High in the Rockies amid pine forests and ski slopes, the Vail International Dance Festival, now in its 26th season, has become an event of prestige, history and startling ambition. Each year, it features premieres, debuts, new partnerships and an admirably eclectic taste. Even for those performers and choreographers who return each year (a large number, and high level), it often opens some new chapter in their careers.
The Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin has a strict rule about morning class: anyone who wants to watch him teach must also take part. Which is why, foolhardily, I find myself in a dance studio in southern California, attempting to keep pace with Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, the most celebrated ballet partnership of our times.
For a dance company, the always delicate balance between preserving your heritage and creating an exciting future becomes especially hard to negotiate when you are the most venerable institution in your field. The Mariinsky Ballet, now on tour in London, have this problem magnified by a general perception (theirs and the public’s) that they are the world’s keepers of the great Russian ballet tradition, which they are expected to represent at its finest. For a cocktail of reasons – a dash of genuine history, topped up with a large splash of public perception and garnished with the promoters’ need to sell a lot of very expensive seats – that means Swan Lake.
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