Royal Ballet

"La Bayadère"

Staged by Natalia Makarova, after Marius Petipa

Royal Opera House, London

March 1, 2002
By danzcrayz

Makarova has done it again. Born and bred on the Dowell and Makarova Bayadère's of years past, I now watch her pass on her soulful Russian ports de bras on to today's dancers. I have never forgotten American Ballet Theatre's West Coast Tour of years past, wherein I saw Amanda McKerrow turn into an achingly beautiful Nikiya, and I saw it once more in the corps of San Francisco Ballet which performed the Kingdom of the Shades, and now I have seen Makarova's effect on Cojocaru, Galeazzi, and the rest of the Royal's cast. Nureyev's production for the Paris Opera Ballet (which I saw in California last year), although gorgeously Baroque and excessively extravagant in its staging and sets, suffers by comparison due to the lack of sensitivity in the feminine ports de bras.

I anxiously awaited the unveiling of Cojocaru on Tuesday night, and was not disappointed. She echoed Makarova's elegance and sinuous fluidity of movement, although always with a proper amount of angularity due to the Oriental aesthetic which runs through the ballet. Dramatically, Cojocaru satisfied every requirement for a 19th-century balletic heroine, as did her enemy Gamzatti danced by Galeazzi. One a noble and the other a slave, the distinction between the two comes through with every movement of mime, and the fight before the portrait of Solor was full of the proper amounts of jealousy, anger, and viciousness. Galeazzi's ports de bras on the other hand, although liquid, lost authority and beauty when she raised her arms to High Fifth. On these occasions her fingertips were basically touching, and gave her a displeasingly narrow frame for her body, which echoed the rigidity which I found so displeasing in the POB's rendition of Nureyev's Bayadère.

While the POB's accomplishments in the Kingdom of the Shades are amazing, I found their principals highly lacking in everything necessary for such a ballet as Bayadère. Their Nikiya and Gamzatti were stiff beyond forgiveness, although one more so than the other, as was much of the corps. The POB's Solor was the only to escape my criticism, as in the performance I saw; his lengthy limbs and suave elegance echoed that of Dowell.

Corella has always been one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, classical male danseur. His Solor was fiery, and punctuated, his 'lefty' turns never faltered, and his landings in Fifth looked most satisfactory from my view, however I was quite high up... if someone who was closer were to contradict... Makarova's dramatic genius passes on to Corella as well, and there were many instances of the subtlety, such as Solor's presentation to Gamzatti, wherein he 'spaces out' as it were, and fades in and out between two realities.

Cojocaru and Corella in their pas for Kingdom of the Shades tugged at the heartstrings to say the least, in the partnering itself echoed the fluidity of the rest of the production.

The corps work with the Royal was decent, but not astounding. Bayadère is perhaps the most difficult full-length ballet to produce in which the corps remains perfectly synchronized; this is mostly due to the costuming. Growing up, many of the dancers were referred to jokingly (but not disrespectfully) as the 'toilet paper dancers' because when my sister and I were little, that was the only thing we could use to describe the sashes which adorn the temple dancers in a variety of scenes. The 'toilet paper' is always a hazardous route in costuming (as was proved Tuesday night when a corps member suffered a blinding and tangling up by her own sash) besides the physical impairments which it may cause, but also due to the fact that any inconsistencies are all the more recognizable because if an arm were to be in the wrong place or at the wrong height, we not only have an arm to look at, but an entire draping of fabric. They are visually stimulating and beautiful, but if the corps suffers at all from lack of togetherness, they will suffer two-fold from the emphasizing of any mistakes by these fabric appendages.

On the whole, Makarova's work on the Royal looks wonderful, especially in comparison to my disappointment from the POB's rendition of Nureyev's production. I loved Nureyev's staging and the potent nature of the choreography for the men and for the corps. I love Nureyev's production, but the POB's lack of sensitivity in the arms spoiled what beauty it could have had. I believe the Royal to have always had a great sensitivity to ports de bras and épaulement (a word I should have started to use earlier), which I feel stems greatly from the masters of Ashton and MacMillan and their love for arms and the upper body. It must all flow, and drape (as with a cambre for example) and yet hold together with authority and elegance, without stiffness. Cojocaru fulfilled this quota as did much of the company, and Corella too was no exception.


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Edited by Marie.

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