Posts Tagged ‘Ksenia Ovsyanick’

The Nutcracker with Klimentová and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2012

15 December, 2012

The clever concept behind English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is not that the toy comes to life, but that in Clara’s mind he takes on the form of Drosselmeyer’s handsome nephew, seen in a blue uniform at the party in Act I. After the death of the Mouse King, which occurs in Act II of this production, the nephew becomes the Nutcracker, and towards the end, in new costumes, he and Clara dance the Sugar Plum fairy pas-de-deux.

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

The way this concept is really brought to life by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling is to have two Nutcrackers. The one with a painted mask on his face is the toy come to life, the one without a mask is Clara’s vision of him as the Nephew. They interchange for the first time after the snow scene in Act I, and the masked Nutcracker only finally disappears in early Act II after killing the Mouse King, who survived Act I and hung on to the balloon taking Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker to the land of Sweets.

ENB image Annabel Moeller

ENB image Annabel Moeller

Having the final battle in Act II is unusual but Wayne Eagling’s production is otherwise entirely standard, starting and ending with Clara’s bedroom and skaters on the ice outside the house. The party scene in Act I is a spontaneous medley of dancing, action, and conjuring tricks from Fabian Reimair as a fine Drosselmeyer. He twice alters the hands of the clock, the second occasion being when the young Clara, beautifully played by Annabella Sanders, gets out of bed after the party to go downstairs. Drosselmeyer turns the time to midnight, and the magic starts.

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Fine performances by James Forbat and James Streeter as Nutcracker and Mouse King, and the grown-up Clara was Daria Klimentová with Vadim Muntagirov as the Nephew. They were superb together, a real treat to watch.

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

In the Arabian dance Clara joins in to release the prisoner, none other than her own grown-up brother Freddie, who also appeared earlier to help battle the mice. In the Mirliton variation, which in this production is for one girl as a butterfly partnered by Drosslemeyer, Ksenia Ovsyanick was beautifully fluid in her movements. It was a star turn of the evening, but there was fine dancing all round and Esteban Berlanga as one of the Cavaliers in the Waltz of the Flowers was wonderfully precise and on the music.

Lovely designs by Peter Farmer, well lit by David Richardson, and good musical direction by Gavin Sutherland from the orchestra pit, always sensitive to the tempos for the dancers.

Nutcracker not to be missed, but performances finish on January 5 and tickets are now few and far between — for details click here.

Firebird/ Faune/ Rite of Spring, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, March 2012

24 March, 2012

Beyond Ballets Russes celebrates the legacy of Diaghilev’s famous dance company, and is the title of two programmes the ENB are putting on. This first one was very cleverly put together, placing The Afternoon of a Faune, with its gentle music by Debussy, between two longer works to intensely dramatic music by Stravinsky.

In fact there are four ballets here, not three, because Faune is given in two versions. One uses Nijinsky’s original choreography with designs by Leon Bakst, performed to music played by the orchestra; the other is an abstract work choreographed by David Dawson, with Debussy’s music played on two pianos. They have separate titles: L’Après-midi d’un faune being the original, and Faun(e) the abstract version. The first, with its very stylised movements for the nymphs, featured Anton Lukovkin as the faune and Begoña Cao as the lead nymph. His portrayal of a youthful faune, oozing immense yet scarcely suppressed desire, was very effective.

The abstract version of Faune

The second version by David Dawson, first shown at Sadler’s Wells in 2009, was beautifully performed by principal dancer Raphaël Coumes-Marquet, and Jan Casier a brilliant young member of the corps at the Royal Ballet of Flanders, making his debut with the ENB. The power of their movements captures the awakening desires inherent in Debussy’s music, and they are still moving as the front drop comes down.

After the second interval came the Rite of Spring, with Kenneth MacMillan’s 1962 choreography adapted and re-staged by Yuri Uchiumi. New costumes by fashion designer Kinder Aggugini are the same for both girls and boys, except for the three shamans, and along with John B. Read’s lighting give an air of dark mystery to this springtime ritual with its sacrificial victim. The company danced it well with Tamarin Stott excellent as the victim.

Rite of Spring

Oddly enough the newly choreographed Firebird that started the evening had a very Rite of Spring feel at some points. Diaghilev gave the original commission for this ballet to Fokine, with music commissioned from Stravinsky. The idea was to tell an old Russian folk tale about a maiden trapped in the realm of a deathless magician, discovered by a prince who himself is trapped, before the firebird comes to his rescue. Here the idea by choreographer George Williamson was quite different.

Ksenia Ovsyanick as the firebird

There was a firebird, brilliantly portrayed by Ksenia Ovsyanick, but there the similarities seem to end. Among solo roles was a peacock, an ‘army captain’, a celebrity in a red dress, ‘purity’ in a white dress, and three muses in maroon costumes. All were superbly danced, and I thought Junor Souza as the captain was outstanding. But what reminded me of the Rite of Spring was the way the firebird was treated like a sacrificial victim. As she was stripped of feathers, headdress and jewellery, it reminded me of the ancient Mesopotamian legend of the descent of Ishtar to the underworld. Ishtar returns after first being stripped of her clothes and adornments, yet returns intact to the world above, and this is a death and rebirth story, like the vegetation that returns to life in spring. If the title of this ballet had been Ishtar’s Descent I would not have been the least surprised, and I thought the costumes by David Bamber, and the set design by Bamber and choreographer George Williamson wonderfully apt to the story that rose into my mind, as well as to the choreography and music.

The company are dancing brilliantly, and this whole mixed bill has to be seen, particularly the extraordinary Firebird. Performances continue at the London Coliseum until March 27 — for details click here. After that comes the second part of Beyond Ballets Russes, starting on Wednesday, March 28th. All praise to Wayne Eagling on his artistic direction of the company, and why on earth are they getting rid of him?