Dance: Kirov Ballet, Royal Opera House London
Meisner, Nadine, The Independent (London, England)
BALANCHINE? WHO'S Balanchine? Impresarios apparently believe this century's greatest choreographer spells box-office death in Britain and it was a struggle for the Kirov Ballet to persuade them to present just two performances of their newly acquired spectacular, Jewels.
But in the event, the impresarios were years behind public taste. Both performances have sold out and an additional matinee show has now been announced. Rush for your tickets.
Balanchine created his plotless three-act collection of gems - Emeralds, Rubies, Diamonds - in 1967 on New York City Ballet. Since then several companies, including our Royal Ballet, have staged Rubies, but the Kirov is the first in Europe to have attempted the thing in its entirety.
It represents an enormous undertaking for them, not only because of the material demands - 66 dancers and three composers - but because Balanchine is not a part of their upbringing. With a handful of his ballets now in their repertory, though, the style is definitely sinking into their bones.
How magnificent the design looks, restoring the original costumes by Karinska and decor by Peter Harvey, a cascade of jewels suspended in mid- air. How magnificent too are the dancers of the first cast.
In Rubies, Maya Dumchenko is leggy and coolly in control at the head of her red platoon; while Diana Vishneva reveals herself as the company's nonchalantly bravura dancer, devouring her steps in huge and buoyant mouthfuls, forming the central couple with a witty Viacheslav Samodurov.
Rubies is Balanchine's outrageous wink at showtime, the zesty dancers cantering on and off like Lippizaner horses, fracturing their outlines in the jazzy squiggles impelled by Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. They might be in a circus ring; or they might be on the edge of the world, the rubies scattered in the charcoal darkness like stars.
In Diamonds the same jewels seem like glinting icicles in the frosty air of a St Petersburg square. The sensational snowy massed formations of dancers would have overwhelmed Napoleon, if the Russian winter hadn't. …