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By the time you read these words the Bolshoi Ballet’s three weeks in London will be ended. It has been a spanking season, marked by magnificent performances from the entire ensemble, and with unfailingly powerful playing each night from the Bolshoi’s orchestra under Pavel Sorokin and Pavel Klinichov.
Its greatest rewards have been in the depth of the troupe’s resources – superb principals and soloists, and the marvellous unity of the corps de ballet (the blessed legion of the Shades in La Bayadère); character roles made vivid (Gennady Yanin hilarious as Lankedem in Le Corsaire, and dazzlingly alert as the Accordionist in The Bright Stream); the company so wholeheartedly Hispanic in Don Quixote that you could not find room to cram in another castanet rattle or cape flourish, with Yuliana Malkhasyants’ gypsy dancer to light up the sky; and the bright gifts of young Natalya Osipova and very young Ivan Vasiliev to provide the culminating feu de joie.
For all this we are ultimately indebted to Victor and Lilian Hochhauser, whose dedication and skills have brought us the treasures of Russian music and dance over the past half century. To them, as to the Bolshoi troupe, we owe every gratitude.
The final offering of the season was The Bright Stream. In 1935, when Shostakovich’s sunny score was staged in Moscow with choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov (and initially much liked), it drew down Stalinist wrath as “balletic fraud”, wholly irresponsible in portraying the nature of collective farming. It has been Alexey Ratmansky’s achievement to rehabilitate the piece, by rescuing the score and taking an amused look at its narrative and, most significantly, at the aesthetic and political conventions of ballet in the 1930s. Nothing is serious in this merry work. It is a distorting glass that reveals the truth. Especially when given with the verve we saw on Thursday night, with Ekaterina Krysanova (exquisite line) and Natalia Osipova (adorable, and dancing a few feet above the stage) as heroines; Sergey Filin (the only premier danseur I’ve seen who can impersonate a sylphide and get hilariously away with it) and Andrey Merkuriev (touching in emotion; ardent in step) as heroes; and Gennady Yanin a marvel of elegant wit in a tango. The entire ensemble seemed to smile as they danced. And so did we.