Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Outstanding debuts in La Bayadere


Recommended Posts

Every now and again I have seen a debut in a role that makes me think that I really want to see the development of this dancer over a period of years. Last night at the Royal Opera House there were two such debuts in La Bayadere, Yuhui Choe as Nikiya and Sergei Polunin as Solor.

It takes a lot to revitalise Natalia Makarova’s tired looking “La Bayadere” production for the Royal Ballet and last night at least in the leading roles there was plenty for the appreciative audience to shout about.

Polunin at his first entrance, indelibly stamped his personality on the role of Solor with elegant grace and an impressive mimetic skill that made me sit up straight in my seat. As the performance progressed, so he proceeded to grow in stature, exhibiting excellent elevation, turns and a feeling for the traditional style of 19th century ballet and all that at 19 years of age. Many seasoned members of the audience were ready to compare him to former famous exponents of the role. What is immediately obvious about Polunin, is that he blends in perfectly with the Royal Ballet yet is plainly is not an English dancer. He achieved a chance to study at the Royal Ballet School, after winning a Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Scholarship. He arrived with an advanced technique compared to his peers and was placed in a class two years ahead of his age group. It is obvious from watching him dance, that his heritage is that of the Russian Ballet tradition via the Kiev School and he appears to exhibit his own high artistic aspirations in performances.

Yuhui Choe appears at first to be a fragile looking dancer. However, she was to tear up the Covent stage with her speed, elevation and converted those who needed converting that she can give a ballerina performance whilst still only a soloist. Miss Choe was in turns, touching in her simplicity of the characterisation of Nikiya in the first scene, desperately moving in her death and marvellously ethereal, but with an underlying touch of steel in her technique, in the shades scene. Choe fully understood the role and in her interpretation and movement she flowed fluently, lyrically and in full expression with the music. Yuhui Choe’s family is Korean but she grew up in Japan. Her mother was a traditional Korean dancer but who had knowledge of ballet training. Yuhui studied in Japan until she was 14 and having seen Elizabeth Platel she travelled to France and at first studied with Daini Kudo and then with Dominique Khalfouni and Christian Vlassi.

Hikaru Kobayashi most effectively essayed the role of Gamzatti, with strong technical attack and suitable histrionics, creating a character easy to dislike and fulfilling the choreographer’s intention.

Eric Underwood in the mime role of the High Brahmin had a very big success and received loud cheers at the curtain calls. He has become a popular dancer with the local audience and I hope that he also will still get more opportunities in dance roles.

The variations in the shades and the wedding scenes were performed with a lack of sophistication or any elegance of style while Brian Mahoney as the Gold Idol, was much below his own best form. The corps de ballet in the shades scene performed more like gymnasts than artists and in a vain search I looked for the flow of movement that Karsavina talks about as the essence of classical ballet. With some 15 or more graduates of the Royal Ballet School in the corps, you have to ask is the school teaching their pupils that epaulement is not merely upper body embroidery to movement of the body and legs, but is integral to the whole art of being a ballet dancer. I personally would like to see softer curved hands as a start. I would also add that the corps de ballet now having such a mixture of dancers of height and shape that it lacks an aesthetic form.

I left the theatre cheered by the performances of the principals and I add would that the orchestra gave a spirited account of the score.


Link to comment
Thanks for that review, leonid. Given your dedication to classical dancing, this is a rare tribute indeed. Here's Judith Mackrell's extremely positive review int he Guardian. I've taken it from dirac's Links thread today. Thanks, dirac.


Thanks for posting the link. I couldn't possibly write about Polunin in the way Ms Mackrell does.

Link to comment
Many thanks, leonid!

I am thrilled to read your description of Polunin, who caught my eye last year first as one of the five fairy cavaliers, no mean feat. He was the one I wanted to kidnap and bring back to PNB.

When you read Judith Mackrell's review you will see that I am not a lone voice in my appreciation.

Link to comment

I also saw the La Bayadere which were the debut performances of Yuhui Choe (a dancer I have admired since she joined the company as she always draws my eye even when among the corps), Sergei Poluni & Hikaru Kobayashi. All 3 were excellent both in their dancing & in the creation of their respective characters & more than justified Monica Mason's faith in them. It would have been nice for them to have a second public performance as I'm sure they would have been even better & would have been more relaxed once the initial debut was successfully completed.

Polunin is definitely a talent who is going places fast, there's no question that his technique is superlative even at this early stage in his career. His jumps were massive, but effortlessly so & with such quiet landings. He really is exciting to watch as you know as soon as he steps on stage that he is going to entertain & he delivers. His partnering is the only element that needs more work as there was some hesitation, but with more experience this will hopefully improve quickly as well & will give him more confidence in this area.

Yuhui Choe's performance was a revelation, I've always admired her elegant, feminine style & she united this with some very virtuoso sequences that were a delight to behold & there were many moments that indicated that she would be very suited to other full length roles. Apparently she's already learning Odette/Odile & I would like to see her dance Giselle in the not-to-distant future.

Hikaru is another dancer I've enjoyed in the past, but wouldn't necessarily have thought she would be suited to Gamzatti. However, I think she surprised everyone with the depth of her characterisation which was well presented & the quality of her dancing in the wedding scene. I hope this means that space will be found for her in more high profile roles though she's got a lot of competition.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...