London Coliseum, London, UK; April 14, 2015
In On the Edge, Diana Vishneva proves herself a woman of infinite variety – not to mention infinite charisma. She closes the evening with a casually staged coup: sauntering into the auditorium to share her tray of bitter-sweet lemons with a delighted audience. If this had been an election husting, I suspect she would have garnered every vote in the house.
This scene was the climax of Carolyn Carlson’s Woman in a Room, an introspective work that provides Vishneva with a vehicle to contemplate life and express a deep interior as she moves through various stages of frustration to fulfilment.
Carlson also conceived the effective setting. A huge window frames the moving picture of a tree, the wind rustling its dense foliage. It makes a powerful statement on the eternal renewal of nature while the passage through life for the solitary woman is more volatile and variable. The solid table and chair are used to good effect by Vishneva, pedalling the air in exasperation – a journey to nowhere – or slicing lemons with a lethally bladed knife.
This is a woman with a wardrobe. Vishneva’s clothes, designed by Chrystel Zingiro, are beautiful, practical and slip on and off in seconds. She strips off her coat to dance, with obvious enjoyment, to a Celtic melody dressed in a lightweight shift. When she changes to a sheer black dress and black high-heels the mood alters to something tougher. Into a beige jacket and a lyrical solo that is the choreographic highlight of the evening: her fine ballet training adapted to her expressive needs proving, if proof were needed, that Diana Vishneva is a one of the world’s great dance artists.
Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Switch which opened the programme was a maelstrom of mixed emotions. The programme notes suggested a sanguine couple and a solitary artist, but it is way more complex. Vishneva makes an entrance establishing her diva status but soon the characters blur. Touches of sexual innuendo surface as two women, Vishneva and Bernice Coppieters, pair up in mutual support and the solitary man, Gaëtan Morlotti dances up an angry storm.
The design is superb: a surround of low-level lamp and sparse furniture, brilliantly lit and coloured, but Maillot struggles to interpret the realism of the setting and the work was plagued by busy angst-ridden gestures. Vishneva, a dancer who can do just about anything a choreographer asks of her is given precious little of significance but her silver wrap skirt and bodice by Karl Lagerfeld must have been some compensation.
The ballet barre is an anomalous addition in the living room set. At odd intervals it is venerated by the dancers who run hand or cheek along its surface. It is finally dragged centre stage where, in shades of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Vishneva becomes the tortured artist hung out to dry on the barre. Maillot has a strikingly individual choreographic voice but it was difficult to ascertain what he was trying to say in this piece.
I overheard a number of audience comments expressing a wish that Vishneva had been given more dancing. These expectations are natural given her ballet star status but this is a dancer who expresses herself so well in so many ways when given the right material. And it certainly was a happy audience that departed after the calls; the lucky ones clutching a lemon!