Review – English National Ballet Roland Petit program with Vasiliev – and Preview, Mariinsky ballet 2011 London visit

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This is shaping up to be a fantastic summer for dance in London. Not only do we have a huge, three week visit from the Mariinsky ballet, we’ve got a wonderful end of season program of ballets by Roland Petit from English National Ballet and the return of Carlos Acosta at the London Coliseum. All of this follows the Vasiliev/Osipova “Romeo and Juliet” week (also at the Coli). Our cups runneth over even if our wallets do not!

I’m afraid I said no to the Vasiliev/Osipova Romeo and Juliet (it sounded like a disappointing staging), but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Vasiliev in action when I heard that he was going to perform in “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort” (on Friday, July 22nd) as an homage to the late master. The piece itself is very high-impact, all rolling eyes and death-defying leaps, with a clear, emotional narrative (tortured young man commits suicide) greatly enhanced by its stylized setting. And Vasiliev left me (and others) gasping in amazement; he took a piece that could have been pure schlock, whizzed up the sex appeal (with help from the hair-raising Jia Zhang), met the passion and overblown emotions shamelessly, and took us on a wild ride where the walls flying away to reveal the desolation of a Parisian rooftop seemed only too perfect – like we’d all just had a fantastic dream where death is a beautiful woman in yellow who caresses us with her arched foot before kicking us away. Oh man. It was fifteen minutes on a rollercoaster but it could have been fifty or five, time just stood still much like Vasiliev seemed to do when he hovered in the air like Trinity about to take on the cyborg police force in The Matrix.

The night opened with L’Arlésienne, another tight tale of love and death and madness, with a stylized corps that reminded me of a Greek chorus commenting on Frédéri (Esteban Berlanga) and Vivette’s (Erina Takahashi) relationship. While the two of them danced together beautifully (and mad Frédéri had great solos), I was entranced my the movement of everyone else on stage, forming lines and circling and lifting the principles. Despite enjoying this greatly, I still ran out before Carmen came on – I would very much like to see more Petit but time was not on my side.

And with this lack of time and money I’ve had to make some decisions about what else I can see this summer. I don’t have a budget that can afford seeing multiples of shows going for £45 a pop; so though I’d love to compare multiple casts for the Mariinsky, it’s one viewing per show. And Eric Taub’s slaughtering of Anna Karenina meant it was off the short list. So, sadly, is Carlos Acosta’s show: I found last year’s show painful and announcing it was basically being remounted for this year meant I felt positive about saving the pennies for a little more Mariinsky. I blew my ballet savings on stalls seating for Swan Lake, but got some help with the Balanchine/Robbins mixed rep thanks to a nicely timed deal on Lastminute.com. And this means I’m seeing basically one of everything – maybe not as much as some but enough to ensure a lovely, dance-filled summer.

Here’s my schedule for the Mariinsky’s visit. What are you going to see? If you’re a ballet fan and you’d like to meet up, speak up and I’ll try to find you during the interval.

26 July (Tuesday): Swan Lake
1 August (Monday): Homage to Fokine
2 August (Tuesday): Don Quixote
4 August (Thursday): Balanchine/Robbins program
12 August (Friday): La Bayadere

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