Royal Opera House, London
Dance review: La Bayadère - The Bolshoi's Olga Smirnova is precise and otherworldly
Monday 05 August 2013
The Bolshoi Ballet’s Olga Smirnova dances with a moonlit glow. In the “Kingdom of the Shades” scene of La Bayadère, she gives the ghostly heroine a hypnotic beauty. Her bursts of dazzling speed don’t break the smooth flow of her dancing: she’s both precise and otherworldly.
This year, the Bolshoi has hit the news with stories of backstage crisis and an acid attack on its artistic director, Sergei Filin. Smirnova, a remarkable young star, pulls attention back to the famous Russian company’s artistry.
Smirnova was born and trained in St Petersburg, graduating from the Vaganova Academy in 2011. Leaving school, she was already causing a stir when she was invited to Moscow to join the Bolshoi. She’s tall, thin and long-limbed, with her head carried proudly on a long neck. Her technique is strong, with fluent line and strongly-controlled turns, matched by distinctive stage presence.
As Nikiya, the heroine of La Bayadère, an exotic 19th-century melodrama originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, she goes from a love triangle to the trance-like Shades scene, where the grieving hero sees her as a vision. She carries the story with aplomb.
Smirnova does show a few exaggerations, sometimes distorting her line with sky-high legs. Dancing a mournful solo when her beloved Solor is betrothed to the princess Gamzatti, she stretches into deep backbends, letting her flexibility overtake her sorrow. It’s still a vivid account of the dance, moving between unhappiness and hope.
Yuri Grigorovich’s production, created in 1991 and recently revised, is opulent but bland. Nikolai Sharonov’s sets and costumes evoke a brightly-coloured India, but Grigorovich fiddles with details of the traditional choreography. In Nikiya’s opening solo, key steps are simplified. The grand parade for Solor and Gamzatti’s betrothal starts in front of a drop-curtain, in a narrow no-man’s-land. Grigorovich’s sense of stage space is weak, and his alterations take both characters and dances out of context.
As Solor, Semyon Chudin dances briskly but can’t get much character out of the role. Ekaterina Krysanova is an imperious Gamzatti, dancing boldly. In the Shades scene, conductor Pavel Sorokin takes the corps de ballet’s famous entrance very, very fast. Though the individual women dance in stretched, spacious phrases, the collective effect is too hectic. Even so, there is fine corps and soloist dancing: I particularly liked Anastasia Stashkevich as a speedy first Shade.
Season continues until 17 August. Box office 020 7304 4000.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 4 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 5 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
This little boy loves books so much that he cries when his mother stops reading to him
Prog rock finally comes of age with launch of the first Official Progressive Chart
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up