|Ekaterina Vazem, the first Bayadere
St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, The Coliseum, 23 Aug 2015
This afternoon I saw La Bayadère for the first time. Until then I had seen only the descent of the shades. La Bayadère is not performed nearly as often as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker or The Sleeping Beauty in this country and I had assumed that there was a reason for that. But I was blown away by this ballet as I was when I saw my first Swan Lake. This ballet has drama, colourful divertissements and spectacular choreography in the last act. I would confidently argue that this is Petipa's best ballet and I long to see it again.
The ballet was performed by St Petersburg Ballet Theatre at the Coliseum. Nikiya was danced by Irina Kolesnikova, Solor by Denis Rodkin, Gamzatti by Natalia Matsak, the rajah by Dimitry Akillinin and the brahmin by Dimchik Saikeev. I had expected much from Rodkin having seen him in several of the Bolshoi's HDTV transmissions from Moscow. He is even more impressive in real life. When he jumps he seems to hover. I expected less from the other dancers as I knew nothing about them but they were good too. Two other dancers also impressed me: Andrei Federkov who danced the bronze idol and Miho Naotsuko who danced one of the lead shades.
Act 2 of the ballet consists largely of divertissements. I have already mentioned the idol's dance. I enjoyed them all particularly the drum dance.
There were glitches. The snake dropped out of Nikiya's bouquet several seconds before it was due to bight her. One of the shades faltered in the last act. The sacred fire in act 1 was less than convincing. But none of those slips spoiled my enjoyment of the show. The orchestra played well and the sets and costumes were sumptuous.
The audience loved the show. I saw my first flower throw in decades. A chap a few rows in front of me in the stalls threw three or four bouquets of carnations at Kolesnikova and Rodkin several minutes before they received their official bouquets from the management. Rodkin threw one of the bouquets deep into the auditorium. I don't know what the man who had bought the flowers must have thought of that gesture but I think it was an acknowledgement of the applause and as such a charming gesture.
I saw the ballet with Gita. She will post her impressions of this performance shortly. As she is of Indian as well as British heritage I shall be very interested in what she has to say.