They came, they danced, they conquered. Last week, for the visit of the Kirov, the Lowry theatre was a complete sell out and how Manchester loved the company to judge by the wild, enthusiastic receptions they received.
How does one judge the Kirov when in such great form? They seem to have recovered from the fall in performance level of a few years ago The Corps de Ballet were a little ragged on the opening night, nothing to serious by their usual high standards, and the other three performances I saw were back on top form. They danced the Shades to perfection. To see twenty-four pairs of arms and legs moving in perfect alignment was worth the price of the seats alone. I will concentrate on the principle dancers I saw but it must say that the national dancers were excellent in Swan Lake and I was particularly impressed with Irina Zhelonkina dancing as a friend of the Prince.
Monday 28 April, Swan Lake
Odette/Odile - Svetlana Zakharova, Prince - Igor Zelensky, Rothbart - Ilya Kuznetsov
Odette was spoiled with too many extensions to the 12 o’clock position and looked a little strained at times, otherwise great dancing. Odille was danced with great showmanship and thrilling to watch. Her seductive poses, flashing eyes and precision dancing made this the high point of the evening.
The Prince started very carefully, which was expected after his recent surgery, but picked up the longer he danced. He danced with his usual panache and deserved the rousing applause after the final act.
Rothbart danced with great vitality; it is a change to see a handsome Rothbart with a restrained costume after the versions some companies produce.
Thursday 1 May, Swan Lake
Odette/Odile – Natalya Sologub, Prince – Danila Koruntsev, Rothbart – Ilya Kurnetsov
The most interesting thing about this performance was that Soligub outshone Zakharove in the white acts both in the emotion and in the precision of her steps. However, it was the reverse in the ballroom scene when Soligub portrayed none of the emotions necessary to this act and indeed rarely looked at the Prince.
Friday 2 May, La Bayadere
Nikiya – Daria Pavlenko, Gamzatti – Irina Osmokina, Solor – Farukh Ruzimatov, Brahmin – Vladimir Ponomarev
People who know me will realise that I enjoy this ballet above all others, but I do have to say right at the outset that the performance by the whole cast, with the exception of Ruzimatov, was of the highest order. In Daria Pavlenko the Kirov have a ballerina who will rise to the very top of her profession. Her portrayal of Nikiya is as near perfect as one could ask for, her port de bras were exquisite, forming perfect circles and prescribing beautiful arcs and her feet in turnout and in the arch of her instep were pure delight. In her portrayel of all the different emotions she was a joy to watch. In Act one she was truly in love with Solor from the moment she saw him; the range of emotions in her battle with Gamzatti through to the anguish in her scene at the betrayal were just a wonder.
What a difference the acting of Solor was in comparison. He only came alive during his solos dances. He did not look directly at Nikiya or Gamzatti and his partnering left a lot to be desired. One every occasion I have seen him dance he seems so in love with himself that his partner does not seem to matter. That said his solo dancing was excellent, he has lost none of those famed jumps and leaps.
Irina Osmokina is a dancer I have not seen before but I am sure she will become a well-known figure in the Kirov repature. She danced with a light touch and an assurance in the role, the one blemish was in her fouettes when she strayed perilously close to the front edge of the stage.
The Brahmin deserves a special mention for his outstanding portrayal of the obvious deep love he felt for Nikiya and his anguish at his betrayal of her.
Saturday 3 May, La Bayadere
Cast as Friday except Solor – Leonid Sarafanov, Gamzatti – Viktoria Tereshkina
I have not seen Sarfanov previously and when he came on stage with his slight figure and boyish looks my first thought was they had sent a boy to do a man’s job. This was soon dispelled on his initial meeting with Nikiya when he danced with such ease and delightful footwork and portrayed his love for her with such enthusiasm that lasted to the end of the performance. His partnering was excellent and he performed the lifts with ease.
Gamzatti scene with Nikiya was suitably bitchy but unfortunately she slipped and fell heavily early on in the betrothal scene which caused a loss of confidence not helped by a further slide when coming down from being held aloft by the two partners.
Alas I go on too long for a mere ballet fan, but I hope that I have conveyed even a little of the pleasure the Kirov brought to the audience in Manchester.