Boston Ballet – April 2001

April 2, 2001

The Boston Ballet

The Wang Theatre
Boston, Massachusetts

Ooctober 19-29, 2000

Reviewed by Iris Fanger

Talk about farewell gifts! Anna-Marie Holmes, who departs from the Boston Ballet at the end of June, will leave a legacy of five full-length Petipa ballets to remember her by. The newest addition to the repertoire, La Bayadère, presents the requisite spectacle in dance and action, dressed to the nines and set against Indian scenery designed by Sergiy Spevyakin and constructed by the Art of Donbass, Ukraine, specifically for the Boston Ballet.

Holmes called in her markers from her Russian friends and brought in a phalanx of coaches, including the famed ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya, now 88 years old, to help teach the work to the company. The rounded arms, tilted heads, deep arabesques, and precise unison movement were impressed on the corps de ballet, which meant the women glided serenely down the deep ramp for the Shades’s entrance in Act II. They also acquitted themselves well in the difficult Act II “Jampe” court dance, in which each dancer must manipulate a long veil tied at her ankles and at her head.

Larissa Ponomarenko, one of the company’s Russian imports, was first cast as Nikiya, giving a strong technical performance despite her fragile appearance. She’s turned into a fine actress as well, projecting quick mood changes. She shared the role throughout the three-week run with principal dancers Pollyana Ribeiro, Aleksandra Koltùn (another Russian), Jennifer Gelfand, and soloist April Ball. Casting soloists Marjorie Grundvig, Christina Elida Salerno, Lyn Tally, and corps member Sarah Lamb as Gamzatti spread the coaching in the intricacies of Petipa style and stamina-building further through the company. Yury Yanowsky led the rotating cast of men as Solor; Sergei Berejnoi, employing the exaggerated Kirov gestures and body language, alternated with Paul Thrussell as the High Brahmin.

There were two major differences from the American Ballet Theatre production staged by Natalia Makarova: Holmes’s decision to place the Golden Idol solo as a variation in Act II, rather than as its own scene; and the omission of the onstage wedding between Gamzatti and Solor and the following destruction of the temple (suggesting the displeasure of the gods at Solor’s broken vow). The Boston version would be improved with a more spectacular ending, but it will remain as a landmark in the repertoire, along with Holmes’s mountings of Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, and The Sleeping Beauty. The latter will be revived to end the 2000-2001 season in May and to mark Holmes’s final assignment as artistic director for the Boston Ballet.