Balanchine/Robbins Triple Bill – Mariinsky Ballet: Covent Garden, 4 August 2011

Simply Magnificent

Blimey, we're good. Ballet Imperious. Photo, Natasha Razina

This triple bill, full of staggeringly good dancing, was the Mariinsky Ballet at their best.

Set to three of Chopin’s Nocturnes (wonderfully played by Ludmila Sveshnikova), Jerome Robbins’ eye-openingly beautiful In The Night would have come as a surprise to those expecting West Side Story histrionics. A reflective examination of three couples in various stages of their relationships the choreography is pure classical, a series of pas de deux until a final short section where all three couples perform simultaneously.

With four principles all dancing to the highest order, it revealed how powerful the Mariinsky are in that it was the First Soloist pairing of Yevgenia Obraztsova and Filipp Stepin that stole the show. Portraying the idealistic passion of new-found love the chemistry sizzled between them with partnering of exquisite tenderness and awareness. Alina Somova slightly outshone Yevgeny Ivanchenko by virtue of her gorgeous leg extensions while Uliana Lopatkina and Daniil Korsuntsev fought furiously until their final convincing (if slightly chauvinistic) reconciliation. A revelation.

Just when you felt it couldn’t get any better, up popped Ballet Imperial. The Mariinsky corps helped explain why some people get so rabidly attached to Balanchine. The opening sequence was a sensational display of co-ordination, timing, musicality and technique; as damn near perfection as corps dancing gets and revealing Balanchine’s clarity of choreography as surely he would have intended.

The leads weren’t slacking either. Viktoria Tereshkina looked a little severe at times but has incredible control and she knocked out a sublime set of fouettés with as much apparent effort as if she were merely going for a stroll inHyde Park. Vladimir Shklyarov was a charismatic partner with leaps so unhurried he could eat an apple up there.

All the excitement almost made you forget the opening work, which in itself would probably have been the highlight of many another company’s bill. Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony is a frothy little tartan number, full of Highland fling and bonny wee sporrans. Men dancing in kilts are rarely a good idea but such was the magic spirit floating around Covent Garden tonight that the Mariinsky even managed to pull this off.

Alexander Sergeyev, a slight-looking chap, is nevertheless a remarkably strong dancer with an uncanny knack of landing fiendishly complicated leaps. His Celtic muse, Anastasia Matvienko was sublimely alluring and has a lightness of touch that could make a grown man cry. The rest of the ensemble performed in perfect harmony in this very pretty piece.

Even by the Mariinsky’s own very high standards the dancing in this triple bill was exceptional. And with the Mariinsky Orchestra in excellent form too it was a privilege to be there.

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