St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s La Bayadère is fantasy spectacle on a pinched budget. The staging is skimpy where it should be lavish, while the company are overstretched by Marius Petipa’s 1877 ballet.
La Bayadère is an orientalist tale of temple dancers (including Nikiya, the bayadère of the title), jealousy and visions. It’s best known for the “Kingdom of the Shades” scene, a famous test of the corps de ballet’s discipline. St Petersburg Ballet Theatre don’t have the stamina: wobbles aside, their phrasing is unsteady and tense. Other scenes are under-rehearsed, to the point where dancers are visibly unsure which foot to start on.
The company’s London season is headlined by homegrown star Irina Kolesnikova. Long-limbed and blonde, she has solid technique and an assertive personality. She’s a mannered Nikiya, all big poses and staring eyes. In the Shades scene, she’s secure but frosty.
She’s partnered by Denis Rodkin, a guest star from the Bolshoi Ballet. Dancing heroically, he gives this sluggish production some momentum, with soaring jumps and real commitment to the drama. Natalia Matsak has fun as rival princess Gamzatti. She’s tested by the bravura of the setpiece grand pas, but brings bite to all the eavesdropping and plotting.
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