Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
February 27, 2018
Vadim Repin and Svetlana Zakharova, both global stars in their field. Not only husband and wife, but now in partnership on stage too. And what a fabulous evening A Pas de Deux for Toes and Fingers turned out to be as, with his fingers and her toes, and with the help of the Gustav Mahler Orchestra, they brought together music and movement that lit up the stage. Unchallenging for the viewer maybe, but it was quite captivating. The near 90 minutes simply flew past.
Zakharova needs little introduction. Principal dancer at the Bolshoi and an étoile of La Scala, Milan, she has increasingly has looked to broaden her horizons with more modern works. Repin is just as famous. Having made his recital debuts in Moscow and St Petersburg aged just 11, he now performs with all the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors. Yehudi Menuhin, no less, called him the “best and most perfect violinist.”
Part music concert, part dance recital, A Pas de Deux for Toes and Fingers is two shows in one. It’s a celebration of the couple’s talents that shows them in all their moods, from seriously classical, through contemporary, jazzy and downright playful. It’s not a ‘gala’ as such, though.
Zakharova shone brightly in all five danced pieces. Alone or accompanied by Mikhail Lobukhin and Vyacheslav Lopatin from the Bolshoi Ballet, and Vladimir Varnava, dancer and choreographer with the Mariinsky Ballet, she lit up the stage. And what a range of choreography too, classical and contemporary, from cool and composed to emotionally loaded; some danced on pointe, some in flats, some barefoot. On the violin, Repin mixed expressive lyricism with virtuosity, bringing new life to some familiar tunes
The dance opened sedately with the Adagio from Japanese choreographer Asami Maki’s production of Raymonda. In a sparkling white tutu, Zakharova was a picture as she entered held high by Lobukhin, but while the dance is certainly a demonstration of perfect line, and he is a strong partner as one could wish for, it would barely get a mention in list of exciting or memorable excerpts.
Varnava’s duet, Plus. Minus. Zero., which the choreographer danced with Zakharova, is an altogether different kettle of fish, though. It’s about opposites, a man and a woman. It opens with a tortured solo from Varnava before a smoother more lyrical Zakharova appears. While clearly classically-based there are plenty of contemporary touches, flexed feet, clenched fists (which with straight arms do a variation on entrechats) and angular parts de bras. Once they came together, the partnering was again superb. It was an excellent match for Repin, who found new depths in Arvo Part’s Fratres.
The intense solo, Revelation, is by another Japanese dance-maker, Motoko Hirayama. To music by John Williams from the film Schindler’s List, the only not played live, Zakharova showed the desperation and pain of someone trying to escape a prison. While her confinement is largely metaphorical, at one point she reaches through the back of the chair around and on which much of it takes place, as if reaching through the bars of a cell.
I’ve never really liked Fokine’s Dying Swan, although maybe that’s just because it’s done too often, frequently badly. Lit by a single spotlight as she glided across the otherwise black stage, Zakharova was a dream, though. Yet again, Repin on violin helped enormously, of course. All proof that when it hands of the very best, the ballet can still surprise and astonish.
So, to the fun finale, La ronde des lutins, taken from John Kobborg’s ballet, Les Lutins, in which two men, Lobukhin and Lopatin vie for the ballerina’s attention, only to find that she actually goes for the violinist (of course). After some banter between Lobukhin and Repin, which included the former offering to play if Repin danced (probably sensibly declined), the fireworks flew. Lobukhin’s solo was laced with fast, accurate footwork. ‘Anything you can do’, as they say, and Lopatin topped it with a dizzying display of turns and soaring leaps. When Zakharova joins them, dressed in men’s shirt and trousers, the wit and brilliance ratchets up even more. It was fantastically danced and marvellous fun from start to finish.
The musical sections were all a delight too, the undoubted highlight being Igor Frolov’s Divertimento for Two Violins and Orchestra, another pas de deux of sorts for Repin and orchestra leader, Anton Barakhovsky. After exchanging Bach-style solos, again with a sense of trying to outdo one another, the fun really started as both (and the orchestra) got the call to jazz. It was foot-tapping fun that brought a smile to everyone’s face.
Repin and Zakharova’s individual performing commitments mean that A Pas de Deux for Toes and Fingers isn’t seen that often. Those who got tickets for the Hong Kong shows were fortunate indeed.
The Hong Kong Arts Festival continues to March 24. Among the dance still to come is American Ballet Theatre with Alexei Ratmansky’s Whipped Cream, Saburo Teshigawara’s Tristan and Isolde, Dance Off and the Asia-Pacific Dance Platform. Visit www.hkartsfestival.org for details.