Delight in the air
The Ballet Festival shows lit up the stage at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.
INTERNATIONAL ballet concerts and performances playing in Malaysia tend to be few and far between.
So when foreign ballet concerts do come into town, there’s always a buzz for dance fans.
For the last two weekends, we saw some of the best of Russian ballet hitting our shores.
The second Ballet Festival at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas ( DFP) in Kuala Lumpur – after a successful debut in 2013 – witnessed a collaboration between the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ballet Stars of Moscow, a troupe of young artists from the best ballet theatres in Moscow.
Led by artistic director Mikhail Bessmertnov, this touring ballet group featured principal dancers from leading troupes such as the Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow Classical Ballet, Stanislavsky Ballet Theatre, Kremlin Ballet and the Russian National Ballet.
The Ballet Stars of Moscow arrived in KL with two ballets from the romantic era – Giselle and Romeo And Juliet – that intertwined themes of love, forbidden love and death. Both classic tales ended in death.
For those partial towards acting- filled story ballets, Giselle and Romeo And Juliet definitely hit the spot. They were the type of shows packing enough drama to appease regular watchers of soap operas.
First up was Giselle on Jan 9, with music written by Adolphe Adam in 1841. While the story of Giselle may not be as famous as that of Romeo and Juliet, the ballet and the music score is.
It is historically significant as being the first ballet score of its kind to consist exclusively of new music, as opposed to the practice of stitching together a string of unrelated numbers.
This year also marks the 175th anniversary of this famous romantic ballet and this version was danced to choreography by Jean Corelli and Marius Petipa, with period costumes and sets based on A. Vinogradov’s designs.
This Giselle performance was conducted by MPO resident conductor Ciaran McAuley. Giselle is set in both the world of the living and ( after her early death of a broken heart), the world of spirits and ghosts.
The dances in each half embodied the differences of both worlds and the serious repercussions of interaction between the two.
With the familiar half century old story of the Capulet- Montague melodrama, Romeo And Juliet was obviously more familiar, but in the ballet world, arguably only marginally more popular than Giselle. Sergei Prokofiev’s music score to Romeo And Juliet stands not only as his finest and most popular work but the music also rose to become the most successful full- length three- act ballet score of the 20th century.
At the DFP last Saturday, this set was conducted by guest conductor Stanislav Kochanovsky, withchoreography by M. Lavrovsky. The costume and sets were based on P. Williams’ works.
What we got in the two weekends were showcases featuring the chemistry between the two principals, Ilya Borodulin and Elena Vorobyeva, ably supported by the rest of the troupe of over 30 dancers.
While all the dances were superbly executed in both ballets; from solos to the group efforts from both ballerinas and danseurs, it was the pas de deux ( French, literally “step of two”) “love scenes” between Borodulin and Vorbyeva that really shone.
The audience kept their eyes glued to the stage – from Borodulin’s height achieved in his jumps and airborne pirouettes, to the graceful strength and smoothness of his lifting the petite grace of Vorbyeva in all their duet sequences.
Giselle had numerous eye- catching moments to savour. For instance, there was the wild dance solo by Vorobyeva ( before she collapsed and died of a broken heart), right to the ghostly solo by Ekaterina Karpova, who played the ghostly Wilis queen. Highlights from Romeo And Juliet centred on the love duets by the two principals and the choreographed swordplay – so beautifully synchronised – with the orchestral music. Special mention goes to Mikhail Mikhailov who danced the protagonist roles in both ballets to his “death”, as well as Kiril Zaretksy, who for the most part played the role of support to Borodulin.
Add to all that were the long drawn out death scenes, from Giselle’s own death, and Mikhailov’s one in Giselle, to the deaths of Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo and finally Juliet in Romeo And Juliet, all impressively danced. The MPO provided an almost perfect musical setting, the intimacy of the orchestra pit near the audience made the music resonate more with the audience.
In the hands of resident conductor McAuley and guest conductor Kochanovsky, we saw a new younger generation of conductors beginning to make their presence felt in the classical arena. Yes, having two top class ballet performances in town was indeed a magical spell much needed in these parts. Let’s hope it won’t be too long before we get the next round of performances.
1 Dance of the living dead? Count Albrecht duets with a ghostly Giselle during Giselle at the DFP on Jan 9.
2 Romeo And Juliet featured Prokofiev’s full- length ballet score delivered beautifully by the MPO and danced elegantly by the Ballet Stars of Moscow.
3 the MPO playing from an orchestra pit during the recent Ballet Festival.