December 9, 2013
Avalanche of international ballet galas
For the Herald
Last week I wrote about an international ballet gala; now I will be referring to new ones that took place at the Coliseo on August 29 (repeated the next day) and 31, and already in the horizon is the one organized by the Colón for September 11.
The balance of the Third Ballet Gala of Buenos Aires presented by Grupo Ars (with the sponsorship of Galicia Eminent) was certainly positive. Two matters surprised me. First, a voice announced that Juan Pablo Ledo was suffering from an injury and so his pas de deux with Karina Olmedo would be cancelled; there was no mention of it in the hand programme... Second, a welcome surprise: the inclusion of renowned artist Daniil Simkin. He danced marvellously a Variation from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and a solo from Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes (on Sousa’s music). Plus a short funny film of dancing on New York’s streets and subway. Recorded music was played the whole evening through, sometimes rather roughly.
I didn’t like the start, a very recent choreography by Joeri Dubbe (born 1984) on ugly electro-acoustic music by Thijs Kaldenbach and Marvin Van Boven, although it was well danced by Carolina Mancuso (Argentine, from the Nederlands Dans Theatre) and Paolo Fermani (also Argentine, from our Compañía Nacional de Danza Contemporánea).
Pierre Lacotte is well known here for his reconstruction of La Sylphide; in 2000 he did an impeccable classic choreography on The Pharaoh’s Daughter, music by Cesare Pugni (1802-70). It was beautifully danced by two Russians from Moscow’s Bolshoi: Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov.
The best modern choreography of the programme was by Maurice Béjart: his 1980 duo Parsifal, with Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin. The refined and plastic steps were enhanced by the projection of the dancers’ shadows. Two splendid artists from the Béjart Ballet Lausanne were completely attuned to the style: Oscar Chacón (Colombian) and Kateryna Shalkina (Ukranian). Another dancer from Ukraine, Sergei Polunin of the Moscow Stanislavsky Theatre, was fantastically agile in a Variation from Coppélia (Del-ibes/Petipa). Then, a fun piece from choreographer Eric Gauthier: 101 steps — a perfectly synchronized voice leads Canadian dancer Jason Reilly (Stuttgart Ballet) through 100 positions and then mixes them, arriving to the total parodied exhaustion of the artist. Reilly was brilliant. Music by Jens-Peter Abele was listed but I heard none (?).
For the umpteenth time, the pas de deux from the Minkus/Petipa Don Quichotte, where the Cubans Viengsay Valdés (of amazing equilibrium) and Víctor Estéves (Ballet Nacional de Cuba) showed the fine technique of the Alicia Alonso school.
With charming music by Shostakovich dated 1935, the pas de deux from The bright stream has a light, youthful choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, danced artlessly by Krysanova and Lantratov. What followed was a minor Béjart, Jacques Brel’s song Quand on n’a que l’amour (When all we have is love), nicely done by Shalkina and Chacón. The rarely seen Petipa opus Talisman (1889) with music by Riccardo Drigo, provided a difficult classic pas de deux well danced by Valdés and Estéves.
I found little to admire in the strident minimalist music of Michael Nyman (Fanfare XL) or in Douglas Lee’s choreography, though it was well executed by Reilly and Anna Osadcenko (from Kazakhstan). To finish, Polunin was imposing in Vaganova’s Diane and Acteon (music by Pugni), a pure classic example; his Diana, pleasant but a little small, was Luciana Barrirero from the Colón.
Ten dancers from the Bolshoi, Mikhailovsky and Kirov Ballets are doing a Chilean tour and managed to squeeze a performance in BA. They are the Stars of the Russian Classical Ballet. The level was high and representative of a trend to insert acrobatic steps into old standards. However, there was room for poetry in two interventions by the exquisite Yuliia Makhalina: the Adagio from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (Petipa/ Ivanov), where she was partnered by a true danseur noble, Mikhail Venshchikov, and that imperishable standard, The dying swan (Saint-Saëns/Fokin).
Humour and skill dominated the pas de deux from Petipa’s Harlequinade (music by Drigo), performed with fantastic agility and the right spirit by Kristina Andreeva and Oleg Ivenko.
The grand pas from La Bayadère is typical Petipa (music, Minkus). The performance by Marina Veznavets and Konstantin Zverev was able but superficial. Then came the contrast of the folky Gopak (steps by Zakharov, music by Soloviev-Sedoy) brilliantly done by Victor Ishchuk.
Natalia Ledovskaya and Venshchikov danced very purely the Seventh Waltz from Chopiniana (first version of Les Sylphides), the archetypal ballet blanc by Fokin. The First Part ended with the pas d’action (in fact, a formal pas de deux) from Petipa’s Le Corsaire (five composers were listed!), where a wiry but strong Victor Lebedev performed lifting feats with Anastasia Lomachenkova; both were very good.
Makhalina and Venshchikov showed their versatility in the sensual Adagio from Schéhérazade (Rimsky-Korsakov/Fokin). The pas de deux from The flames of Paris is supposed to take place during the French Revolution but there’s little in the music (Asafyev) or choreography (Ratmansky) that suggests it; it was well danced by Lomachenkova and Ishchuk. Ledovskaya and Lebedev gave us a sensitive and youthful pas de deux from Giselle (Adam/Petipa).
A suite from Carmen, the Alberto Alonso choreography on Bizet as arranged by Shchedrin, centred on the gypsy girl and the toreador: Veznavets danced well but missed the personality of her character and Zverev was a strong presence. Finally, the grand pas from Don Quixote was beautifully done by Andreeva and Ivenko. All took leave dancing Bizet’s Farandole.