October 19�29, 2000
Reviewed by Karen Campbell
Boston Ballet Artistic Director Anna-Marie Holmes has made one of her most significant marks in dance with newly staged revivals of old and rarely performed Russian classics. Several years ago, it was Le Corsaire, which she went on to stage successfully at American Ballet Theatre and for which she won an Emmy for the televised version. Last fall, during her final year with Boston Ballet, she created the company�s first production of La Bayadère, the nineteenth-century ballet of star-crossed lovers in an exotic, semi-fictional India.
As choreographed by Holmes (after the Petipa original) with many Russian advisers, coaches and staging experts adding to the mix, La Bayadère is still a clunky, often emotionally unconvincing ballet peopled by largely unsympathetic characters. The story revolves around the temple dancer Nikiya, who falls in love with the warrior Solor, who in turn betrays her with the Rajah�s seductive daughter, Gamzatti. None of the characters behave particularly admirably, nor do they ever really touch our hearts. But there is a lot of dramatic turmoil in the process that makes for involving, if not particularly affecting, ballet.
Boston Ballet has given La Bayadère a lively, well-paced treatment, beginning with lavish sets that include a lushly canopied jungle, a gilt-edged temple and a life-size elephant bringing dancers onstage during the second-act celebration. For the most part, costumes are opulent, all decor coming directly from Russia (designed by Sergiy Spevyakin).
Even more impressive, however, is the dancing. Besides the extensive sections of mime, the dancing is beefed up by Holmes and her staging staff (Sergei Berejnoi, Tatyana Terekhova and Tatiana Legat) to effectively showcase dancers� strengths. Larissa Ponomarenko is an exquisite Nikiya, a magnetic, dramatic presence conveying both vulnerability and an indomitable spirit. Tiny and ethereal with long, fluid arms, she nonetheless possesses a tensile strength and immaculate control. She is a master of expressive gesture, conveying pain with the downward curve of her long neck and rapture with a mere lift of her radiant face.
There is palpable chemistry in Ponomarenko�s partnering with Solor, danced by her husband, Viktor Plotnikov. Though he is not the company�s most powerful or dynamic male dancer, he is surely one of the most graceful and eloquent, and he made a dashing, elegant Solor. Christina Elida Salerno was an imperious, hot-blooded Gamzatti, clean and technically proficient, though with a tendency toward stiffness. Christopher Budzynski, apparently encouraged to take the role of holy man Magedaveya way over the top, stole nearly every scene he was in with brilliant leaps and turns and a vivid, almost feral intensity. Pollyanna Ribeiro was charmingly precocious in the second-act dance with a water jar perched on her head, as were young Boston Ballet students Sara Adams and Olivia Hartzell as her cohorts.
The Boston Ballet corps was solid throughout, despite occasional discrepancies of timing. The famous hallucinatory “Shades” scene was an impressive feat, but seemed a little rushed.The ramp always zigzags to the stage, the procession looked a little too busy and cluttered to be truly hypnotic.
The Boston Ballet orchestra did a terrific job with the Ludwig Minkus score, which seemed to turn on a dime from faux orientalism to beer-garden polkas�the violin and cello solos were absolutely first rate.