Stars of the 21st Century at the David H. Koch Theater
The repertory for The Stars of the 21st Century ranged from classical to contemporary, from Petipa to John Neumeier, with Boris Eifman, Wayne McGregor, Roland Petit and George Balanchine thrown in for good measure. There was not a bad performance anywhere, just some that shined a little brighter than others.
The evening began with an excerpt from Judith Jamison’s Reminiscin’. Alicia Graf Mack and Jamar Roberts performed a duet in which you are so drawn into their depth of emotion and movement that you lose yourself. Ms. Graf is beyond exceptional, she is the rare artist who’s every gesture is like song.
The performance of the Kirov Ballet’s Maria Shirinkina and Vladimir Shklayrov in Yuri Smekalov’s Parting was delicious. Ms. Shirinkina is seen seated in a pool of light; she begins a coy solo of enticement as she fully explores her space with several quick développé à la seconde. She returns to her seat, she rotates the seat in a way that as she moves to the rear we see Mr. Shklayrov seated where Ms. Shirinkina was just a moment before. Mr. Shklayrov begins a solo with sharp percussive gestures then stands and continues moving his body quickly. He turns, spots someone on the front row, gives a wink, using his hand to gesture “phone me” and gives a very suggestive smile. His movements are much larger than Ms. Shirinkina, using more space, his direction is never just to the front but rather encompasses all angles. It is much more athletic with more jumps and turns. We see Ms. Shirinkina, she is standing on a chair, Mr. Shklayrov reaches her and lifts her onto his shoulder. They begin a very intense tango of mutual desire but yet with a teasing quality to it. It is a tango in which they each entice and then reject the other, a playful flirtation with a very sensual undertone. But in the end, a dissolute Mr. Shklayrov is rejected by Ms. Shirinkina as she runs away. The score by John Powell will be familiar to many for it is the music used in the famous tango scene between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. My friend said it was the best tango she had ever seen, I have to agree.
One of the evening’s highlights was the Royal Ballet’s Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood in the pas de deux from Wayne McGregor’s Limen. Ms. Lamb is so eloquent; her ability to order and rearrange her long limbs at will is extraordinary. The dichotomy of light and dark in regards to Ms. Lamb and Mr. Underwood was startling from the first moment seen. Mr. Underwood guides Ms. Lamb’s body in to a kinetic sculpture as she flows from one position to the next. The abstraction of the pas de deux is found in the body shapes and the manner in which Mr. Underwood transitions Ms. Lamb. There is a haunting emotionalism to the piece, a sense of some deep reservoir of feeling that cannot be expressed by words and can only be expressed through movement. Ms. Lamb relies on the stability of support given by Mr. Underwood; she incorporates him into her shapes until they are forged into one perfect moment in time. Kaija Saariaho scores is a magical blend of cello and violin that speaks to the heart. It was a flawless performance!
Katrina Chebykina and Denis Matvienko performed a thrilling Don Quixote. Both dancers are from the National Opera and Ballet of Ukraine, and that was part of the brilliance of the evening, being able to witness artists from ballet companies worldwide. I had seen Mr. Matvienko performing with The Kings of Dance: Opus 3 when he did a much more contemporary piece but tonight he was truly in his element. Mr. Matvienko double cabrioles were effortless and he soared through the coda with bravura and great stamina; we gasped at his leaps and marveled at his turns. This is Don Quixote as it is supposed to be, exciting, thrilling and passionate.
Maria Shirinkina and Vladimir Shklayrov also performed George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Mr. Shklayrov exhibited such strength and control in his technique and Ms. Shirinkina was as delicate as a flower in bloom. They were so playful and they made everything seems so easy. Ms. Shirinkina executed a fouetté to several chaînés to a fouetté to pirouette combination that was so breezy we marveled.
Sadly this was the last performance in New York City for Vladimir Malakov. I was hoping he would be performing his solo Swan but instead he gave a delightful performance of Angelin Preljocaj’s Le Parc with Nadja Saidakova. Choreographed in 1994 for the Paris Opera Ballet Le Parc was inspired by seventeenth and eighteenth century French art and literature in a search for “the art of loving”. This duet seems to be the study of the kiss, Ms. Saidakova stands on point and wraps her arms around Mr. Malakov’s neck then slowly and tenderly places her lips on his. Mr. Malakov bends backwards, lifting Ms. Saidakova’s feet off the floor while they are locked in a tight lip embrace he takes several steps backwards and starts to turn with Ms. Saidakova still attached to his lips. It as if the suction of their lips is the only thing keeping the two attached, for Mr. Malakov’s arms are by his side. Though the piece was novel I was disappointed for Mr. Malakov did little dancing other that turning while Ms. Saidakova was attached to him. Ms. Saidakova has such a lyricism of movement, she flows from one movement to the next with silky transitions.
Olga Smirnova at 22 is taking the world by storm and has already danced the leads in such ballets as La Bayadère, Balanchine’s Diamonds and in Pharaoh’s Daughter. Tonight she performed with Semen Chudin, both from the Bolshoi Ballet, in Victor Gsovski’s Grand Pas Classique and what a performance it was. Ms. Smirnova every pas de bourrée and pique turn perfection. Grand Pas Classique is a work of such clean classicism that only a gifted technician and true artist is able to bring it to life, such it was with Ms. Smirnova. Mr. Chudin displayed great bravura and his jumps and turns lightning quick. This was the perfect ending for the evening.