of the Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet and the Cunningham company by Robert Johnson in The Star-Ledger of Newark.
Successful collaboration—let’s call it a marriage—is essential to all these works, as the Mariinsky Ballet’s deeply flawed revisions proved this season. Shchedrin’s scores, melodious and ingeniously expressive, are worthless to the stage without compelling choreography, but Alexei Ratmansky supplied utterly inane material. Nowhere in his “Anna Karenina” is there a particular step or a gesture, like Caroline smoothing her dress in “Jardin aux Lilas,” to define a character or a situation. In “Humpbacked Horse,” Ratmansky reveals his essential vulgarity by turning all the characters into buffoons, most awfully the Tsar-Maiden. Russian fairy-tale ballets need not be coarse.
Both Mariinsky productions offered grandiose scenery as compensation for this vacuousness. Maxim Isayev’s designs for “Humpbacked Horse” aped the colorful cut-outs of David Hockney; and Mikael Melbye’s more imaginative designs for “Anna” bowed to Tolstoyan realism with three-dimensional set pieces (a spinning train-car) and photographic projections. The dancers were simply window-dressing.