A tribute to Rudolf Nureyev topped off a hit season for Manuel Legris’s Vienna Ballet with the former French star providing two of the highlights. The Nureyev Gala, due to become an annual event, marked the end of Legris’s first season as director of the Vienna ensemble, which has seen a renaissance on his watch. The dancer also kept his promise to appear on the Vienna stage this season.
Clocking over three hours, not including interludes, the marathon evening kept the audience enthralled with a mixture of genres, pas de deux and set pieces. In total, 13 pieces followed in quick succession, choreographed by Nureyev or contemporaries like Jerome Robbins, Kenneth MacMillan, Maurice Bejart and William Forsythe.
“Before Nightfall” by Nils Christe, a modern piece with four couples, presented a first breath of fresh air, with Nina Polakova and Mikhail Sosnovschi stealing the show. Olga Esina and Kirill Kourlaev impressed both as the teasing Esmeralda and shy Quasimodo in a scene from Roland Petit’s “Notre-Dame de Paris” and in John Neumeier’s Bach Suite III.
But the stars of the evening were without a doubt Polakova and Legris, who turned in beautifully passionate performances in Jerome Robbins’ “In the Night” and the pas de deux from MacMillan’s “Manon.”
Polakova was deservedly named first solo dancer after the gala.
Photo: Rudolph Nureyev in his dressing room Royal Ballet school Barons Court London, by Allan Warren, 1973