Maryinsky International Ballet Festival

March 9, 2002

Maryinsky International Ballet Festival

Maryinsky Theatre,
St. Petersburg, Russia

March 9?18, 2002,

Reviewed by Kevin Ng

For ten days in March, St. Petersburg was the center of the ballet world, as the Kirov Ballet hosted the Maryinsky International Ballet Festival for the second consecutive year. The Kirov’s large and diverse repertory comprised a good portion of the programs, which were different every night.

This year’s performers were Kirov dancers and guest stars, mainly etoiles from the Paris Opéra Ballet?Aurélie Dupont, Agnès Letestu, Manuel Legris, Nicolas Le Riche, and José Martinez?joined by the international superstar Vladimir Malakhov, and Bolshoi star Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

This festival opened with a new and uneven production of Cinderella choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, an up-and-coming Russian choreographer. The choreography for the ensembles was dull and uninspired. Novelties included casting The Four Seasons for male soloists, and replacing the fairy godmother with a fairy tramp. The title role was danced by Natalia Sologub, a young rising star. Sologub wasn’t particularly convincing as the maligned sister in the first act, but blossomed in the ballroom act. She danced her initial reverie solo beautifully, and was heart-melting in the two pas de deux, which were full of soaring lifts. Denis Matvienko was her noble prince.

One of the festival highlights was seeing the partnership between the Paris stars and the Kirov’s stars in different ballets. The most memorable was the partnership between Legris and the radiant Kirov ballerina Diana Vishneva. They illuminated two ballets?Manon and “Rubies,” from Balanchine’s Jewels. Vishneva was absolutely splendid as Manon; Legris had a beautiful line in his arabesque penchées that recalled Anthony Dowell, the creator of Manon‘s Des Grieux role. Vishneva was also sparkling as the “Rubies” ballerina, enhanced by a dazzling Legris as the male soloist.

Aurélie Dupont and the young Kirov danseur Andrian Fadeyev made another notable partnership in Lavrovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Dupont was an exquisite Juliet, well matched with Fadeyev, a pure classical stylist dancing with all his heart on this occasion. Both danced with a truthfulness that was transcendent. Their pas de deux were most poetic.

Nicolas Le Riche won ovations for his powerful performance in the title role of The Prodigal Son. Vladimir Malakhov danced beautifully as an impassioned Des Grieux in another Manon cast, and as the poet in Chopiniana. There were also many splendid performances from the Kirov’s young talents. Sologub excelled in every role that she danced, especially as Masha in last year’s controversial Kirov production of Kirill Simonov’s The Nutcracker, and in the waltz in Serenade.

Another prominent young soloist, Irina Golub, danced impeccably as the first odalisque in Le Corsaire, and made two outstanding debuts, dancing gloriously as the Russian ballerina in Serenade, and with classical finesse in the troubadour pas de deux in Romeo and Juliet. Daria Pavlenko, an alluring Siren in The Prodigal Son, also showed her strength and expressiveness in adagio in the Prelude in Chopinina.

Among the Kirov’s own leading men, Andrian Fadeyev was the most prominently cast. He was sublime both as Romeo and as The Nutcracker prince, a true classical dancer with grace and harmony. His closing-night gala performance with Yulia Makhalina, in Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, accumulated a shattering tragic force. Mention must also be made of Vasily Scherbakov who danced Lescaut’s drunken solo with relish in one of the Manon casts, and was a fine troubadour in Romeo and Juliet.

The well-conceived gala closed this year’s festival with a flourish. The Paris Opera stars danced with each other, for a change?Dupont and Legris magnificent in Balanchine’s showpiece Tchaikovsky pas de deux, Letestu and Martinez witty in Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique. Ballett Frankfurt performed Artifact II, a tiresome piece by William Forsythe, whose work may be mounted by the Kirov next season.

Fittingly, the gala ended with Balanchine’s “Diamonds” (led by Svetlana Zakharova and guest Vladimir Malakhov). Despite the glamour provided by the visiting stars, nothing was more heartwarming than seeing the whole Kirov company resplendent in this masterpiece by Balanchine, whose spirit is so fundamental to the company’s aesthetic now. The Kirov is still the greatest classical company in the world.