Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet
Erika Mikirticheva, Sergei Polunin, Anton Domashev
11 – 14 July, 2013
by Judith Cruickshank
copyright 2013 by Judith Cruickshank
I’m ashamed to admit that I couldn’t remember who danced Swanilda and Franz when Roland Petit brought his production of "Coppélia" for the Ballets de Marseille to London in 1977. A little research shows that the roles were taken by the gifted Cuban ballerina Loipa Araujo and the excellent Denys Ganio A shocking failing you might say, to overlook dancers of this calibre, but my excuse is that the production was dominated to such an extent by Petit himself as Coppelius that the other performers faded into second place.
The Stanislavsky’s production staged by Luigi Bonino and dates from 2012. It appears to have been brought to London primarily as a showcase for Sergei Polunin who notoriously walked out of the Royal Ballet last year. It should be noted that the company has had successful London seasons in the past with its own productions of "Swan Lake" and "Snow Maiden." Igor Zelensky now runs the troupe having taken over took over the direction when Sergei Filin left to run the Bolshoi Ballet – and that distressing story needs no repetition here. Though I should perhaps add that during the London season the dancers learned that they had now also lost their long serving General Director to the Bolshoi.
Petit’s Coppelia is essentially a work for three characters; apart from Swanilda’s six girlfriends, the corps de ballet consists of somewhat comic soldiers and their female admirers who have two dance numbers but otherwise serve as set dressing. Ezio Frigerio has provided an elegant setting and Franca Squarciapino ravishingly pretty costumes, mainly in shades of pink, blues and grey. The Swanilda doll however is given a ravishing black number. Delibes’ beautiful score has been cut and chopped around, with some odd tempi and a barrel organ recording of the overture played before each of the two acts. It was nicely played by English National Ballet’s orchestra conducted by the Stanislavsky’s Anton Grishanin.
So; what of Polunin who is being hailed by some of the London press as “the new Nureyev” or “the greatest male dancer in the world”. Well, although prodigiously gifted I would say he’s a long way from deserving either of those descriptions. Now 23, this is the moment when you would expect him to be refining his technique and deepening his interpretations. His elevation is fantastic, he soars easily through the numerous tricky jumps that Petit has set, his line is good and his feet elegantly pointed. But his finish isn’t always as clean as one would like and although he manages multiple turns, they are not very impressive. In short, he’s pretty much the dancer he was when he left the Royal Ballet some 18 months ago.
More worryingly, he seems to have little rapport with anyone else on stage, not even his partner, the sparkling Erika Mikirticheva. He’s dancing in a world of his own, and although he may prefer what he calls “darker” roles, that’s no reason for making no noticeable attempt at characterisation and seemingly viewing the part as simply an opportunity to show off his unquestionable good looks and elevation.
Mikirtcheva is a dark haired, long legged charmer who trained in Saratov, a port city on the Volga. She made a good fist of Petit’s somewhat eccentric choreography, but more importantly she managed to present Swanilda as a character in her own right, despite the lack of response from the other principal protagonists.
Poor Anton Domashev had no chance following in Petit’s footsteps. You need a lifetime as a star for that and I wonder what Zelensky or better still, Filin, might have made of the role. The corps de ballet did the little they had to do with charm and seeming enthusiasm – and after all, charm was always the principal virtue of this version of the ballet. The Stanislavsky production may have lacked a real star and a certain element of Parisian style and chic, but it had charm aplenty and I for one would be happy to see this attractive company make a return visit in the not too distant future.Photos, courtesy of the company:
Anton Domashev and Sergei Polunin.
Erika Mikirtcheva and Sergei Polunin.