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Mariinsky Ballet, Mixed bill The Cat on the Tree/ The Four Seasons, Baden Baden

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The Mariinsky Ballet was back in Baden Baden over the holidays for its annual visit and with a variety of works – Swan Lake, two mixed bills and a gala performance. I attended the matinee performance on Boxing Day of one of the mixed bills, comprising two small-scale works that were premiered in 2017.


The Cat on the Tree is by Anton Pimonov, a former dancer with the company, to songs by Nico Muhly and Teitur Lassen. When I saw the title of the work, I thought it’d be a narrative piece – actually it isn’t. The lyrics are based on comments made below videos on YouTube, and I understand the title of Pimonov’s work is the title of one of the songs created by Nico Muhly and Teitur Lassen. The music is soft, melodic and fluid, using strings and cembalo, providing for easy listening. An example on the YouTube channel of the record company https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymbFlrch0vw. The stage is bare except for strips of light at the back and the front. Three couples (Viktoria Tereshkina – Alexander Sergeev, Ekaterina Kondaurova – Andrei Yermakov, Nadezhda Batoeva – Alexei Timofeyev) perform as group, in solos and as couples. Dance is neoclassical, fluid, on pointe and intertwined with other activities e.g., plies and slow jogging as if warming up in a gym, a dancer sits down on stage and adjusts her hair. There is a video on Andrei Yermakov’s YouTube channel with an extract of the work. It was nice to look at, contemplative, sort of a relaxing afternoon tea while looking at a gently flowing river.


The Four Seasons by Ilya Zhivoi, a dancer with the company, uses Max Richter’s version of The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. It portrays the development of a relationship through the seasons of the year/ of life and comes with a lead couple (Ekaterina Kondaurova and Xander Parish) and four supporting couples as friends of the female and male lead respectively. The pre-show introduction to the work contrasted extracts from Richter’s version with the same extract from Vivaldi’s work, an exhilarating experience. Dance is neoclassical here, too, with a PDD for the two leads in each season and interaction by the supporting friends amongst them and with their respective lead. There is also a variety of pantomime to further illustrate the emotional state of the two leads in their relationship. The colours and shapes of the costumes change with the seasons and come in shades of light red, blue, burgundy and greyish blue.

Spring. Birdsong before the curtain opens. Hedges at both sides and stretches of lawn at the back and the front of the stage. The female lead is on the lawn. The male lead appears, sees her, runs to her and tries to impress her. She looks indifferent at first and is then won over by his approach. The four supporting couples appear, the four supporting male dancers interact akin to “oh, look at the two lovebirds”, gesticulating with their arms (… my reading …).

Summer. The lawn is now at both sides of the stage. Conflict enters the relationship of the main couple and is shown through angry looks and arm movements - fists are shown, bodies turn away. The conflict extends to the supporting friends – the four couples break into male friends of the male lead and female friends of the female lead. They retreat and then approach each other with arm movements of “no more” (… again, my reading …). The lead couple goes through reconciliation at the end of summer.

Autumn. The lawn is now a single stretch at the back of the stage. The two leads dance on it, surrounded by the supporting couples, this reminded me of maybe folk dances at harvest time, a family gathering, or similar events. Joyful, playful, the two leads teasing each other. Mature love.

Winter. Icebergs depict the cold atmosphere on stage. The male lead reaches out to the female lead, she withdraws and turns to her female group of friends, he then interacts with his male group of friends.

Spring returns, and the lead couple is back on the lawn (and one other couple underneath the lawn). The pre-show introduction ended with a melancholic outlook at the end of winter in that love didn’t work out. So when spring returns, has their love been reinvigorated, or do the two leads now represent another couple at the start of their relationship?

I liked the clear, straightforward and effective stage design and the flowing costumes as they changed from season to season. It was interesting to see that a number of times, the male lead takes the initiative (e.g., at the start of spring and in winter) but it is the response of the female lead that determines how their relationship moves ahead. Equally, the supporting couples often act as a group but in times of conflict this changes, and the male friends then turn to supporting the male lead whereas the female friends support the female lead.

Extract on the company’s web site https://mariinsky.tv/1147-en.


I hope the company will continue to bring modern works to Baden Baden as part of future visits.


Edited by Duck
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