The Russian Ballet Collection: more newly restored films – Adam and Eve

Charlotte Kasner previews five newly restored films of Russian ballet never previously seen in the West, that RTRWorldwide hope to release soon, starting with Adam and Eve.

Read Part 2 of Charlotte Kasner’s preview: La Sylphide & Chopinana
Part 3: Grigorovich’s Ivan the Terrible and Romeo & Juliet

The huge Russian State Archive harbours some extraordinary footage of the Bolshoi Ballet in performance. In 2014, RTRWorldwide released five of them as The Russian Ballet Collection, a box-set of five DVDs of digitally restored and remastered films that had never previously been available in the West.

A further five historically important recordings ballets have now been unearthed and similarly restored; five more trips back in time that can now be seen in all their glory. The films are not yet available, although RTRWorldwide are presently negotiating with broadcasters worldwide. They also hope to have them available on DVD later this year as The Russian Ballet Collection Volume 2.

The undoubted jewel in the crown of this latest collection from Russian Ballets is Adam and Eve, a delightful 1982 broadcast version of Andrei Petrov’s ballet Creation of the World, performed by Moscow Classical Ballet. Although danced in London a couple of years later, but has long been forgotten.

Ekaterina Maximova as Eve in Adam and Eve
Ekaterina Maximova as Eve in Adam and Eve

Choreographers Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilev give us an ostensibly doddering ancient Creator who nevertheless is capable of exploding into some pretty fine technique when required. He is tended by three archangels and three further adorable angels who flutter their hands in lieu of wings, framing their cute bewigged faces as they cock their heads charmingly.

Stanislav Isaev is a perfect Adam, his blue-eyed, fresh-faced innocence framing the quote from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam as he extends a digit to Voloshin’s Creator. A pair of devils (in Russian, a devil and a devil-ess) who show Adam an alternative world, Vera Timashova giving us more than a hint of Aegina’s infamous seductive dance in Spartacus as she introduces Adam to womankind. In true Soviet tradition, the editors play with the film, inverting and rotating the devil’s image to throw both audience and the protagonists off balance.

The Creator intervenes just in time to pull Eve out of Adam’s rib like a rabbit out of a hat; and what a rabbit it is, no lesser light than the great Ekaterina Maximova, unbelievably two years after her retirement from the Bolshoi and nearly two and a half decades after her debut. She still looks about 15, even in close up and there is no diminution in her formidable technique either. Her huge eyes and expressive face are ideal for film and enable everyone to enjoy the utter commitment in her work from an intimate perspective.

Adam and Eve start out as sulky infants who gradually get to know themselves and each other and become naive friends. Neither the archangels nor Isaev balk at executing the famous Bolshoi one-handed lifts that Vasiliev has gifted them, one in particular seemingly effortlessly defying gravity as Maximova’s prone body brushes the dangling flora and fauna of the set. Pas de deux are sweet and fluid, both dancers having clean, near-perfect lines. Kurayeva, Lapina and Struzhkiva as the angles have a particularly showy move as they roll over from being upright en pointe to kneeling.

Stanislav Isaev as Adam, V. Voloshin as the Creator and angels in Adam and Eve
Stanislav Isaev as Adam, V. Voloshin as the Creator and angel
in Adam and Eve

Eve is no misogynic temptress but simply led astray by her, and Adam’s, curiosity as they accidentally plunge into the devil’s lair, again with dramatic assistance from the editing. Eventually, of course, the apple is eaten and, true to the creator’s warning, Adam and Eve are forced out of paradise.

In true Soviet tradition, there’s an upbeat ending, though, the cast reappearing as Adam and Eve’s progeny (no fall, no humans), and the principals dance their curtain calls in character.

This is a delightful opportunity to see Soviet greats and new, young dancers cooperate as they realise Andrei Petrov’s quirky score and it seems to have been as much fun for them as for the audience.

If you only see one of the five new releases, this is the one to pick.

Read Part 2 of Charlotte Kasner’s preview: La Sylphide & Chopinana
Part 3: Grigorovich’s Ivan the Terrible and Romeo & Juliet