The Bolshoi Ballet in 'La Bayadère'.  Photo © Damir Yusupov

The Bolshoi Ballet in ‘La Bayadère’.
Photo © Damir Yusupov

Bunka Kaikan Hall, Tokyo, Japan; December 4, 2014 (m & e)

Joy Wang

“La Bayadère” loosely stands for a temple dancer but it is in essence a metaphor for the 32 women who en masse, conjoined as one, consecrate ballet’s holiest of scenes. If the shade scene is done badly it can look like an assembly line but at its most moving it is ballet’s shimmering glory and perhaps the surest sternest test of a company’s greatness.

Watching the Bolshoi corps is not the aesthetic or ascetic experience that the Mariinsky’s affords but what they produce is effect; astounding, breathtaking effect that is awe-inspiring. That too is evident at soloist rank with Elizaveta Kruteleva (first shade variation) and Chinara Alizade (third shade variation) particularly fine and Anna Rebetskaya a charming Manu. I also admired both Angelina Karpova(matinee) and Anna Turazashvilli (evening) in the Pas d’action.

It is fortunate that the Bolshoi has such strength among its secondary cast because Anna Nikulina(matinee) is not the most inspired or inspiring of Nikiyas. While there is no denying that Nikulina has a beautiful infrastructure, a soulful face, exquisite feet and reliable technique, she seems to treat all the steps as discrete elements without ever combining them into a coherent whole. She executes all the steps but none of the emotion that impels them and emotes without showing us why.

At the evening performance, Ekaterina Krysanova (replacing the injured Smirnova) is not perhaps the most natural or ideal of Nikiyas but she is a sincere, committed performer who finds her best self in a glorious, technically impeccable shades scene. Floating through the treacherous scarf adagio with perfect sets of double arabesque pirouettes she finds both the technical acumen and musical space to throw in a quadruple (or was it five?) at the end of the solo pirouette sequence. As her Solar, Semyon Chudin, more poet than warrior, is technically impressive and dances with liquid fluidity and expressive urgency.

The performance belonged also to Anna Tikhomirova’s Gamzatti. Dark and dramatic, Tikhomirova might be the lower ranking dancer of the four principal woman I saw, but she dances as if to the manor born. In Grigorovich’s version, Gamzatti enters striking an attitude pose that is telling both of character and of the dancer interpreting it. When Tikhomirova steps into attitude her sternum thrillingly erect, chest lifted, shoulder blades pressed down leaning deep into the vortex of her spine, face in profile one sees immediately a Gamzatti both regal and sensual, majestic and willful. And in the almost seraphic quality of her arms, the expansive reach of her dance, the ambition of her jump, she shows us something of a ballerina’s dazzling instinct. Earlier, Kristina Kretova, a technically sophisticated dancer, was a rather coy Gamzatti who lacked that ineffable imperiousness. Mikhail Lobukhin partnered both her and Nikulina with masculine tenderness and danced with noble dignity but neither he nor Kretova found a similar level of ecstasy.

Ultimately, though, both performances belonged to the corps de ballet and to the Bolshoi’s wonderful orchestra led in both performances by Pavel Klinichev.