Bunka Kaikan Hall, Tokyo, Japan; December 6 (m & e) and 7, 2014

Joy Wang

Maria Alexandrova in Bolshoi Ballet's production of 'Don Quixote'.  Photo © Damir Yusupov-Bolshoi Theatre

Maria Alexandrova in Bolshoi Ballet’s production of ‘Don Quixote’.
Photo © Damir Yusupov-Bolshoi Theatre

“Don Quixote”, it seems, is the Bolshoi’s calling card. And that sense of absolute entitlement, of an irrepressible certainty and conviction, is evident in the way the company’s performers relish its demands.

In Maria Alexandrova and Vladislav Lantratov (Dec. 6 matinee), performers who manage even within the effulgent spectacle of their dance to fill very note of music, every turn of the head with subtle essential truths, we find artists that fulfill our want for theatre. Alexandrova might not have fully regained her famous jump, and her back also seems more rigid, but none of that really matters because when she is on stage it is hard to watch anyone else. In the fearless way she engulfs space and in her transparent eager joy, she is perhaps the epitome of Bolshoi style but there is also a fascinating intimacy in her attention to nuance and detail. Hyperbolic yet immediate, larger than life yet touchingly unaffected; this is a magnetic performer who brings womanly authority and lustrous musicality to everything she does.

Though Ekaterina Krysanova (Dec. 6, evening) does not rise yet to the level of Alexandrova’s artisanship she is technically phenomenal and none of it is false bravado. Her hops on pointe had a breathtaking velocity. Later, when she launches herself in that final diagonal of pique turns in the coda of the Act III pas de deux, she starts of at a conventional speed then accelerates and jetés (rather than stepping) into the piqué turns, the working leg extended with lazar clarity. It was impossibly fast yet impossibly clear. A third through, cognizant of spatial constraints, she moderated the size of her turns without any distortion of focus or accent before neatly finishing the series off with a series of rapid chainés. That level of technical control, the ability to accelerate, decelerate, alter the dynamics of movement and shift emphasis at will, is astounding. That she does so with taste and intelligence makes it even more admirable. Mikahil Lobukhin made for a sympathetic Basilio, a muscular dancer who is also a refined genuine actor.

Kristina Kretova (Dec. 7) lacks Krysanova’s hard brilliance but she is an eminently likeable Kitri who dances with feminine charm and flirtatious ease. As Dulcinea, though, she lacked mystery and feminine authority. Still she is by far the more striking dancer than Anna Nikulina who for all her physical gifts was an unimaginative and harsh Dryad Queen.

Among the younger dancers I particularly enjoyed watching Anna Turazashvili in the 2nd variation (Dec. 6 matinee and evening) and Angelina Karpova as the Street Dancer (Dec. 6 matinee and Dec. 7). Though neither are, for now, in total control of their long slender limbs they both seem to already possess a distinct individuality; Turazashvili with her florid upper body and Karpova with her elegant glamorous sensuality.

And from the company’s more veteran soloists, including Yulia Lunkina (a sylph like Cupid), Anna Rebetskaya (Flower girl), Chinara Alizade (2nd variation, Dec. 7), Anna Tikhomirova (Street dancer, Dec. 6 evening and 1st variation, Dec. 6 matinee and Dec. 7), there was the satisfaction of watching consummate professionals who know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. I hope especially to see more of Tikhomirova. Bolshoi ballerinas are extroverted performers with an open easy charm and Tikhomirova is all that and something else. She seems to know how to go inside herself to find that place of deeper purpose.

Still for all its starry names and glorious talent it is the Bolshoi character ensemble, one of the greatest in the world that makes their “Don Quixote” such an event. From the corps in Act 1 to Anna Balutova, sensational in the gypsy dance, and Kristina Karasyova’s sensual enigmatic Mercedes the Bolshoi lived up to its name.