Dance review: Bolshoi 'Reflections' at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Like the first “Kings of Dance” program in 2006, “Reflections” offers an evening of premieres at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, created by choreographers from Europe and the U.S. for stellar, adventurous classical dancers -- in this case, seven Russian ballerinas trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
On Thursday, the evening began promisingly with glimpses of the magical, long-limbed lyricism of Polina Semionova, now with the Staatsballett Berlin. But, nearly three hours later, we'd been shown nothing more in her art, nothing deeper than that display of her obvious spectacular virtues---and three choreographers had tried.
Similarly, the extraordinary dynamism of the Bolshoi Ballet's Natalia Osipova was demonstrated repeatedly but superficially, and the showpieces for the other women proved no more satisfying. Worse, most of these tailor-made choreographies resembled workshop etudes, far too small in scale for this hall and far from the cutting edge of contemporary work anywhere these women currently dance.
The Bolshoi Ballet visitors seemed especially underserved. Aszure Barton's “Dumka” (to Tchaikovsky) assigned willowy, intense Yekaterina Shipulina an indecipherable action-plan. Lucinda Childs' “From the Book of Harmony” failed to harness the powerful engine of John Adams' music and left Anastasia Stashkevich looking ill at ease. Karole Armitage's “Fractus” (music by Rhys Chatham) used blackouts to splinter an assaultive duet for Yekaterina Krysanova and Denis Savin, but this bold structural experiment ended inconclusively.
Maria Kochetkova (San Francisco Ballet) fared better with Jorma Elo's “One Overture” (to music by Biber and Mozart) in which classical steps kept disintegrating into modernistic spasms and body-squiggles without disturbing the remarkable sense of flow that is a hallmark of Russian classical training. And Olga Malinovskaya (Estonia National Ballet) made the most of surely the strangest repertory selection: George Balanchine's sweet, neoclassical Glinka Pas de Trois (with Stashkevich and Vyacheslav Lopatin). Whatever its stylistic incongruity Thursday, this formal 1955 divertissement filled the stage with dancing: a blessed relief after so many constricted premieres.
Not exactly new, Nacho Duato's “Remansos” (to Granados) took a familiar male trio and added a prologue for three couples that lacked the combination of whimsy and mystery of the original work but provided a showcase for the technical refinement of Semionova, Savin, Osipova, Lopatin, Shipulina and Alexander Volchkov.
Finally, at the end of the evening, Mauro Bigonzetti's “Cinque” (to Vivaldi) enlisted Kochetkova, Osipova, Krysanova, Semionova and Shipulina in a series of gambits involving chairs, wigs, hanging tutus and overlapping solos that might have seemed delightful if only the feeling of been-there, done-that had not tainted the performance by that time.
This partnership between the Bolshoi Ballet and the Segerstrom Center may be big news institutionally, but Diana Vishneva's "Beauty in Motion" program on this same stage in 2008 showed how choreographers can create showpieces for a ballerina that take her and themselves into new creative territory -- exactly what was missing in “Reflections.” And San Francisco Ballet's multi-program New Works Festival the same year made the act of creation the biggest news of all.
The renewal of the classical repertory ought to be a priority for every company, but an ill-assorted, overlong patchwork of novelties serves neither the art nor the artists.
Three pieces used recorded accompaniment, but otherwise two pianists, a singer and members of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra lent their artistry to “Reflections.” Besides those ballets previously listed, Renato Zanella's “Strauss Incontra Verdi” (for Semionova) and Bigonzetti's “Serenata” (for Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev) completed the program. The production moves to Moscow, running Jan. 27-30.
-- Lewis Segal
“Reflections,” Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. 3 hours. Casting may vary. $20-$126. (714) 556-2787.
(Formerly The Times' staff dance critic, Segal is a freelance arts writer based in Hollywood and Barcelona.)
Photos: Yekaterina Shipulina in "Dumka" and the ballerinas in "Cinque" (from left, Maria Kochetkova, Natalia Osipova, Polina Semionova, Yekaterina Krysanova and Yekaterina Shipulina) during "Reflections" Thursday night at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.