A good old-fashioned ballet gala: Nutcracker, Don Q, Swan Lake, Le Corsaire… it’s sometimes just what the doctor ordered. Daniele Cipriani’s Les Étoiles injected the audience in Rome with a generous dose of positive energy administered by some of the world’s best dancers.
It wasn’t all cherries. Silvia Azzoni and Oleksandr Ryabko danced Hamburg Ballet repertoire with John Neumeier’s Shall We Dance? set to Gershwin’s music and the pas de deux from his Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler. There was also Svetlana Zakharova with her favourite bon-bon, Motoko Hirayama’s Revelation set to John Williams’ theme tune from the film Schindler’s List. In many hands, it would be a piece that could veer toward the obvious, but with Zakharova – who seemed especially inspired – it is seductive and convincing.
Less so with Makhail Lobukhin’s All is Going Wrong, a solo choreographed by Morihiro Ivata, which mixes in a little of Ben Van Cauwenbergh’s Les Bourgeois with a touch of Spartacus and the result is… well… obvious.
It was wonderful to see Marianela Nuñez, partnered by her partner – i.e. husband – the macho but sensitive Thiago Soares, in their showpieces Don Quixote and Swan Lake, throwing off her triple turns between pirouettes as Kitri, then showing her subtle dancing technique and acting skills as the white swan, matched by Soares’ intensity. Always beautiful and exhilarating to watch.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the evening was the delightful Anastasia Stashkevich together with one of today’s finest dancers, the Bolshoi’s Vyacheslav Lopatin, in The Talisman pas de deux. Stashkevich is dainty and beautifully proportioned, a very fine dancer indeed, but it was Lopatin who took everyone’s breath away with his energetic jumps and mid-air turns, coupled with a clean and refined technique. A marvellous performance.
A nice touch was to have young ballerinas – Flavia Stocchi, Giorgia Calenda, Susanna Salvi and Flavia Morgante from the Rome Opera Ballet – dance three pas de quatre from Don Quixote, Swan Lake (precisely coordinated cygnets) and, in the last part of the gala, before the Le Corsaire pas de deux. This was with Zakharova and Lobukhin. He was in Spartacus mood again with a tendency to raise his shoulders in his effort to jump as high as possible, but there’s no denying his testosterone-filled presence. Zakharova seemed even more elegant and regal by his side, her beautiful lines evident in every position. A true queen of dance, and by the reaction of the audience, the reigning favourite in Italy today.
Jack Devant’s photographs of Les Étoiles in Rome
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.