Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Fill the London Coliseum with AMORE

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Svetlana Zakharova – AMORE: Svetlana Zakharova and stars of the Bolshoi Ballet, Orchestra of English National Ballet / Pavel Sorokin (conductor), London Coliseum, 21.11.2017. (JPr)

AMORE 'Strokes Through The Tail' photo by Batyr Annadurdyev
Strokes Through The Tail (c) Batyr Annadurdyev

Francesca de Rimini

Music -Tchaikovsky’s Francesca de Rimini

Choreographer – Yuri Possokhov
Set designer – Maria Tregubova
Video designer – Yury Yarushnikov
Costume designer – Igor Chapurin
Lighting designer – Andrey Abramov

Francesca – Svetlana Zakharova
Paolo – Denis Rodkin
Giovanni – Mikhail Lobukhin
Guardians of the Inferno – Alexei Gainutdinov, Anton Gainutdinov, Vladislav Kozlov
Court Ladies – Olga Barichka, Ekaterina Besedina, Olga Marchenkova, Ekaterina Smurova, Ana Turazashvili

Rain Before It Falls

Music – Bach, Respighi and Carlos Pino-Quintana
Choreographer – Patrick de Bana
Costume designer – Stephanie Baeuerle
Lighting designer – James Engot

Svetlana Zakharova, Denis Savin, Patrick De Bana

Strokes Through The Tail

Music – Mozart’s Symphony No.40
Choreographer – Marguerite Donlon
Costume designer – Igor Chapurin
Lighting designer – Andrey Abramov

Svetlana Zakharova, Mikhail Lobukhin, Denis Savin, Vladislav Kozlov, Alex Gainutdinov, Anton Gainutdinov

Svetlana Zakharova – nicknamed ‘Tsarina of dance’ – was a Kirov principal dancer at the age of 18 and now is an étoile of the La Scala Theatre Ballet and a superstar of the Bolshoi, also guesting with many other companies throughout the world. She is one the leading dancers of this generation famed for her almost unrivalled long-limbed technique, exaggeratedly high leg extensions, plasticity, beautiful line of legs and feet, expressiveness and plasticity. She is joined by 12 Bolshoi soloists, many stars of the international dance scene in their own right, such as Mikhail Lobukhin, Denis Rodkin and Denis Savin.

In Svetlana Zakharova’s own words: ‘I love the challenge of creating something different, unpredictable, that’s why I came up with the idea of making a big project where I could perform different types of choreography in three distinct ballets. Why AMORE? It’s simply because all three ballets demonstrate different aspects of love and love is present in all of the performances and as an international project the word “amore” really needs no translation.’ And as a result, neither does this triple bill which is much more than the sum of its parts and is recommended to anyone interested in performances full of desire, competition, playfulness, romance, serenity, passion, obsession, and jealousy. It encompasses all aspects of love, and bridges classical ballet and modern dance in choreography by three leading exponents, Yuri Possokhov, Patrick de Bana and Marguerite Donlon.

We were shown something of how these short new works – nothing lasts more than about 25 minutes – were created exclusively for Zakharova during a photographic interlude to Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik between Rain Before It Falls and Strokes Through The Tail. This was given an accomplished performance by the Orchestra of English National Ballet under the vastly experienced Pavel Sorokin, as was, the Tchaikovsky symphonic poem and Mozart symphony performed live. What we see – in a typically eclectic mix of contemporary fare – shows Zakharova’s willingness to experiment with new ways of artistic expression whilst not eschewing classical tradition, then embrace it and put her own personal stamp on modern dance trends. There will be something here for everyone who likes this sort of triple bill. We end up in awe of Svetlana Zakharova who though taking centre stage for most of the evening – to her credit – does allow her fellow artists to have their moment in the spotlight.

First – and for me, undoubtedly best – was the melodramatic Francesca da Rimini with choreography by Yuri Possokhov and a stunning setting from Maria Tregubova with its fractured suspended plaster cast images from Rodin’s Gates of Hell. This, like Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. What we then see shows us that you must be careful what you read as Francesca and Paolo fall in love by encountering the story of King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere, and Lancelot. The two lovers now have their own tragic end and are condemned to eternal punishment. Unlike Dante’s original it is Giovanni Malatesta, Francesca’s husband, who is dragged to the underworld and not the lovers. There is a Romeo and Juliet-like erotically charged central duet for Zakharova’s limpid, meltingly tender, Francesca and Denis Rodkin’s testosterone-fuelled Paolo who was more Spartacus than Romeo. Meanwhile five Court Ladies give expression to Francesca’s – otherwise internalised – emotions and three male dancers represent the Guardians of the Inferno who skulk around ready to claims their victims …or victim in this case. Mikhail Lobukhin is as menacing and glowering as the wronged Giovanni as I suspect only he can be

Next was Rain Before It Falls, choreographed by Patrick de Bana, which allows Zakharova to waft around in a violet gown with the choreographer himself performing one of the roles. De Bana’s own words about it are: ‘A room. A woman. Two men. Love. The love triangle. Harmony. Desire. Defeat. Loneliness. Emptiness.’ With characters seated at a table stage left from time to time I was – perhaps inordinately – reminded of Flemming Flindt’s The Lesson which I remember seeing Nureyev dance. Mysterious and atmospheric, Rain Before It Falls contains much subtlety and ambiguity to its ‘pre-recorded soundscape’ of Bach and Respighi, together with the modern electronic sounds of Carlos Pino-Quintana, with rain and insects prominent at times. Truthfully the piece is a little overextended but Zakharova gets another lyrical duet and is exquisitely partnered by de Bana himself. Meanwhile a third character ‘The Spectator’ emerges animalistically from what I took to be the primordial soup to represent ‘The Heroine’s’ more primitive longings, although he often remains distractingly at the fringes of the piece.

Finally, it was Marguerite Donlon’s Strokes Through The Tail that brought everything to a joyously optimistic conclusion. It is indescribable …and I mean this as a compliment! In wonderful costumes by Igor Chapurin, the great Zakharova poses, struts and larks about with five male soloists, each competing for her attention and approbation. The men begin in tailcoats and Zakharova in a tutu, but soon there is some role reversal with the men in tutus and Zakharova in a tailcoat. There is also in some sweaty bare-chested macho posturing and much fun is had by all. Marguerite Donlon wants ‘spectators to leave after the performance in easy, light, high spirits.’ That we do and when we see the great Bolshoi prima ballerina eventually smile at the end of AMORE her face lights up.

Do go and see her at the London Coliseum or if this intriguing triple bill tours soon anywhere near you.

Jim Pritchard

For more about AMORE at the London Coliseum click here.

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