January 5, 2020
Kader Belarbi states that the homage is an exercise in style, technical mastery and quality of execution. It was eighteen years ago this week that Rudolf Nureyev passed away. In In the Footsteps of Nureyev (Dans les pas de Noureev), Belarbi, an étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet during its Nureyev years and now director of dance at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, pays tribute to his mentor by offering a programme of extracts from some of his noted full-length ballets.
Originally scheduled for live performance in December but instead recorded behind closed doors for streaming, it’s eighty minutes of escape into stylish, sophisticated, elegant choreography; a welcome dip into all that is best in classical ballet.
After a bit of an uncertain start in some of the lifts, the Grand pas classique from Act III of Raymonda quickly becomes an exercise in cool, delicious St Petersburg classicism.
Philippe Solano and Matteo Manzoni are faultless in the men’s duet, danced mostly in cannon. Equally faultless is the male pas de quatre, danced by Simon Catonnet, Baptiste Claudon, Rafael Fernández Ramos and Alexandre de Oliveira Ferreira; and the trio which is charmingly danced by Kayo Nakazoto, Marie Varlet and Kaho Kato.
Davit Galstyan as Jean de Brienne is a fine partner and dances with suitable aplomb in the male solo. I would have preferred a little more expression from Natalia de Froberville as Raymonda, but there are certainly no issues with her sharp footwork, especially in her solo, danced to perhaps the best bit in Glazunov’s glorious score. Joop Stokvis’ costumes are quite lovely too.
His Romeo and Juliet displays Nureyev’s deep knowledge of Shakespeare, with every word of the text presented to what is certainly Prokofiev’s best loved score. In the balcony scene, the Kazak pairing of Aleksandra Surodeeva, and Ruslan Savdenov, both trained in Perm, rise well to both the dramatic and choreographic challenges they are set.
Juliet’s entrance, before she sees Romeo and reaches for the moon reminds us that, in spite of the romanticism, this will not end well. It is of course later echoed by Romeo promising her the moon. Surodeeva is the perfect picture of someone at first nervous but whose radiant girlishness quickly bubbles to the surface. Savdenov has good presence and is elegant but a height mismatch makes some of the partnering look more of a struggle than it should. I would also have preferred a little more height in some of his jumps.
A much better pairing comes with Philippe Solano and Tiphaine Prévost as Aurora and Desiré in the Act III pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty; and in costumes as lavish as for Raymonda. Both perform with marvellous cool precision. Solano’s double tours en l’air are particularly impressive, the landings on a sixpence.
It was a stroke of genius by Nureyev to locate Cinderella in 1930s Hollywood. The darkness of the Prokofiev score may remind us that the glamour is superficial, but the pas de deux allows every drop of romanticism to shine through. Again, Nureyev demands good dramatic technique too to prevent sentiment from creeping in. Solène Monnereau and Timofiy Bykovets deliver all that is needed and more.
The Black Swan pas de trois from Swan Lake sees the return of de Froberville and Savdenov as Odette and Siegfried. De Froberville’s balances are absolutely assured, batterie neat and fouettés precise, if mostly singles. This showing could do with more of the sharp icy glitter of the temptress, however. Savdenov is an attentive partner.
Nureyev not only made Rothbart a bird of prey and the evil double of Siegfried’s tutor, but also much more of a dancing role than in many productions. Simon Catonnet has impressive ballon and super stage presence.
As the initial tribute to Nureyev says, “S’éteignait un monstre sacre de la danse… Il exerça une influence indélébile sur des générations de danseurs et de chorégraphes”. Well, perhaps not above criticism but he certainly left a fabulous legacy and, even if In the Footsteps of Nureyev isn’t quite at the pinnacle all the way through, it is a very enjoyable watch.
In the Footsteps of Nureyev (Dans les pas de Noureev) is available on the Théâtre du Capitole’s YouTube channel and on Facebook.
The programme (in French) can be read and downloaded from www.theatreducapitole.fr.