Bolshoi Ballet: La Bayadère, transmitted live to the Phoenix Cinema, Oxford. 27 January 2013

Glamorous and spectacular, the Bolshoi Ballet’s La Bayadère is both exciting and emotive. On Sunday, the easy and graceful style of Vladislav Lantratov (Solor) was elegant and sometimes thrilling. Maria Alexandrova, a very fine dancer, made Gamzatti’s jealousy of Nikia understandable and dramatically logical, and Svetlana Zakharova conveyed the full range of emotions, from love and happiness through revulsion at the Brahmin’s advances to despair at betrayal. Zakharova was exceptionally lyrical in the third act, although she seemed just a little tense in the variation with the shawl, which might have gone better for her. The corps de ballet dancers were impeccably correct, if perhaps a little rigid, as the Shades, gleaming in the blackness that made them seem to float on air as they glided down the ramp.

The “elephant in the room”, of course was the acid attack on Sergei Filin less than a fortnight ago. The Bolshoi handled this, through its spokesman Ekaterina Novikova with an expert and oblique subtlety reminiscent of the Cold War period. There was text and subtext. In the introduction before the performance, Grigorivich’s responsibility for the production and his former position as Director of the Bolshoi Ballet were duly acknowledged. The opening interview was with Anatoly Iksanov, Director of the theatre, his presence sending the message that all was under control. In the first interval, without explaining the situation, Novikova interviewed Galina Stepanenko, who has courageously stepped in to cover for Filin. Finally, in the second interval, Novikova expressed regret that Filin was unable to be present because he was ill in hospital, and wished him well. Novikova then interviewed Maria Alexandrova, the single representative of the cast, drawing out memories of her first appearance in this production as a child before asking her about her interpretation of Gamzatti, in particular about the attack on Nikia. Did Alexandrova believe that Gamzatti was in any way responsible for putting the snake into the basket of flowers? Absolutely not, said Alexandrova: she has nothing to do with this “terrible crime”. Finally, Novikova spoke about the Kingdom of the Shades, describing how the ballet ends in a place of “beauty, love, and eternal dance”. We can only hope that this will also be the case for the Bolshoi Ballet.

Maggie Watson

28 January 2013