Queensland Performing Arts Centre, June 28, 29
5 stars, 4 stars
Reviewed by Jill Sykes
To see one of the best ballet companies in the world, the Bolshoi Ballet, in two utterly different
works over two nights was an exciting prospect. Would one turn out better than the other? The answer is yes – but not as I anticipated. The Bolshoi warhorse Spartacus was given a brilliant
performance while Jewels was good, with only a few truly exceptional highlights.
Spartacus was more thrilling than I would have imagined: theatrically, emotionally and in sheer
quality of dance. Yuri Grigorovich’s choreography looked as fresh as if it was made yesterday, not 51
years ago. In fact, it was often so imaginative and unexpected that it makes many of today’s
dancemakers look old-fashioned.
Yes, there might be some marching back and forth of soldiers and revolutionary slaves we could
have done without, yet that in itself was chilling, especially the goose-stepping of the Roman army.
And it built to a crescendo with a terrible inevitability that took it out of ancient Rome and
symbolically into the 21st century.
Several casts of principals have come to Brisbane. Friday’s Spartacus, Mikhail Lobukhin, not only
danced brilliantly but developed the role with great character and tenderness. As his girlfriend
Phrygia, Anna Nikulina gave an extraordinarily beautiful performance, her long graceful limbs
imbibed with emotion. Their contrasting body shapes give an edge to their emotional intimacy in
the leading roles, with a final duet in which the complexity of partnering had to be seen to be
The virtuosity of this work is astonishing, always in the service of the plot and the drama.
Stupendous leaps and highly charged sequences run through the title role to the Roman general
Crassus – powerfully danced and interpreted by Artemy Belyakov – through to the excellent male
The women also have their feisty opportunities and Yulia Stepanova, as the courtesan
Aegina, is outstanding for her cunning characterisation and skilled dancing.
Such is the strength of this production that Aram Khachaturyan’s music (played by the Queensland
Symphony Orchestra, directed by Bolshoi conductor Pavel Sorokin), is restored to its bold
theatricality after years of commercial borrowings diminished it.
Jewels was choreographed by George Balanchine in 1967 and taken into the Bolshoi repertoire in
2012. It comprises three short pieces of contrasting character to music by Faure, Stravinsky and
Tchaikovsky, and it is very hard to capture in style as well as in steps.
Saturday night’s performance finished well with a long, superbly danced and seamless duet in which
the charming Jacopo Tissi gave a masterclass in attentive partnering as well as a memorable solo,
with the elegant and elusive Alena Kovaleva absolutely outstanding as his other half and a glittering
soloist. The finale for this piece, Diamonds, is a stage full of white tutus and tights with sparkling
sequins, a winner with the audience. [more]
Before that came Rubies, cheekily playing off Stravinsky’s music with a good chunk of Broadway
pizazz – at its most fun with a group of men pacing through ballet, football and stage musicals. Everyone worked hard but it was the mercurial Artem Ovcharenko who really got it.
Emeralds begins the evening at its most conventional, with undulating arms, fast feet and some
wonderful held moments in the neo-classical style that Balanchine created.
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