I could only attend one ABT La Bayadère performance this season, but what a great performance it was. Thursday evening’s performance with Mariinsky Principal Dancers Viktoria Tereshkina and Vladimir Shklyarov was a standout performance from both technical and dramatic perspectives. I didn’t know much about these two before Thursday; after watching their performance, I can see why they are leading principals at the Mariinsky Ballet.
Viktoria was an outstanding Nikiya, performing steps I have not seen before. In the first act in sous-sus position, she raised her leg to passé and, while still on pointe, extended to arabesque and held it momentarily. Not once but twice. Very impressive.
Dramatically, she was flat at the beginning, as she seemed bored at encountering the High Brahmin. However, she perked up after seeing Solar (Vladimir) as they swore eternal love.
Vladimir has a commanding stage presence with ample charisma as he portrayed Solar. His Solar displayed a range of emotions from the joy of capturing Nikiya’s love to grieving of her loss after she dies from a snake bite. His solos were powerful and technically clean. He displayed nice double cabriole derriere with substantial separation, and double cabrioles to the front in which his beat separation was slight, but ended with a opening separation of the legs.
Although his turn section a la second was adequate with a few hops, he had an outstanding double assemble section in a circle, completing about eight assembles with nice form and tight fifth positions. This part was made famous by Rudolph Nureyev (“Every male dancer who takes for granted the series of double assemble turns in the air in La Bayadere should know that it was Nureyev who first included these difficult steps,” Ana Kisselgoff, New York Times dance critic). The difficulty in performing this is keeping proper form, as it is physically demanding. As the dancer is running out of gas after a few assembles, the tendency is to compromise technique by separating the legs in the air and landing in a sloppy fifth position. Vladimir showed stamina and power as his assembles were consistent from his first to his last.
It was clear that the two have danced together extensively rather than fly over guest artists meeting for the first time. Their pas de deux in the second act was touching as the grief stricken Solar dreamed of being reunited with her in an opium induced stupor.
Isabella Boylston was Gamzatti, who is destined to marry Solar. Isabella was technically fine, but not one of the stronger Gamzatti performances. I enjoyed Shades lead dancers Skylar Brandt, Melanie Hamrick, and Stella Abrera. Skylar was impressive in Shostakovich Trilogy in the ABT fall season; she picked up where she left off with a spunky variation that featured hop turns in arabesque. Stella was impressive with nice cabrioles to arabesque, emphasizing the steps with nice phrasing with her head.
The Kingdom of the Shades is a beautiful scene where corps dancers enter the stage with recurring arabesques done in unison. The corps was generally fine. However, the lead dancer was generally a beat ahead of the other dancers throughout the arabesques.