Saturday, November 22, 2014

In Its U.S. Debut, the Mikhailovsky Ballet Leaps and Bounds Beyond Superlatives

Ekaterina Borchenko of the Mikhailovsky Ballet in the "Royal Court" scene of "The Flames of Paris." Photo by Costas.


came, as did Baryshnikov. They stayed, of course. The Mariinsky Ballet visited and returned home.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet is in the United States for its first ever tour through 30 Nov. It completes its run at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater tomorrow (23 Nov.), then goes west to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts to Costa Mesa in Orange County, Calif. starting 28 Nov.

The Mikhailovsky is an 80-year-old ballet troupe with a storied past (dating to before its actual founding). That includes a brief Balanchine stint (he was Giorgi Balanchivadze in 1923 when he choreographed the Rimsky-Korsykov opera, “The Golden Cockerel, and the Fyodor Lopukhov staging of Shostakovich's “The Bright Stream”).

In 1932, still a part of the Mikhailovsky Theatre and not yet an independent entity, the company commissioned Boris Asafyev to write a score based on a Felix Gras novel to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Bolshevik uprising. Vasily Vainonen choreographed the extravaganza.

The Mikhailovsky's current Ballet Master in Chief, Mikhail Messerer, has reimagined "The Flames of Paris" for the 2013 production which plays during all four performances in California. (See video above).

The Mikhailovsky takes leaps and bounds beyond without ignoring classic ballet.

In "The Flames of Paris" – a ballet in three acts – it takes the spectacular and the epic to exciting new heights. Comparisons to "Les Miz" are hard to resist – barricades are stormed, the Royal Court is toppled. Basque folkloric dances in the traditional clogs of the region (sabot from which we get the term saboteur, but I digress) express the people's strength and resilience.

Their happiness is expressed in other character dances like the farandole, performed in the streets of Paris. Their rebellious determination, in the dancing of carmagnoles.

Victor Lebedev with the Mikhailovsky corps in the "Royal Court" scene of "The Flames of Paris." Photo by Costas.

Strictly classic ballet is seen at the “Royal Court,” Scene II in Act I of “The Flames of Paris.” Of particular note are Victor Lebedev and Ekaterina Borchenko portraying actors at the performance seen by this reviewer.

Noteworthy, too, are the splendidly exuberant scenes in which Philippe, a Marsellais and his fiancee, Jeanne (Ivan Zaytsev and Angelina Vorontsova), take turns wowing with robust leaps and delicate pirouettes.

The scenery, costumes and staging – true to the original production, with costumes by Vladimir Dmitriev and a revival of the stage and costume design by Vyacheslav Okunev – are breathtaking.

Oksana Bondareva in "Don Quixote." Photo by Stas Levshin.

In the Mikhailovsky's too-short run, it is also performing “Don Quixote” (this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow afternoon) “Giselle,” and a program of Russian classics.

One hopes that the Mikhailovsky ventures this way again, making regular trips to these shores.

Visit to learn more about the Mikhailovsky Ballet U.S. tour.

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