Review: Mariinsky Ballet triple bill

Royal Opera House 4/5

�The current season by the Mariinsky Ballet (ex-Kirov) celebrates 50 years of London appearances by this magnificent company presented by Hampstead residents Victor and Lilian Hochhauser, who have brought many great artists and companies of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras to these shores.

The Mariinsky is the supreme exponent of the 19th century classical repertoire but in recent years it has edged more and more into the 20th and 21st centuries by mounting ballets by great Western choreographers. This programme of works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins ilustrates the tendency.

Balanchine, of course, was a product of the Russian Imperial School but his greatest ballets, in particular those in the neo-classical style he developed, were all created in the West.

Scotch Symphony was inspired by the New York City Ballet’s first visit to the Edinburgh Festival in 1952 where Balanchine, who directed the company, was inspired both by the military tattoo and the general ambience of the Scottish scene. Using the last three movements of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony he devised a work involving a leading ballerina and her cavalier, a female soloist and large corps de ballet that reflect the mise en scene of the Highlands and, more specifically, the poses and attitudes of La Sylphide, the earliest extant Romantic ballet (1832) telling the story of Scotsman James who, on his wedding eve, falls fatally in love with a sylph.

Within an uncredited decor of woods, waterfalls and ruined arches the kilted clansmen and women of the corps surround the lovers, sometimes impeding them, sometimes presenting them to each other. Anastasia Matvienko and Alexander Sergeev danced beautifully as the lovers, inspiring haunting images of James and his sylph and Yana Selina was a jaunty kilted soloist in the opening movement.

Jerome Robbins’s In the Night, three couples dancing to Chopin Nocturnes, was conceived as a pendant to his longer and more elaborate Chopin ballet Dances at a Gathering, essentially three romantic pas de deux. The first one, danced by Yevgenia Obraztsova and Fellip Stepin, is a swooning duet to the Nocturne in D flat major op27. The second, to the Nocturne in F minor op55 danced by Alina Somova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko, has accents related to Polish folk dances while the third, to the Nocturne in E flat major op55 depicts a quarrelsome couple, Uliana Lopatkina and Daniil Korsuntsov, who finally achieve a poignant rapprochment.

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All six dancers performed with marvellous fluency and brought a lustrous glow to this romantic bonne bouche.

Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, danced to Tchaikowsky’s splendid Piano Concerto No 2, is one of his several tributes to the grand classical style developed by the great choreographer Marius Petipa during his 50-odd year reign in Imperial St Petersburg.

In the ballet’s early versions it had an appropriate imperial decor that reflected the glittering courts of the Tsar; unfortunately the Mariinsky now follows Balanchine’s later decision that it should be danced without scenery and in simple costumes, the women in knee-length chiffon skirts instead of tutus. The ballet thus loses much of the grandeur implicit in the title and is reduced to just another exercise in neo-classicism.

Even so the Mariinsky dancers perform it with scintillating style and precision. Viktoria Tereshkina superb in the leading ballerina role and Vladimir Shklyarov magnificent as her partner with impeccable pirouettes, perfect tours en l’air and fleet footwork.

Valeria Martynyuk with Andrey Timofeev and Maxim Zyuzyn were equally stylish as the supporting trio.