It is fashionable to think of Russian ballet as a spent force. Channel 4's recent Dancing for Dollars documentaries have stressed the financial and political problems faced by the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets. The two companies are often bracketed together as if their problems were the same. They aren't. The Bolshoi's artistic decline, thanks to Yuri Grigorovich's long stranglehold on the repertoire, is undeniable, but the Kirov remains the custodian of classical ballets, stretching in an almost unbroken line back to Marius Petipa. With plenty of grand old ballets and some young new talent the company may yet ride out the storm.
In July, they bring Don Quixote to the London Coliseum for the first time. The season's other novelty will be Balanchine's Symphony in C and a selection of Fokine works, including The Firebird, Spectre de la Rose and The Dying Swan. Much of the repertoire will be made up of old favourites including Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty. Then there's the mad melodrama of The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, a preposterous tale of a kidnapped Polish princess, the marauding asiatic who loves her and the jealous mistress intent on her destruction. There is no sillier scenario, but with the right cast (such as the extraordinary Altynai Asylmuratova as the murderous concubine) the ballet has a full-flavoured charm.
Asylmuratova's magical assurance is in stark contrast to the skinny, athletic but slightly shallow beauties currently being mass produced in St Petersburg. The 36-year-old prima ballerina, currently guesting in English National Ballet's jumbo Swan Lake, will lead the first night of Don Quixote alongside snorting Faroukh Ruzimatov, whose over-the-top manner shouldn't be too out of place in the comic role of Basilio the scheming barber.Reuse content