Mariinsky Festival – Diana Vishneva
Pierrot Lunaire, Errand into the Maze, Subject to Change
St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre
30 March 2012
A highlight of the Mariinsky Festival this year was a performance dedicated to the Mariinsky prima ballerina, Diana Vishneva. She appeared in all three ballets that evening. The programme was actually based on the project, Diana Vishenva : Dialogues, that was premiered in the Mariinsky Theatre last autumn. However, John Neumeier’s created work, Dialogues, for Vishneva was cancelled this time due to the injury of the Hamburg Ballet principal dancer, Thiago Bordin, and was replaced by Ratmansky’s Pierrot Lunaire.
Pierrot Lunaire was created by Alexei Ratmansky for Vishneva in 2009 for her earlier project, Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion. It features Vishneva and three male dancers in the Mariinsky who perhaps symbolise the different aspects of Pierrot. Vishneva dances a duet with each of her partners – Igor Kolb, Konstantin Zverev, and Alexander Sergeyev – which vary in mood. Kolb and Zverev impressed in fleet solos, while Vishneva herself shone in an allegro solo. The whole cast was excellent. Ratmansky’s choregraphy is as fluent and well-crafted as usual in this ballet which is however rather lightweight.
Then followed a major 1947 work by Martha Graham, Errand into the Maze. This pas de deux is based on the Greek myth of Ariadne and Minotaur, the yoked man-monster. This is Vishneva’s first foray into the Martha Graham technique. The story is about a heroine who finally conquers her fear (symbolised by the Minotaur) by driving away the man-monster for good. And then she returns to her base – the pelvis (the dominant sculpture constructed by Isamu Noguchi) – in a happy ending. Visheva gave her all in this work and was gripping as the heroine. Ilya Kuznetsov made a good debut as the brute Minotaur who terrorises her, and danced with the requisite authority. However I didn’t see the Martha Graham company dancer Abdiel Jacobsen who partnered Vishneva last year, and couldn’t compare Kuznetsov to him.
The final piece was Subject To Change choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 2003, and set to the andante from Schubert’s Death and the Maiden. The leading male role was danced by Andrei Merkuriev from the Bolshoi Ballet who was making another welcome return to the Mariinsky stage. A male corps de ballet attired in black represents death. It was well danced by four Mariinsky dancers, who at one point were screaming in Russian. The only prop was a red carpet on which the male dancers were dragging Vishneva along towards the end.
It was actually this Lightfoot/Leon ballet which made the strongest dramatic impact in this Vishneva programme. Vishneva was absorbing in all her three pas de deux with Merkuriev. The first duet was the most intense and bleak, but in the final third duet she became yielding and submissive, as if calmly accepting her inevitable death. Merkuriev as usual was a superb partner and danced with weight and emotional intensity.