to you by
New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women
and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
More Flash Reviews
Review, 8-17: Siren Songs & Waltzes
Maryinsky Meets More Balanchine
Copyright 2005 Josephine Leask
LONDON -- The Maryinsky
(Kirov) Ballet, presented by Victor Hochhauser at the Royal Opera
House, included a whole evening of short Balanchine works, "Ballet
Imperial," "La Valse," and "Prodigal Son."
"La Valse," created
in 1951 to Ravel's haunting compositions "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
and "La Valse," is a chilling little ballet, depicting ballroom
dancers in a desolate and suggestively gothic-style ballroom, decked
out with long black curtains which fall ominously from the lighting
fixtures. The uninvited figure of death arrives and claims his victim,
who stands out from the others in a long white tutu, while placing
her partner and other dancers under a spell. Uliana Lopatkina danced
the role of the helpless maiden on July 26, the night I caught the
program, while the figure of death (the performer was not identified
in the program) is a grim and looming presence rather than a dancing
one. Death, a sinister and imposing character with frozen features,
appears towards the end of the ballet, observing the flamboyant
action. He stands rigidly composed before bewitching Lopatkina,
presents her with a black necklace, gloves, cloak and black flowers
and then dances her to death, while the rest of the dancers lie
motionless on the floor in a demonic circle. Images of witchcraft,
myths and legends abound.
Balanchine drew on the
Viennese Waltz and its various forms, inspired by the decadence
of the balls held in the Imperial Court of Vienna in the mid-1800s.
The actual choreography, while it looks like variations of a waltz
which gradually seems to disintegrate, is less intriguing than the
macabre subject, which is really a ghost story. The music is largely
responsible for the spooky ambience, as the big booming brass sections
convey frantic, hysterical energy while the more muted sections
suggest chaos and foreboding. The program notes include that Ravel
composed the music four years before the Great War, but "La Valse"
could herald the decline of a civilization or the inevitability
of death when we least expect it.
Lopatkina is a figure
of perfection, however the decorative but passive role doesn't do
her any particular favors, as it requires technique rather than
spirit. What does come over in general with the performance of this
ballet is a passionless display of technical brilliance in which
the dancers seem unchallenged.
The biblically inspired
"Prodigal Son," a ballet in three scenes Balanchine created in 1929
for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, at the suggestion of Boris Kochno,
is a far more dynamic and unusual work and consequently shows off
the dancers in a more favorable light. Andrei Merkuriev does justice
to his massively athletic title role while Daria Pavlenko, as the
Siren, the temptress who seduces him, is erotically captivating.
Prokofiev's rousing score is matched by Balanchine's testosterone-fueled
choreography, which draws on circus acts and gymnastics. With Alexander
Schervashidze's backdrop, the overall design is geometrically Modernist.
The characters who lead
the son astray are grotesque, in particular the 'no-gooders,' bald-headed
eunuchs who entice him to feasting and a lapse into debauchery.
They leap up and down like mutant toads and often perform back to
back with arms interlocked as if stuck together. The son is depicted
as a typical 'lad,' immature and emotionally naive, who leaps and
jumps out of his wise old father's patriarchal control; there is
no doubt that this ballet is macho. It's about men, performed by
men and for men, therefore the Siren's role is particularly welcome,
even if she falls into the male-defined cliche of being an object
of desire. With a snake-like aesthetic, Pavlenko oozes sensuality
but of the ice cold, 'don't touch' variety. She appears like a super
model, checks out Merkuriev, then gradually unnerves him with her
strange postures and actions, such as wrapping herself up in her
cloak, or mincing along the floor doubled back in a crab position.
Once she has turned him into putty, she coils her phallic limbs
around him in a fearsome lock. She is actually the dominating force
in the ballet and represents a complex sophistication in comparison
to the other characters that makes this work especially fascinating.
Staging the production were Karin von Aroldingen and Paul Boos.
More Flash Reviews