Bolshoi Ballet has always held a special place in my heart ever since I was a little girl. When I was growing up, my mother never failed to take me to some of Bolshoi performances whenever they toured Japan. Those experiences enriched my life and inspired me endlessly.
Yuri Grigorovich’s choreography performed by the dancers of the highest standards made such a strong impact on me and I spent long hours trying their choreography in my own time.
I was fortunate enough to have watched Irek Mukhamedov as Spartacus and Alexander Vetrov as Crassus, with Lyudmila Semenyaka’s Phrygia and Maria Byrova’s Aegina on stage. I was also lucky enough to own a video recording of this cast, which I watched countless times and kept practising many of the dances.
When I learned that Igor Tsvirko finally debuted as Spartacus a while ago, I was very much looking forward to be able to watch him in a full production. It finally came true now that the Bolshoi Ballet has come to London with Spartacus! As soon as the cast was announced, I got myself and my son tickets for his performance. To add to our excitement, we learned that Artem Ovcharenko was to dance Crassus, who hadn’t danced the roll before.
We counted days, hours and minutes till the curtain up. We were not disappointed! Tsvirko’s Spartacus was so powerful and he filled the whole theatre with such strong emotions, that I could barely breathe throughout the performance. His sadness and anger about his fate was so acute and heart wrenching that I could not hold back tears. Then his grief and enrage at having killed his fellow gladiator, elations at finding men who would follow him, love for his wife Phrygia, aggression but fairness he shows to Crassus, frustration and despair at people leaving him and the the tremendous courage at facing his inevitable fate at the end. As Vladimir Vasiliev, the first ever Spartacus, once said about himself, Tsvirko also truly “lived” as Spartacus while he was on stage and engulfed us in Spartacus’ emotions.
There is no denying that Tsvirko has incredibly strong technique and perfect control over it. However, he never loses sight of the fact that every single movement has meaning and told the story of Spartacus through his dance. This is easier said than done, seeing just how technically demanding the role of Spartacus is. Down to the smallest movement of his fingers, slight tilting of the head, even breathing was that of Spartacus. Having watched Irek Mukhamedov’s performances as Spartacus on stage, and having watched Vladimir Vasiliev’s video footage as Spartacus numerous times, I did not think it was very easy to find yet another Spartacus that would touch me so deeply. Yet there I was, after the performance, unable to stop crying and shop shaking.
Olga Smirnova was a simply luscious Aegina that captured everyone’s attention from the shepherds on stage to the audience member, and Maria Vinogradova was such a doting wife who had to grown strong at the end when she is faced with her husband’s death.
I was also extremely excited about the rest of the cast. Artem Ovcharenko delivered the neurotic and somewhat paranoid Roman general so perfectly. If a dancer of this role has any less impact than that of Spartacus, the whole ballet loses its impact. Tsvirko and Ovcharenko were a perfect match.
The corps de ballet did Grigorovich’s choreography justice. So powerful and dramatic. The only thing I felt was a shame was the lack of chorus, which seems to be a norm when this ballet is performed in its home theatre, at the end of the ballet. During Phrygia’s lament, there usually is a chorus to accompany the music which, with the crowd of people lamenting Spartacus’ death, makes such a dramatic and emotional heightening.
Bolshoi Ballet is in London until 17th August 2019 and limited tickets are still available. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to watch the world class ballet and truly fantastic dancers!
And to top off what seemed to be a perfect evening already, I managed to meet Alexander Nikolaevich Vetrov in person. I fell in love with him 35 years ago as a young girl. He was such a charismatic Evil Genius in Swan Lake that I did not understand how Odette would want to leave him. His Crassus so powerful I was jealous of any Aegina he danced with. He was such a proud and gorgeous Tybalt that I lost a certain amount of sympathy towards Romeo who killed him. I was so overwhelmed by my emotions that all I could say was I have been his fan for a long time. He was so kind and shook my hand. I was so emotional from all those years of admiring him. I wish I could have told him what I felt and what he has meant for me for the most of my life. Thinking just how much an impact he and some of the truly marvellous dancers had in my life reminded me why I wanted to dance.