Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema: terrific acting and dancing in The Taming of the Shrew

November 12, 2017

Charlotte Kasner

Although not one of the original ‘problem plays’, The Taming of the Shrew is a modern problem play because of its misogyny. However, strip it of troublesome dialogue, and it works very well in dance. It can even be amusing in places, but Jean-Christophe Maillot’s production is quite dark throughout. His choreography is out and out terrific, though.

This is partly due to the choice of Shostakovich rather than the usual Scarlatti for the score. Maillot in fact uses theatre and film music which can be a little unsettling. Hearing Cheryomushki and the Gadfly out of their original context is a little distracting, but the composer’s ability to switch between buffoonery and tragedy fits the plot.

Maillot challenges the dancers who are stretched as actors as much as physically. None disappoint. He manages seamless, continual movement without it ever feeling frenetic, every ounce of classical technique poured into sparkling modernism.

Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov in The Taming of the ShrewPhoto J Devant
Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov in The Taming of the Shrew
Photo J Devant

Two years after the premiere, it is well bedded in and the cast seem to enjoy the challenge. Maillot’s son Augustin designed the costumes and they fall into two categories: striking and ravishing. He allows the dancers enough scope to move whilst not stinting on the decoration. Strong greens, blues and golds contrast with the black and white that echoes Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s set that suggest a stripped-down Broadway musical. Flexible treads, curved and framed by pillars move around the stage seamlessly, with the dancers using white cubes as seats and tables.

Ekaterina Krysanova’s Katherine is genuinely awful and it makes sense that she is given as good as she gets. Vladislav Lantranov is a kindly Petruchio who takes a lot before he finally puts his foot down and, indeed, hits her back. There is a hint that Katherine is likely to yield to a latent sexuality quite early on before her temper gets the better of her.

The opening of Act II is the darkest moment, Katherine’s wedding dress is filthy and in tatters as she drags her way through rain and mud. Exhausted, she has food and drink snatched from her mouth. Underlined by the DSCH motif in the score, the spoiled brat finally gets a sense of what so many people outside of her privileged world suffer.

Krysanova is outstanding, a whirlwind of anger that dissolves into plaint sensuality. The bedroom scene is as passionate as anything in Romeo and Juliet, but here has a happy ending, the two dancing the famous Tahiti Trot (a 45-minute piece that Shostakovich wrote for a 100-rouble-winning bet in 1927) at Bianca’s wedding.

Next in this Bolshoi Ballet in cinema season is The Nutcracker on Sunday December 3. Visit for details.