De­light in the air

The Bal­let Fes­ti­val shows lit up the stage at De­wan Fil­har­monik Petronas.

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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.

— Pho­tos: De­wan Fil­har­monik Petronas

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.

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