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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Balanchine was a Georgian

No wonder they put on so many Balanchine shows in Tbilisi - Giorgi Balachivadze was a Georgian, at least by descent. His father was one of the founders of the Tbilisi opera house, and his brother a well-known composer, but it seems from this entry in wikipedia, that Balanchine may have spent little time in Georgia. He was born and brought up in St Petersburg where he received his ballet training, and was a member of the Imperial Ballet until the Revolution got in the way. In 1933 or so he relocated permanently to the US (after a spell in France with the Ballet Russe). (It makes me wonder whether Eifman's 'Red Giselle' is about another member of the Ballet Russe, since the main protagonist of that ballet is a ballerina who also gets caught up in the Revolution, does not cope with the new style of dancing and eventually travels to France, where finally she goes mad.)

I digress. On offer last night was Mozartiana (with a tape), Lea, and Don Quichote. Apart from the first one I don't know which went with which music; Minkus has written Don Quichote, but it's a long evening's performance, and this was just a half hour. There was a dance to Gluck and a dance to romantic ballet music. Hmmm.

The Mozartiana had the potential to be beautiful; some scenes reminded of a kaleidoscope, even though the dancers were dressed in black - it was their mirror image actions on both sides of the stage. Another dancer had a solo with potential to be rather funky, but his leaps, when he did them, were rather half-hearted. Definitely Not a Nijinksi. The other dancers also danced with little enthusiasm or tension, and seemed rather tired. The poor sound transmission also did not help, but this kind of music is a bit of a challenge for an opera house orchestra. As was confirmed later.

The next piece, to the live romantic music, was very pretty. Again the dancing was a bit tired, and lacked inspiration - it could have been so much better. The costumes were beautiful - could not understand though why one of the women wore a tutu that appeared to be made from cabbage leaves, but there we are.

Finally there was a set piece to music by Gluck, perhaps ballets from his operas? It started with the dance of the blessed spirits (which nailed the Gluck), and tootled along from there. Here we got out the good dancers, including that gorgeous guy with the long legs we had seen a few days earlier. It seems all the audience loves him. The dance of the blessed spirits was blissful; the pas de deux and the solos were stunning! (I'm not sure that you would expect major leaps with such very classical and controlled music, but it worked well). The orchestra, on the other hand, made soup of the music - but thankfully the stage action distracted from that.

And of course there was the audience ballet, where half the audience had not arrived by the time the show started, but made sure they got their seats during the first piece.....