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Bolshoi Ballet

'La Bayadere'

by Ana Abad-Carles

August 2, 2007 -- London Coliseum, London, UK

The second programme the Bolshoi Ballet presented in London as part of their summer season in the capital was Yuri Grigorovitch’s version of the classic Petipa ballet “La Bayadére”.

On opening night the cast was led by Svetlana Zakharova as Nikiya, Nikolai Tsiskaridze as Solor and Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti.

Grigorovitch’s version of the ballet does not depart greatly from the Maryinsky’s usual interpretation (prior to their reconstruction of the "original"). Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes comes in the character of Gamzatti, who wears pointe shoes from her first entrance and dances on pointe throughout the ballet, even in her mime scenes. Her characterisation is different, as I cannot recall another version in which Gamzatti is not held directly responsible for Nikiya’s death – a nice change of scenario! As danced by Alexandrova, the role is so wonderfully powerful and strong that it is difficult not to sympathise to some extent with her sorrow at realising that her betrothed is in love with another woman.

As Solor, Nikolai Tsiskaridze was a joy to watch. From his first entrance with a series of grand jetés that zoomed him from one end of the stage to the other, to his coda at the end of the Kingdom of the Shades, he managed to instill his character with some welcome impulsiveness and abandonment. His technique was soft and beautiful and, though not perfect at all times, the charisma of this dancer always saved the day.

Zakharova’s Nikiya was also beautifully danced. She managed to provide some nuance to her acting throughout the first two acts and her scene with Gamzatti was simply magnificent. However, Zakharova’s overuse and overemphasis of her larger than life extensions and mannerisms sadly affected her dancing in the Kingdom of the Shades. The Kingdom of the Shades – as we know it and have come to understand it- is about purity of style. It is a classical scene and any intervention from the dancers to take this purity and simplicity away from it interferes with the overall sense of serenity. Luckily for all of us, the corps de ballet was simply magnificent and more than made up for Zakharova’s lack of classical line. The ovation at the end of the entrance of the Shades was more than well deserved, as the geometrical patterns of the piece were beautifully presented and the overall sense of eternity in their repeated sequences of steps ad infinitum was achieved.

The three soloists were also very good. Ekaterina Krysanova’s first shade variation was brilliantly danced and, though she did not manage to travel the full diagonal of the stage in arabesque, she did manage quite a long way. This is something most ballerinas seem not to even attempt any more, as performing relevés in arabesque on the spot should suffice, but does not!

Natalia Osipova performed the second variation with a grandeur and ease that was breathtaking. Her cabrioles were beautifully high and her sense of balance provided her dancing with perfect phrasing. Anna Nikulina in the third variation had a more challenging task, as some of the variation had been altered, thus affecting the musical phrasing.

The whole company performed admirably. Though London has seen better Golden Idols than Viacheslav Lopatin on opening night, things improved when Ivan Vassiliev took the role on the Saturday performance.

As for the end of the ballet, Grigorovitch has decided to finish in an abrupt way, with the destruction of the temple and death of Solor that is a blink-and-you-miss-it affair. To be totally honest, while I like Makarova’s romantic ending for the ballet, I can be quite content with a proper ending of the Kingdom of the Shades. In fact, both the Maryinsky and the Paris Opera Ballet have managed to bring a sense of closure to the work with this scene.

At the end of the performance, the company got a rapturous ovation, which was well deserved indeed, especially for the corps de ballet.

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