Diana Vishneva's Generous Vision

November 30, 2014

It’s not every ballet superstar who, between performance dates with major companies, squeezes in a festival that she herself has founded. Starting as far back as our cover story in 2008, Diana Vishneva, a world-class principal at both American Ballet Theatre and the Mariinsky Ballet, has been following her curiosity for modern dance.

With “CONTEXT: Diana Vishneva,” which just completed its second annual four-day festival in Moscow on Saturday, the ballerina gives opportunities to budding dancemakers while she loans her own astounding interpretive powers to three well-known choreographers. It’s carefully curated by Samuel Wuersten, the buoyant former dancer who directs the Holland Dance Festival.

CONTEXT attracts people from outside the dance world, mostly because Vishneva is a household name in Russia, and there was a celebratory atmosphere everywhere. Although it’s a relatively small festival, the programs at  Mossovet Theatre included companies from far and wide—geographically and stylistically—plus workshops and public talks (one given by me). A major component was the Choreographers’ Workshop, where five Russian dance artists showed and discussed new work at a smaller theater.

 Gauthier Dance in Johan Inger’s The Sofa

At the Mossovet Theatre we saw the light-hearted, sometimes hilarious Gauthier Dance from Stuttgart in works by Kylián, Inger, Galili and Gauthier; NDT 2 with choreography by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon; and the L.A.–based Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY, led by Danielle Agami.

The gala night included two beguiling duet excerpts by Preljocaj (one from And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace, the other from Snow White); and Zero, a work by Dutch choreographer Nanine Linning that looked like humans emerging from primordial ooze to begin life. Also on the gala was a work from last year’s Choreographers’ Workshop by Konstantin Keykhel, who had been given the opportunity to work with Codarts dance academy in Rotterdam.

Vishneva with Eric Gautier in The Old Man and Me by Hans Van Manen

Vishneva herself danced three pieces, reminding us that her glorious artistry is not limited to classical ballet. The first night she partnered with Eric Gauthier in Hans Van Manen’s The Old Man and Me. This duet is about a man and woman who live in separate worlds but eventually reveal that they are indeed tied to each other. As Vishneva plays it, this woman revels in her own being and body. Just to watch her rotate her shoulder forward as she pulls herself out of a slump was worth the trip to Moscow.

Vishneva also danced a sharply anxious duet with the Bolshoi’s Andrei Mercuriev in Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon’s Subject to Change. Her last offering was the bravest: Marco Goecke’s obsessive solo Tué (“killed”). Typical of his characters, she was uncontrollable in her twitches, jabbings and snappings; she sometimes looked like a preying mantis on amphetamine. In the rare slow moves when she seemed to come back to herself, the sense of short-lived freedom was almost unbearably beautiful.

A workshop led by Angelin Preljocaj

Vishneva, one of today’s greatest ballerinas, is developing new work in her own way, with her own style of magnanimity. Clearly, as a performing artist she feels stimulated by new choreography; during this last week, her superb interpretations of Hans Van Manen, Lightfoot/Leon and Marco Goecke were gifts to the world. In keeping with her search for the new, the festival nurtures young choreographers by giving occasional commissions. On Friday Wuersten announced that he had arranged for two of the five participants in the Choreographers’ Workshop to make work in Europe and Israel, thus giving them a step into the future.

All photos by Alexsander Murashkin,
courtesy bokovfactory