Warm summer evenings are starting to come to an end in London (if only we could have temperatures in the twenties all year round…). As we prepare to welcome the autumn dance season, we have a quick look back at what we enjoyed here at The Ballet Bag over the past couple of months:
1. A Tale of Two Cities
ABT gave us some superb performances of The Sleeping Beauty at Opera Bastille last week, while the Bolshoi Ballet took residency at the Royal Opera House for three weeks in July/August, with a stream of blockbusters and the UK premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s The Taming of the Shrew. Before their arrival, we had also dropped by Paris to catch up with NYCB in a gorgeous programme that included three European premieres: Wheeldon’s fun Estancia, Ratmansky’s chic Pictures at an Exhibition and Justin Peck’s cool Everywhere We Go. Between London and Paris, we were fully sorted for our summer dance!
2. Most show-stopping premiere: The Bolshoi’s Taming of the Shrew
Aside from 10 Things I Hate About You, Shakespeare’s Shrew has never had a more entertaining vehicle than Maillot’s 2014 creation for the Bolshoi Ballet. Two short but sweet acts that fit the company like a glove, roles that are intrinsically linked to their creators, chic designs, plenty of Shostakovich, and all-around Bolshoiness, the ballet is a hoot. Plus, this was a work in which to admire the artistry of Katya Krysanova, incidentally the only principal performing in all productions during the London tour (if her Katharina was feisty, her Jeanne was exhilarating, her Medora beguiling), this was her time to shine.
3. Royal Couples at the Bolshoi
Nobody does “Don Q” like the Bolshoi and, in this new revision of Alexei Fadeyechev’s production, we got improved pace, stunning designs/costumes and bravura displays that didn’t overshadow the narrative backbone. Add to all this the sizzling chemistry of IRL duo Maria Alexandrova and Vladislav Lantratov and it’s as good as it gets. In Swan Lake, however, it was all about Olga Smirnova & Semyon Chudin. Whereas she is currently an authority when it comes to Odette (her long limbs, lyrical arms and serene gaze are the embodiment of the ballerina ideal), he is the perfect cavalier, matching her in temperament, proportions and musicality (no wonder they were also paired in Taming of the Shrew).
4. Stars in the Making
It baffles us how the Mariinsky keeps letting its star ballerinas defect to Moscow. The latest one making this jump is Yulia Stepanova, educated in the purest tradition of St. Petersburg’s grand ballerinas, she is a swan queen to watch and the newest principal at the Bolshoi. Anna Tikhomirova is another artist who has grown immensely since the company’s previous London tour. To our disappointment, she wasn’t given the role of Kitri, but that didn’t stop her from literally “shutting it down” in every single role she got her hands on. Spanish Bride? Check. Mercedes? Check. Gulnare, Check. Sultry Housekeeper in Maillot’s Shrew? Nailed it. Meanwhile in Paris, it was the turn of Cassie Trenary (Aurora/Florine), Devon Teuscher (Lilac Fairy) and Skylar Brandt (Florine) to dazzle us as ballerinas-in-the-making.
5. American Companies in Peak Form
What do you do when you’re walking down the streets of Paris and you bump into the great man himself (true story)? Well you thank him for all the #Ratmanskyness of course! His revisionist take on The Sleeping Beauty is a treasure and the casts we saw (Murphy/Stearns/Abrera for L. and Boylston/Gorak/Part for E.) seemed fully committed to a production that must rank as the biggest stylistic challenge in ABT’s repertory. Speaking of style, how green with envy are we that Parisians got 3x Justin Pecks this season, while Londoners got none? It hardly seems fair that the choreographer credited with making ballet trendy again should be such a rare sight over this dance capital.