Magazine article Dance Magazine

The Fountain of Bakhchisarai

Magazine article Dance Magazine

The Fountain of Bakhchisarai

Article excerpt

The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, one of the ballets brought by the Kirov to France for its two-month saison russe, is a genuine curiosity. The four-act, son-of-Petipa ballet, based on a Pushkin poem, was choreographed by Rostislav Zahkarov to music of Boris Assafiev in 1934, inaugurating a new era of "dramatic ballet" at precisely the moment at which Stalin was cementing his political dominance. (Kirov, the party secretary for whom the company was named, was mysteriously assassinated that year.

A strange (or perhaps inevitable) time, then, for this melange of La Bayadere, Le Corsaire, and Raymonda, with its good Westerners (the Polish court), evil invaders (the Tartar hordes), all-powerful Khan, pure princess (named Maria) and fiance (Vaslav), alluring harem favorite (Zarema), and a pileup of pillage, seduction, treachery, and death.

Choreographically, Fountain is far less interesting than its illustrious predecessors: Zakharov sets an interminable series of ensemble dances for the court against solos and pas de deux for the young lovers in the first act, then an interminable series of harem-girl dances between Zarema's solos in the second act--few of which seem to emerge from any dramatic necessity.

Act Three is the most satisfying, with fine moments for both ballerinas in Maria's noble rejection of the Khan, and Zarema's jealous passion that culminates in the princess's death (a moment apparently made famous by the twenty-four-year-old Galina Ulanova, who created the role). In the final act Zarema is thrown from the ramparts and the Tartars break into virile "character" dance before the epilogue echoes the prologue in showing the Khan mourning beside the fountain erected to Maria's memory.

The Kirov, with its legendary corps de ballet of elegant women and manly men and its propensity for silent-movie dramatic effects, should carry all of this off perfectly. …

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