La Bayadère, Royal Opera House, London

Viktoria Tereshkina in La Bayadère

There are extraordinary evenings in the theatre when the spell of a performance, the power of an interpretation and a sense of undeniable spirituality revealed by the artists, make for a community of feeling and awareness between stage and public.

On Thursday night, as the Mariinsky Ballet entered the closing days of its season, I – and, I’d venture, many of the audience – were profoundly moved by the last act of Petipa’s La Bayadère. It has been a treasure in the Petersburg repertory since 1877. The company dances this hallowed staging with a unique grace of means: it is theirs, and they show us how glorious it can be in the theatre.

Its last act, the sublime Shades sequence, proposes the ghosts of temple dancers appearing out of the night, and the hero, Solor, finding his beloved, Nikiya, now a shade, as she forgives him his betrayal of her love. The Mariinsky corps de ballet danced this with ineffable grace on Thursday, as always in my experience. We see the apotheosis of Petersburg’s classicism, given with an angelic assurance by dancers who move and perform as one: there is no more beautiful example of classic academic dance.

Into this crystalline setting came Viktoria Tereshkina as the ghostly Nikiya and Vladimir Shklyarov as Solor. Both had danced with rare intelligence in the preceding acts. But in this Shades scene, the purity of Tereshkina’s style, the unfailing elegance of her technique, the purity of her line and the sheer brilliancy of her effects (daunting multiple pirouettes shown with an effortless delicacy, an intoxication of clarity that denied any sense of forced bravura) were phenomenal, and testimony to profound artistry. Here is a ballerina of beautiful gifts and I do not recall, after all these years, an interpretation more potent in spirit and style. Shklyarov, grand in feeling as in means, with gesture as commanding as his space-greedy elevation, with emotion superbly revealed, is a grand Solor.

The sum effect was heart-lifting: these are dancers touched by greatness. And so this season, memorably fine, ends on this tremendous note. To the superlative corps de ballet, to the guardian teachers and coaches of these dancers, to Tereshkina and Shklyarov, to Victor and Lilian Hochhauser who make these seasons possible, profoundest gratitude.

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