Leaps and bounds
International dance stars descend on the city for the annual Mariinsky Ballet Festival.
Published: March 21, 2012 (Issue # 1700)
Dance talent from the Bolshoi Theater, London’s Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, the Wiener Staatsoper, Het Nationale Ballet and the Béjart Ballet Lausanne will join the Mariinsky Theater’s top soloists at the 12th International Mariinsky Ballet Festival.
The festivities kick off March 22 with a revival of Roland Petit’s poignant 1946 masterpiece “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort.”
The event, launched by the Mariinsky’s artistic director Valery Gergiev in 2001 as a counterweight to the maestro’s other brainchild, the “Stars of the White Nights” festival that runs every year from mid-May through mid-July, assembles a pantheon of ballet stars from the world’s finest ballet companies. While operatic and symphonic programs reign at the “Stars of the White Nights” festival, making some balletomanes feel hard done by, the spring event is a sweet consolation.
The festival celebrates choreographic diversity, with ballets choreographed by Marius Petipa, August Bournonville, George Balanchine, Roland Petit, Maurice Béjart, Angelin Preljocaj and Alexei Ratmansky fused in its programs.
“Le Jeune Homme et la Mort,” which originally brought Roland Petit to European fame, was influenced by Jean Cocteau, who learned the story from the legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev and then inspired Petit to turn the plot into a ballet. Since the ballet’s world premiere in 1946, the title roles have remained among the most desired in the ballet repertoire. Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov both performed the part of the young man to great acclaim.
The Mariinsky Theater first staged the ballet for Farukh Ruzimatov and Ulyana Lopatkina in the late 1990s, but the production did not last, as Petit was critical of the company’s rendition of his work. This time, Lopatkina will partner Mariinsky soloist Vladimir Shklyarov.
The same evening will see a performance of George Balanchine’s ballet “The Prodigal Son” set to music by Sergei Prokofiev, and originally created for Diaghilev’s Saisons Russes in 1929, when it was performed by Teresa Reichlen and Daniel Ulbricht, soloists with the New York City Ballet.
The festival offers rare opportunities to see Western ballet stars in classical Russian ballets as well as in their signature roles in works by foreign choreographers.
Covent Garden’s Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, who made their debut at the Mariinsky during the ballet festival in 2003, have since become regulars at the festival and have attended it almost every year since then.
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