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Darcey Bussell and Igor Zelensky

by Ana Abad-Carles

November 18, 2006 -- Sadler's Wells, London, UK

Not long after Carlos Acosta had presented his own programme with friends and colleagues from the Royal Ballet, Darcey Bussell presented her own programme in collaboration with the Mariinsky dancer and present director of the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, Igor Zelensky.

Though Bussell and Zelensky had danced together before, the truth is that their partnership has never had real resonance in the dance world. Unfortunately for the fans of both artists, the programme they chose to perform at Sadler's Wells consisted of different pieces that looked rather disjointed as a whole. Moreover, the two famous dancers only performed together at the end of the evening in Roland Petit’s masterpiece “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort”.

The first piece was a duet created for Bussell – partnered by William Trevitt – by Alastair Marriott. “Kiss” was a pas de deux that attempted to be modern, but failed at actually delivering any clear purpose or lasting impression. It simply lacked any sort of framework in which its abstract theme – romantic, one would guess – could be inscribed.

Alla Sigalova’s “Concerto Grosso”, created for Igor Zelensky, was also lacking in real substance, both in terms of theme and choreographic development. The solo was too long for its aim and it failed at bringing out of the dancer dramatic qualities that might have otherwise helped the work.

“Whispers in the Dark” saw soloists from the Novosibirsk company performing new choreography by Edwaard Liang. Though a correct work performed with good technical standards, the ballet could not make the evening shine.

The long awaited moment came at the end of the evening, when both Bussell and Zelensky performed Petit’s “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort”. Created in 1946 for Jean Babilée, the ballet caused a storm at its premiere and ever since has been a favourite with male stars around the world. Petit’s sense of theatre and drama, together with his willingness to adapt his choreography to new interpreters, has made the work survive in very good shape. Having seen the ballet at the Paris Opera not so long ago with Marie Agnes Guillot and Nicolas Le Riche, I was terribly disappointed with Zelensky and Bussell's interpretation of the piece. Neither of them managed to make the ballet shine. Zelensky’s interpretation lacked depth and tension. Though the props kept flying around the stage, there was no real sense of the “angst” and struggle through every single muscle of his body and mind. Bussell, as the impersonation of Death, also failed at providing this character with the almost metallic quality and brutality that it requires. She played the role as some sort of sexual temptress and some of the movements simply looked too clichéd.

It was a shame that neither Zelensky nor Bussell managed to live up to their status in the dance world. If only the dancers had worked a bit closer in the choice of their pieces, the evening could have been a more rewarding affair.

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