NINA ANANAISHVILI & STARS OF THE BOLSHOI BALLET IN JAPAN, FEBRUARY 2004
I caught three performances at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (Feb. 26, 27, 28), all enthusiastically attended by the legions of Ninas loyal fans. Women and young girls made up a majority of the audience, but men of all ages were also present, as were corporate heads and their beautifully kimono-clad wives.
Fadeyechev was once more artistic director of Ninas troupe, which this time included
a 31-member corps de ballet, composed of dancers from the Georgian national company. They
were indispensable in the brilliantly realized version of
Stanton Welchs lyrical Green, created for Nina in 2000, opened each performance. The choreographer has made a number of ballets reportedly referring to chakra colors, green being associated with the energy center which supports heart consciousness, helping soothe emotions and bring harmony. The piece itself is basically abstract, though two central pas de deux---the first involving Nina and Dmitri Belogolovtsev, the second Nina and Sergei Filin, suggest worlds of meanings. That they dance a harmonious trio at the end might indicate a resolution to a complex set of relationships. However that may be, smoothly flowing steps, to excerpts of Vivaldi violin concertos, create a quietly peaceful atmosphere. A woodland setting is indicated by costumes that range from bright moss to willow greens---long skirts for the women, tights for the bare-chested men. The use of an opaque black curtain at the back of the stage, through which dancers disappear and reappear, adds a touch of mystery.
The choreography includes emphatic arm and hand movements that focus on Ninas wonderful use of her upper limbs; sections where dancers cover then uncover their eyes recur, perhaps referring to things beyond the visible. Welch utilizes purely classical ballet steps and inevitably, some combinations and postures echo Balanchines innovations, as do movements that seem to be launched with no preparation; these are now part of contemporary dance idiom. What Welch brings to ballets is his own response to musical impulses, his sense of musical phrasing, as well as his use of individual dancers gifts.
Working with Nina and other principals from the Bolshoi, he has loaded this piece with some astoundingly difficult steps, which are, however, executed with such finesse and liquidity that they may seem easy to the unobservant eye. The partnering is full of surprising twists, with lifts that require strength and agility. Solos come in unexpected bursts. In one section, Nina executes a manège of turns that appear to spring out of nowhere; in another, Filin does a series of sideway jumps that astonish with their rapidity and fluid ease; Belogolovtsev thrilled with his countless entrechats. But these mini-variations are integrated into the whole so that they do not call attention to themselves; each is just part of the softly woven pattern of the ballet. Contrasts of adagio and allegro passages (the latter mostly for the corps) provide textural rather than mood changes.
atmosphere of this beautiful ballet requires the utmost of the dancers, the lighting
technicians, as well as the musicians. At Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, live accompaniment was
provided by Tokyo New City Orchestra for both Green and
The middle piece, Trey McIntyres Second Before the Ground, provided a light-hearted change of pace. Recorded African-inspired music, performed by the world-renowned Kronos Quartet, underlined the snappy choreography. McIntyre has stated that his inspiration for this piece is the African tribal belief that a second before death, a man remembers all the happiest and most important moments in his life. No wonder that it is so upbeat. The décor mainly consists of bright colors projected onto the back wall.
The ballet opens on a partly darkened stage, with a spotlight on a soloist (the magnetic David Khozashvili, who projected mystery and power in those few moments). As a sun-drenched day breaks, groups of men in bright yellow pants held up by suspenders jump and scamper about. Women in candy colored tops and short skirts join them. Three pairs of dancers recall their loves in ecstatic pas de deux---Inna Petrova with Filin, Lali Kandelaki with Belogolovtsev, Elena Palshina with Yuri Klevtsov; all displayed technical brilliance in varied partnerings. Energetic group dances, tinged with African swaying movements, brought to mind the joys of harmonious communal living. As these happy memories faded, so did the light, and finally darkness descended, the ballet coming full circle with Khozashvili once more alone, summoning unearthly powers as gentle silver rain fell from the sky.
Naturally, most of the audience came to see Nina in Swan Lake, and they were rewarded by incandescent performances in a poetic, condensed version of the ballet. The essence of Marius Petipas and Lev Ivanovs masterpiece was captured in this staging, which included all the crucial parts of the familiar story. The orchestra was somewhat more at home in Tchaikovsky, and with the energetic leadership of Sergei Stadler, conducting and playing solo violin from the pit, the ensemble seemed to improve as the engagement progressed. Maestro Stadler himself provided the violin accompaniment to the adagio, his emotional performance sometimes leading to slight discrepancies between stage and pit.
A prologue shows male dancers rehearsing in a studio equipped with the usual barres and mirrors. The Artistic Director (Irakli Bakhtadze) supervises the lead Dancer (Andrei Uvarov) who is preparing the role of Prince Siegfried. Unsatisfied with the rehearsal, the Director stops the practice session and leaves the Dancer alone in the studio to contemplate.
changes and we are brought to the lakeside setting of Act II of
Act III introduces the Princes Mother (the icy Shorena Khaindrava) and the court. After the waltz of the would-be-princess-brides, Odile and Rothbart are announced. The Black Swan Pas de Deux commences at once---Odile wasting no time to seduce Siegfried. And what Prince would have had a chance against this most scintillating adversary? This Odiles beauty, poise and aristocratic confidence dazzled him. Ninas technical brilliance allows her to imbue the Black Swans mimicry of Odettes movements with faster beats, sharper angles, more emphatic poses. As well, her masterful presence lends her character irresistible energy and excitement. She seduces not only the Prince but the whole audience, capping her big jumps, astounding balances and swift turns with those rapid fouettés that always bring the house down.
The Princes betrayal of Odette, the revelation of Odiles and Rothbarts deception, and their sudden departure devastates Siegfried---the act ends with him collapsing on the floor.
In the epilogue, we find the Dancer, in practice clothes, alone once more in the rehearsal studio, awaking as if from a dream. To the music of the final bars of Tchaikovskys score, Odette flits across the stage behind him, her back to the audience. Ninas incomparable arms flutter and undulate like swans wings---a poignant quote from that final moment in Act II when she is forced to separate from Siegfried. The Dancer senses her presence but only sees her as a reflection in the mirrors---and she soon disappears again, as intangible as a memory.
Oh, but what a
memory! This is a version of
As has become