Mikhailovsky Ballet: The Flames of Paris
David H. Koch Theater, New York, NY; November 16, 2014 (m)
Colleen Boresta First choreographed by Vasily Vaynonen in 1932, “The Flames of Paris” was one of many attempts by the Soviet communists to show the connection between the French and Russian Revolutions (allegedly it was Stalin’s favorite ballet). In 2013 the Mikhailovsky’s Ballet Master in Chief, Mikhail Messerer, revised the ballet after talking to dancers who had performed in the many Soviet era versions of the work, including his mother, uncle and cousin, Maya Plisetskaya. The result is a ballet where all the nobles are evil, all the revolutionaries are good, and where those revolutionaries really dance up a storm.
“The Flames of Paris” is a simple tale. Reading the program notes is not necessary; the actions on the stage are self-explanatory. The score, by Boris Asafiev, fits the choreography seamlessly. It is a stirring piece of music, especially for the crowd scenes in Acts II and III.
One of the most incredible things about the Mikhailovsky’s “Flames of Paris” is how well the crowds dance in unison. I was impressed by the regional dancers in Act II – especially the Basques. Led by character specialist, Mariam Ugrekhelidze, the performers impressed with the speed of their leaps and turns – and there wasn’t a toe shoe in sight.
In the Act III crowd scenes the standout was a five year girl (I read online that her mother is a member of the company’s corps). Not only was she adorable, but she danced all the steps perfectly and in tandem with the rest of the performers.
Many other dancers stood out. As the actor, Antoine Mistral, Leonid Sarfanov impressed with his leaps and fast turns à la seconde. Irina Perren was absolutely lovely as the actress, Diana Mireille. She nailed the incredibly challenging pizzicato footwork of the Act I ‘Amour’ pas de deux. During the Act III ‘Freedom’ variation, she was tossed and thrown high in the air by Mikhailovsky strongman, Marat Shemiunov. In the ‘Fraternity’ allegory Andrey Yakhnyuk and Victor Lebedev tossed off endless entrechats while managing to stay in perfect sync.
Angelina Vorontsova was a sunnily buoyant Jeanne, the revolutionary heroine of the ballet. She whipped off so many flawless fouettés that my head is still spinning. She dances with such lightness and musicality that I could watch her all afternoon.
As the hero, Phillipe, Ivan Vasiliev is beyond compare. He sailed through the air and hung suspended there for what seemed like an eternity. His triple sauts de basques and triple tours en l’air were simply amazing. And everything was performed with ease and spot on comic timing.
“The Flames of Paris” shows off the Mikhailovsky Ballet at their very best.