A Creative Workshop of Young Choreographers

AMANDA JENNINGS reviews last night’s live-stream from the Mariinsky Theatre

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Touch the light - Photo: Valentin Baranovsky © Mariinsky Theatre

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Porcelain - Photo: Valentin Baranovsky © Mariinsky Theatre

As theatres and opera houses around the world close their doors, ballet lovers can get some comfort from the feast of digital content available online. Last night’s performance from the Mariinsky’s 19th Festival of Ballet is probably the last livestream we will see for some time. Entitled A Creative Workshop of Young Choreographers, it featured no fewer than seven pieces, ranging from the gimmicky to the very good indeed.

Game, choreographed by Maxim Petrov to music by Dmitry Selipanov, was an odd piece beginning with Vladimir Koshevoi speaking a narrative while laying out a pack of cards on a card table. As the narrative was in Russian I could not discern the point of this, but I wondered if an analogy might be being drawn between the art of choreographing bodies and the distribution of cards. In any case, it did not seem to relate at all to the following duet for two women, which proved interesting as there was a lot of supported partnering that is usually the remit of male dancers. Zlata Yalinich and Viktoria Brilyova managed it very well indeed. Elusive Light, by Alina Krasovskaya to music by César Franck, was pretty but forgettable; Maxim Petrov’s Russian Dead Ends–II featured a young couple (Nadezhda Batoeva and Konstantin Zverev—both dancing superbly) dancing an athletic duet while an older couple (Elena Androsova and Vasily Shcherbakov) watched them from a bench at the back of stage, occasionally performing more en place choreography.

I rather liked Hush, an unusual piece by Polina Mitryashina exploring the relationship of a couple who appeared damaged by the tensions in their partnership. The choreography was idiosyncratic and well crafted to express the stresses of each partner: for example, his running on the spot as if wanting to escape but wanting to stay at the same time, her knocking on his chest or his head as if trying to unlock an emotional reaction, and a motif where she raised her hands to her face like binoculars in order to scan the horizon as he turned her through 360 degrees. There was a remarkable lift, as he crouched down in a squat and lifted her from a standing position onto his shoulder with his hands under her heels. Veronika Selivanova and Vasily Tkachenko are both charismatic, committed dancers who drew us into their world and kept us fully engaged.

Morceaux de Fantasie, by Dmitry Pimonov to piano music by Rachmaninoff, portrayed the composer remembering three muses from his past. He wears a formal tailcoat; his first partner (Alina Somova) wears a dressy pink gown, his second (Elena Yevseyeva) a gender-bending short tailcoat with white lace beneath, his third (Maria Iliushkina) a striking red evening gown. One could only admire the fortitude of Andrei Yermakov, dancing three pas de deux and then an impressive solo—he must have been exhausted, but showed no sign of it. Iliushkina, Yevseyeva and Somova each brought individual characterisation to their roles, and all are wonderful dancers.

The programme was topped and tailed by the two most successful pieces. Touch the Light, by Ilya Zhivoi to music by Philip Glass, was an intriguing opener. Six dancers on stage move their arms slowly as if creating the huge black swirls and patterns that begin to appear on the white backcloth, a clever idea and rather beautiful. The choreography that follows is in a neoclassical/contemporary style, but the superb cast brought a classical polish to it that enhanced the work. Xander Parish and Maria Khoreva were thrilling to watch; he has a natural feel for this kind of work, his body becoming an elegant medium of expression, and she is a burgeoning star, physically outstanding. Ekaterina Kondaurova, partnered beautifully by Roman Belyakov, shone as only Kondaurova can; she is a real ballerina, with Hollywood glamour topping a superb, flexible technique strong enough and malleable enough to bring lustre to any choreography.

A lovely piece called Porcelain closed the programme. To Glinka’s music, it became a sort of homage to him as his name was revealed in huge letters on panels turned around by the dancers at the end. In three sections, Alexander Sergeev’s choreography is very much in the Balanchine style but with playful, folkloric elements that put me in mind of Robbins; it is like looking at what might have resulted had these two great choreographers made a ballet together. Rich in step sequences as well as lifts, there’s some very satisfying dance-making, with lines and patterns, combinations of dancers and good use of the space. I particularly liked the three women, Alexandra Khiteyeva, Svetlana Tychina and Svetlana Savelieva, but best of all was Philipp Stepin, thrilling us with virtuoso moments but never losing the flow of the lyrical movement.