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Modanse Svetlana Zakharova - London Coliseum December 2019

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Not sure if anyone else went to see this last night, but I thought I'd write a few words! 


For starters, having booked the cheapest seats available (still fairly pricey at £27 including booking fee!) it appeared that tickets didn't sell brilliantly well, so the entire Balcony was closed. Balcony ticket holders were upgraded to Dress and Upper Circle which was a nice surprise. I imagine the poor sales has been due to the lack of advertising, as well as the fact tickets only went on sale a couple of months ago (I believe?) which considering this is a busy time of year didn't really give people much time to advance plan etc. Anyway, I digress. 


The evening was made up of two works - Like a Breath, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti with music by Handel, and Gabrielle Chanel, a new ballet receiving it's London premiere (a collaboration between choreographer Yuri Possokhov and composer Ilya Demutsky).  


Like a Breath I really enjoyed. The music was recorded, but complimented the choreography well. A sparse dark stage with clean lighting. There were lots of nice solos and pas de deuxs for the various Bolshoi dancers, who were all technically excellent and really highlighted the excellence of the 'Russian' style (there is now way you could have confused them for the Royal Ballet!). The costumes were quite interesting, almost couture/fashion like tutus with interesting shapes. Zakharova was excellent, pitch perfect to the music and made everything look effortless - from her high leg extensions to her flowing arms. It was nice to see some comical/light hearted moments in some of the pieces, and I think gave all the dancers involved good exposure and didn't revolve solely around Zakharova (I'm aware most people probably went to see her but considering the calibre of the other dancers it was nice that they were given more meatier things to do too). Sorry I can't describe much else - I find it difficult to describe contemporary works considering I am not a ballet expertise, but I thought it was a very interesting piece of work. 


Gabrielle Chanel was the 'main' piece, however I found it a overly long and felt it used a lot of exposition (with some french text interspersing the scenes to set the tone, I can't speak French and no English translation was provided which was a bit annoying), including video screens as backdrops for various settings (cafe/the races/the beach etc) and some of it just felt a bit too 'obvious'. The choreography didn't really do much for me to be honest, I felt an over reliance on the screens, props and costumes to tell the story. It felt a little like a promo piece for Chanel clothing and lifestyle to be honest, everything looked wonderful as you would expect, very sophisticated and glamorous, but for me there was some real emotional core missing. Having said that, Zakharova is a very emotive dancer who really 'feels' a character and gets into the work (it was quite touching to see her emotional response to the audience at the end, nothing over the top but from her face I really felt she appreciated sharing her dancing with us) and I'm glad I got to see this side of her in this narrative ballet. Despite this, unfortunately I didn't really feel this work moved me or excited me in any way.


In conclusion - I'm glad I got to see a little more of the Bolshoi, especially their 'contemporary' side, and finally got to see Zakharova perform in the flesh. It's a shame it didn't sell as it should have done, despite not liking the Chanel piece the first work was worth going to see. It would be nice to see the Bolshoi (and other international companies) bring more contemporary works to London (I'm aware this wasn't an official Bolshoi evening) rather than just bringing the old classic three act ballets, but I guess it depends on what sells. 

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Quickly, as I have very little time .... and am pressed in what there is of that.


I thought this absolutely magical with a thrilling panoply of dancers from the Bolshoi dancing pieces in which you feel their commitment is visceral.  That’s something we rarely got I felt in their sojourn at the ROH last summer.  Never seen Zakharova better than in either of these pieces – be it with the Bolshoi or, indeed, at La Scala - and it was a true thrill to be at the opening of the Chanel ballet with both the choreographer and composer present. Let’s face it.  The Russians just don’t do elaborate – or in many instances any – mime.  This was a series of snap shots gloriously lit and dressed in ballet costumes – not yards and yards of oft unnecessarily heavy Georigiadis  – that were created in homage to their titled doyen BY the Maison Chanel.  (OK the Nazis didn’t appear – but this was bio light.  We had to take this as read and was I often felt it was – from a Russian perspective – more effective for it.)  This was Russian/French cool not a British sense of ballet hot seemingly seeking to cross T’s and dot narrative eyes.  At the heart of the Chanel dance work were two extraordinary PDD for Zhakarova and Tissi which I’m sure will live forever more in Russian ballet gala heaven.  To my own mind, however, it brought perhaps a shard of a different memory no less poignant and certainly  no less telling. 


Let me explain. 


When I was VERY young my parents had a flat in Paris on the Rue Cambon - in a building – one of those Francophone inverted complexes – this one with a large blue front door – still there - next to a school - which is still there - and just across from the back door of the Maison Chanel - which - replete with that mirrored staircase which rises atop its tiny lobby – too amazingly survives intacto long after the flesh of its patron saint has evaporated. 


I would sometimes go with my mother and my governess and squeeze into that little lobby space somewhere beneath my mother’s handbag.  It was I remember a wall of well appointed flesh.  Chanel - then still breathing – would – with grand panache - perch atop of those marble slabs.  She would stare down in chilly swank at the entities crammed beneath through the fringe of her heavily etched bangs and wide black rimmed glasses both being in total harmony with her stunningly appointed 'little black dress'.  Every so often - when a mannequin would dare to make her descent down those accordian stairs in one or other of the seemingly new creations - Chanel - who was, for all her gargantuan stealth, tiny - would get up and tear something off it or make some adjustment.  It was, of course, a commercial ploy but beautifully stage managed.  Nothing was ever said.  All the women beneath would applaud and, of course, crave that particular outfit because they had seen Chanel touch it.  Chanel would then take her time. She would turn, arch her back towards the crowd and then prowl back to the top of the staircase where she would once again gracefully sit, pause in thought, swivel – always at well calculated angles – and again glare down at the doting assemblage and then - as if by cue in some sort of elaborate Swiss clockwork display marking the hour - smile.  It was an icy but oh, so voguish sliver.  The ladies would sigh.


 I saw this a goodly number of times.  My governess would leave me there (I know, I know it was a different time) allowing Chanel to somehow babysit.  I couldn’t have been more than five. Somehow it entranced me.  Chanel would watch over me.  Sometimes I imagined she was smiling at me.  Certainly I believe I felt the direct stare of those piercing eyes.  It was always as if it was a Christmas window – no matter what the time of year – and this the most vivid, breathing display.  It was that sleeping beauty at Madame Tussauds – with its undulating breast - come alive in the truest sense.  The image kissed.  The mystery, however, was preserved.  It enticed.  That was its joy.  I would press my face against that large window pane watching Chanel give repeat performances from far above.  (You have to remember I was relatively small then too.)  I was mesmerised by the theatricality of it.  It was to have – I’ve since learned – a noted effect on my own life.  I realise now it was one of the first (and I believe one of the best) lessons I was to have in effective staging.  It was, too, of course, a different world.  Fashions may come and go but style as Chanel showed us doesn't.  Women are, after all, - and thank heavens - still wearing the trousers such as Chanel gave them the nod they could. As for me I was - as I have so often said - simply lucky to have been born when I was. That I do know.    


But back to the heart of this performance – the dancing IS extraordinary.  I’ve gone twice.  I will go again and feel lucky at having the opportunity to do so.  What joy it was to see Jacopo Tissi shine. He was for many here (myself included) such a disappointment when he guested as a replacement in the RB's R&J – Please don’t ask him or Zahkarova to act.  They radiate from within.  It is, or so we lucky few saw – a gift.  Here he could just be uncontrollably pretty (reminding one of another Italian who recently guested at the RB at a similar vintage) and dance - both of which he was - it has to be said - EXCEEDINGLY good at. Has a leap ever exploded at such length from such a coiled fifth???  The combination of Vyacheslav Lopatin and Anastasia Stashkevich in the first ballet dazzled .... Both were sorely missed in the last Bolshoi Company visit here.  Lopatin is a masterwork of a dancer – with Zelensky-like landings – i.e., panther like in their prowling silence.  Lopatin and Denis Savin (what a living joy this man is – and here so well used) in both pieces were mesmerising. Oh, and that male duet in the first piece with those two extraordinary young Bolshoi men – so gloriously sensitive – and please forgive me for not having their names which is my failing – were both in their riveting tandem heart-rending.  Last night the audience exploded in their appreciation as well we might.  Still one could not take one's eyes off Zakharova as the immortal Chanel or indeed as the central progenitor of Like a Breath . She more than realised Chanel's incisive words and totally deserved the prolonged applause.


Now I really must run.  I’ve gone on far longer than I intended and have a mountain of work to attend to.  Please forgive any errors.


Off I go.  I've stayed far longer than I intended.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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  • alison changed the title to Modanse Svetlana Zakharova - London Coliseum December 2019

Here's the cast list for Modanse, Alison - A tumultuous team of talents they are :) 


Svetlana Zakharova

Mikhail Lobukhin

Vyacheslav Lopatin

Denis Savin

Jacopo Tissi

Ana Turazashvili

Anastasia Stashkevich

Victoria Litvinova

Nelli Kobakhidze

Svetlana Pavlova

Marfa Fyodorova

Tatiana Osipova

Anita Pudikova

Karim Abdullin

Alexei Gaynutdinov

Anna Grigorieva

Vasily Danilchuk

Anton Gaynutdinov

Oscar Lyndon

Alexander Frame


Here are those two lads in that STUNNING duet in Like a Breath - whose names I didn't know.  



They are Alexei Gaynutdinov and Anton Gaynutdinov .. They are very much brothers in glory.  Bless them. 


Edited by Bruce Wall
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I really liked the Chanel piece very much and was wondering if the music was written especially for it. I don’t know much about Chanel but this inspired me to find out more about her. I Loved all the costumes too and some beautiful dancing definitely want to see this again. And of course great to see Oscar dancing with the Bolshoi at last in this piece. 
The first piece Come  un Respiro was very interesting in parts with a couple of really nice pas de deux and I enjoyed the music by Handel but some of it was a bit acrobatic with dancers having to be virtually contortionists and the design of these costumes was lost on me ...a bit weird! But there was just enough to keep involved till the end. 
There was a bit of a to do with the tickets though as the Balcony was closed and I had a group booking on the phone with none of the rest of the group yet there! You couldn’t exchange ticket to transfer till one was printed off from the phone ....so lots of phone calls and texts flying about but eventually got it sorted and we all ended up sitting in the Dress Circle so a good upgrade in the end! 

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Last time I flew with BA the in flight magazine had an article about the creation of Chanel  no5 perfume with much of the background  story ‘told’ (albeit somewhat historically sanitized) here....very helpful!

the costume/staging was immaculate (yes, obvious but how could you not be with such an iconic & recognisable timeless look that is Chanel?) 

I quietly admit to never having seen any Bolshoi work or evebbany footage/photos of this enchanting star....I did find there was almost a too perfect look to the female dancers that kind of made be love the ‘ordinary’ & varied look of our own RB by comparison! I imagine though a corps of swans all with these ‘perfect’ (?) proportions of overly long limbs & wistful faces would be truly stunning. 

An earlier reviewer suggested that Zakharova rather than acting embodies her roles. I agree with this.... like a method actor.....I imagine she wears nothing but Chanel in the run up to this (& glorious she looks too!). You could sense the time it took to ‘leave’ the role during the bows...

Loved the costumes & effective lighting for the minimalistic staging of the first piece.

Feel publicity could’ve been better to make it a sell out. Ballet school students ought to be at shows like this to see the variance in performance/training styles.... though I suspect it would further ‘depress’ many who struggle with this impossible to attain image of physical perfection that Russian dancers seem to all exude! 

I actually almost preferred watching the men as they were more varied & somehow more real.... but then didn’t seem to ‘mstch’ the women.... like they’d never be dating the girls; looked out of their league lookswise!! But they more than matched them in virtuosity & I feel have a greater feeling of emotional intensity.

A really interesting night out!

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Couldn't agree more about the poor publicity. Rumour had it last night that there had not only been significant offers (I took advantage of one) but a large number of seats had been given away in order to 'paper' the stalls and Grand Circle.

Also agree about the need for ballet school students to be able to see such dancing. It's a commercial venture but, when the whole of the Balcony is shut off, there is scope for some generosity too.

I enjoyed the evening. Some magnificent dancing on display, although the Chanel piece seemed rather repetitive.

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11 hours ago, LinMM said:

Well it’s definitely Oscar Frame! 
Ive got the cast list in front of me right now having just got back and can’t find anyone with the surname Lyndon 🤔 

Lyndon Alexander are Oscar's middle names! Someone clearly hit the carriage return at the wrong time hehe....

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2 hours ago, CeliB said:

Lyndon Alexander are Oscar's middle names! Someone clearly hit the carriage return at the wrong time hehe....


I really enjoyed the opportunity to 'spot' Oscar, CeliB, and then to follow him around the stage with my binoculars!!!!

Fortunately, the programme and the cast sheet insert had the names printed correctly.

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Same here Capybara and such an experience for him working in this smaller group like this and being a part of that creative experience. 
I believe in rehearsals Oscar has been partnering Zakharova even! 
She sounds like a rather nice person to work with and is always obliging to her fans. 
She is fascinating to watch in that she seems to have never ending arms and legs which the first piece showed off to perfection. 
Sorry didn’t get to see Oscar afterwards as my foot still gets quite sore towards end of the day so didn’t want to stand around too much but otherwise would have asked him to sign my programme so that his name in any way looks legible this time around!! 


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