BOLSHOI BALLET ROMEO & JULIET, KENNEDY CENTER, WASHINGTON DC, MAY 2000

 

From: NEW YORK TIMES, June 1, 2000

Dance Review by Anna Kisselgoff


STRIFE BETWEEN ARISTOCRATS AND THE

CHILDREN OF TOMORROW

 

WASHINGTON, May 31 - It was not just another company, another show. The return of the Bolshoi Ballet from Moscow for its first United States tour in 10 years fills a gap for American audiences that has been sorely felt. No other foreign ballet company had the explosive impact on the West that Bolshoi did when it first appeared in London in 1956 and in New York in 1959.

The troupe has certainly had its ups and downs over the decades. But the Bolshoi has never lost the effect of the initial images it impressed upon the eye. Here was power in technique, dramatic projection and even choreographic novelty. Every American ballerina held aloft in an overhead lift by her partner owes something to the Bolshoi, as does the cascade of ballets throughout the world that are set to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

There is nonetheless only one landmark version of the Prokofiev score, and it is the version by Leonid Lavrovsky with which the Bolshoi opened on Tuesday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts here. It is a magnificent ballet, a museum piece of extraordinary dimension that is couched in a style of dramatic realism that is very difficult for contemporary dancers to capture. In a somewhat diluted version, it was the surprise hit of the Kirov Ballet’s 1992 season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Then as on Tuesday, the ballet was led by

Nina Ananiashvili, a guest with the Kirov, and now even more of a poignant Juliet with a Bolshoi Romeo, the noble Andrei Uvarov...

...Unlike the Kirov revival, the current Bolshoi version does not turn its aristocrats into cartoons. Andrei Sitnikov is not an exaggerated Lord Capulet but rather an autocratic patriarch enraged by his daughter’s refusal to marry Paris. After she has taken her potion and he thinks she is dead, his pain, hand to heart, is telegraphed with intensity and depth.

The Kirov’s Paris was vain but Alexei Barsegyan, as a strong-willed but uncomprehending youth, merely looked into a mirror held by his page and did not preen...

The Bolshoi has brought along the famous checkerboard floor that the Kirov omitted and that is such a striking part of the sets and costumes by Pyotr Williams...

...The animated crowd scenes with their wonderful folk-flavored dances in heels and boots gradually build up in the town square. The statues there differ from those in the Kirov version, focusing on David, slayer of Goliath...

How much the Romeo and Juliet of Kenneth Macmillan (1965) and John Cranko (1963) owe to Lavrovsky’s Capulet ball is obvious... The overall dramatic effect is stunning, opening on a banquet with Tybalt atop a table and lounging courtiers. This bacchanalian decadence is then channeled into the famous dance with the cushions. The Capulets advance, holding pillows, kneel on them and grab their partners in a passionate embrace.

Ms. Ananiashvili and Mr. Uvarov, as well as Maria Alexandrova and Sergei Filin, who lead the classical divertissements at the ball and Act III, are outstanding dancers. Nikolai Tsiskaridze’s charismatic Mercutio and Dmitri Belogovtsev’s aptly hardened Tybalt rounded out a fine cast of principals...

...To be touched by Ms. Ananiashvili’s performance was easy: It is filled with intelligence and nuance, a Juliet who is overtaken by events and deeply in love. That she dominates the ballet, overshadowing her Romeo is not a surprise.