Living legends have a hard time following their own acts, and Rudolf Nureyev had the challenge Wednesday night of presenting himself excitingly, with charisma and enough technique so viewers wouldn't draw invidious comparisons with the good old days.
With the help of his friends, he presented interesting choreography and sufficient drama and virtuosity to send his audience out of the hall happy, and that's as much as you can expect from a living legend.As a dancer, there's still strength and vigor in Nureyev, with an actor's intensity, and as he ages he wisely chooses more of the actor's craft, appearing in numbers that are as much plays as dances.
Climaxing the evening was "The Moor's Pavane," Jose Limon's mighty choreography on the "Othello" theme, whose artful device for uniting the four pivotal characters and advancing the drama is Desdemona's incriminating handkerchief.
Nureyev was a fascinating Othello across whose mobile face conflicting emotions played, and given to fits and starts of violent movement. Evelyne DeSutter was chaste and beautiful as Desdemona, Charles Jude an insinuating Iago if a little short on menace, and Flavia Vallone made of Emilia a smiling courtesan who didn't realize her complicity until too late. This piece moved powerfully to its tragic climax, though even more sweep and heft would have benefited the group court dances. Utah Symphony traversed the Purcell music with theatrical thrust.
Nureyev also joined with Jude in Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer," wistful, bittersweet songs of renunciation and farewell (beautifully sung by David Power), in Maurice Bejart's choreography - clean of line and no less emotional for its understatement.
Jude bears a striking resemblance to the young Nureyev, hence their collaboration had a sense of youthful impetuosity superimposed upon ripe maturity - an interesting concept, as if the elder were abnegating his role to the younger. Nureyev's moments of pure dance were respectably carried off; indeed, more competently than when I last saw him dance some 15 years ago. But the contrast of bodies is great. He should wear a snugger, less cut away leotard.
Pas de deux art of the Friends brought cheers from the audience. With Nureyev taking the baton for a capable conducting stint, DeSutter joined with Jude in a grand pas from "Sleeping Beauty" of great elegance and star power. DeSutter's dainty dresden beauty and steely strength accord well with this part, and Jude was the ideal prince, though the small stage area allotted to the dancers somewhat cramped his spectacular traveling jumps and turns.
Andrei Fedotov of the Bolshoi Ballet partnered Svyetlana Epifanova of the Kirov Ballet (filling in for Marie-Christine Mouis) in a "Don Quixote" pas de deux a little roughly put together with orchestra but of breathtaking virtuosity. Not to be outjumped or outturned, Fedotov accomplished all with blazing His-panic elan, and Epifanova followed up her initial turns and steady balances with a pretty fan flirtation, topping off with 32 fouettes. Though I looked forward to seeing Mouis, it's impossible not to view Epifanova as a bonus.
Nureyev's six friends, who also included Isabelle Boutot, opened with Bournonville's pas de six from "Napoli" and "Flower Festival" pas de deux, which somehow never took off. The music is banal, and coordination must be complete on intricate steps and style, (which it was not) to carry off these coy period pieces with the charm they have at best.