London ballet's Russian invasion

Three Russian ballet companies are coming to town this month. We see how their moves measure up

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  • Bolshoi Ballet

    Who are they?
    Arguably the world’s biggest name in ballet, founded in 1776, Moscow’s Bolshoi (the name even means ‘big’) vies for dance supremacy with St Petersburg’s Mariinsky, but that’s all been overshadowed by internal rivalries, which came to light following the horrific acid attack on director Sergei Filin in January. Dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko has been charged with ordering the attack.

    What’s the show?
    A three-week season bringing out all the old warhorses, ‘Swan Lake’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, ‘La Bayadère’, plus a Soviet novelty, ‘The Flames of Paris’ and some twentieth-century abstraction in George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’.

    Upside
    Top-quality dancers, including guests Ivan Vasiliev (rocketing leaps) and Natalia Osipova (intense drama), plus the up-and-coming Olga Smirnova (named after a vodka).

    Downside
    This is heritage ballet, hardly cutting-edge stuff, but they really know what they’re doing.

    See the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Opera House from Jul 29 - Aug 17

    Photo © Damir Yusupov

  • Les Saisons Russes du XXI Siecle

    Who are they?
    Inspired by the legendary Ballets Russes, this troupe masterminded by former dancer Andris Liepa includes his sister Ilze plus Xander Parish, the first Brit to join the Mariinsky, and the controversial Nikolai Tsiskaridze, fired from the Bolshoi after outspoken comments (and general bolshiness) following the Filin acid attack (see above).

    What’s the show?
    A new work from German choreographer Patrick de Bana, ‘Cleopatra – Ida Rubinstein’, inspired by glamorous (and racy) socialite and actress Ida Rubinstein. Plus five Ballets Russes reproductions.

    Upside
    A chance to see some early twentieth century ballets at their most authentic – Liepa has reconstructed them from the previously undiscovered notes and materials of choreographer Mikhail Fokine. Also, the costumes in ‘Cleopatra’ (left) are stunning. However…

    Downside
    … the choreography is pretty weak. When Time Out saw ‘Cleopatra’ last year, the dancing didn’t really get off the ground.

    See 'Cléopâtra – Ida Rubinstein' at the London Coliseum from Jul 16 - 20

    Photo © Valeria Komissarova

  • Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet

    Who are they?
    A lesser-ranked Russian company, run by former dancer Igor Zelensky, now boasting ex-Royal Ballet bad boy and tattoo shop owner Sergei Polunin among its principals.

    What’s the show?
    ‘Coppelia’, a silly story about a young man who falls in love with a life-sized dancing doll, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend. Originally dating back to 1870, this is Roland Petit’s modernised version from 1975.

    Upside
    Polunin appears in three shows. A virtuoso dancer with irresistible presence, he’s well worth seeing…

    Downside
    … assuming he turns up, that is. Polunin has a talent for going AWOL, first from his job at the Royal Ballet in 2012, then from the show ‘Midnight Express’ in April. He promises he’ll show up this time.

    See 'Coppélia' at the London Coliseum from Jul 11- Jul 14

    Photo © E Fetisova

Bolshoi Ballet

Who are they?
Arguably the world’s biggest name in ballet, founded in 1776, Moscow’s Bolshoi (the name even means ‘big’) vies for dance supremacy with St Petersburg’s Mariinsky, but that’s all been overshadowed by internal rivalries, which came to light following the horrific acid attack on director Sergei Filin in January. Dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko has been charged with ordering the attack.

What’s the show?
A three-week season bringing out all the old warhorses, ‘Swan Lake’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, ‘La Bayadère’, plus a Soviet novelty, ‘The Flames of Paris’ and some twentieth-century abstraction in George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’.

Upside
Top-quality dancers, including guests Ivan Vasiliev (rocketing leaps) and Natalia Osipova (intense drama), plus the up-and-coming Olga Smirnova (named after a vodka).

Downside
This is heritage ballet, hardly cutting-edge stuff, but they really know what they’re doing.

See the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Opera House from Jul 29 - Aug 17

Photo © Damir Yusupov


Users say

1 comments
David Barron
David Barron

"Olga Smirnova (named after a vodka)"? What a badly educated comment ...