|The Bolshoi Theatre|
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Bolshhoi Ballet, Giselle, 11 Oct 2015
Just as the Americans excel in films and we in state pageantry the Russians excel in ballet. There are other countries that do very well including ourselves as World Ballet Day reminded us but the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky are masters of the art as yesterday's live transmission of Giselle from Moscow showed. I have seen a lot of performances of that ballet in my time and I am set to see at least two more before the end of the year but, despite a couple of hiccups that I barely noticed at the time and of which I had to be reminded, yesterday's performance from my perspective was about as good as they get.
The title role was danced by Svetlana Zakharova who was as expressive in her acting as she was impressive in her dancing. I am not the most emotional person but I was close to tears several times in the show. The first time was when she plucked the petals and found the cad loved her not. The second was when she clutched her chest. The third time as she felt the material of Bathilde's garment and her girlish joy at receiving a gift from the grand lady. Tears actually formed in the sword scene. Even though I have serious problems with Act II of the ballet for the reasons I tried to explain in Reflections on Giselle 29 Jan 2014 I was enthralled by Zakharova's dancing from the moment she emerged from her grave to the second she handed a flower to Albrecht as she went down.
The perfect partner for Zakharova was Sergei Polunin. I have not seen much of him on stage since he left the Royal Ballet - I think the last time was at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School Gala in September 2013 - but he has never failed to amaze me with his athleticism. Can that man jump! His turns and jumps as he danced for the wilis were breathtaking. However, he can also act and he almost persuaded me with his contrition in Act II. I can see why Giselle begged Myrtha to spare his life even though I would not have bothered.
The other star ballerina was the magnificent Ekaterina Shipulina. A strikingly beautiful woman and a fine dancer she was a perfect queen of the wilis. In the interval she was asked about the coolness with which she despatched Hilarion (called "Hans" in this production for some reason and danced well by Denis Savin) and would have done the same to Albrecht had it not been for Giselle's intercession by Katerina Novikova. The answer was that she is a spirit and that is her character.
There were two other performances that deserve mention and that is the peasant pas de deux by Daria Khokhlova and Igor Tsvirko in Act I. I had admired Tsvirko in Swan Lake earlier this year, as the jester in Legend of Love and as Pepinelli in Marco Spada and it was great to see him again. Both dancers executed that piece magnificently.
One of the advantages of watching ballet in the cinema is that viewers get to see the Bolshoi stage which seems as cavernous as an aircraft hanger. The disadvantage is that you see the backcloth which looked a bit dowdy compared to Thurrock's scenery as did the costumed. But overall the performance was excellent. I am looking forward to seeing Jewels next month.