Posts Tagged ‘ivan vasiliev’

Mini-review – Abolengo – Farruquito at Sadler’s Wells 2013 Flamenco Festival

March 19, 2013

Sunday night was the opening for the second performance of Sadler’s Well’s 2013 Flamenco Festival, a program called “Abolengo” (supposedly “heritage”) starring the dancer Farruquito. In addition to three singers (Encarnita Anillo, Antinio Villar, Juan Joe Amador) and the usual backup, he had the surprising addition of a pianist (Jaime Calabuch), which at time gave things a very cool nightclub feeling, and the Mexican dancer Carmen Amaya. I was worried he might treat her as merely a filler or someone set up to make him look better, but it wasn’t the case at all: he chose someone that set him off by matching him in talent rather than by being an obviously weaker dancer. Go Farruquito, and go Carmen for your wonderful talents. (Encarnita, I’m afraid, I found too harsh … her voice grated on me about midway through her second song and while I could see that she was well in control of her notes, it just sounded like the instrument had been broken and any sweetness could no longer be found.)
Adopt one today!
Overall, the style of both Farruquito and Amaya’s dancing was very leg focused – when they danced together (as in at the beginning), there was some big arm swoops, but pretty much no gentle twists of the hands and wrists. It all felt very masculine, a feeling that wasn’t helped by the focus on speed throughout. I like my flamenco to have more buildup, but (much as it is with some men!) this performance nearly entirely avoided slower moments in favor of BANG BANG BANG spin *bounce* OLE! When Amaya did her long solo toward the end of the piece, I felt like I finally had a chance to relax and enjoy some artistry rather than just seeing flamenco stunts. Still, there was much to be said for Farruquito’s penultimate dance, “Improvisasion en una mesa.” As my companion said, “That was my kind of table dance!” And in his grand finale, my God, the man was spinning in the air and bounced off his knees – I think he gave Ivan Vasiliev a run for the money. The audience was hugely appreciative; I was happy to not be bothered with bata de cola faffing and having Amaya and Farruquito dancing together on an equal basis with a similar focus, even though, in the end, this was not the kind of flamenco I prefer – it was just too hard edged.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, March 17th, 2013. The 2013 Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)

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Review – Don Quixote – Mariinsky Ballet at Royal Opera House

August 3, 2011

I have seen “Don Quixote” – the ballet – twice before, once in Prague (where the dancers seemed weak, as if all the good ones had gone to the West) and one with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, where Kaori Nakamura was a great Kitri but the ballet just seemed so incoherent I wasn’t able to get into it. However, last year people raved endlessly about the Osipova/Vasiliev Bolshoi performance, and I kicked myself for not seeing them. What is it about this ballet that people like so much? What was I missing out on? I decided to buy tickets for the Mariinsky production and figure it out.

I think I’ve got it out now: Don Quixote is basically a plotless ballet (with a wedding scene at the end) that’s set up to enable a variety of exciting dances that allow a company to display the virtuosity of a wide number of its dancers. The theme is “We’re in Spain!” so you get colorful costumes (nearly no tutus), fake Flamenco dances, and all of the fans and swirling toreador capes you could ever hope for. I have a soft spot for Spain and Spanish dancing, so I was willing to accept this poetical vision, with the exception of the Eastern Dance in act 3 (Maria Shiviakova showing her wonderful arms but basically failing to do any dancing – and really, why was it there?) and the big dream sequence in Act II’s land of the Dryads, which looked like it had been rolled out of a dusty closet populated by an Edwardian Am-Dram club’s Iolanthe.

So what kind of fun dancing do you get (since there’s no point in us worrying about the plot – it’s basically La Fille Mal Gardee served with sangria)? There’s the fabulous role of Kitri (Anastasia Matvienko) and her lover Basil (Denis Matvienko) – she stamps beats on her toes and bends like a willow, while he leaps and does one-handed girl-overhead lifts (which I think would be far more challenging with me than Matvienko). The village people clap, slap their fans, play tambourines, and have mock knife-fights. There are more toreadors than could possibly be reasonable in a town of 300, all swinging their capes in time: star among them (and a rockin’ dancer) is Espada (Alexander Serveev), who gets to show off even more than Basil because he’s sprinting rather than marathoning. He is accompanied by the “street dancer” (Ekaterina Kondaurova), dressed in purple and SO elegant. But Kitri comes in and leaps through the air with her feet flying up to her head, so fast and strong it was truly electrifying. How can a human being even do that? There was also a great pas de trois with Basil and two girls (I assume the flower sellers, credited as Yana Selina and Viktoria Krasnokutskaya) that also cranked the volume up to eleven. How could they go up from this?

Act two means it’s gypsy time, so we go from knives to slapping whips and from walls of capes to men on all fours going from one diagonal hand-foot pair to the other in an amazing athletic display. It’s all a bit too Carmenesque – I expected fortune tellers any minute – but energetic and fun. This makes the slow dream sequence that follows even more irritating, because it breaks the mood, and we’d been promised giant spiders (in the synopsis) which never appeared – but since this whole show was about jumping the shark, I figured, why not? I want thirty foot tall eight legged creepy-crawlies! Gimmee!

By the end of Act 2, I had run out of energy, but had to wait through another half hour interval until act III started at 9:30. Aargh, fifty minutes to go and me worn out! For act 3 we had the most corny, comic death scene ever, a few “these people just come through the middle of town and dance any old time” performances, and then a fun crowd scene with tossing flowers – all a big build-up to the rather dry wedding scene, which had Kitri and Basil back in black and white formal ballet wear. Matvienko did such amazing turns in the air I thought he must be part gyroscope to have kept his balance – even hitting the scenery didn’t stop him. Still, I was done by this time, and I wish the whole thing could have been cut down a bit so that I could have maintained my enthusiasm. That said, despite this being the biggest pile of cheese I’ve seen on stage in ages, and clearly as old as the hills, it was a great ride to take and I can highly recommend it.

(This review is for a performance tht took plce on August 2nd 2011. It has one final performance tonight.)

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

July 25, 2011

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