Ernest Latypov in 'Le Corsaire'.  Photo © Natasha Razina

Ernest Latypov in ‘Le Corsaire’.
Photo © Natasha Razina

Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg, Russia; August 3, 2014

Catherine Pawlick

When Gennady Silutsky shouts “Bravo”, it means something. And it meant something last night, that rare, singular word of praise, coming from the typically silent and most esteemed male pedagogue in northern Russia, when his student, Ernest Latypov, revealed the magic of the Mariinsky in his performance as Ali in “Le Corsaire”. Latypov, under Silutsky’s tutelage since his years at the Vaganova Academy, and remaining so since his 2012 admission to the Theatre, is an unquestionably talented young man. Born to choreographer-parents in Kyrgystan, and already the holder of awards from the 2013 Moscow International Competition and Ekaterina Maximova’s 2014 Arabesque competition, his path into future as a leading ballet star is now solid. The Sunday night performance, which occurred in the absence of the troupe’s director, Yuri Fateyev, who is now on tour with the company for a nerve-testing three-week run London, confirmed Latypov as the most promising young man in the company.

In the full length “Corsaire”, we only see the fireworks in Act II. Ali’s presence in the first and third acts is relegated to pantomime and defense of the good guys against the bad. But that entry into the long-awaited, silence-ridden Act II pas de deux that tests the stamina and technique of every dancer proves to be a hallmark of greatness when done correctly and with passion. And so it was on Sunday night with Latypov heating up the stage. The partnering went smoothly, but the real draw was in his solo. Aptly feline, indescribable airborne feats punctuated his first two diagonals. And yet they were accented with lovely Vaganova-positioned hands that tinged the raw talent with the right balance of beauty. A triple turn à la seconde gave us a hint of his power, and during the coda, the series of tours in second were taken at lightning speed – light, brisk, perfectly positioned, and alternating with turns in low arabesque.

Kristina Shapran and Ernest Latypov in 'Le Corsaire'.  Photo © Natasha Razina

Kristina Shapran and Ernest Latypov in ‘Le Corsaire’.
Photo © Natasha Razina

A word must be said of Shapran, whose two years at the Stanislavsky, and six months at the Mikhailovsky culminated in her shift back to home territory at the Mariinsky around July 6. Already an expert from these few years of experience, Shapran commands the stage and draws the viewer into the libretto. Her very carriage suggests ‘ballerina,’ and her physique supports that: a small, round head, wispy arms that form impeccable port de bras, plush arches that bend her pointe shoes just so, and an expressive face. In size, she recalls a young Altynai Asylmuratova, the former prima ballerina who in fact coached Shapran until very recently. The young lady has the ability to extend a balance in a transition step to accent the music, exuding control. In Shapran, one doesn’t worry about the technique, there is utter certainty that she will deliver, and that leaves the viewer to enjoy a physical model of the Vaganova ideal that is increasingly hard to find on the stage today.

Other soloists also drew attention. Islom Baimuradov dances one of the most evil and humorous Birbantos on earth, and deserves an award for expressive, clear acting. Alongside him Liubov Kozharskaya was a bright lead Gypsy, though she is a dancer equally at home in the classical roles. In the Odalisque trio, Sofia Ivanova-Skoblikova offered the cleanest lines and a bright disposition to complement the dance. And last but by far not the least, in Maxim Zuizin in his debut as Conrad one could not help but see traces of his own late coach, the beloved Sergey Berezhnoi in demeanor and delivery.

The August 3 “Corsaire” surpassed many previous performances of this ballet. Perhaps in the relaxed summer atmosphere, away from the critical eyes of the administration, these dancer debuts found room to blossom to the full extent of their talents.

Aleksei Repnikov conducted with expert attentiveness to the dancers timing.