At Hollywood's Kodak Theatre The Kirov Ballet from The Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg staged a gorgeous production of Marius Petipa's "La Bayadere" with music by Ludwig Minkus. The costumes were from the original Mariinsky production from 1900 by Yevgeny Ponomarev, along with set designs from the same production. Diana Vishneva's Nikiya and Igor Zelensky's Solor were a passionately tragic couple. They are in love, and when he falters he still can't let her go, even to the point of crossing over into death to be with her. We feel the full range from burning love to remorse, to the eternal bliss of the Land of the Shades. The couple is hot!
This whole ballet is a study of contrasts in the characters. There are two great character roles with the High Brahman and the Raja. The Brahman of Vladamir Ponomarev is very aloof. He's in control of the temple and everyone associated with it. While he stands straight and tall, the girls do a delicate, exotic dance around him, and the fakirs set it off in the background with strong, undulating rhythms and big, sweeping arm movements before they all kneel at the Brahman's feet around the circle of fire. Nikiya makes a grand entrance in the door of the temple. She seems to be part goddess, but a very fragile one. She does a delicate toe dance, like a butterfly, as she glides across the stage. You feel her vulnerability when she spurns the Brahman's overtures of love with grand, sweeping gestures, and feints when he pursues her.
Solor appears in the next scene, claps twice, and Nikiya flies into his arms. His big, sweeping lifts and flying splits around the stage in this rapturous pas de deux is coupled with her dizzying pirouettes. Sparks fly with these two lovers in his deliciously sensuous duet.
The Raja's Palace in the second scene is an opulent contrast to the love and spirituality of the first scene. The dancing if a lively czardaz with eight women spinning on one leg. When Solor meets the Raja's daughter, Gamzatti, it's almost a conquest for her. That's the entire feeling here. While the first scene was natural spirituality, this is lavish ease and decadence. Solor is struck by her, but she seems indifferent. Solor lifts her in a deep backbend. She's like a rag doll in his arms. He holds her straight up, while she holds two bouquets of flowers and stretches out flat, before he lifts her standing straight up in conquest. Tatiana Tkachenko is a tremendous Gamzatti, but this is display not love. When she finds out and summons Nikiya she's haughty and vindictive, and Nikiya tries to stab her in the dramatic finale.
The Second Act, in the Raja's garden is a magnificent spectacle. There are characters in sedan chairs, set off with the various ensembles, an elephant, and a tiger. All retreat to the verandah at the rear for the dazzling entertainments. There is a chorus of ten women, men with tall staffs and banners, and a children's chorus. Andrey Ivanov's Golden Idol is painted more than clothed, as he does a powerful, leaping solo, surrounded by worshipping girls
One girl dances with an urn on her head. She holds it as she bends and kicks, then balances it when she glides on point. The fakirs contrast this with their powerful undulating rhythms. Maghedaveya throws his drum in the air, catches it, and is joined by a man and a woman in a fiery, leaping czardaz. There's an elegant classical number with four ballerinas, to provide a strong contrast with the fiery folk dances.
Solor and Gamzatti do a spectacular duet with high kicks, turns, and leaps. There's a beautiful adagio. She kicks her leg up, they're joined by other dancers, and she melts into him as he holds, lifts, and turns her effortlessly. The partnering is exquisite, but it's superficial, not love.
In the Third Act, Solor does a passionately poignant solo. He sees all now, and is crushed. Maghedaneya does lively high stepping pirouettes to try to cheer him up. In The Kingdom of the Shades the Bayaderes descend in this ethereally classical tour de force. No folk dance now, just elegance, grace, and beauty. The scrim rises and twenty-four dancers move as one, fluttering on point, against the rocky background. Nikiya is a vision above on a promontory. He's beside himself as he leaps and splits effortlessly around the stage. Nikiya does little hops as she comes to him. They drip passion in the pas de deux. The twenty-seven year old Vishneva shows why she's one of the world's most sought after ballerinas in the lilting, spinning duet against the backdrop of the corps. They alternate solos, with Zelensky's backward, turning leaps and her pirouettes, in the sizzling climax to the Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre's "La Bayadere" at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.