On the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theater, the production company MuzArts presented its new project “Labyrinth”. Three sections of the evening were given to three choreographers, two of them – Olga Labovkina and Anna Shchekleina – staged performances for ballet dancers for the first time. What came out of it, tells Tatyana Kuznetsova.
In the West, for the last thirty years, this is exactly how – by staging a performance for a classical troupe – talented ballet leaders have become natives of contemporary dance. Angelin Preljocach composed “Park” for the Paris Opera, Wayne MacGregor – “Qualia” for the London Royal Ballet, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – “Faun” in the Monte-Carlo Ballet, Akram Khan – “Giselle” in the English National Ballet. The Russian ballet of the 21st century, rapidly and successfully developing on finished Western products, only this year – unwillingly – gave Russian “contemporaries” a chance to break through from the narrow festival paths to the high-speed career track: theaters that want to produce modern products have almost no choice.
The MuzArts producer Yuri Baranov turned out to be the most impetuous and decisive: at the end of May, on the same New Stage of the Bolshoi, he showed the luxurious international project “Postscript 2.0”, and now he has built a new “Labyrinth ”, risking entrusting two productions to Olga Labovkina and Anna Shchekleina – festival regulars, but debutantes on the ballet stage. The ladies are bright, temperamental, fighting, in ballet they found it necessary to rise above sociality and speak out on global issues of being.
Olga Labovkina composed the ballet “Shine”. Having chosen Olaf Stapledon’s philosophical-fiction novel The Starmaker as the basis, she decorated the performance with inflatable scenery: a seven-meter silver female head, the hollow back of which served the hero as something like an apartment-camera. The significant buzz of Ilya Dyagel’s minimalist electronic music corresponded to the thoughtfulness of the libretto, according to which the hero became “a part of the universal collective consciousness – the Observer” and already in this capacity met with the “Primary Source of All That Is.” However, “being painfully blinded by his all-pervading infinite Radiance… I never managed to comprehend the scale of what was happening to him.”
blocks and gigantic silver bodies, dismembered and stretched out against the backdrop of landscapes in the spirit of Salvador Dali. On the stage, surrealism reigned much more intimate. The meeting of the Observer (the selfless work of the plastically gifted Ildar Gainutdinov) with the Primary Source (represented by the mighty soloist of the Greater Artur Mkrtchyan) looked like an ordinary showdown. Starting with a mise-en-scène of father and son hugging, copied from a painting by Rembrandt, the duet turned off the biblical path: the Primary Source, with growing irritation and undisguised aggression, stopped all attempts by the Observer to cling to him. Along the way, the “collective consciousness” in the amount of two women and three men tried to build a common worldview through mass support and round dances, inspired by the famous painting by Henri Matisse. But due to the incessant vibrations of the body and hands, similar to the elegiac rinsing of linen in a pond, the desired harmony – even choreographic, not to mention philosophical – was not achieved by the “collective consciousness”. But the individual succeeded: the flawless legs of young Elizaveta Kokoreva, who was allowed to simply walk diagonally on half-toes, eclipsed the entire “history of the evolution of the mind and spirit of mankind,” as the choreographer Labovkina certified her work.
Anna Shchekleina did not set such global goals for herself: her “Nerv” (to the electronic music of Vasily Peshkov, animated by interspersed with an ordinary cello) is about how people hurt each other, and about whether this can be avoided. The idea was supported by the artist Galina Solodovnikova, who painted the tight-fitting overalls of the artists as models in the anatomy room. These “bare nerves” in the last third of the performance are overgrown with “skin” – flesh-colored underpants and bodices humanize the artists. But the choreographer did not take advantage of the excellent opportunity to equally clearly separate the vocabulary of “nerves” and “people”, limiting herself to illustrating the given collision. In the first duet, opposite-sex “nerves” inflict painful injections on each other with their index fingers, in the last, gently reconciling, they do without touching at all. Having put two ballerinas on pointe shoes, allowing the men to pirouette, and the ladies to flaunt arabesques and flutter in the pas de cha, the choreographer stepped into someone else’s territory; her stock of classical movements turned out to be too poor for ballet, while Anna Shchekleina could not (or did not have time) to teach her own language to the soloists of the Bolshoi. That is why the promising first episode of “Nerva”, when the silhouettes of the artists, tied to the grate with long processes of their own caps, rush about and twitch like some kind of axons and dendrites, remained the best scene of the performance.
The last ballet of the program – “The Minotaur” to the music of Max Richter, composed by choreographer Patrick De Bana based on one of the motifs of Cortazar’s play “The Kings” – was intended to hedge the work of debutantes. Patrick De Bana – born in Hamburg, worked with Maurice Béjart and Nacho Duato, danced all the important choreographers, created his own company almost 20 years ago, often staged with us and knows Russian artists perfectly – the author is too experienced to fail his own plan. Dashi Namdakov was engaged as a stage designer, and his head of the Minotaur made of Karelian pine – burned, doused with “blood”, with a narrow hollow in the middle of the “muzzle”, a growth instead of an “eye” and six-meter silver horns – caressed the eye with natural power, especially gratifying after the provincial kitsch “Shine”. Costume designer Igor Chapurin, who is surprisingly sensitive to ballet and ballet bodies, designed the beautiful Minotaur with tattered metal chain mail, the transparent mournful Ariadne in black tulle, and the spectacular Pasiphae in a scarlet dress with a slit and a short train that multiplies the range of motion.
Of all the co-authors, the achievements of the choreographer are the most modest. However, Patrick De Bana, an emotional author, but irreparably banal and not too inventive, performed at his usual level, clearly building the parterre parts of the main characters and letting the four luminaries jump, personifying the inner life of the Minotaur. To the hero himself (the sufferer, not the monster), he twisted his hands, hunched his back and lifted his shoulder, softening the classic Quasimodo pose, invented by Roland Petit in 1965. The two monologues of the Minotaur, at the beginning and end of the performance – with a desperate run from end to end of the stage, with low jumps in a wide second position, with painful attempts to straighten his arms – did not differ much choreographically. Only the exceptional acting gift of Denis Savin allowed the main character to remain the center of the performance. And even when the overly pathetic Anna Balukova-Pasiphae (the mother of the Minotaur, who treats her son with compassionate disgust and punishes herself for his ugliness, the choreographer presented the richest part), it was impossible to take his eyes off the motionless Denis Savin, writhing in a spasm of forbidden passion for his mother. According to the libretto, Ariadne also experiences incestuous love for her half-brother, but the chaste choreography, built on small pas de bourre and sad arabesques, assigns her more of a maternal role. The beautiful Maria Vinogradova very restrainedly and subtly eliminated this contradiction, filling her party with impotent tenderness and mournful humility. And when Patrick De Bana, who came out to bow, fell on his knees in front of the artists, this extreme manifestation of feelings seemed quite adequate: performed by the premieres of the Big “Minotaur” really seemed like a way out of the “Labyrinth”.