Russian Ballet Icons Gala – A tribute to Galina Ulanova

May 27, 2011

Reviews

dancer jumps in the air

Rehearsal of Tchaikovsky pas de deux Vadim Muntagirov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two ballet dancers
Rehearsal of Sinatra Variations Tatyana Gorokhova, Igor Zelensky Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Russian Ballet Icons Gala

Tribute to Galina Ulanova

London Coliseum

15th May 2011

Most of the audience (and the performers who are mostly students of students) hadn’t see Galina Sergeevna Ulanova dance live as this is just over the 100th anniversary of her birth.  The Russian Ballet Icons series has been running for 6 years now, and this gala is probably their finest to date.

ballet dancer in arabesque on stage

Rehearsal of Sinatra Variations Igor Zelensky Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Interwoven with the dance were rare film clips and voiceovers giving accounts of letters written in the war to Ulanova by servicemen, adding depth to the stage. Layers of interest are what you need in a gala, even a gala like this with stellar dancers, and combined with the chosen pieces this tribute to Ulanova keeps her memory alive. It seems fitting that in mid-May 1928 Ulanova performed professionally for the first time and that some of her roles were performed tonight.

Rehearsal of La Belle Pas de deux Bernice Coppieters & Alexis Oliviera Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

There is the famous story of the Bolshoi’s first London visit in 1956 when Ulanova, then 46, danced, and it took the clerks of the Royal Opera House over 12 hours to clear the ticket queue where people had been waiting for 3 days in post-war austerity to see her. “Just an ordinary Goddess,” they called her. Even Margot Fonteyn was smitten.

one ballet dancer lifts another

Rehearsal of La Belle Pas de Deux Bernice Coppieters & Alexix Oliviera Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

A highlight was The Red Poppy which is rarely seen in the UK, and Darya Khokhlova’s darting attack and contrasting melting into her partner Vladislav Lantratov, as the ship’s captain that Chinese dancer Tao-Hoa falls in love with, symbolised the power of the poppy, in two extracts shown tonight – Golden Fingers variation and the Adagio from Act 11.

two dancers locked in an embrace on stage

Rehearsal of Dvorak Melody Olga Smirnova & Sergey Strelkov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Another was La Belle Pas de deux, superbly danced by Bernice Coppieters & Alexis Oliviera.  More melting! And some. Most beautiful of all was the lyrical Orpheus and Eurydice, with Ulyana Lopatkina and Marat Shemiunov who excelled in the “Winged Victory” pose, where Lopatkina was carried aloft.  Ulanova danced this role, but you may not know that it has also been danced by English National Ballet’s Artistic Director Wayne Eagling.

dancer with leg raised in right angles to her body

Rehearsal of Dvorak Melody Olga Smirnova & Sergey Strelkov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Less spectacular were Le Parc (Nadia Saidakova and Vladimir Malakhov), which seemed ill-suited to the theme of the gala, and the Sinatra Variations for Igor Zelensky and Tatyana Gorokhova who just didn’t set the stage alight. Zelensky is a fabulous dancer but you wouldn’t know it from this piece, though his partnering is exemplary.

ballet dancer stands on pointe shoe in long white dress

Rehearsal of Les Sylphides Ulyana Lopatkina Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Surprises came in the form of the Adagio Pas de deux from Macbeth.  Deliciously danced by a too-thin Svetlana Zakharova (who also danced The Dying Swan) and Andrei Uvarov and the Dvorák Melody performed by fabulous Vaganova students Olga Smirnova and Sergey Strelkov.  Smirnova will graduate this year – and she is one to watch.

ballet dancers runs across the stage in long white dress

Rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet Evgenia Obraztsova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two ballet dancers on stage holding each other

Rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet Evgenia Obraztsova & David Makhateli Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer jumps across the stage

Rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet Evgenia Obraztsova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Gala staples Diana & Acteon were less of a surprise and less well danced.  Thiago Soares failed to soar and Dorothee Gilbert danced as though she were in another ballet altogether. Zakharova’s Dying Swan only emphasised her own frailty. Juliet was regarded as one of Ulanova’s greatest roles, and tonight the Romeo & Juliet Pas de deux was danced by Evgenia Obraztsova and David Makhateli, a well matched-pair who met the challenges of Lavrovsky’s choreography with aplomb.

two dancers crouched on stage

Rehearsal of Le Parc Nadia Saidakova & Vladimir Malakov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Les Sylphides, with Lopatkina and Shemiunov was a great way to start the programme, Fokine’s fluid and floaty steps laying the foundations for serious dancing. The Flames of Paris, or Plamya Parizha in Russia, fits well into the theme as Ulanova danced the key role in the 1933 premiere, and Ekaterina Krysanova and Lantratov were buoyant and bravura-filled.

Rehearsal of The Red Poppy Darya Khoklova & Vladislav Lantratov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two ballet dancers lift on stage

Rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet Evgenia Obraztsova & David Makhateli Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one ballet dancer holds another very high on stage

Rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet Evgenia Obraztsova & David Makhateli Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two dancers on stage raising their arms

Rehearsal of Diana & Acteon Dorothee Gilbert & Thiago Soares Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

The Act 11 Pas de deux from Giselle may have been Ulanova’s signature role; it was certainly one of her favourites. Svetlana Lunkina and Dmitri Gudanov were Giselle and Albrecht personified.

ballet dancer flies across the stage

Rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet Evgenia Obraztsova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two ballet dancers hold each other on stage

Rehearsal of Dvorak Symphony Olga Smirnova & Sergey Strelkov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Rehearsal of Giselle Svetlana Lunkina & Dmitri Gudanov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Finally, the Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, danced vigorously despite a major technical hitch, by Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov was as masterful a display of virtuoso dancing as you could wish for.  Even more so given the change of lighting just before Muntagirov’s solo, which would have floored a lesser dancer. Good to see that he’s not put off by an impromptu appearance by Shakespeare !

one ballet dancer lifts another very high on stage

Rehearsal of Diana & Acteon Dorothee Gilbert & Thiago Soares Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

Rehearsal of The Red Poppy Darya Khoklova & Vladslav Lantrov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer in an orange cloak stands on stage

Rehearsal of Macbeth Andrei Uvarov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one dancer holds onto the neck of another

Rehearsal of Le Parc Nadia Saidakova & Vladimir Malakov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one dancer holds another on stage

Rehearsal of Macbeth Svetlana Zakharova & Andrei Uvarov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer stands on pointe in a red costume

Rehearsal of The Red Poppy Darya Khoklova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

This was a refined and well thought through tribute to Ulanova, giving two and a half hours of the some of the finest ballet money can buy. Don’t miss next years!

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the evocative photographs accompanying my review are by Daniel Paul Jones – a Soloist with English National Ballet.  Jones has many strings to his bow (dancer/professional documentary film-maker/ photographer/choreographer) but this is the first time that “the dancer has filmed the dancers” for Ballet News and I hope you have enjoyed looking through them.

ballet dancer stands on one leg

Rehearsal of Tchaikovsky Pas de deux Daria Klimentova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one ballet dancer lifts another over his head

Rehearsal of Orpheus and Eurydice Ulyana Lopatkina & Marat Shemiunov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one dancer hides behind another on stage

Rehearsal of Macbeth Svetlana Zakharova & Andrei Uvarov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one ballet dancer lifts another

Rehearsal of Macbeth Svetlana Zakharova & Andrei Uvarov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer jumps across the stage in a ballet

Rehearsal of Flames of Paris Vladislav Lantratov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two ballet dancers stand on stage

Rehearsal of Tchaikovsky Pas de deux Daria Klimentova & Vadim Muntagirov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one ballet dancer carries another on his shoulder

Rehearsal of Orpheus and Eurydice Ulyana Lopatkina & Marat Shemiunov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

two dancers link arms in a ballet

Rehearsal of Flames of paris Ekaterina Krysanova & Vladislav Lantratov Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer sits on stage like a swan

Rehearsal of The Dying Swan Svetlana Zakharova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer lies on stage like a swan

Rehearsal of The Dying Swan Svetlana Zakharova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

one dancer kisses another

La Belle Pas de deux Bernice Coppieters & Alexis Oliviera Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

dancer stand on pointe shoes in red costume

Rehearsal of The Red Poppy Darya Khoklova Photograph © 2011 Daniel Paul Jones

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5 Responses to “Russian Ballet Icons Gala – A tribute to Galina Ulanova”

  1. E Etherington Says:

    These images are amazing! :)

  2. May Says:

    Splendid review – got everything down to a T!

    Personal biases aside, I definitely vote this one of the top ballet evenings of the year of the last 12 months! The sheer depth and range of talent on stage that night, and the artistry! Bravura, pathos, ecstasy, passion and innocence all in the same show. I think it was a fitting tribute to Ulanova, whose dancing was always about artistry, interpretation and taking the audience to another world, rather than technical tricks (even if the dancer could do those technical tricks). The highlights in that show were The Red Poppy, Orpheus and Eurydice and that gorgeously danced Romeo and Juliet……..among many gems to begin with.

    Great photos, Daniel! – especially the one of Lopatkina held aloft in Orpheus and Eurydice (with her bent backwards, just above the Macbeth photos). It wouldn’t look out of place in National Geographic or Time Magazine.

  3. Couture Carrie Says:

    Lovely post, darling!

    xoxox,
    CC

  4. Ballet News Says:

    thank you everyone !