Bolshoi Ballet

June 19, 2007

Alexei Ratmansky’s two-year reign as artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet has kindled an invigorating spirit in his company, as Londoners quickly discovered. After enjoying his jolly and droll Bright Stream earlier in the tour, audiences here were treated to Ratmansky’s tribute to Maya Plisetskaya, premiered last November. Go for Broke is pure dance—and pure delight.

Staged to Stravinsky’s score for Balanchine’s Card Game, Go for Broke relies on slick, fastidious footwork rather than dramatic content, and the Bolshoi dancers show that they are up to the challenge. In purple tunics with mustard-yellow tights or trousers, they speed on and off and across the stage, grinning at partners and flirting with the audience in an exhilarating display of fiendishly technical choreography. With a sense of playful equality, the girls prove they are as resilient and inexhaustible as the boys. And though Ratmansky says he had not thought of Maya’s inimitable style when creating the piece, there is more than a touch of nostalgia when Natalia Osipova impishly springs high, legs tucked under, before slicing the air in jetés, just like Maya’s sprite in Walpurgis Night. All 15 dancers deserve plaudits.

In contrast to all that exuberance is Roland Petit’s Pique Dame, which reverts back to the old Bolshoi tradition of drama ballets—but is still fascinating. Based on Pushkin’s story of a gambler obsessed with obtaining the secrets of the card table, it was created in the 1970s to show off Baryshnikov’s brilliance. Petit restaged it in 2005 using Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony, placing the mantle for the ballet’s success on the shoulders of Nikolai Tsiskaridze, an artist of extraordinary talent. Tall, elegant, with perfect proportions, Tsiskaridze is the perfect fit. His technical proficiency is breathtaking—a high, strong jump, six-o’clock stretched jetés, beautiful feet, and a handsome, expressive face. His enacting of angst and fear are compelling. Ilze Liepa gives a haunting interpretation as the Countess with chilling prowling, deep lunges, and eerie gestures. Conversely, Svetlana Lunkina dances the Young Girl with gentle sweetness.

The program ended with Symphony in C, which had the Russian dancers racing to keep pace with the music in their own inimitable style. See