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Igor Zelensky's Artistic Evening

by Catherine Pawlick

November 12, 2008 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Artistic soirees occur several times a year at the Mariinsky. Mid-November brought one of Igor Zelensky back to this stage from his current hideout in Siberia, where he is director of the Novosibirsk Ballet.

The evening opened with "Apollo", a work in which Zelensky has been lauded repeatedly. Yana Selina, Anastasia Nikitina, and Viktoria Tereshkina danced his three muses. This was Nikitina's debut as Polyhymnia, and she danced the mask-holding variation with bright energy, fitting in nicely with the other two more seasoned dancers, and displaying a minimal of rawness around the edges. Zelensky managed to make the ballet his own once again; his movements include different emphasis, and he seemed to enjoy playing with the steps. The pas with Tereshkina’s Terpsichore in particular included a friendly flirtation that set just the right atmosphere.

The second work was a local premiere of Edwaard Liang's "Whispers in the Dark." While "Whispers" has already been performed by members of Zelensky's Novosibirsk Ballet Theatre in London, this is the first time they’ve made the trip to Petersburg to perform it on the Mariinsky stage. The local audience retained an entranced silence throughout, keen to absorb every second of this new Western creation. "Whispers" features three men and three women on a sexily dark stage, with only dim spotlights shown from overhead or the wings. The women work their way through elasticized movements in navy blue tunic tops and boyshorts with soft slippers; the men danced shirtless with black jazz pants.

Set to Philip Glass's "Aguas da Amazonia", Liang's choreographic lexicon almost evades definition.  It seems to include the influences of Forsythe in leg movements with touches of Alonso King's port de bras, and then Liang's own touches sprinkled in. Of note is the interplay of circles rotating both internal and externally – a contraction in the sternum ignites an arm movement that leads to a torso shift, causing a reaction in the hips, and on down the muscular chain. Plenty of swivels and turns are included, and gliding lifts across the stage in grand jete form.  But it is difficult to find the theme he notes in the program, that the work's central pas is loosely based on Orpheus's journey to Hades to retrieve Eurydice without opening his eyes.  Nonetheless, the local audience was intrigued, and their reaction suggested interest in more of Liang’s work.

The electric and sultry "Scheherzade" closed the evening with a special guest appearance by Polina Semionova from the Berlin State Opera and Ballet Theatre.  Zelensky's soundless ballon in each effortless leap and bound matched Semionova’s heated Zobeide. Together they made a steamy pair.

Boris Gruzin conducted.

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