Elena Glurdjidze surrounded by colleagues and friends. Photo; Laurent Liotardo

Elena Glurdjidze surrounded by colleagues and friends. Photo; Laurent Liotardo

Elena Glurdjidze: a magical ballerina takes her leave

The Sunday matinee at the London Coliseum was the last Swan Lake of the English National Ballet season and marked the departure of one of their best loved ballerinas.

Elena Glurdjidze, a Georgian with an impeccable Vaganova pedigree, took her leave with a performance of supreme artistry.

For more photos, see Swedish version!

Her chiselled classical finish is what we expect from a dancer of her rank but it is that indefinable extra she brings to every performance that has made her an audience favourite and has won her an army of loyal fans. She was one of ENB’s finest Giselles (exceptional in the Mary Skeaping production), her Raymonda glowed with warmth and dignity and she is one of just a handful of ballerinas who confirms the genius of Fokine’s Dying Swan.

Odette/ Odile was the first principal role she danced in St Petersburg and the first she danced when she joined ENB in 2002. She makes the Prince’s myopic identity confusion believable as her interpretation offers two equally irresistible archetypes: a white swan, passionate and pure, and a black swan of power and honeyed seduction. Her Odette is utterly devoid of sentimentality, a woman willing to fight for freedom and love or die in the attempt while her sensual Odile is a captivating magical creature.

Her Prince, Casey Herd, guesting from the Dutch National Ballet, warmed to his ballerina’s charm after a somewhat tentative first act. He proved an excellent partner offering Glurdjidze the support she needed on this special day.

Fabien Reimair’s Rothbart was unapologetically wicked. The costume and gestures tailored for the vast Albert Hall, flooded the Coliseum with a sense of evil as his silvery scales engulfed the hapless Odette. The rest of the cast also rose to the occasion. A sparkling pas de trois livened up Act 1: Laurretta Summerscales and Senri Kou, always a delight, and Vitor Menezes complementing with well-schooled technique. The quality swan corps was led with grace and dignity by Begoña Cao and Alison McWhinney in a surfeit of bourrées and rippling arms while celebrations in the medieval great hall abounded in ethnic colour and vitality.

It was an occasion of both joy and sorrow. The sustained applause, the stage awash with flowers and warmth flooding from the auditorium were clear evidence of the public feeling. Glurdjidze early retirement is a serious management error and a sad loss to London audiences where the ballet world is that bit dimmer for her departure.

Maggie Foyer
29 January 2015

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