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Hong Kong Arts Festival 2015

Review: Flames of Paris shows Bolshoi Ballet at its flamboyant best

Production is a triumph for Moscow troupe, combining spectacular dancing and dramatic power in a showcase of Bolshoi's energy, commitment and extraordinary strength in depth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2015, 11:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2015, 11:59am

Flames of Paris

Bolshoi Ballet

Cultural Centre Grand Theatre

March 24, 2015

The Bolshoi Ballet made a triumphant return to Hong Kong with Flames of Paris.  Never seen here before, the ballet is packed with spectacular dancing, from folk dance to pure classicism and offers the dramatic power, panache and flamboyance which are the Bolshoi’s trademarks.

The production is Alexei Ratmansky’s 2008 reworking of a Soviet classic from the 1930s.  Set during the French revolution, the plot is a farrago of noble peasants, gallant revolutionaries and wicked aristocrats.  While maintaining the original ballet’s celebration of the people’s triumph, its naivety is countered by Ratmansky’s introduction of a tragic love story between courageous peasant boy Jerome and innocent, ill-fated aristocrat Adeline - a sombre reminder that revolutions have victims as well as victors.

The choreography demonstrates Ratmansky’s effortless command of classical vocabulary, his flair for characterisation and his musicality. 

In response to Boris Asafiev’s lively, intelligent score (superbly performed by the Bolshoi Orchestra under Pavel Sorokin) Ratmansky creates movement which neatly contrasts the ardour of the revolutionaries, whirling, stamping and leaping, with the formal elegance and refinement of the upper classes.  He pays deserved tribute to his predecessor Vasily Vainonen by incorporating parts of the original choreography, notably in the thrilling pas de deux for Jerome’s sister Jeanne and her lover Philippe which forms the climax to the evening. 

The entire company dances with an energy, commitment and sheer physical power which sweep the audience away.

Numerous major roles reveal the troupe’s extraordinary strength in depth.  Ekaterina Krysanova brings a warm personality and dazzling technique to Jeanne; her Philippe is the charismatic Vladislav Lantratov, blessed with a soaring jump, movie star looks and breath-taking control.  Their final pas de deux, with its feat upon feat of virtuosity, brought the house down.

There was another scintillating display of technique, combined with wit and charm, from the ravishing Nina Kaptsova in the ballet within a ballet, "Rinaldo and Armida".  Vyacheslav Lopatin’s Jerome was brilliantly danced and beautifully acted, while the exquisite Anastasia Stashkevich made Adeline strong as well as sweet. Their tender love duet and Jerome’s anguish at Adeline’s death bring poignancy to this otherwise exhilarating work.