A Review-Report By Margaret Willis

Flying in, fresh from a successful tour of Japan with American Ballet Theatre, Nina joined her colleagues from the Bolshoi Ballet in London two weeks into their tour here, to reconfirm her unprecedented talent, ingenuity and perspicacity.
It has been six years since London audiences have seen Nina dance, yet she remains one of their favorite ballerinas. She first appeared here in 1986 with the Bolshoi where her youthfulness, sweet personality and confident, sparkling dancing charmed the public. Her highly acclaimed guest performances a few years later with the Royal Ballet in the roles of Princess Rose in Prince of the Pagodas and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, (with Birmingham Royal Ballet) both choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, of Lisa in La Fille Mal Gardee and the title role in Cinderella, both by Frederick Ashton, and as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Peter Wright’s version of The Nutcracker, corroborated the audiences’ love for her, and so the all-too-long gap since those performances has made her return to London all the more eagerly awaited. She performed three major roles this summer on the Bolshoi tour, giving five performances in all -- and her audiences were not disappointed!

In her extraordinary career, Nina has had the enviable opportunity to work with all the top ballet companies in the world, learning and perfecting their many differing styles. Yet she remains a paradigm of the pure Russian classical technique, a jewel in its crown. Her first appearance on the stage of the London Coliseum this summer was as Nikiya in La Bayadere and her interpretation brought the production to new heights. Her portrayal of the beautiful but doomed temple dancer was embued with grace and elegance, her dancing as delicate and artistically presented as a rare Faberge egg. She demonstrated the rich amplitude of her port de bras which synchronised harmoniously with her strong and assured footwork. From her first moments on stage, initially when the Head Brahmin whisked off her veil to reveal that lovely face with its luminous dark eyes, and later her first tender reunion with Solor, she presented to us a character of innocent fragility, one with whom you immediately empathised and whose heart you understood. Throughout the ballet she seamlessly wove her movements into ribbons of beauty, none more so than in the Shades act where her lyricism and musicality shone brilliantly, bringing the ethereality of the role but also its humanity. Her light, silent leaps, long stretched arabesques and the magical, musical unfolding of her limbs enigmatically wrapped her otherworldiness around her while yet retaining that invisible linking with Solor.

Her next appearance was as the Hungarian heroine in Raymonda, a ballet rarely seen in its entirety in Britain and one well-loved from earlier Bolshoi tours. Though her entrance seemed somewhat pensive, Nina went on to perform with sparkling brilliance, and she received wonderful reviews. The eminent ballet historian and critic for the ‘Financial Times, Clement Crisp wrote of her: “ Here is a dancer in the high summer of her art, superbly schooled, endowed with those rare gifts of lovely physique and commanding temperament that a true ballerina must have, mature in understanding, knowing exactly how choreography must be displayed rather than simply danced.”

“The Times” called her a “porcelain beauty radiant with Russian classicism and possessed of the most unaffected national pride in her dancing”, while the “Daily Telegraph” described Nina as ‘spellbinding’, and as having ‘a miraculous sense of music, and a face that shows every thought; all this plus a technique that displays the glory of Russian classical tradition at its most brilliant and delicate” Raymonda is filled with wonderful classical and colorful character dancing for the whole company and with dazzling solos and duets, especially for Raymonda whose variations are scattered throughout the ballet like lustrous jewels and which Nina, (seemingly effortlessly), polished and daintily presented in all their filigree detailing and charm. Her partner for both these productions was Sergei Filin whose refined, elegant partnering and excellent solo work, especially his fleet jetes and turns, complemented her and brought real quality to the performances.

But it was her Kitri that had the usually restrained Londoners cheering in
their seats. Nina was out to have fun with the role and determined to include everyone in her enjoyment. Her acting was superb. Her fiery Spanish character came alive with wit and spirit while her flashing dark eyes reached out to the back of the gallery. Her many solos were performed with great confidence and zest and her blisteringly fast fouettes brought the house down. This time she was partnered by Andrei Uvarov as Basil, whose slim, elegant height enabled him to lift and throw Nina on high and catch her easily from her long jumps.

Appropriately, the Bolshoi chose Nina and Uvarov to close the season with their Don Quixote which was even more dazzling and daring than their first. At the curtain call, they were bombarded by flowers of every kind, raining down from the dress circle and after they had taken their many, many bows, they were joined on stage by fellow principals, coaches, conductor Alexander Sotnikov (under whose baton the Bolshoi orchestra excelled) and the directors of the Ballet and Theatre, Alexei Fadeyechev and Vladimir Vasiliev. But even when the curtain was dropped for the final time, the two dancers had to step in front of it several times to please their cheering audience. It was a spectacular finish to the Bolshoi’s four week season here in London.