The Mariinsky Ballet, dance review: 'Dancers carry themselves with aristocratic grandeur'

The Mariinsky Ballet, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff


Zo Anderson
Monday 18 April 2016 12:03 BST
The Mariinsky Ballet dance In The Night
The Mariinsky Ballet dance In The Night (N.Razina)

The Mariinsky Ballet came to Cardiff in fine, adventurous shape, for its only UK performances this year. It was a visit full of recent acquisitions and 21st-century choreography. The dancers carry themselves with aristocratic grandeur, while attacking new territory.

The St Petersburg company, formerly known as the Kirov Ballet, has done a lot of catching up since the end of the Soviet Union, exploring Western choreography. These two programmes ranged from slinky tango to a new Rite of Spring, with Valery Gergiev conducting Stravinsky’s mighty score.

Hans van Manen’s 5 Tangos blends traditional tango music and partnering with ballet’s version of Spanish: headsnaps and entwined legs, plus imperious attitudes and hands-on-hip posing. Viktoria Tereshkina is commanding in the ballerina role, all sly wit and delicate musical timing. Vladimir Shklyarov rips through his virtuoso steps, though he could add an ounce more attitude.

Wayne McGregor’s 2008 Infra sets dancers bending and twisting to a Max Richter score, while Julian Opie’s digital stick figures stroll overhead. The images of common humanity feel overdone – not least because the crowd of extras all seemed improbably hip. But Yekaterina Kondaurova dances with alert, testing intelligence, feeling her way into each step and mood. Viktoria Brileva finds gorgeous fluidity in McGregor’s sharp angles. Kondaurova and Tereshkina also shine in the romantic dramas of Jerome Robbins’ In the Night, which shows off their classical lines and their personalities.

Gergiev conducted Shostakovich’s fizzing score for Concerto DSCH, Alexei Ratmansky’s irresistible setpiece. Created in 2008, it’s a delight, with springy steps and fresh, open feeling. Nadezhda Batoeva, Kimin Kim and Philipp Stepin soared as the three bravura dancers in blue; just as you’re gasping at Kim’s impossibly fast turns, he speeds up. Pianist Vladimir Rumyantsev gave a glittering performance.

Sasha Waltz created her version of The Rite of Spring for the Mariinsky in 2013, for the work’s centenary. It puts the company in barefoot contemporary moves, kicking through heaps of dust or coiling in an orgy.

The Mariinsky are noticeably more decorous than Waltz’s own dancers are in this work, less willing to let rip (and keeping more of their clothes on). This staging needs more of a sense of society behind it, the community that drives the chosen maiden to sacrifice. The dancers are best in the churning unison moves, just as Gergiev and the orchestra hold fire until the pounding finale. Kondaurova is an impressive chosen maiden, driven and hollow-eyed with fear.

Run ended.

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