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The Russians Are Coming

The Lincoln Center Festival always includes a spectacular, if brief, display of international dance. This July, two programs involving the Bolshoi Ballet arrive at the Koch Theater.

The first one brings together three superb ballet companies to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Balanchine's Jewels. Paris Opera Ballet will do "Emeralds," the serene opening section, to the music of French composer Gabriel Fauré. The Bolshoi Ballet and New York City Ballet will alternate in "Rubies" (Stravinsky) and "Diamonds" (Tchaikovsky). It makes sense that the Bolshoi and NYCB will switch off in these two sections because the Russians and Americans both know how to devour space and move fast. It could be pretty exciting.

Paris Opera Ballet's Laëtitia Pujol and Karl Paquette in "Emeralds," photo by Sébastien Mathé´

The three-day event (July 20–23) will be a celebration of Balanchine's landmark work as well as a tribute to international cooperation. This Jewels will be an opportunity to compare the styles of three great companies.

NYCB's Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in "Rubies," photo by Paul Kolnik

We are looking forward to see new stars like Olga Smirnova, who graced our cover in June 2014 and Ekaterina Krysanova, a 2010 "25 to Watch." (I wish Nina Kaptsova were coming. She was nominated for a Benois de la danse and has been heralded as the best of the Bolshoi.)

The Bolshoi's Alyona Kovalyova and Jacopo Tissi in "Diamonds," photo by Damir Yusupov

The second Bolshoi bill is The Taming of the Shrew, created by French choreographer Jean-Christopher Maillot for the Bolshoi in 2014. The press release calls this a modernization of the Shakespeare plot, with Katherine and Petruchio equally out of control. Will this version be more palatable to those of us who find ballet's gender portrayals hopelessly stereotyped? We shall see.

Of course there's always the possibility of the Bolshoi presenting godawful choreography. In 2014 the festival brought Grigorovich's 1968 Spartacus, a warhorse from Soviet times. The only way I could respond to it was to give it the Fortunately, Unfortunately treatment.

Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov in Taming of the Shrew, photo by Mikhail Logvinov/Bolshoi Theatre

But you can't lose with Jewels. Each section shines and shimmers in its own way, celebrating the pure response of dance to beautiful music with no need of narrative.

The single non-Russian offering in the festival provides a tie-in with Paris Opera Ballet: Choreographer/filmmaker Saburo Teshigawara brings the French company's former étoile and current director Aurélie Dupont as a guest star in his new Sleeping Water. Although she is now leading POB, her extracurricular activities include dancing in contemporary works, as when she teamed up with Diana Vishneva in a duet by Ohad Naharin last fall.

Note: Lincoln Center Festival artistic director Nigel Redden will be stepping down after this year. Let's hope that incoming director will have an equal commitment to dance.

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