Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
Superlatives are usually to be avoided in writing a review. There are, however, exceptions. The Mariinsky Ballet, at the Wales Millennium Centre for their only UK performances in 2016, is one of these. Perfection is the word that springs to mind.
Choreography: Hans van Manen
Composer: Astor Piazzolla
One of just four performances by this world-renowned company, the triple bill programme opened with the blood-stirring Five Tangos by Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen, danced to the vibrant and pulsating rhythms of music by the legendary Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, famed for his ‘Nuevo tango’ works – a radical restyling of the traditional Argentine dance form.
This is tango as you have never seen it danced before: cool, calculating, precision coupled with the passionate sexual undercurrent of the original without the sentimentality. Red and black costumes are stunning yet simple, replicating the bull fighter’s cape in the flare of the dancers’ skirts as they execute complex steps. Van Manen gives equal billing to the male dancers, clad in tight-fitting black and there is some amazing talent here: jumps are executed with an incredible elevation plus a lightness on landing seldom seen. The two soloists, Viktoria Tereshkina and Vladimir Shklyarov, are outstanding in this fusion of the classic traditional with modern dance.
Choreography: Wayne McGregor
Composer: Max Richter
In complete contrast is this entirely modern ballet by British choreographer Wayne McGregor: a startling and multi-dimensional work which fully illustrates McGregor’s trailblazing innovations in performance and use of movement. Infratakes its name from the Latin word for ‘below’ and the ballet presents a portrait of life in the city beneath the surface; i.e. what you see is not how it is.
High up against the backdrop of a black LED screen running the width of the stage, lit cut-out figures walk to and fro, sometimes singly and at other times several at once, while on stage below twelve dancers execute some of the most innovative and complex moves in modern dance. As they move through a series of solos, duets and ensemble numbers which in classical ballet would be named as divertissements, the flexibility of the dancers is such that one wonders if any of them have bones in their bodies. The discipline behind these moves, executed with apparently effortless ease, must surely be relentless and phenomenal. Indeed, owing to the brevity of the male costumes the muscular effort is actually visible – a pointer, if one was needed, to the commitment demanded of these dancers all of whom are of a standard seldom seen on any stage.
IN THE NIGHT
Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
Music: Frédéric Chopin
Lyrical and classical, this last piece demonstrates the classical ballet that is at the heart of the Mariinsky – the foundations on which it has built its programme of extension into modern and contemporary dance and in itself a perfect example of why the Mariinsky Ballet has such a deservedly high reputation. A delight from start to finish, it’s an elegant series of duets danced by three couples and illustrating their varying relationships from serene romanticism to the tempestuous. Danced by three couples – Anastasia Matvienko and Philipp Stepin, Yekaterina Kondaurove and Konstantin Zverev, Viktoria Tereshkina and Uri Smekalov – to Chopin’s Nocturnes for solo piano, played by LyudmilaSveshnikova, this is for many more familiar ground: a clever move by the Mariinsky who, in showcasing a broad spectrum of the diversity of their talent, give ample proof that the company is indeed the crème de la crème.
Runs until 17 April 2016 | Image: Natasha Razina