Ivan Vasiliev is a powerful performer, both physically and emotionally. His prowess in ballet pyrotechnics – the leaps, the turns – has brought him fame throughout the world. But he’s no circus performer as his Quasimodo in Roland Petit’s Notre Dame de Paris in Milan or his Romeo in Frederick Ashton’s production of Romeo and Juliet in London demonstrated; he has a fierce and passionate interiority which he is able to communicate instantly and clearly to the audience. No more so, maybe, than in Petit’s Le jeune homme et la mort.
Vasiliev worked on the role with Petit shortly before the choreographer’s death in July 2011. Petit died the day before Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova embarked on a week’s run in Ashton’s Romeo and Juliet at the London Coliseum with the Peter Schaufuss Ballet. The week after the English National Ballet were opening in an evening of three Petit ballets and, as a personal tribute, Vasiliev remained in London and guested, unpaid, in Le jeune homme et la mort on the opening night.
The Ashton choreography is full of complex detail for the dancers, and Vasiliev danced splendidly, throwing off with apparent ease the intricate footwork. With the Petit piece too it was clear that he’d worked on it intensively with the maestro. Less so last night at La Scala.
Something’s up. He was intense and gave an emotional performance, but the details were blurred and some passages sloppy, or at least he wasn’t capable of executing them as he did a couple of year’s ago. It was the same when he danced in Rubies at La Scala in March, though as le jeune homme he has the benefit of being able to act the role, whereas in Rubies he was uncomfortably bare with just his technique on show. Once again his turns went off axis, his feet were often uncontrolled, and lots of minutiae were thrown away.
We would have appreciated his leaps where he is momentarily suspended horizontally above the stage, and the desperate gesture of his outstretched arm trying to grab at life while death is successfully seducing him, and left the theatre happy if we didn’t know that he can do so much more. The applause was enthusiastic, certainly, but no more so than after interpretations by lesser names, and it certainly didn’t bring the house down. He should, he can and, hopefully, he will again suscitate that thrill in the audience which has made him such an impressive performer. He’s back in Milan in September for Don Quixote with Osipova. Hopefully he’ll be back on form. He’s just 25-years-old… be careful Ivan!
Nicoletta Manni as la mort, was fluid and alluring with incredibly long and beautiful legs. A ballerina to watch.
The second part of La Scala’s Serata Petit was his Pink Floyd Ballet, with all the new lasers and moving head lighting that Petit himself oversaw when the ballet was remounted at La Scala in 2009. It remains fun, ironic, moving, exciting. Especially notable were the exemplary Christian Fagetti and Mick Zeni.