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Chopin: Dances for Piano / The Mariinsky Ballet At BAM….

February 2, 2015
The Mariinsky Ballet in Michel Fokine’s "Chopiniana"  at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

The Mariinsky Ballet in Michel Fokine’s “Chopiniana” at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Brooklyn Academy of Music recently presented The Mariinsky Ballet in a matinee performance of three works, all using music of Chopin entitled Chopin: Dances for Piano. The company ended a two-week season of three different programs, this week it moves on to the Kennedy Center in Washington with a program of late-19th- and early-20th-century choreography.

Michel Fokine was only 26 when he created Chopiniana and is the first plot-less ballet. Created in 1908 for the Mariinsky Theater, Chopin referred to his Chopiniana as a “reverie romantique.”  It is his first masterpiece and known as a crown jewel in his choreographic legacy. In this performance the dancers were accompanied by Alexandra Zhiliana on piano.

Dressed in ankle-length dresses of white tulle, a corps of ballerinas encircles a lone man on stage. It is wonderfully lyrical work and deeply emotion. The work intentionally lacks the great jumps, multiple turns or any showing tricks of the trade that were a must for ballet performances during that age.

Instead Fokine used the simplicity of beauty found within the classical vocabulary blended with lyrical movement. There is perfection to the work that can be found in the way the corps is moved about the stage and the use symmetry in the tableaus.

The Mariinsky Ballet’s Oxana Skorik & Timur Askerov in Michel Fokine’s “Chopiniana"at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

The Mariinsky Ballet’s Oxana Skorik & Timur Askerov in Michel Fokine’s “Chopiniana”at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Oxana Skorik floated across the stage but Timur Askerov landed each jump with a load thud. I having been attending performances at BAM for years, so I know it was not because of the stage’s floor. Someone was simply not rolling through his feet when he lands!

Jerome RobbinsIn The Night from 1970 was my least favorite of the three pieces shown. In this work I found the same problem I have with many of  ballets found in the repertory of the New York City Ballet and those specifically choreographed by George Balanchine.

The Mariinsky Ballet in Jerome Robbins’"In the Night" at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

The Mariinsky Ballet’ Yekaterina Kondaurova & Yevgeny Ivanchenko in Jerome Robbins’”In the Night” at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

It’s neo-classical ballet but the choreography maintains a certain rigidness of style, the men in 19th military style tunics with leggings and boots plus the women is skirts with corseted tops, that gave the work a formal aspect that I found strained. There were just too many elements I felt forced…

A wonderful surprise was Benjamin Millepied’s Without , a work for five couples. Mr. Millepied was recently named director of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Vladimir Lukasevich created a lighting design that bordered on almost to dark…and I don’t know if my age is catching up with me but it seemed to get dimmer as the work progressed…it is later that you come to realize that the dim lighting merges with music that created an ambience unique in itself.

There is a romance to the piece that is intrinsic. The work is for five couples that are in matching colors, one couple in blue, another in green and so forth. A couple would perform center stage as dancers ran on, off and through black drapes that encompassed the stage.

The Mariinsky Ballet’s Kristina Shapran & Andrei Yermakov in Benjamin Millepied’s “Without” at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

The Mariinsky Ballet’s Kristina Shapran & Andrei Yermakov in Benjamin Millepied’s “Without” at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

But, it was the couple in red, Anastasia Matvienko and Konstantin Zverev, that grab and twisted the audience’s heartstrings. They performed with such fluidity of movement and true emotion that I did not want them to ever stop dancing.

The Mariinsky Ballet, known as the Kirov Ballet during the Soviet Era, has produced some of the Twentieth Century’s most noted dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Dudinskaya, Natalia Makarova, and Rudolf Nureyev.

The Mariinsky Ballet is the parent company of the Vaganova Ballet Academy, a leading international ballet school in St. Petersburg. Over 250 years old the academy takes its name from Agrippina Vaganov, who brought perhaps the most important developments in modern Russian Ballet.

 

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