October 30, 2003 --
Detroit Opera House
On behalf of the entire Detroit metro area, all I can say is that we should
thank our lucky stars for individual and corporate sponsors of the arts.
Without them, we would be a city that does not see the kind of dancing
that the Kirov is doing here this week.
Thursday night's performance of La Bayadere was quite sublime. There is
an extra comfort level going into any performance with the Kirov, sort
of like the occasional trip to a really great restaurant -- you know that
no matter what, it's going to be a good night. The cohesiveness of their
port de bras, the hyper-articulation of their feet, the sets and costumes
that are over the moon -- those things are a given before you even consider
the incredible dancing and dramatic energy.
Vladimir Ponomarev as the High Brahmin enters in the first act with an
eerie presence indicative of madness -- a man completely possessed. Then
again, maybe he's just upset because all of those women won't put their
pointe shoes on. I have to say I really agree. I know, I know, it's an
authenticity thing. But those low Grecian sandals with the short heels
are just not ideal for these women, who were born to wear pointe shoes.
Especially Elvira Tarasova (Gamzatti), who for the first half of the ballet
is made to wear a particularly unappealing pair of flats, seemingly borrowed
from a Palm Beach housewife. Of course they all overcome this limitation
with finesse, rising up to demi-pointes so high that it seems possible
they might just go all the way up anyhow, shoes be damned.
Ms. Tarasova certainly takes your mind off her previous footwear when
she appears for the Act II wedding festivities. She is regal and a bit
glitzy in a white tutu that I find hard to associate with the year 1900.
In the design, maybe, but in the details this dress was up-to-the-minute
J.Lo glamourous. She was a bit of a spitfire at times too, ripping off
her fouette sequence at a rapid clip. In her partnering with Solor (Adrian
Fadeev tonight, not Anton Korsakov as originally announced) she had a
marvelous way of seeming to show a bit of emotional detachment even as
she danced steps that were meant to convey ardor. As in, "he's great,
but it's not love, just something my father cooked up." This bit of ambiguity
makes it more interesting: is Nikiya's death the revenge of Gamzatti or
that of her father?
Happy to report, incidentally, that someone intervened and persuaded the
artistic staff to allow the children in the little brown "minstrel" costumes
to omit the use of blackface in the wedding celebration scene. It would
have been particularly uncomfortable and inappropriate here in Detroit.
Act II in general immediately supplied all of the kind of dancing that
I had been longing for more of in Act I. It's almost too much at once
when the four women of the Grand Pas Classique are cavorting with big
allegro steps around Solor and Gamzatti as they dance together -- I felt
that no matter where I looked, I'd be missing something! But it does create
a strong sense of exuberance that builds up a tremendous emotional wall
for Nikiya to break through when she arrives at the palace.
Our Nikiya was Sofia Gumerova, and she was captivating from her first
entrance in Act I, personifying stillness and reserve behind her veil.
Her body sometimes tells a different story than her face. In her lines
and in her steps, she shows love, devotion, desperation and resolution
but in her face, it does not show as much. She is so unassuming in her
grandeur as a dancer that it almost reads at times as indifference. Still,
she is a compelling Nikiya. Her balances during the third act pas de deux
were absolute, with the serenity of a woman who has already endured it
Then there are those glorious Shades. The anticipation of their entrance
is almost as exciting as the entrance itself. Unfortunately, the first
Shade out of the box tonight did hop once before establishing her line
-- but what a line. She does indeed have some kind of ultra-arabesque,
her back held up against a leg reaching for the stars. And then they just
keep doing that thing, and it's easy to forget that there are any problems
at all in the world. They achieve divinity through the simplicity of first
arabesque and tendu devant.
Mr. Fadeev was suitably elegant and commanding. I don't understand the
mood contrast he must experience in the beginning of Act III, though.
He enters with a somewhat brief but exuberant solo, then seems to remember
how badly he messed things up and retreats to the daybed to send his memories
up in smoke. His Solor is a man who flies through the air with the greatest
of ease, but as a fair-haired guy who seems to have more of a lighthearted
style of moving, he does not brood or anguish quite as darkly as some
Overall, this company makes magic. It's almost hard not to attend every
single performance, knowing that they are in there each night, creating
their wonderful alternate universe.
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