role to a degree I wouldn’t have imagined possible. He now ranks as one of the finest dancers in the role of Spartacus in the ballets history. As his adversary, Crassus, Alexander Volchkov was an arrogant coward posturing in front of his fellow Romans and snivelling before the triumphant slaves.  He was aided and abetted by Ekaterina Shipulina’s alley-cat Aegina who was as nasty a piece of work as her lover. What a superb pair of actors those two are. Svetlana Lunkina completed the quartet of principals as Spartacus’ devoted wife and a special mention should go to Denis Medvedev as the leading shepherd:  hurtling across the stage in a manner that seemed to threaten life and limb, he led his hyper-active shepherds in a celebratory dance that was both exhilarating and exhausting to watch.

The orchestra was conducted by Pavel Klinichev, who set a cracking pace in “Spartacus” and who seems to be the latest in a long line of memorable ballet conductors from his country; he treated us to music of real concert hall quality. I enjoyed the evening so much that I went to both shows the following day and booked for two more performances in Southampton, the next leg of the tour. The problem with being a ballet fan is that sometimes you can get a bit carried away.

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