Monday, March 07, 2011

Hello, Moscow, this is RICHMOND-ON-THAMES!

Don't ask me how Ivan Vasiliev did that. Don't ask me, either, what it was he did, because I don't know. I'm not sure it has a name. It takes place at a height of about eight foot and goes about the speed of a Roger Federer ace. He leaps, spins and does something else at the same time involving feet, legs, arms, and it's over before you believe he really did it or that you really saw it. With the Bolshoi Ballet around, who needs the Olympics? I fear I squawked aloud.

This happened yesterday in that most genteel of surroundings, the Curzon Cinema in Richmond, Surrey. It wasn't well populated - not much more than half full - and my theatrical pals and I were among the younger members of the audience. I wouldn't have known about it, indeed, if Brian the Ballet Teacher hadn't addressed class on Friday with the words: "Now, there's a live cinecast of Don Quixote from the Bolshoi starring Osipova and Vasiliev on Sunday at 4pm and I expect you all to attend!" Ballet cinecasts have passed me by thus far, mostly because I didn't know they were happening until they were over. Hey, Richmond - did you know you can see the Bolshoi almost as good as live, on a big screen, in a comfy cinema chair, sipping your coffee when you like, watching the greatest dancers in the whole damn world for £15, on your own doorstep?!? No, I didn't think you did.

This performance was being watched by friends in central London, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany and, I think, Canada. All we need now is one of those live link-ups, routinely employed for the Eurovision Song Contest and Proms in the Park, where you can shout "Hello, Moscow! This is Richmond-on-Thames!"

It's not quite the same as being there, of course; the Bolshoi applauds, but we don't, because they can't hear us and that takes the edge off slightly. But you can see everything, hear everything - the orchestra is phenomenal, even if they have to play dear old Minkus - and you're treated to glimpses backstage before and after each act, while the happy Russian hostess interviews interesting Bolshoi-ish people - the discussion of the character dancing in the Tavern scene and Gypsy scene was fascinating if only because here in sunny London such discussions are reserved for exceedingly esoteric dance journals and would probably by-pass any outreach project by going clean over everyone's head. I do love the Russian attitude. Taking it for granted that these issues are of mass interest worldwide goes part of the way to explaining how they get to be so good at the performing arts.

As for the performance itself - it really was amazing. Don Quixote is a great party piece for a fantastic company, a Spanishy kitschy bonanza of virtuoso bedazzlement in bright colours complete with fancy flamenco robes, Gypsies doing mystic fire with Hungarian-style music (we did get the giggles when she threw the guitar over her shoulder, though - my friend being married to a guitarist...). Osipova matches Vasiliev almost move for move, leaping higher, twirling faster and sizzling more hotly than any rival could hope to touch. As a pair, they're absolutely on fire, bowling out personality, a hungry, adrenaline-high glow in their eyes. Someone complained to me recently that classical ballet is anti-feminist because it seeks to keep women as virgins forever. Er, nnooo...

The music goes on a bit, but has its moments. There's one really beautiful piece in the sultry Spanish tavern scene, the dance featuring unbelievable backbends (so that's what Brian the Ballet Teacher means when he says "...and now a beautiful Bolshoi backbend" and we all try to shift our shoulders an inch or two). But it turned out to be by Gliere, not Minkus. And the end of the show is rather abrupt - but after the grand pas de deux, what more is there to say?

The staging also features, for the Don and Sancho Panza, a white stallion and a donkey. Donkey Hotey?

Here's a taster. This isn't from yesterday - but you get the general idea.