RUSSIAN DANCERS DELIGHT

 

By:Hal de Becker

 

Stars of the Russian Ballet (SRB) at Ham Hall offered a refreshing program of excerpts drawn mostly from the traditional classical repertoire.Not all the dancers were ‘stars’ but they were youthful, attractive and accomplished.

 

The audience was clearly delighted with the performance and responded to every dance with enthusiastic applause and exclamations of “Bravo!” Good classical ballet can be depended upon to entertain and arouse an audience.Some ballet companies, to their peril, seem to ignore this when establishing their repertoire.

 

SRB had some of the same dancers and probably the same artistic directors, former Bolshoi soloists Sergei and Elena Radchenko, as did Moscow Festival Ballet and Russian National Ballet when those two more impressive troupes appeared here.

 

For excitement and technical fireworks the highlight of SRB’s program was the Grand pas de deux from Act III of Don Quixote. Choreography was credited to the Alexander Gorsky version from 1900 which was likely influenced by Marius Petipa’s 1871 production.

 

As is so often the case with 19th century ballet classics, the marriage of music and choreography was created collaboratively rather than composed separately. The faux Spanish score for Don Q. by Leon Minkus was a good example of each element complimenting the other.

 

The roles of the two lovers were performed by Maria Sokolnikova and Mikhail Mikhailov.His rapid turns and soaring leaps were thrilling, as were her double piques (traveling turns on one toe) and fouettes (consecutive turns on one toe without traveling).Their performance was confident, spirited and stylish and possessed star quality.

 

They were joined by a corps de ballet and a dazzling female soloist, Aydos Zakan, whose winning smile and effortless technique invested her dancing with a special joyousness.

 

Later in the program Ms. Sokolnikova gave a credible interpretation of Michel Fokine’s Dying Swan. The renowned solo was created for and immortalized by the legendary Anna Pavlova.

 

A love duet from the full length Romeo and Juliet choreographedby Elena Radchenko to music by Tchaikovsky was warmly danced by Ekaterina Egorova and Nurlan Kinerbayev.Her delicate long lines, his elegance and their combined good looks and romantic expressiveness enabled them to rise above the pedestrian choreography.

 

Ms. Egorova was also seen in The Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty and an abridged version of Anton Dolin’s Pas de Quarte in whichthe four solos were not fully performed.She seemed insecure in both works.

 

In The Quarte, another work by Ms. Radcheno to a Tchaikovsky score,Mr. Kinerbayev and Mr. Mikhailov joined forces with Anna Petusinova and other dancers.It was a pleasant light-hearted work distinguished by the inventive inter-action of two couples.

 

Vitaly Zabelin’s Allegro, in which Mr. Kinerbayev was again outstanding, was a promising upbeat piece but far too short – perhaps a work in progress? In a duet from Zakharov’s Cinderella Ms. Sokolnikova and Mr. Mikhailov were paired again to good advantage.

 

The Ocean and the Pearls excerpt from the infrequently seen (outside of Russia) Saint-Leon ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse was a charmingly playful trio.The two ladies, Ms. Petusinova and Maria Klyueva, were excellent and at the end executed a series of complex turns across the stage.Unfortunately, their grace and professionalism was not matched by their male partner, Samat Abdrakhmanov.

 

Selections from Paquita, another Petipa-Minkus ballet, had Ms. Egorova and Mr. Mikhailov in the principal roles and also featured the impressive Ms. Zakan.

 

The two principals made a good team.She was back in form in a challenging solo and sparkling, multiple supported pirouettes.His gravity-defying, wide-open double cabrioles (aerial beatings of the legs) and double air turns with his body horizontal as well as vertical were breathtaking.

 

The corps was not well-matched in size or skill but its performance was pleasing and the dancers looked stunning in their fresh, brilliantly colored tutus of pink, violet, white and blue.

 

Paquita was a fitting finale to an uplifting evening of classical dance.

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