Monday, September 21, 2020

Keeping it simple

Stars of the Ballet Moscow Gala Concert WORKS: Paganani by Leonid Lavrovsky – prologue and finale Yury Vetrov; Pas de quatre by Perrot/Dolin; Gopak by R Zakharov; Don Quixote – grand pas de deux by Petipa /Gorsky

WHERE: Gaborone International Convencion Centre (tonight at 7.30pm).
Blink at the curtain call and you’d hardly call this small Russian ensemble a company. Stars of the Ballet Moscow may not be in the league of the Bolshoi Ballet and the Kirov, who are rubbing shoulders in London with almost coinciding seasons, but they are worth seeing nonetheless.

Barely a dozen dancers are responsible for this concert programme dedicated to the composer, Sergei Rachmaninov. In 1939 Rachmaninov, in collaboration with choreographer, Mikhail Fokine, paid tribute to legendary violinist and composer, Niccolo Paganini. In 1960, the Bolshoi’s Leonid Lavrovsky used the same music but another storyline. It’s this one-actor that Yuri Vetrov, who directs the Stars of the Ballet Moscow, has restaged and tinkered with.

Lavrovsky’s Paganini is a melodramatic yet fascinating period piece displaying seeds of modernism and un-Soviet individuality which Vetrov embroiders on in the prologue, an athletic duet to the adagio from Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2. The finale features Il Divo’s schmaltzy hit All by Myself

Anatoly Emeliyanov, a compact dancer, uses his dramatic prowess and blond locks to create a lurid portrait of the musical genius who fights his demons and is wooed by his Muse, a blood relation of the Queen of the Wilis. Of course in this stripped-down staging (the set comprises of alternating, small, projections of clouds and flames) it’s difficult to judge the entire impact of the Lavrovsky original but it certainly conjures up an era.

Quite my favourite part of this evening is the Pas de quatre created in 1845 for four ballerinas Taglioni, Grisi, Cerrito and Grahn. What we’re seeing is the Anton Dolin reconstruction which became part of the Kirov repertoire. In this instance the stark bare stage and effective lighting evoke a sepia photograph fading in and out of memory and history. The four dancers (from the minuscle corps de ballet), individually and as a quartet, are the epitome of gossamer Romanticism encapsulating the exquisite musicality and poetic delicacy of the period.

The core strength of this touring ensemble lies in the two accomplished ballerinas – Marina Rzhannikova (who distinguished herself on last year’s SBW tour in a Swan Lake suite) and Russian National Ballet’s Olga Grigorieva. They both exude finesse, experience and ravishing plasticity. While this concert keeps it simple (too simple at times) it also offers nuggets of sublime purity.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.