The lure of the ever-popular "Swan Lake" has sold out performances of the Moscow Classical Ballet for Friday and Saturday nights. But Thursday's program, showing off the crown jewel dancers of this company in a series of short displaypieces, may have been the one to see if you like your credulity taxed and your heartbeat suspended.
Not for nothing is Soviet balletic virtuosity world renowned. Their reputation is no matter of empty words, but has firm deeds to back it up, and medal winners were out in abundance.Two things you notice immediately about this youthful company: their cool, poised approach to and no-nonsense execution of technical feats, and the excitement generated by the male dancers. Americans are accustomed to ballet as woman, with the man very often the foil for the ballerina, who is enshrined aloft, exuding the perfumed glamour of dainty fouettes and graceful port de bras. But Soviet women must look to their laurels, for dancing is man's business there, and after the gallantries have been observed, he takes center stage with bravado and a bag of tricks hard to match.
As a case in point, consider the grand pas de deux from "Don Quixote," with Tatiana Paly and Ilgiz Galimullin. Paly is a dazzling little dancer, well up to the technical demands of this Spanish-style warhorse. But Galimullin's leaps suspended in air, his brilliant turns, and his catlike landings after the most taxing displays equalled her fully in audience appeal.
Also well-matched were the charming Galina Shlyapina and Stanislav Isayev in "Le Corsaire." They started slowly and cooly, with careful accuracy. But very soon pyrotechnics erupted in Shlyapina's high-spirited abandon, and Isayev's powerful, tucked-in turns and stage-devouring leaps.
The Bolshoi's Alla Khaniashvili glittered with star quality in the duet from the Khachaturian-Grigorovich "Spartacus." A long-limbed, pencil-slim beauty, Khaniashvili moves well-nigh perfectly, with total control that seems the epitome of ease. This exotic, Oriental-tinctured dance, filled with lifts and gymnastic balances, sat upon her lightly, with Vitaly Artyushkin as her supportive partner.
Fortunately, Ekaterina Maximova of the Bolshoi was able to rejoin the tour Thursday night, and she projected great charisma, light as a feather and pliant as clay, in an airborn, nocturnal pas de deux set to music of Gluck. Something akin to a fireworks finale, with many couples in rapid-fire snatches from famous pas de deux, folding in upon each other, completed the pas de deux section.
Adam and Eve from "Creation of the World," with music by Petrov and choreography by Kasatkina and Vasilyov, owes much to Paul Taylor in kinship of subject matter, dance vocabulary, and playful, tongue-in-cheek spirit.
While some of it is a little stilted, the Russians' way with modern movement is growing more plausible. Particularly fine was a sinuous, lyric duet by Valdimir Malakhov and Valeria Tsoi, and the saucy, jazzy gyrations of their devilish counterparts, Valery Trofimchuk and Vera Timashova. The piece is long and drags in places, but there is a certain lovable naivete about it.
Judging from Act II of "Swan Lake" which opened the program, Utahns will see a very traditional version, with few surprises.
Khaniashvili made a Swan Queen of great purity and total accuracy, and was mistress of the boneless arm movements that no one else does quite like Russian women. But her face seemed frozen, and one felt few pulsations of emotion from her. Thursday's corps of swans flew a jagged course, with arms often awry, and unexceptional coordination, though the Cygnets were outstanding. Alexander Gorbatsevich made a strong and dignified Siegfried, and Trofimchuk a dominant Von Rothbart in a triumphantly moldy, winged costume.