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Sunday, March 8, 2009


(Pic:Ilse Liepa)

Packed audience gives enthusiastic ovation to stars of the Russian Ballet in one-off performance of highlights from the classics. (Review by Lynne Goodman)

The selection of soloists in this gala presentation, Stars of the Russian Ballet in the Playhouse Opera, performed with breathtaking control and the sort of flair and finesse that is rare in dance today.

Every movement was a salute to excellence. They tossed off 36 fouettes with doubles in between. They handled a range of standards from Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty and Le Corsaire pas de deux to a Fantasia on Ravel’s Bolero with stunning aplomb.

The Japanese Morikhiro Ivata and Miki Hamanaka added their expertise to that of Russians like Alexandra Timofeeva, Yan Godovsky and the superb Bolshoi veteran Ilse Liepa. There is no question about the pedigree of these multi-award winners.

The question is why dance has entered a competitive Olympic arena with skill intruding on soul when it comes to following the footsteps of Pavlova and Taglioni?

Spectacle was the focus of the evening with its succession of highlights - rather like a 10 course degustation meal crammed with fleeting flavours - wonderful but all rather too much to savour in any depth.

This designed-to-travel show, presented without a live orchestra or any decor except stars studding a backcloth, offered the sort of stimulation geared for today’s fast lane society. On that basis, the presentation was a stunning success.

The Bolshoi tag in the advertisements was something of a misnomer. The soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet could not all come, according to impresario Edouard Miasnikov’s note in the programme, and they were replaced by dancers from the Marinsky Theatre and Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. But they did not disappoint. Apart from a lack of the sky-high elevation that has come to be associated with Russian male dancers, the performances were uniformly exquisite - even if without heart.

Stars of the Russian Ballet was a dual presentation by the Ministry of Arts and Culture in Russia and South Africa aimed at widening the cultural exchange between the two countries. Tokyo Sexwale, Co-Chairman of the South Africa-Russia Business Council, summed it up in his message in the programme with the word 'Nazdarovya!' (Cheers) He did not add 'Buckle your seatbelts', but clearly he has divined that ballerinas can equal the racing cars in his A1 Grand Prix when it comes to providing thrills. – Lynne Goodman