Laurencia, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, April 2013

Soviet Realism meets Don Quixote, with the good Don replaced by an evil Commander whom the peasants destroy. He abducts the beautiful Laurencia, imprisoning her lover Frondoso, and there is a nasty sexual assault by two soldiers on a peasant named Jacinta. The women are both badly used and emerge with dirty torn skirts, but there is plenty of wonderfully happy dancing by the peasants, choreographed by famous Georgian dancer and choreographer Vakhtang Chabukiani.

Frondoso and Laurencia, all images ©MikhailovskyTheatre

Frondoso and Laurencia, all images ©MikhailovskyTheatre

As a powerful presence on stage himself, he wrote steps for a strong male dancer in the leading role of Frondoso, and Ivan Vasiliev made the most of it. With his extraordinary ability to perform multiple pirouettes that slow down and come to a perfect stop, his brilliant leaps en tournant, and his fine stage presence, Vasiliev was well matched by the technical brilliance and musicality of Natalia Osipova. Did I see a quadruple fouetté en tournant? Certainly there were some triples, but it is her dramatic commitment and attention to detail that make her so exciting to watch. The two of them together are a marvel.

2.Laurencia. Natalia Osipova and Ivan VasilievYet the whole company gave this huge sparkle, and Sabina Yapparova as Pasquala was a delight. It was she and Osipova who cleverly scuttled away from the soldiers in Act I, and her classical dancing in Act II, when the village celebrates the union of Laurencia and Frondoso, was outstanding. At the other end of the pleasantry spectrum, Mikhail Venshchikov portrayed the Commander as a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and he stayed in character for the curtain calls to receive the welcoming boos.

If you want to see an old Soviet ballet, this one from 1939 is well worth the ticket, and if you want to see some spectacular male dancing this is a must-see, with Vasiliev and Osipova giving a second performance on April 3. Set and costume designs by Vadim Ryndin are lovely, and Valery Ovsyanikov in the orchestra pit gave a strong impetus to Alexander Krein’s music. This composer seems to have adapted rather well to the Soviet system, and his music serves its purpose, but the reason to go to this, and it’s an excellent reason, is to see Chabukiani’s choreography performed with enormous panache.

Following a second performance of Laurencia with Osipova and Vasiliev on April 3, the Mikhailovsky Ballet will perform other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

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