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Backstage with the Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre
- Offstage with the Dancers

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By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
7/12/02
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com

Friday, July 12, 2002, Backstage at the Metropolitan Opera House, chatting with anonymous Ballet Fans and Principal Ballet Stars of the Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre, after an almost four-hour performance of "La Bayadère".

Friday night, I had the tremendous pleasure of attending the Kirov Ballet's production of "La Bayadère", a revival of the 1900 production, musically scored by Ludwig Minkus and choreographed by Marius Petipa. "La Bayadère" is set in a filmy, dreamlike India, with swords, temple dancers, a poisonous snake, hidden in a dancer's flower basket, a Temple of the Gods, a wrathful Rajah, and an exquisite, endless flowing of the repetitive dance pattern, in the Third Act, "The Kingdom of the Shades" scene. According to Allen Robertson and Donald Hutera in The Dance Handbook (GK Hall & Co., Boston, 1988, p.34):

"The Kingdom of the Shades is both timeless and the most modern of all nineteenth century choreography. Seen on its own, this act becomes the world's first abstract ballet, a dance about dancing. It is composed of a smooth, symphonically orchestrated stream of variations of the corps de ballet, a trio of female soloists, a ballerina (Nikiya, temple dancer) and her partner (Solor). In their famous entrance, the thirty-two female corps members appear on stage one by one. Each dancer repeats the same arabesque, step forward, arabesque pattern again and again. This slow, sweeping repetitive chain of movements becomes a swelling white river of dance gradually filling the stage. A self-contained universe, The Kingdom of the Shades celebrates ballet as a supreme poetic expression of the eternal."

This scene is performed as Solor's drug-induced dream, a memory of many images of his beloved Nikiya, the temple dancer, who has just succumbed to snakebite, as a result of the jealousy of Gamzatti, the Rajah's daughter, and the High Brahmin, who was enamored with Nikiya. The Kirov corps de ballet received a dynamic ovation for their hypnotic and flawless performance. It is an emotionally driven dance, with Solor's soporific sorrow. In 1963, Rudolf Nureyev (a Kirov defector) restaged this scene for The Royal Ballet. In 1974, Natalia Makarova restaged this scene for American Ballet Theatre, and, in 1980, she restaged the entire ballet, also for ABT.

In the Kirov's original Petipa version, the final Act IV includes the merry-making of Gamzatti and Solor's wedding party, followed by the destruction of the Palace. The Makarova version, seen on occasion in the ABT repertoire, includes a dynamic, golden Temple Dancer in a foreboding and dynamic Act IV. The Petipa version includes young ballet stars in colorful costumes and, for the evening, three intermissions. Kirov sets were not sumptuous or glowing, but there was soul and the comforting clicking of pointe shoes on the spartan and well-lit flooring. Diana Vishneva, as Nikiya, with porcelain features and dramatic elegance, glided to the swelling Minkus score, with passion and pathos, pointing to her rival, Gamzatti, as she hovered, poisoned and near death.

There was bravura dancing by Andrian Fadeyev (Solor) and Elvira Tarasova, Soloist (Gamzatti). The audience, including many of Russian descent, showed their adoration for the stars of the Kirov Ballet with sustained applause and glowing comments at intermission. From my Balcony Box, I was also capable of observing the full orchestra, who mastered the intense emotions of the Minkus score, led by Conductor, Mikhail Sinkevich. The Concertmaster and cellists provided splendid interpretations for solo dances and heart-rending scenes.

At the Stage Door, I was greeted by some of the ABT Fans, stars of a recent, ExploreDance.com, Inside Perspective. I was also able to meet Vishneva (see photos), who was sporting another Indian Temple Dancer outfit, replete with gold and violet, metallic fabric, and who radiated with a scintillating visage and personality. Seeing Vishneva, surrounded by international admirers, was well worth the extended wait, following this four-hour performance.

I recommend trying to catch the Kirov, while they are still in town, at the Met Opera House. Check newspaper listings. This company exudes the strength and survival of the Russian soul, with power and passion.


Diana Vishneva, Principal ballet star, "La Bayadère"



Stage door, Met Opera, Ballet fans seek signatures




Diana Vishneva and a fan




Diana Vishneva signs a program




Peter, Moonrock Diner, West 57th Street, feeds a hungry dancer in the wee hours

 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net