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WE ARE ALL CHARLIE!

Charlie

In Memory of Rudolf Nureyev….

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On Jan. 6th, 1993, that’s 22 years ago today, Rudolf Nureyev died in Paris of complications related to AIDS at the age of 55. One of the most celebrated dancers of the 20th century, he trained at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg and danced with the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet before defecting to the West in 1961. (Photo: Lord Snowden, 1986)

Of Light, Silence & Stillness | Russell Maliphant Company at the Joyce, Dec. 10-14, 2014….

Dickson Mbi of the Russell Maliphant Company ©Warren Du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones

Dickson Mbi of the Russell Maliphant Company. Photo: ©Warren Du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones

Russell Maliphant is an artist of great courage, of bravery, someone unafraid to take chances and this was evident during the Russell Maliphant Company’s engagement at the Joyce Theater, Dec. 10-14, 2014. As a choreographer he challenges the very concept of how we perceive the body in space and the relationship it has with its environment. The evening’s program, entitled Still Current, was a collection of five dances, all solos or duets.

Mr. Maliphant, who made his Joyce debut in 2012 with The Rodin Project, has collaborated closely with lighting designer and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, Michael Hulls, since 1994… Mr. Hull received the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award at the 2014 Olivier Awards…They have created a symbiotic relationship, a shared vision of merging light and movement into a new language. A new way of viewing the body in space where light becomes as tangible as the dancer, where the two become intertwined into a singular statement.

Mr. Maliphant is not afraid of stillness. He creates exquisite moments in the dance, for one brief moment, time is suspended. Everything stops, then like a heartbeat; the kinetic energies began to flow thought the dancer’s body.Two premiered in 1997 and was inspired by Maurice Béjart’s Bolero. The work is essential a duet between light and the dancer. The sole feminine presence in the company, Carys Staton, stands alone in a thin cone of shaded light with one arm raised above her head, she appears more sculpture then person.

Mr. Maliphant’s ability to marry silence and stillness makes Two alive, vibrant; you forget that there is only one person on stage. You become entranced by how light creates valleys of shadow with the body’s anatomy. The elbow becomes a peak of luminance surrounded briefly by dusk. As the arm continues to move you discover another pocket of shadow, unnoticed before but now so very important to the overall. The total effect is startling.

Carys Staton in Russell Maliphant’s “Two”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

Carys Staton in Russell Maliphant’s “Two”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

The Russell Maliphant Company is small with only four dancers, three men, Thomasin Gülgeç, Dickson Mbi, Adam Kirkham (who also dance with Balletboyz) and Carys Staton as the lone woman. Mr. Maliphant also dances in the company but due to an injury was unable to perform.

Still, making its United States premier, was danced by Ms. Stanton and Dickson Mbi. Mr. Mbi, famed for his strength and incredible popping style, began the piece solo. His movements filled with a primal passion as Mr. Hulls’ lighting design teasingly rippled across his bare torso.

Thomasin Gülgeç in Russell Maliphant’s “Afterlight”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

Thomasin Gülgeç in Russell Maliphant’s “Afterlight”. Photo: ©Hugo Glendinning

The drums in the score enhanced this feeling of primal passion. At one point Mr. Mbi is joined by Ms. Stanton. Their relationship to each other is both dependent and independent. Ms. Stanton joins in movement with Mr. Mbi then breaks away.  She is being quietly deviant, a declaration of her own fearlessness.

The second half of the program opened with a solo for Thomasin Gülgeç entitled Afterlight (Part One) and set to Erik Sati’s haunting Gnosiennes 1-4 and new compositions by Andy Cowton. Mr. Gülgeç moves with a quiet majesty, his body folding and rolling with the music. As a phrase of music slows to a moment of stillness, his arm sweeps gentle from his side to punctuate the moment.

The work was created for Sadler’s Wells’ In The Spirit of Diaghilev and inspired by photographs of Vaslav Nijinsky and his geometric drawings. Mr. Gülgeç circles and creates arcs of movement about the stage; his body seems to flow with the score. His arms possess a fragility as he moves them almost birdlike. It was an inspired performance of a Russell Maliphant’s Olivier nominated work from 2009.

Russell Maliphant is an artist to watch. With The Rodin Project, performed at the Joyce in 2012 and now with this program, Still Current, you are able to witness the brooding genius of a choreographer who speaks with his own voice.

“Ballet 422″: An Unprecedented Look Behind the Curtain as Justin Peck Creates NYCB’s 422nd Ballet, “Paz de la Jolla” Opens in Theaters Feb. 6, 2015….

Ballet 42 posterFrom first rehearsal to world premiere, BALLET 422 takes us backstage at New York City Ballet as Justin Peck, a young up-and-coming choreographer, crafts a new work. BALLET 422 illuminates the process behind the creation of the ballet Paz de la Jolla within the ongoing cycle of work at one of the world’s great ballet companies.

New York City Ballet, under the artistic direction of Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, boasts a roster of more than 90 elite dancers and a repertory of works by many of the greatest choreographers in the history of the art form. When 25-year-old NYCB dancer Justin Peck begins to emerge as a promising young choreographer, he is commissioned to create the only new ballet for the Company’s 2013 Winter Season. With unprecedented access to an elite world, Jody Lee Lipes follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, lighting designers, costume designers and his fellow dancers to create NYCB’s 422nd new ballet. BALLET 422 is an unembellished vérité portrait of a process that has never before been documented at New York City Ballet in its entirety.

Ballet 422

Director: Jody Lee Lipes

Producer: Anna Rose Holmer, Ellen Bar

Editor: Saela Davis

Associate Producer: Lauren Clifford

Cinematographer: Jody Lee Lipes, Nick Bentgen

Sound Designer: Mark Henry Phillips

Cast:

Dancers of New York City Ballet,

with Justin Peck, Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin Amar Ramasar

Magnolia Pictures

Opens in Theaters Feb. 6, 2015

Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands: A New Adventures Production | Sadler’s Wells Dec. 2 – Jan 11, 2015….

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Dec. 2 – Jan 11, 2015

Sadler’s Wells

Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R

Matthew Bourne’s magical dance production of Edward Scissorhands has carved a place in the hearts of thousands across the world since its premiere.  Presenting its first major revival, Bourne takes a fresh new look at this modern fairytale, which will be revitalised for a whole new generation of dance lovers and theatregoers.

Based on the classic Tim Burton movie and featuring the beautiful music of Danny Elfman and Terry Davies, played live each night by the New Adventures Orchestra, this touching and witty love story tells the bittersweet tale of a boy left alone and unfinished in a strange new world.  It is a parable for our times about the ultimate outsider.

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After global success with his inspired interpretations of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Nutcracker!, this new production is guaranteed to delight the whole family.

 

Hairy Chests, Ruby Red Lips & Men in Tutus | Program A of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo’s 40th Anniversary Season at the Joyce Theater, Dec. 16 – Jan. 4, 2014….

Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) as the Naiad & Mikhail Mypansarov (Ihaia Miller) as the Fisherman in “La Naïade et Le Pêcheur.” ©Yi-Chun Wu-001

Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Morra) as the Naiad & Mikhail Mypansarov (Ihaia Miller) as the Fisherman in “La Naïade et Le Pêcheur.” ©Yi-Chun Wu-001

Now every year I am so excited to witness the brilliance of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a troupe of classical trained male dancers who fearlessly bourrée across the stage while wearing tutus and point shoes. The Trocks (as they are commonly known) are an all-male ballet troupe that parodies the great ballet classics en travesty and en pointe.

These gentlemen perform under such enticing names as Maya Thickenthighya (Ihaia Miller), Nina Immobilashvili (Alberto Pretto) and Tatiana Youbetyabootskaya (László Major). Each dancer, besides their challenging roles as Russian ballerina, also perform male roles, such as László Major is also Araf Legupski, Giovanni Goffredo performs the dual roles of Varvara Bratchikova and Sergey Legupski, Duane Gosa is also Helen Highwaters and Vladimir Legupski

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in “Swan Lake.” ©Sascha Vaughn.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in “Swan Lake.” ©Sascha Vaughn.

It is noted in the program that all the Legupski listed, there are five of them, are brothers, but not really, though their first names are in fact Araf, Sergey and Vladimir. Unfortunately they do not the difference between a pirouette and a jeté, but they moved nicely and fit into the costumes.

Now, aside from the names and the clever backstories found in the program,  such as Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin), who has just returned from the Varna International Ballet Competition where the judges, after having to sit through her performance, awarded her the plastic medal for Bad Taste. But, sadly, that was about the most humorous thing I found for the evenings performance.

Les Ballets Trockadero presented four works, a supposedly tongue-in-cheek rendition of Petipa’s classic Le Lac Des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II), Go for Borocco, an hommage to George Balanchine, the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux and Variations, plus a short ballet attributed to Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa with music by Cesare Pugni, La Naïade Et Le Pêcheur (The Niaid and the Fisherman).

The last time I saw Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo the company performed The Black Swan Pas De Deux as part of the 10th Anniversary of the Fall for Dance Festival in 2013. It was brilliant, I laughed so hard I cried…but it was because of the understated humor. A somewhat diminutive Prince Siegfried, danced by Innokenti Smoktunmuchsky (Carlos Hopuy), was immediately entranced by a taller and stronger looking Odile performed by Yakatarina Verbosovich (Chase Johnson). It was just that Ms. Verbosovich was not so taken with Prince Siegfried.  The evil Von Rothbart as performed by Vytacheslav Legupski (Paolo Cervellera)  and ran interference anytime the bewildered Odette, danced by the noted and much respected ballerina Sonia Leftova (Boysie Dikobe), attempted to enter the stage, complete with a white tutu and her arms a ripple. Von Rothbart refused to have his Odile (Ms.Verbosovich ) upstage by Odette and simple refused let her on to the stage, steering her back to the wings, sometimes gently, most times not. I remember the performance like it was yesterday…I say again, it was sheer brilliance.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in Marius Petipa’s Black Swan Pas De Deux

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in Marius Petipa’s Black Swan Pas De Deux

But what I saw in Program A of the Les Ballets Trockadero’s biennial three-week NYC engagement at the Joyce Theater, I sadly cannot say the same. There was too much hamming it up, to many obvious trips and falls that could have been very funny had they been cleverly staged.

The Le Corsaire Pas de Deux and Variations was somewhat better. The stand out in the performance was László Major who performed the slave variation with force and a surprising aerial or two. (…Mr. Major also should be granted the  award for the most hunkiest of the evening….just saying…)

Carlos Hopuy performing as Medora always impresses me with his abilities, but I must say after seeing his performance in this pas de deux, he raised the bar even higher. Mr. Hopuy was whipping out double fouettés turns, en pointe, better than a few real ballerinas I have known. It was a worthy performance for such an honored pas de deux but it seemed the focus was the dancing that was filled with difficult tricks as opposed to being a true parody.

For Le Lac Des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II), the dancers seemed to be camping it up more than needed. Everyone, especially Prince Siegfried (Giovanni Goffredo) had on way to much make-up. I was confused as to who was en travesty, Prince Siegfried or Odette (Robert Carter). The Prince sported deep blue eye shadow, a lot of it, cheek contouring and ruby red lips. I found it distracting.

Yakaterina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) & Nina Immobilianshvili (Alberto Pretto) in “La Naïade et Le Pêcheur.” ©Yi-Chun Wu-001

Yakaterina Verbosovich (Chase Johnsey) & Nina Immobilianshvili (Alberto Pretto) in “La Naïade et Le Pêcheur.” ©Yi-Chun Wu-001

La Naïade Et Le Pêcheur needs to be completely reworked. It never went anywhere, during the performance I was bored and kept hoping it would end soon. Here also, the male characters in the piece, Matteo (Ihaia Miller) and the friends of Matteo (Jack Furlong, Jr. and Christopher Ouellette) had on to much make-up I that could not take the characters seriously at all. Jack Furlong and Christopher Ouellette looked as if they had just changed costumes and threw on a short haired wig. Both sported long (and I mean long) lashes and again bright ruby red lipstick.

Mr. Furlong looked more like his character, Guzella Verbitskaya, was in actuality a woman pretending to be a man as opposed to the opposite. I understand that costume changes between performances can get very tight in regards to timing…but still, the dancers could have taken off the eyelashes and wiped off the lipstick to at least some differentiation between male and female characters.

To be fair, this was the opening night for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Always opening nights are tricky, the dancers, no matter how rehearsed or how much they have already performed the repertory, opening nights everything seems new and nerves are a reality that has bested the most gifted of performers…

 

Kim Brandstrup’s “Leda and the Swan” with Zenaida Yanowsky & Tommy Franzen….

Zenaida Yanowsky & Tommy Franzen in “Leda and the Swan”

Zenaida Yanowsky & Tommy Franzen in “Leda and the Swan”

Choreographer and director Kim Brandstrup’s short dance film Leda and the Swan, commissioned by The Royal Ballet for Deloitte Ignite 2014. Performed by dancers Zenaida Yanowsky and Tommy Franzen, and Yeats’s poetry read by actor Fiona Shaw.

Deloitte Ignite 2014 is the annual contemporary arts festival at the Royal Opera House and was curated by The Royal Ballet and The National Gallery’s Minna Moore Ede. This year’s festival is a feast of dance and visual art.

The month-long festival celebrated and explored the origin of myth and creation through dance, visual art, film, music and movement. The festival focused on two archetypal myths: Prometheus, the Titan who creates man from clay and steals fire from the Gods, and Leda and the Swan, the mysterious conjunction of a mortal woman and the god Zeus, disguised as a swan.

Music by Nico Muhly (Diacritical Marks 1, 2 & 6)

Poems by W.B. Yeats

Poems Read by Fiona Shaw

Cinematographer: Stephen Standen

Producer: Lucie Conrad

Choreography, directed & edited by Kim Brandstrup

Dancers: Zenaida Yanowsky & Tommy Franzen

Commissioned by The Royal Ballet for the Deloitte Ignite Festival 2014

Find out more at http://www.roh.org.uk/about/deloitte-…

Frisch’s Presents “The Nutcracker” Performed by the Cincinnati Ballet, Dec. 19-27, 2014….

Cincinnati Ballet in “The Nutcracker”. Photo: Peter Mueller.

Cincinnati Ballet in “The Nutcracker”. Photo: Peter Mueller.

Victoria Morgan, Artistic Director for the Cincinnati Ballet has taken one of ballet’s most iconic pas de deux, The Nutcracker pas de deux and recreated a dance that fits comfortably in the 21st Century. Now that is saying something indeed when you realize The Nutcracker pas de deux, first choreographed by the legendary master of dance Marius Petipa, was first performed in in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

But let’s be honest, at 122 years of age, The Nutcracker pas de deux needed a little tweaking, a bit of spit and polish and updated for the 21st Century. For the millennials in the crowd, think of it as The Nutcracker pas de deux v. 2.0. Ms. Morgan gave it a much needed upgrade.

Now many a balletomane we cry foul and fall weeping in the center aisle, of that you can be sure. Stodgy dance critics (the ones who never like anything, anyway) will storm out of the theater in righteous indignation. I mean after all, it was good enough for Anthony Dowell and Leslie Collier to perform at Covent Garden,,,but, ahh folks, that was in ‘70’s.

The Nutcracker pas de deux is a dance for the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince Coqueluche in the ballet The Nutcracker.  It is performed all over the world, probably being performed somewhere right now as you are reading this…The pas de deux and the codas are staples for the International ballet competitions, Varna to Tokyo, Moscow to Jackson, Miss….

Frisch's Presents “The Nutcracker” Performed  by the  Cincinnati Ballet, Dec. 19-27, 2014

Frisch’s Presents “The Nutcracker” Performed by the Cincinnati Ballet, Dec. 19-27, 2014. Photo: Peter Mueller

Ms. Morgan has remained true to Petipa’s original choreography (historically speaking dance scholars think it’s the original choreography, but I digress…) What is unique is that she has merged elements more often found in Contemporary Ballet as opposed to Classical.

In Ms. Morgan’s updated version, the rigidity of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s torso has been replaced with a torso that is allowed to move and is freer. The positions des bras (position for the arms) have breath and show more fluidity. The male dancer is not there just to lift and carry the ballerina across the stage, instead he is more engaged, an active partner. Most importantly, the choreography is more embracive of the musicality that is in Tchaikovsky’s score.

**Also, just a little side note, if you’re fan or admirer of the Cuban School of Classical Ballet (like I am), the Cincinnati Ballet has several Cuban dancers of note. Yosvani Ramos, former dancer with the Australian Ballet, Venus Villa, formerly with the English National Ballet,  Rolando Sarabia, Gold Medalist at USA IBC in Jackson Competition, Mississippi, Romel Frometa and Gema Diaz, both formerly with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and one of my favorite male dancers dancing today, Cervillo Amardor, a Principal Dancer with the Cincinati Ballet since 2004.

…Also, be sure to catch Jenessa Touchet as the Snow Queen…she gives a remarkable performance….

If you’re in the Cincinnati, Ohio area (and I wish I were)…This is one Nutcracker you will not want to miss……

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Dec. 19-27, 2014

The Aronoff Center for the Arts

Choreography by Victoria Morgan

Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Carmon DeLeone

Scenic Design: John Ezell

Costume Design: Carrie Robbins

Lighting Design: Trad A Burns.

Head Space: Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s 20th Anniversary Gala at the Joyce Theater….

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Terk Waters & Kelly Sneddon in Dwight Rhoden’s “Head Space.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Terk Waters & Kelly Sneddon in Dwight Rhoden’s “Head Space.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

I remember attending Complexions Contemporary Ballet very first performances at the Joyce Theater in the early to mid-90’s. I must admit, I was not impressed. The company was a hodge-podge of dancers with different ethnicities and body types. I found Dwight Rhoden’s choreography too busy, almost frantic as if he was trying way too hard. The only saving grace to the evening was the performances of Desmond Richardson.

Well, that was then and this is now. I now consider Complexions Contemporary Ballet one of my favorite small dance companies and I always make a point to attend their New York seasons . They practice what they preach, the company’s roster of the exquisitely 14 trained dancers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and body types. My opinion of Mr. Rhoden’s choreography has changed as well.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s in Dwight Rhoden’s “Head Space.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s in Dwight Rhoden’s “Head Space.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s 20th Anniversary Gala at the Joyce Theater presented new works created just for this anniversary in addition to some of the company’s favorite pieces from the past 20 years.

With the World Premiere of Mr. Rhoden’s Head Space, we see the work of not just a choreographer but of an artist coming into his own. Head Space, with music by New Orleans Jazz musician Terrence Blanchard, is perhaps the most exciting work I have seen from Mr. Rhoden…and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see it again,

The work is ripe with Ms. Rhoden’s signature style of choreography.  A divine mix of the chaotic laced with sublime lyricism. In Head Space the dancers use their bodies to emphasis his extreme style, a style that pushes the dancers technically. Leg extensions lift to the heavens, especially Terk Waters; he has perhaps the longest legs of any male dancing to day.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s in Marcelo Gomes’ “Igaul.” Photo: Whitney Browne

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s in Marcelo Gomes’ “Igaul.” Photo: Whitney Browne

I have said it before and I will say it again, I believe “greatness” resides in Terk Waters. He is not just a really good dancer but a dancer rare for his generation. He possesses the ability to make even the most difficult choreography into a seamless blend of artistry and technique. There is a special quality to his dancing in that he dances not with his body but instead with his whole soul. His stage presence, his movement capabilities, both remind me of some of the great male dancers from the early 80’s such as Fernando Bujones, Ivan Nagy, even Baryshnikov in his early years.

The New York City premiere of Igual, choreographed by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer; Marcelo Gomes, was also given. The work is set to an original score for two violins by acclaimed composer Ian Ng and played live by Tessa Lark and Charles Yang.  The work is inspired by marriage equality, “Igual” means “equal” in Portuguese.

American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland with Complexions’ Artist-in Residence, Clifford Williams in Dwight Rhoden’s “Ave Maria.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland with Complexions’ Artist-in Residence, Clifford Williams in Dwight Rhoden’s “Ave Maria.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Four dancers, Ashley Mayeux, Kelly Sneddon, Addison Ector and Terk Waters wearing Eric Wintering’s costumes of turquoise crop tops and leggings wove themselves into intricate knots of interconnecting limbs. The dancers would break apart and come back together again.

It’s a wonderful work and I feel I need to see it again to really say anything about. Mr. Rhoden’s Head Space I found so exciting that anything following it was just not going to be able to get the full appreciation I am sure it deserves.

With Igaul, Mr. Gomes shows his continued growth as a choreographer. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a performance of his Paganini, set to Paganini’s Caprice in A minor (Op. 1, No. 24), that premiered in 2011 or his work Toccare, set to an excerpt from Ian Ng’s Grand Jeté for a Violin, that premiered in 2012….do so, you will not regret it!

American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland with Complexions’ Artist-in Residence, Clifford Williams in Dwight Rhoden’s “Ave Maria.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland with Complexions’ Artist-in Residence, Clifford Williams in Dwight Rhoden’s “Ave Maria.” Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Mr. Rhoden’s 1995 work, Ava Maria, was brilliantly performed by American Ballet Theater’s Soloist Misty Copeland and Complexions’ Artist-in Residence, Clifford Williams. Both Ms. Copeland and Mr. Williams energies blended perfectly and created an electrically charged performance. Bravo, bravo indeed.

The only disappointment I found in the evening’s performance was Mr. Rhoden’s excerpt from his work The Groove that was created in 2012 for the North Carolina Dance Theater and set to music of the Pet Shop boys. The audience loved it, but for me it was lacking something somewhere.

Three Centuries of Russian Ballet: The Mikhailovsky Ballet with Mikhailovsky Orchestra at Lincoln Center….

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Ivan Vasiliev in Asaf Messerer’s Class Concert. Photo: Stas Levshin

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Ivan Vasiliev in Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin

On Nov 18 and 19, 2014, the Mikhailovsky Ballet, accompanied by the full Mikhailovsky Orchestra, offered a program entitled Three Centuries of Russian Ballet. Located in St. Petersburg, the company has become a shining jewel in Russian ballet and has attracted such international stars as Natalia Osipova, Ivan Vasiliev and Angelina Vorontsova (all formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet) plus Leonid Sarafanov (former with the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet) and the Spanish born Nacho Duato became its resident choreographer in 2011

Ballet has been a part of the tapestry of Russian history since the 17th Century. Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich (1645–1676), the second Russian tsar of the house of Romanov introduced ballet to Russia as part of his wedding festivities. Peter the Great (1672-1725) took a personal interest in ballet at his court, bringing in Western dances and taking part in them himself. While the Mikhailovsky Theatre, home to the Mikhailovsky Ballet, was founded by Czar Nicholas I in 1833.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet in Petipa’s Le Halte de Cavalerie. Photo: Stas Levshin

The Mikhailovsky Ballet in Petipa’s “Le Halte de Cavalerie.” Photo: Stas Levshin

So when one of the major ballet companies of Russia offers a program entitled Three Centuries of Russian Ballet…a lot is to be expected and unfortunately it did not quite live up to its title. Offered were three one act ballets, Petipa from the 19th century, Asaf Messerer from the 20th century and Nacho Duato’s Prelude from the 21st Century.

Premiering at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in 1975,  Le Halte de Cavalerie (The Cavalry Halt), with music by Ivan Armsheimer, is one of Marius Petipa’s short ballets. Originally created between his Swan Lake (1877) and Raymonda (1898), Le Halte de Cavalerie premiered in 1896 and was revived by Pyotr Gusev in 1968. This is a fun ballet, witty, humorous with nothing heavy or overly dramatic.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Leonid Sarafanov in Petipa’s Le Halte de Cavalerie. Photo: Svetlana Avvakum

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Leonid Sarafanov in Petipa’s “Le Halte de Cavalerie.” Photo: Svetlana Avvakum

From the beginning antics in sue, in a local village two girls are in love with the Peter (Ivan Vasiliev). A tug of war is seen between Maria (Angelina Vorontsova) and Teresa (Olga Semyonova) but Peter (Mr. Vasiliev) already has given his heart to Maria.

A Hussar regiment arrives in the village and the Colonel in charge demands his soldiers are billeted. Alexey Malakhov portrayed a Colonel that just could not get his act together. He is ever amorous and turns his attention to Teresa (Ms. Semyonova) who hopes it will make Peter take notice. The village girls flirt with the men in uniforms to the outrage of their boyfriends…and it ends with a fairy tale like wedding in a castle between Peter and Maria.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Angelina Vorontsova & Ivan Vasiliev in Petipa’s “Le Halte de Cavalerie." Photo: Mikhailovsky Theatre

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Angelina Vorontsova & Ivan Vasiliev in Petipa’s “Le Halte de Cavalerie.” Photo: Mikhailovsky Theatre

The choreography is what it is, plenty of pantomime mixed with some excellent Russian character dancing. But it had more fluff than substance but when created that was its goal…to entertain. Well, entertain it did, every thing about it was charming and I am richer for having seen if…it’s Petipa after all….

Asaf Messerer’s Class Concert, created during the Soviet era, was a head-scratcher…it’s not that I disliked the work it’s just that I did not find it memorable. The work was commissioned during the Soviet era (1963) as a performance exercise for graduates of the Bolshoi Academy. The score is a compilation of music by several Russian composers including Anatoly Lyadov, Anton Rubinstein, Alexander Glazunov and Dmitri Shostakovich.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Leonid Sarafanov in Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.”  Photo: Stas Levshin

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Leonid Sarafanov in Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin

The works is set as if we are spectators watching a ballet class or a year-end recital. We see three young girls standing at a ballet barre ready to begin class. (The work utilized children and young adults from local ballet academies.) Similar scenes were seen as the girls and also boys increased in age and as the ages increased so did the difficulty of the exercises at the barre.

It is presented in a ballet class format,  barre work, then center of the floor work with adagio, turns, petit allégro (small jumps) and then grand allégro (big jumps). The dancers of the Mikhailovsky Ballet are excellent trained and their technique crisp and precise, turns impressive and their jumps amazing.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Victor Lebedev Asaf  Messerer’s “Class Concert.”  Photo: Stas Levshin

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Victor Lebedev Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin

The question is was Asaf Messerer’s Class Concert the best work that could be shown from Russia’s soviet era? Russian ballet during the Soviet era is somewhat of a mystery to many westerners, besides the Bolshoi Ballet’s 1968 production of Spartacus, choreographed by Yury Grigorovich, little from that era has been seen outside Russia. Thus it was sadly a missed opportunity to really show stronger works from that era.

Nacho Duato’s Prelude is an interpretation of the emotions and impressions which Mr. Duato experienced at the start of a new period of his life – in Russia. It is not about one particular subject but a meeting of the classically trained dancers with Mr. Duato’s contemporary style of choreography. Does Prelude rank alongside some of his classis works such as his 1983 work Jardi Tuncat or Without Words created in 1988? Does it match the brilliance of Mr. Duato’s Duende from 1991 or Depak Ine, commissioned by the Martha Graham Dance Company and premiered at New York City Center earlier this year? For me it did not…

The Mikhailovsky Ballet in Nacho Duato’s “Prelude.” Photo: Nikolay Krusser

The Mikhailovsky Ballet in Nacho Duato’s “Prelude.” Photo: Nikolay Krusser

The score is a mixture of Handel, Beethoven and Britten. Prelude is broken into segments, for lack of a better word, with each segment announced or preceded with a change of scenery. It was somewhat surreal and not in a good way.

This work was created for the Mikhailovsky Ballet on the Mikhailovsky’s dancers but still it lacked a depth, a statement that I have always seen in Mr. Duato’s works. Prelude has a cast of 34 including a large corps de ballet.