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Maggie Foyer: Bad weather and good dancing in London

Summer 2010 in London was notable for bad weather and good dancing; the Bolshoi at the Royal Opera House, the Mikhailovsky Ballet at the Coliseum and Nederlands Dans Theater at Sadler’s Wells. The Russian companies both brought versions of Swan Lake and Giselle as well as more unusual offerings.

The Bolshoi’s staging of Le Corsaire in a new production by Alexei Ratmansky, is a fine example of Petipa’s infinite choreographic invention. However the ballet, created in 1899, when there was a dearth of male dancers, has serious structural flaws; the famous grand pas de deux comes in Act 1 after which the Corsaire, Ruslan Skvortsov, is captured and imprisoned returning only in the final moments.

Ruslan Skvortsov in Swan Lake and Ekaterina Krysanova in Cinderella. Photo Andrej Melanyi/Damir Jusupov

Ruslan Skvortsov in Swan Lake and Ekaterina Krysanova in Cinderella. Photo Andrej Melanyi/Damir Jusupov

This is a pity as Skvortsov has the charisma of a film star not to mention the height of his jumps and beautiful line. With his Medora, Ekaterina Krysanova, he created magic, heightening the romance which is sometimes diminished when the duet is performed in a gala setting. From the opening moments Krysanova was a lively presence but technically she took a while to establish herself. However in the next two acts, which are strictly female territory, she proved her quality and together with Marianna Ryzhkina as Gulnare, they showed the best of Bolshoi training.

Ryzhkina’s exquisite arms, wide smile and warmth made it possible to forget the silliness of the story. In the lush settings of palaces and gardens wearing the prettiest of costumes, the company dance their hearts out in an overwhelming succession of variations.

Masterly mask: Gennady Yanin as Lankendem and private. Photographers Michail Logvinov/Vladimir Shirokov

Masterly mask: Gennady Yanin as Lankendem and private. Photographers Michail Logvinov/Vladimir Shirokov


The lack of male classical dance had some compensation in the extravagant humour of character roles, notably Gennady Yanin as Lankendem, Medora’s protector. Outrageously wicked, he managed to delight on every appearance. My advice is to ignore the narrative and just sit back and enjoy a wealth of dance from one of the world’s great companies.
The revival by Mikhailovsky Ballet of Vakhtang Chabukiani’s, Laurencia aroused great interest at its premiere in London. Mikhail Messerer’s production, beautifully designed by Vadim Ryndin, was an impressive tribute to the era of heroic Soviet dance and Chabukiani's legendary virtuosity found an apt modern exponent in Denis Matvienko whose thrilling technique, easy charm and Rottweiler attack were used to full effect in the character of Frondoso.

As Laurencia, Irina Perren consolidated her status as the company’s star ballerina. In addition to an engaging presence and accomplished acting, her generous style is evident in glorious jetés, handsome extensions and quality finish to every movement. In the smaller roles Oksana Bondareva, has a prime acting role as the ravished Jacinta while Sabina Yapparova as Pascuala dances with the technical precision and coquettish charm that has been her trademark this season. She had a chance to star in Cipollino, choreographed by Genrikh Mayorov – another first for London. It is an enchanting story of vegetable folk with witty, brightly coloured designs and makes a welcome addition to the poorly represented genre of children’s ballets.

Laurencia is the story of the popular uprising in the village of Fuente Ovejuna immortalised by playwright Lope de Vega. However the ballet has little of the dark passions of the play and only marginally engages with the injustice and cruelty. Set to a rather prosaic score by Alexander Krein, it tends rather to serve as a good excuse for lively Spanish dance performed by a spirited corps de ballet. However the integrity of Messerer’s production of this 1939 classic and the quality of the dancing made this a worthwhile revival. The Mikhailovsky Theatre has a long and distinguished history. With the surprising appointment of Nacho Duato as artistic director, the dance world waits to see what direction it will take.

Johan Inger's dissolve in this. Photo  Nederlands Dans Theater

Johan Inger's dissolve in this. Photo Nederlands Dans Theater

For their 50th Anniversary performances NDT l and ll joined forces. Their London visit was also memorable for the first work from Johan Inger in his new capacity as Associate Choreographer and the last work from founder Jiří Kylián as resident choreographer. Inger’s dissolve in this is full of contradictions. It is dark and enigmatic, sad and funny, abstract with touches of human warmth and absolutely cutting edge in choreography, lighting and design. NDT has some of the world’s most exciting dancers, chosen not only for their technical finesse but their artistry which makes each movement so thrillingly memorable; the combination is blissful.
Jiri Kyliäns Memoires d'Oubliettes. Phot Nederlands Dans Theater

Jiri Kyliäns Memoires d'Oubliettes. Phot Nederlands Dans Theater

Even more enigmatic was Kylián’s Mémoires d’Oubliettes.  It features the voices of Kylián and the divine Sabine Kupferberg, and shards of memories that we can only guess the meaning of. The programme notes speak of the unfinished and the continuing; a kaleidoscope of images are brought into a semblance of order then as suddenly dispersed. This is a work to enjoy for its strangeness as Kylián, who has nothing to prove, sends his imagination out to play.
Also visiting London was the Caracalla Dance Theatre. To describe their production of Zayed and the Dream as an extravaganza, is an understatement even without the live horses that were used in the premiere in Beirut! It is a eulogy to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Naythan*)  complemented with cinematic effects and with a narrative sufficiently malleable to incorporate folk dance of the world. Lavish costumes and dancers who performed with passion added up to an evening of entertainment on a Bollywood scale.
Maggie Foyer
8 sep 2010

*)  1918-2004. Regent in Abu Dabi and founder oc the United Arab Emirates.

Zayed and the dream. Photo Caracalla Dance Co.

Zayed and the dream. Photo Caracalla Dance Co.

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