Nina Ananiashvili

August 25, 1999

Nina Ananiashvili and Principals of the Bolshoi Ballet

Ted Shawn Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow
Becket, Massachusetts

August 25-29, 1999

Reviewed by Iris Fanger

The performance by Nina Ananiashvili and eight other stars of the Bolshoi Ballet seemed like the good old days, before the end of the Iron Curtain also put an end to the Russian ballet mystique. Memories of excited fans who were thrilled by the infrequent visits from major troupes like the Bolshoi and the Kirov, accompanied by scads of technically assured dancers, seem passé, now that every American ballet troupe has Russians of its own.

Ananiashvili revived the formula of larger-than-life Bolshoi style grafted onto the various ballets on the program, interspersing two classical pas de deux?from Bournonville’s La Sylphide and Agrippina Vaganova’s “Diana and Actaeon” from Esmeralda?with two new ballets by Alexei Ratmansky, a thirty-two-year-old Russian-trained performer (now with the Royal Danish Ballet) and choreographer, whose work was unknown here.

La Sylphide, performed by Inna Petrova and Dmitri Gudanov, had none of the skimming quality of the Danish original; it had a hard-edged virtuosity at odds with tradition. “Diana and Actaeon” featured the American debut of the lovely, long-limbed Maria Alexandrova, a 1977 graduate from the Moscow Choreographic School. Hers is a name we’re sure to be hearing again.

Ratmansky’s Charms of Mannerism (1997), set to music by Francois Couperin, was a spoof of ballet conventions and technique. Even with ballerinas turned top-side down, and disco moves followed by chainé turns and classroom phrases, the dancers looked determined to make us laugh but were often not funny.

Dreams about Japan (1998), conceived by Ananiashvili and choreographed by Ratmansky, was a Las Vegas-style version of Kabuki theater, complete with flashing colored lights at its climax, which substituted cartoon outlines for the emotions of the time-honored Japanese dramas.

Ananiashvili was ravishing as the vengeful Fire Snake dressed in a red body suit with a long tail clenched between her teeth. Ratmansky was fortunate to have a cast of forceful personalities such as Gudanov as a one-footed sorrowing bird-maiden, and Andrei Uvarov as the young lion who dances himself to death and back again, with Tatiana Terekhova, Sergei Filin, Petrova, and Dmitri Belogolovstev to energize his efforts. The score, a tattoo of compositions by musicians of the Japanese Taiko drum group, Kodo, was played live by instrumentalists of the State Bolshoi theatre.