Impressario, Edouard Miasnikov, brings Russian ballet to South Africa every winter. He has been doing it for years. What is more is that he does it at a price almost everyone can afford. This year we get Stars of the Ballet Moscow, dancers from several of the Moscow-based ballet companies.
The first act was an all Rachmaninov Tribute which opened with a gentle pas de deux by Maria Klyueva and Roman Shuparskiy to Rachmaninov’s Adagio from his Second Symphony. This flowed into a One Act Ballet entitled Paganini, to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This was neo-classical. Paganini was danced by Aleksandr Alikin with his muse, Maria Sokolnikova. I am not a trained ballet dancer and I was amused at interval to hear the dancers talking. They came to the conclusion that Aleksandr Alikin was the star of the show. My untrained eye and heart disagreed. The fagility of Maria Sokolnikova as she danced the muse made me realise how fragile a muse might seem in the life of a composer (and I am not convinced that Paganini added much of value to the repertoire other than what I see as violin studies, but that might simply reflect the fact that I find his work boring). Besides Alikin gave the audience, and doubtless the ballerina, a heart stopping moment early in the sequence when he nearly dropped her. The rest of the muses and the inquisitors added some choreographic interest to the work.
The final piece of the first act, All by Myself, was a work which encompassed the whole company.
Act II was a gala affair, with Romeo and Juliet’s pas de deux being danced to the less well known Tchaikovsky’s version of the ballet rather than the familiar Prokofiev score. Again we had Alexandr Alikin and Maria Sokolnikova and I enjoyed the work.
The Sleeping Beauty is my favourite ballet and the Rose Adagio is one of the most technically demanding pieces of ballet. Maria Klyueva was Princess Aurora, but whether it is my national bias or whether she was just having an off day, she is not as good as even the third cast of the SA Mzansi Ballet. The likes of prima ballerinas, Angela Malan and, now, Burnise Silvius, make Klyueva look insecure in the difficult balancing sections and simply blah in the rest.
The Black Swan from Swan Lake danced by Maria Sokolnikova was a triumph. Odile’s Black Swan is probably the most demanding of all the well known classics, all the more so because of the ‘requirement’ of 32 fouettes amongst other technical ballet bits. I counted – there were 32 and they were magnificent.
Maria Klyueva now came into her own glory with The Dance of the Russian Bride from the ballet Swan Lake. I thought it was lovely. I do realise that I’m not always the brightest Smartie in the box, but it was only here that I made the connection that the first half had been all Rachmaninov while the second half was all Tchaikovsky. Edouard Miasnikov is first and foremost a musician having been an Honoured Artist of Russia as a clarinetist, one who played here in South Africa in the old SABC orchestra. Of course it would be partially about the music!
The programme ended with Le Grande Finale from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Scherzo) performed by the whole company of Stars of the Ballet Moscow. I saw the production at Emperors Palace in the Theatre of Marcellus.