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My review in the Chronicle:
“Here in the West we tend to chuck two-thirds of Petipa’s “La Bayadère” and get straight to the plotless poetry – the “Kingdom of the Shades” scene, 32 women in heavenly white. After all, the music is featherweight Minkus, not Tchaikovsky. And the story – a variation on that eternal ballet saga of boy loves girl, boy betrays girl, girl dies and boy grieves (this time involving Indian rajas and a beautiful temple dancer) – isn’t Shakespeare.
But it would take a hard-hearted fan to bemoan a full “Bayadère” in the hands of Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet, which launched its national tour Thursday at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, and continues to dance the three-act “Bayadère” under the auspices of Cal Performances through Sunday. And the luxuries aren’t always where one might expect.
The obvious sumptuousness is in scale. As is oft-repeated, “Bolshoi” means “big,” and this 1991 staging by Yuri Grigorovich involves big, rich sets (purportedly after the 1877 originals) and endless processions of beautifully arrayed dancers. Then there’s the luxury of beholding such a singular ballerina as Svetlana Zakharova. Thursday, she was extraordinary, her long torso beguilingly serpentine, her interpretation of the doomed Nikiya always noble but never haughty.
Yet being American, and therefore accustomed to dramatically half-hearted productions of the classics, I was most struck by the luxury of fine acting. Maria Alexandrova was delicious as Nikiya’s jealous rival, Gamzatti, the strength of her muscular dancing of a piece with the mischievous power of her mime.”
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