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BOLSHOI BALLET (article first published : 2001-07-23)

For those who complain that we never get ballet in Durban any more, grit your teeth and dip into the savings account to see the Bolshoi Ballet who are currently performing in the Playhouse Opera. And if you enjoyed dancers Bae Joo Yoon and Konstantin Ivanov when the Bolshoi was here in October last year, that’s another reason to secure your ticket as soon as possible.

The Bolshoi Ballet Company is renowned for its passionate observance of the Russian classical style of ballet. According to the programme notes “bolshoi” means “big” in Russian. And the company can justify the use of the term if you consider that it can trace its origins back to 1776 and the Moscow Ballet. In its lifetime, the troupe moved homes several times and survived a couple of fires - the Petrovsky Theatre and the Bolshoi Petrovsky Theatre both burnt down – until they were finally settled in their current home, the Bolshoi Theatre.

The Company can also call upon no less than 250 dancers and a “huge rehearsal and teaching staff to guide and sustain the performers”. South African dance companies battle on a shoestring and are lucky if they can sustain 5% of that number of dancers.

So, from the Bolshoi, one expects excellence in terms of interpretation, line, discipline and quality of performance. Apart from a certain lack of “togetherness” in the corps de ballet, the production currently touring South Africa delivers all that and more.

The programme is divided into two sections – the first featuring Chopiniana and the second a series of pas de deux from the principal dancers.

Chopiniana - to quote The Encyclopedia of Dance & Ballet edited by Mary Clarke and David Vaughan - is “the original title of Sylphides and was used by Anna Pavlova for her company’s version and is still used in the USSR”. Set to music by Frederic Chopin, the Bolshoi Ballet here performs the 1908 production with choreography by Mikhail Fokine. This was revived at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1958 by Yekaterina Geydenrekh.

There is no story line – the setting is rather ghostly and the corp de ballet perform as gentle gossamer creatures in this graceful and elegant piece. There is much pointe work, emphasising the ethereal quality of the dancers and particularly notable was Olga Suvorova and Konstantin Ivanov’s beautifully controlled and executed pas de deux.

The audience is brought back to the world of energy and dynamics after interval as, pair by superbly-costumed pair, the principal dancers display their considerable talents. Olga Suvorova and the corp de ballet dancers present the delightful Russian Dance from Swan Lake; the charming and luminous Anastassia Goriacheva partners Denis Medvedev in the pas de deux from La Sylphide, followed by Anna Tsygankova and the utterly controlled Andrey Bolotin as Blue bird and Princess Florina from Sleeping Beauty.

A definite highly was Bae Joo Yoon and Konstantin Ivanov in The Carnaval in Venice; Maria Allash presented a beautiful version of The Dying Swan and Denis Medvedev returned for a fast-moving and fascinating portrayal of Narcissus. But it was Maria Aleksandrova and Dmitry Belogolovtsev who stole the show with their pas de deux from Le Corsaire.

There are two more performances – Tuesday and Wednesday (July 24 and 25) at 20h00 and seats are still available.

Tickets R350, R250 and R150. Book at TicketWeb, the Playhouse box office or by credit card on 369-9444. TicketWeb outlets are at the BAT Centre, main Edgars stores (including The Issue.in Musgrave Centre), Engen Quickshops, Mr Delivery or www.ticketweb.co.za.




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