Ballet THE FOUNTAIN OF BAKHCHISARAI/ KIROV BALLET London Coliseum, London

Worry beads in one hand, hookah in the other, lovestruck Khan Guirei sits staring into the distance. Wracked with desire for Maria, the fair-skinned Polish beauty - kidnapped by the Tartar chieftain during his last bloody battle and now imprisoned in his harem at Bakhchisarai (ancient seat of the Khanate Crimea) - Guirei takes no interest in the parade of women who are unceremoniously shoved under his nose by a pair of eunuchs.

None of them can tempt him; not even the orphan Zarema, until now his firm favourite and, as we are about to witness, a woman disinclined to take rejection lying down. While Zarema craves Guirei's love, Maria cowers from it and, as the prologue to The Fountain of Bakhchisarai indicates, this is a story that can only end in tears.

First performed in 1934, Fountain was a collaborative venture between the choreographer Rostislav Zakharov, the dramatist Nikolai Volkov and the composer Boris Assafiev whose score, full of harsh, almost comically strident passages alternating with stretches of gooey lyricism, was inspired by Pushkin's poem of 1824. Fountain was Zakharov's debut work, and a forerunner of the trend towards psychological realism, the use of literary themes and Stanislavski's principles which swept through Soviet ballet in the 1930s and 1940s. It has remained a classic - unashamedly of its era but also a living example of the dramatic style that was to colour much later works.

But despite the Kirov's careful preservation (just take a look at the old photographs of Galina Ulanova, Zakharov's original Maria, flinching from Guirei's touch) of what it deems a relevant slice of ballet heritage, Fountain still comes as something of a cultural shock to Western audiences. (It also helps us to understand why today's Russia prefers Bejart to Balanchine: anyone reared on this kind of diet would.)

Like Le Corsaire or the most ridiculous sections of La Bayadere, Fountain is hoot-a-minute stuff; so over the top that you're grateful for Zakharov's uncharacteristic lapses into half-decent (actually mediocre) choreography. These include the pas de deux for Maria (Yulia Makhalina/ Zhana Ayupova) and her fiance (Viktor Baranov/ Andrei Yakovlev, but who cares?); Zarema's sensual dances for Guirei in Act Two; and Maria's harp solo in which she recalls her home, family and Vaslav, prior to being murdered by Zarema.

Most spectacular, and most Bolshoi in manner, is the warrior dance in Act Four. Guirei, now terminally morose, can't be bothered with any of it. Newly captured slaves are dragged before their master; beefy chaps crack their whips; and the acrobatically inclined Nourali launches straight into some show-stopping leaps backed by a frantic chorus of Cossack dancers. Meanwhile, Zarema, condemned to death, jumps from the back wall of the palace courtyard.

Of the first and second cast Zaremas, Sylvia Guillem's is an elegant and dangerous clothes horse whose initial promenade, velvet robe trailing majestically behind her, eventually gives way to a searing portrayal of jealousy and rage. But Altynai Asylmuratova's interpretation is the more effective; realising that she has lost Guirei's favour, Asylmuratova's Zarema gasps, fist on teeth, and collapses.

Whereas her agony is palpable, Guirei's sorrow, as he mourns Maria, seems nothing more than an ineffectual series of peculiarly histrionic gestures. And for a company which appears to have a fetish for water-spurting decor - fountains have graced its Sleeping Beauty and Corsaire - the pathetic sculpture of trickling electric light at which Guirei weeps is the most surprising lost opportunity of all.

n Season runs to 12 August (booking: 0171-632 8300)

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate