Kirov Ballet Company, Maryinsky Theater, June 23 and 27, 1997

Article excerpt

BALLET OF THE MARYINSKY THEATER (KIROV BALLET) MARYINSKY THEATER, ST. PETERSBURG JUNE 23 & 27, 1997

REVIEWED BY ARSEN DEGEN

In Russia Igor Stravinsky's music can often be heard at concerts, but his ballets, except for Firebird, are rare guests on the stage. A ballet evening which included The Rite of Spring and Les Noces was initiated by the conductor Valery Gergiev who, in his present capacity as the artistic director of the Maryinsky Theater, defines both opera and ballet repertory.

Rite was entrusted to Evgeny Panfilov--a known Russian master of the avant-garde. Before this commission he had been limited to staging rather interesting performances with his semiprofessional troupe in Perm (the town where Diaghilev spent his childhood). Rite was his first opportunity to work with the resources of a large theater; his two-year effort with the Maryinsky dancers took quite a toll on both sides. The result, which was controversial, was nonetheless interesting.

Only male dancers are used. Panfilov explains, "I wanted to hear the ballet as a loud meditation. As dance material, men are more suitable for this." Despite a use of free plasticity and bare feet unusual for this company, the choreographer's concept seemed rather traditional. Unpersonified environment is contrasted with The Chosen One (Evgeny Ivanchenko). Their not-always-clear relations are interfered with from time to time by the apparition of the idol (a choreographer's witty find--two dancers in long, bright vermilion wigs whose costume holds them together like Siamese twins, and who act as a single character) and The Elder (three dancers in bright, loose-fitting clothes attached to flats in the wings). In a traditional romantic finale, the hero dies.

American designer Elmar Caruso contributed ropes and unpainted wooden stools actively used by Panfilov. Imagine the unsophisticated St. Petersburg audience seeing acrobats lying flat on their backs on impossibly high poles, followed by projections of computer displays on a gaudy, lacerated backdrop! All this post-modernist husk, which is alien to both Panfilov and to the great music, is presumably used in an effort to give the work a contemporary gloss.

Alexei Miroshnichenko, who set Les Noces, has been dancing at the Maryinsky Theater for five years. …