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Mikhailovsky Ballet in London July 2010

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Mikhailovsky Ballet of St Petersburg in London

17 July 2010 Coliseum Theatre 2 pm

Cipollino (Little Onion Boy)

[based on the fairy tale of the Italian author Gianni Rodari]

Music Karen Kachaturian

Choreography Genrikh Mayorov

Libretto Gennady Rykhlov

Set/Costumes Valery Leventhal

Cipollino is the childrens' classic theatre experience in St Petersburg,

the Mariinsky theatre having its own production of it as well, occupying the cultural space that The Nutcracker holds in the States.

The story tells the adventures of the little Onion boy fighting for just treatment of his fellow 'low' vegetables

against the fruit aristocracy of Prince Lemon, Signor Tomato and Count Cherry.

Originally I hadn't bought tickets for this ballet, but a fellow Ballet Talker, familiar

with it, wrote to me that it is a 'delight' not be missed, so I added it to our performances.

It is a delight. And what was amazing to me, is that even though the audience was full of children

-and very young children, throughout the 2-hour performance there was not a peep of sound from the audience.

Absolute respect for the performers.

Another (English?) feature: there was no applause until the piece ended,

as if you were attending a classical music concert.

Choreographically, the work is academic demi-caractère of high quality.

The leads were Sabina Yapparova (a second soloist) and Alexey Kuznetsov (coryphée),

well-matched in brio and energy to their roles of fighters for justice.

Technically, I thought the mens' dancing was virtuosic in its demands.

Kuznetsov as Cipollino had choreography of double tours ending in sissone tombé or

doubles ending in second position as thematic content not climactic ending.


Alexander Omar (coryphée) as Tomato and Mikahil Vanshchikov (coryphée) as Lemon,

both were extraordinary in carving out villainous caricatures in movement.

Both made strong appearances.

Nikolay Korypaev (first soloist) as Cherry looks very youthful, tall with slender legs, and gave an almost underplayed performance,

full of wit. He was, as well, an excellent partner for the double-work with Irina Kosheleva (first soloist), the only flower, Magnolia, as fragrant star.

Kosheleva, a creature of elegance, is a dancer I look forward to seeing in other roles.

The Mikhailovsky orchestra led by Mikhail Pabuzin added brilliance to the stage goings-on.

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Mikhailovsky Ballet in London 18 July Coliseum

Mixed Bill

Le Halte de cavalerie

Choreography after Marius Petipa

Music Ivan Armsheimer

Set/Costume design Vyacheslav Okunev

Maria Anastasia Lomachenkova

Peter Anton Ploom

Teresa Olga Semyonova

The Colonel Andrei Bregvadze

The Captain Vladimir Tsal

The mixed bill had mixed rewards.

By far the best part of the evening was the first part, Petipa's Cavalry Halt, a comic character/classical work of 36 minutes

created for a benefit performance of his daughter, Maria, during his mature period,

between the making of Swan Lake and Raymonda.

A rapid succession of scenes dealing with a cavalry unit's visit to

a village and the interactions of (the well-groomed) peasant girls and the soldiers,

as well as a formal pdd for Maria and her partner (who is, also, at some point, urged to join the military unit).

Lomanchekova and Ploom were well-matched as a couple, technically assured, and pleasing performers.

Olga Semyonova as Teresa, in red character boots, was the vivacious village flirt who knows how to get around.

Both the female and males ensembles show off the company to its best advantage: versatile and prodigiously gifted.

It's very encouraging for the future of the company to see in the souvenir booklet that

Zhanna Ayupova has joined the company as coach/repétiteur.

In a Minor Key

Choreography Slava Samodurov

Music Domenico Scarlatti

Set Design Christopher Faulds

Costume Design Ellen Butler

Lighting Design Simon Benson

Pianist Alexander Pirozhenko

First couple Antonina Chapkina, Nikolai Korypaev

Second couple Vera Arbuzova, Evgeniy Deryabin

Third couple Irina Perren, Andrei Yakhnyuk

Let's start with the title of the piece, "In a Minor Key". Does this refer to the Scarlatti music or Samodurov's choreography?

We are given no clues.

The dancers looked great, at the beginning of the piece, facing each other in the cavernous exposed backstage

with the sound of a piano and pianist accompanying them from somewhere. The orchestra pit was dark.

And so was most of the stage, for the most part, but there was enough light to discern silhouettes.

Discerning faces was iffy.

Movements from the Frenetic School of Dancing (with thanks to Tobi Tobias for the phrase)

seem to keep the dancers deeply involved with each other, making gorgeous momentary outlines,

almost black on black, only to go to the next phrase or stop because the music stopped.

At some point I realized the piano was set way back in the left upstage corner of the large stage,

made barely visible by the light illumining the music score.

The sound throughout the piece was gorgeous. Perhaps there was acoustical enhancement.

Set panels (nothing to do with lights) kept moving down toward the stage and up again,

while a separate light panel set some way upstage would dim and

brighten with its lights hitting, not the stage or any part of it, but the audience.

That was a big problem. Towards the end of the piece (35 minutes duration)

the lights on the audience grew brighter and brighter.

It was all too conceptual and physically punishing for enjoyment.

I'll leave it to others to tell me why I should repeat the experience of seeing this piece again.

It seems very cutting-edge. Or maybe not.

The choreographer writes in the souvenir book the

".....starting point in the ballet's creation was a Scarlatti sonata played by Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelic".

Pogorelic is one of my favorite pianists.


Polonaise and Cracovienne

Choreography Rotislav Zakharov

Music Mikhail Glinka

Spartacus pas de deux

Choreography Georgy Kovtun

Music Aram Khachaturian

Vera Arbuzova, Marat Shemiunov

The Fairy Doll pas de trois

Choreography Sergei and Nicholas Legat revised by K Sergeyev

Music Josef Bayer

Sabina Yapparova, Maksim Yeremeyev, Nikolay Arzyaev

The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux

Choreography after Marius Petipa

Music Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Maria Kochetkova (guest), Andrei Yakhnyuk

Spring Waters

Choreography Asaf Messerer, revised by Mikhail Messerer

Music Sergei Rachmaninov

Irina Perren, Marat Shemiunov

After getting over the new ballet's lighting design efforts to..…." épater les bourgeois" or something,

I looked forward to the traditional that divertissements generally promise.

The promise becomes fulfilled when the traditional in choreography is accompanied by a vibrancy that a dancer's

strong personal stamp or the gifts of superlative training, as well as individual expression or charismatic

touches are brought to or spread over the dictum of the canon.

I found that fulfillment in the ensemble of the Polonaise and Cracovienne that opened the third section.

For me this excerpt, revived by Alla Boguslavskaya,

was elegant and deeply satisfying as a component of classical dance.

The Spartacus Kovtun choreography I found very convincing danced by principals

Vera Arbuzova and Marat Shemiunov. Lively exoticism.

The Fairy Doll segment, I thought had lost its faux naïf delicacy

(compared to many Mariinsky U-tube clips I've seen,esp. of student performances of it)

and seemed to me coy.

The men hammed it up way too much.

Yapparova kept a fixed smile throughout with little facial expressiveness.

Technical subtlety and refinement are the currencies in this land.

The Sleeping Beauty of Maria Kochetkova and Andrei Yakhnyuk was

beautifully realized and brought to life. Well matched as a pair, both gave

competent performances although the pas de deux could have given us more 'soul',

as in the lunges after the en dedans supported pirouettes repeated three times.

The lunges were not very deep, esp. the third one.

The final piece was, of course Asaf Messerer's Spring Waters.

Irina Perren and Marat Shemiunov looked fine in it but lacked the two qualities

essential to the work: physical abandon while totally in control of body and soul,

and absolute trust in one's partner.

The two dives into the male partner's arms

require total horizontality on the part of the running and leaping dancer.

Perren hardly left her vertical stance when jumping.

Still, there's plenty of other stuff left for the applause machine to get turned on.

The very good orchestra of the Mikhailovsky was ably led by guest conductor

Pavel Bubelnikov

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Mikhailovsky Ballet in London July 2010


Ballet in two acts based on Lope de Vegas' Fuente Ovejuna (1619)

Music Alexander Krein

Choreography Vakhtang Chabukiani

revised by Mikhail Messerer

Set /Costume

Design Vadim Ryndin

revived by Oleg Molchanov and Viacheslav Okunev

Don Fernan

Gomez Mikhail Venshchikov

Laurencia Irina Perren

Frondoso Denis Matvienko

Mengo Denis Morosov

Pascuala Sabina Yapparova

Jacinta Oksana Bondareva

Pas de Six Viktoria Kutepova, Irina Kosheleva,

Andrei Yakhnyuk, Nikolay Korypaev

(plus the lead couple)

This Mikhailovsky Ballet revival honors the centenary of the birth of Vakhtang Chabukiani,

the legendary Mariinsky dancer who choreographed Laurencia.

Laurencia premiered in 1939, with Dudinskaya and the choreographer in the leading parts.

Subsequently, it was revived by the Bolshoi in 1956 with Plisetskaya (and Chabukiani) leading the cast.

Chabukiani is, single-handededly, a root source of the development

of male balletic virtuosity as well as a singular and early exponent of the Soviet -era "heroic style".

With this revival, of the ballet the program notes call a "piece of Russian cultural heritage"

and "one of the highest achievements of the choreographic art in the mid-20th century",

the question remains whether the work, having been dormant for half a century,

can be resuscitated so that the spirit of the original creation breathes once again.

The elaborate sets, revived from the Moscow 1956 production, depict naturalistic

Iberian landscapes, and in the last scene, the grand interior of the commander's castle.

The costumes are brilliantly colored following theatrical traditions of Spanish garb.

During the overture, an old playbill of Laurencia (not clear whether it was from Moscow

or St Petersburg) is projected on the curtain, with a very brief clip of Chabukiani dancing.

The scenes of the ballet focus either on pure dance passages or

on developing the plot based on Lope De Vega's play Fuente Ovejuna.

The play tells the true 17th c. story about a village woman (Laurencia)

who organized resistance to the tyranny of the village's commander.

The major dances of the work appear as 'grand pas divertissements'

in the first scene of act one and in the first scene (scene three) of act two.

The other scenes of the ballet (scenes two, four and five) advance the story by

naturalistic and conventional mime as well as dance steps serving

as surrogates for highly emotional states.

I personally liked the melodramatic story scenes much less than the dance scenes.

The dancers are splendid throughout the ballet. Irina Perren as Laurencia has an appealing demeanor,

prodigious technical prowess, and expressive pantomime. Guest artist Denis Matvienko, as Frondoso,

shows sharp clean lines and technical wizardry befitting a Chabukiani role.

The wedding scene pas de six, joined the lead couple with the blond Viktoria Kutepova partnered by

Nikolay Korypaev and the dark haired Irina Kosheleva partnered by Andrei Yakhnyuk for a

brilliant display of Chabukiani's choreography blending classical dance with Spanish inflected folk dancing.

Oksana Bondareva, Sabina Yapparova, and Denis Morosov created vivid individuals in their parts.

The ensembles throughout were ebullient, well-rehearsed and elegant.

The company was extremely convincing in the final scene forming a mob storming the commander's castle.

Valery Ovsyanikov conducted the Mikhailovsky Theatre orchestra.

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Mikhailovsky July 24, 2010 The London Coliseum


Ballet in four acts

Music Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Choreography Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov,

Alexander Gorsky, Asaf Messerer

Revival Mikhail Messerer (2009)

Libretto Vladimir Begichev, Vassily Geltser


Design Simon Virsaladze

Design Revival Vyacheslav Okunev, Boris Kaminsky

Lighting Damir Ismagilov

Repetiteur of

Character Dances Alla Boguslavskaya

Odette/Odile Irina Perren

Prince Siegfried Dmitry Semionov (guest from Berlin Staatsballett)

Sovereign Princess Zvezdana Martina

Evil Genius Mikhail Venshchikov

Tutor Andrei Bregvadze

Jester Denis Tolmachov


Pas de Trois Oksana Bodareva, Olga Stepanova, Andrey Yakhnyuk

Big Swans Viktoria Kutepova, Irina Kosheleva, Yulia Kamilova

Cygnets Yulia Tikka, Marina Nikolayeva

Ekaterina Khomenko, Natalia Kuzmenko

Neapolitan Natalia Kuzmenko, Nikita Kuligin

Hungarian Elena Firsova, Roman Petukhov

Mazurka Olga Poverennaya, Yulia Kamilova,

Aleksei Malakhov, Philipp Parkhachov

Spanish Mariam Ugrekhilidze, Kristina Makhivilidze,

Alexander Omar, Denis Morosov

The corps de ballet's dancing in the second act lake scene sets a high standard

for the company. Their movements are uniformly fully-expressed and well rehearsed.

The corps as swans are top-rate. They looked wonderful and danced harmoniously.

The leads were Irina Perren and Dmitry Semionov, a guest from the Berlin Staatsballett.

Both however, have received their training at the Vaganova Academy of Saint Petersburg.

She is a 2000 graduate, he a 1999 graduate.

Perren, I found to be, a pleasing performer, technically superb and attractive.

Although on my first view of her, (in two full-length works and Spring Waters),

I failed to perceive her special qualities that raise her to principal status.

That may be my failure, not hers.

In a review of Spring Waters I already commented on her lack of abandon

(a trademark of some Soviet Bolshoi principals),

and a necessary ingredient for the Messerer choreography.

Semionov, as Siegfried, presented a noble figure. He has indeed a very handsome physique and face,

and looks great standing still.

His dancing, however, stresses poses, and not flow of movement.

Steps in his dancing never connected to form something larger, organic.

He does have a wonderful, quiet demi-plie when finishing tours.

His partnering was clean, but far from virtuosic, as his physique implicitly promised it would be.

The first act, as choreography, seems to wander a bit and lose steam before its end.

The jester was ebulliently danced by Denis Tolmachov,

but the part seemed intrusive to the music in this version;

my favorite first act is that of the Sergeyev version,

which advances the story of the libretto more convincingly.

The variation of Siegfried tells us nothing about who he is or what is on his mind.

The Pas de Trois similarly has been changed, if not musically, then choreographically,

but not for the better, in my view. The pdt was joyously danced by the bright Oksana Bondareva,

the energetic Olga Stepanova and Andrey Yakhnyuk.

More synchronous coordination will make this trio soar.

The musical pacing of the second act seemed to me to be slower than other

current versions. The ensemble parts were fine, esp the parts for the ensemble

before the entry of the swan queen that are not found in other versions.

Slow pacing seemed noticeable in the Odette variation.

I couldn't quite appreciate on one viewing the choreography for the trio of the big swans.

It's hard to accept change when being used to another version.

The cygnets were charming and the quartet was well-executed.

The third act set was sumptuous and grand.

The Hungarian and Mazurka ensembles are both spectacular entertainment;

the first stately and luxurious, the second super-fast and sparkling.

The two Spanish couples dazzled in their dancing and were dazzling in their black-white costumes.

Perren appeared as a very sophisticated Odile, glamorous and unpredictable,

her black tutu splashed liberally on one side with an array of bright red feathers.

At this point I don't have a favorite between her Odette and Odile.

Both seem to me to be accomplished portraits.

The fourth act had for me little interest, concerned as it was with preparing us for its

against-all-logic, politically motivated, anti-musical, Soviet happy ending.

The Mikhailovsky Theatre orchestra was in the capable hands of Valery Ovsyanikov

One of the London critics called the Mikhailovsky a maverick company

(compared to the two established Russian companies).

I thought about the remark, and the Joffrey company popped in my head,

as a kind of maverick company compared to the other two American companies.

The Joffrey has been a kind of maverick on the American scene, by seeking out

choreographies of the past, such as those of Nijinska and Nijinsky,

and Ashton and other rareties, like K. Jooss, as well as new commissions.

Thinking further of the comparison, I find that it doesn't hold.

Joffrey's serious directorial forays are all in the past- a legacy of its founder


Mikhailovsky's directorial forays are, at this point, harbingers of its future.

Which looks like it could become a brilliant one.

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CarolinaM wrote

Could this be possible? How can a classical ballet company hire an artistic director who has declared so many times that he does not like classics and knows so few about classics?
It happens. For example, Wayne MacGregor is Resident Choreographer for the Royal Ballet.
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Really do not know if this is true or not but it seems that Nacho Duato is going to take care of the Mikhailovsky:


Could this be possible? How can a classical ballet company hire an artistic director who has declared so many times that he does not like classics and knows so few about classics?

Does anyone know anything else about?

Should be interesting - in the sense of the Chinese curse.

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If it is true then that is a remarkably fast turnover of AD's as Ruzimatov was only there for a couple of seasons and it looks as if Mikhail Messerer won't be there for much longer. I question the wisdom of this though as the Mikhailovsky Ballet has little experience of modern work and a lot of contemporary dance doesn't appeal to Russian audiences.

By the way does Duarto speak Russian? He'll find it an uphill task if he doesn't.

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He's never done any work for the company, the company's never done any work of his, and they gave him a five year contract?

Talk about an arranged marriage instead of a love match. I hope he and the dancers learn to get along, considering the barriers in language, culture and training.

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A few comments to supplement Chiapuris's remarks about the Mikhailovsky in London: I saw two performances of their Swan Lake and one of their mixed bill. A highlight for me was the chance to see the Gusev reconstruction of Petipa's "Le Halte de Cavalrie"--a perfect operetta of a ballet, with a charming, character dancing anti-heroine in red boots, a suitably sweet couple the anti-heroine tries and fails to break up--her rival dances on pointe--and of course the visiting cavalry with its three officers making a brief stay in the peasant (ballet-peasant) town: in ascending rank the officers are cloyingly romantic, arrogantly macho, and...uh...clutzily pompous (or pompously clutzy) as each tries to win over the anti-heroine. In the choreographic highlight of her role she parodies all three of them in front of everyone in town. Anyway, I don't know how much is Petipa and how much is Gusev's reimagining, but I thought it was altogether delightful -- and the dancers really looked as if they were enjoying themselves. (Nacho Duato for this group? Ugh.)

The Swan Lake is a 1950's Soviet Swan Lake--brought to the West on the Bolshoi's first tour. It predictably includes a hyperactive Jester, a happy ending, and short shrift to the mime. For much of Act I the Siegfired is in healed shoes which contributes to the slightly old-fashioned air. And when I say "short shrift to the mime," I mean for example: during Act I, I looked over to the side of the stage for one nano-second to admire some costume and--as I thought--entirely missed the Queen (or, in this version, "sovereign Princess,") telling Siegfried to get married. So I watched more carefully at the second performance so as not to miss it and...uh...it does not happen. In any case, their mime exchange lasts about a nano-second. On the other hand, watching the tutor be made a fool of by the women of the corps brought back memories of a similar (though not identical) sequence in David Blair's version.

Notes I read about this Asaf Messerer production point to the "white acts" as the ballet's highlight and, in particular, its asymmetrical groupings of the swans and the active relation of the corps to the central pas de deux. Both of these comments were confirmed in performance and there was much that was beautiful in this staging and even the happily concluded Act IV. In a way Messerer's asymmetrical 'complications' of Ivanov would be interesting to compare directly with Balanchine's more symmetrical ones. I cannot compare well based solely on memory.

(Still, pure Ivanov would be a pleasure, though I could probably live without Benno being part of the Act II partnering. The company also brought to London the revival of Laurencia which I missed: I refrain from speculating on the program's allusion to its interest in "Stalin era" choreography.)

Other highlights of this Swan Lake for me include the high quality of the character dancing in Act III. The Spanish dance--always a highlight when I have seen Soviet or Russian companies--was here made part of Rothbart's entourage, an oddity that, at any rate, is less odd than what Kevin Mckenzie has Rothbart do...Soloists were fine--some better than others--but not to my eyes outstanding except perhaps for Oxana Bondareva in the pas de trois. Chiapuris mentioned that Ayupova is now a ballet mistress with the company; Bondareva is a touch in her style.

The first Odette/Odile I saw was Semionova, a very elegant and cool Odette; I found her more effective as Odile where her coolness 'hardened' into a glitter that retained its elegance; when this Odile calculated her "Odette" imitation she seemed almost subtle in the pleasure she was taking in the con--I quite liked that; Semionova also danced Odile's variations with great control. Oddly, though, I enjoyed the company's own Ekatrina Borchenko more (certainly as Odette I found her more moving) though she did not have Semionova's fine technical command at all times. London critics received Borchenko very cooly and Ismene Browne commented that she seemed nervous opening night. (They all politely panned the Siegfried--deservedly I suppose, though he was not without a certain likeability.) I saw Borchenko at the company's final London performance: I liked her stretched out look--I did not find her positions extreme which I infer others did--and appreciated the flexibility and movement of her back and neck. I also liked the way she would slow down or even seem to stop within a dance phrase, giving it a rubato that made the whole portrayal seem more expressive.

May I also take a moment to praise SINGLE fouettes in Act III (Borchenko managed about 27 but all without any travelling or perhaps only a tiny bit). Ballerinas no longer seem to have any interest in the cutting brilliance that can be achieved with singles--if only because they are faster than doubles and triples--or the mesmerizing quality of the constantly whipping leg. Of course they have to be done well and I thought Borchenko did them well.

The Virsaladze costumes were simply stunning and the backdrop for the Lake scenes shimmering and lovely. (The projection of swans flying across the sky however was a little too literal minded for my taste and made me giggle.) Another treat for me at the final Swan Lake performance was seeing Alexei Ratmansky in the audience and, after the performance, seeing him stand with Yuri Burlaka outside the theater.

In the repertory program I agree very much with what Chiapuris said about Spring Waters--the dancers long bodies were sort of splendid looking but they were just not free and daring enough to make this pas de deux work. To throw oneself into one's partner's arms carefully rather undermines the whole point of throwing oneself (for those unfamiliar with Spring Waters--as I was except by reputation--see Mcbride, Patricia or, more recently--Osipova, Natalia). The other excerpts offered a variety of pleasant and less pleasant touches with the character dancing in the Polonaise and Cracovienne of Ivan Susanin being another highlight for me.

Samodurov's ballet "In a Minor Key" for three couples to Scarlatti was in a contemporary, eclectic style--it reminded me of some McGregor I have seen, but British critics mentioned several choreographers I have not seen, so who knows. Mashinka mentioned that the dancers said they found the choreography difficult. That is sort of how they danced. They did well but clearly were not able to fit their bodies with ease to the long-leg flinging, off-center stylings. I did not dislike the ballet but did dislike the women's costumes--bright red, super tight strapless bodices that looked like stripper outfits for a Dodge City saloon. Nothing in the ballet suggested this thematically so it just seemed tasteless to me. I feel that something more neutral, more "in a minor key" would have been more appropriate.

Watching the company and considering their repertory I wondered about the possibility of a New York season. On the whole I do not think it has the principals and soloists to sustain a New York season--even with guest artists such as Semionova (and others such as Rojo) who danced in London. I do think the current repertory would interest many American ballet fans, but not necessarily the general public and 'star' dancers sell tickets. However, if some enterprising impresario can think of a way to package them--I'm all for it. I am myself very glad to have seen them.

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I found it on the Ardani site - June 19 July 1st 2012 - Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, and Duende/Prelude/Without Words - yep, Lincoln Center Koch Theater.


Added after reading Natalia's posting - I might just go to Giselle (since i live here), being not a big fan of "modernization" of true Petipa jewels by "contemporarily geniuses"

Truly said that they don't bring what you listed

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Thanks, YID. I have mixed feelings. While a Sleeping Beauty from a top Russian troupe is always welcome -- assuming it's classical and not the long-promised "Nacho-modern" version! -- I am sorry to not see their recent full-length Laurencia (a big hit in London & St-P) among the offerings. Another Giselle , after POB's version tours the USA one month earlier? And an evening of Duatos for the mixed bill, instead of the evening of one-act Petipa rarities that the Mikahilovsky did in London (Cavalry's Halt included)? I'll pass and save my money unless the Sleeping Beauty is the classical version and the casting is great.

EDITED TO ADD: It WILL be the Nacho Duato Beauty, according to this article:


The same version that prompted the much-respected Nikita Dolgushin to opt "out of this project":


So I will indeed pass on the "Micky-Bananas Theater" tour.

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