Strangely, most critics didn't attend the Mariinsky's signature ballet La Bayadère, the sixth and last of their 2011 London season. Well, it was mid-August and the beaches were calling. However ballet stalwart Clement Crisp was still in the saddle, and gave this evening another 5-star review. If Mr Crisp is now on holiday he must have left London a very happy man indeed.
There are extraordinary evenings in the theatre when the spell of a performance, the power of an interpretation and a sense of undeniable spirituality revealed by the artists, make for a community of feeling and awareness between stage and public.
On Thursday night, as the Mariinsky Ballet entered the closing days of its season, I – and, I'd venture, many of the audience – were profoundly moved by the last act of Petipa's La Bayadère. It has been a treasure in the Petersburg repertory since 1877. The company dances this hallowed staging with a unique grace of means: it is theirs, and they show us how glorious it can be in the theatre.
said Crisp in the Financial Times.
Of course it is the white act, with the shades entering one by one, which this company does like no other. In Sarah Crompton's 5-starer for The Telegraph she said,
In the celebrated third act, in the Kingdom of Shades, it is not just the 48-strong corps de ballet's slow entrance in an unbroken line of arabesques that stops the heart with its grace, but their musicality and unison for the entire act, whether in thrilling movement or standing still, their exactly placed feet looking like cross stitch.
Ismene Brown for The Arts Desk was in full agreement,
A hypnotic file of ballerinas, in numbers that only the Mariinsky can field, emerged like glowing phantasms from the cavern, lilting forward and backwards in their arabesque parade, 32 identical shapes moving at all the same angles, hands and feet tapering in the same shining finish, the impression of multiple slivers of a new moon in remote, unattainable mountains.
And then of course there are the magnificent soloists who seem to sprout like wild mushrooms – so much talent. The Telegraph saw two casts,
Diana Vishneva displayed all her supple brilliance to turn Nikiya into a frail soul, battered by circumstance. While Anastasia Kolegova was technically strong but dramatically underwhelming as Gamzatti, Igor Zelensky was in majestic form as Solor.
Saturday's performance set the bar even higher. Daniil Korsuntsev was an elegant, soaring warrior and Uliana Lopatkina as Nikiya made every gesture seem like the essence of movement itself, pure in technique and powerful in expression.
Brown was particularly taken (aren't we all) by Lopatkina,
At the heart, as Nikiya, the story's heroine, there was Uliana Lopatkina, who takes all this complex, dense, rich training and work, all the sweat and intention, and transfigures it so that there is no more work, there is no more training, there is no more effort – there is only the poetry.
And the last words of the last review of the three-week season from Crisp,
The sum effect was heart-lifting: these are dancers touched by greatness. And so this season, memorably fine, ends on this tremendous note. To the superlative corps de ballet, to the guardian teachers and coaches of these dancers, to Tereshkina and Shklyarov, to Victor and Lilian Hochhauser who make these seasons possible, profoundest gratitude.
As Crompton echoes,
It was a glorious close to a magnificent season.
It was indeed. Goodbye, and come back soon.
Photo: Vladimir Ponomaryov as the Brahmin and Ulyana Lopatkina as Nikia in La Bayadère, © Mariinsky Theatre
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.