Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pirates vs. Ballerinas: The Epic Dancing

Muntagirov and Cojacaru in the Corsaire Pas de deux (de trois? d'action!)

ENB’s Corsaire is a finely danced, invigorating production of some of the silliest plot on stage. There’s not really a lot to do with Corsaire - its main advantage (swashbuckling fun) is also its main drawback (piratic idiocy). But ENB milks everything the ballet’s got for all its worth. The sets and costumes are rendered beautifully in vivid jewel tones. The pantomime is performed with verve and comedy. Everyone on stage, from Conrad (played by Vadim Muntagirov with a goattee and wicked grin) down through his pirate ranks and on to the little children, seems to be genuinely enjoying themselves. And their enthusiasm in infectious.

Junor Souza performs as Ali in the Act II pas de trois
In addition to all this rollicking pirate fun, the performances themselves are really exquisite examples of classical dancing. The central pas de deux (here turned into a pas de trois for Conrad, Medora, and Ali) was remarkable. Alina Cojocaru’s seemingly effortless extension, beautiful port de bras and picture-perfect fuettés are matched by Muntagirov’s long, textbook leaps and Junor Souza’s lithe, athletic jumps. Cojocaru and Muntagirov are also given a more modern pas de deux in the second act that also shows off their expressive dancing and some very ambitious lifts. The second act also has the tightest, most exciting plot: a murder attempt on Conrad that is thwarted at the last minute by Medora and Ali. 


Sadly, the last act fails to capitalize on that dramatic tension. It’s not really this production’s fault. Corsaire’s traditional final scene is a massive shipwreck. But in an era in which a home laptop could produce a more convincing tempest than the one on stage, there’s nothing particularly exciting about the finale. I wish the production had simply thrown tradition to the wind and ended with a scene celebrating the escape of the main characters from the palace. I also wish that the cobwebbed remains of some 19th century orientalism could finally be dusted away (though the ballet is not as bad as basically any production of Nutcracker I saw). But these are minor quibbles. This is a production with beautiful classical dancing, real comedy, well-choreographed fight scenes, and lavish sets. I highly recommend Le Corsaire: true fun for the whole balletomanic family. 

English National Ballet, Le Corsaire, January 12 matinee, Choreography: Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev, Music: Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, Prince Pyotr van Oldenburg, Ludwig Minkus, Yuly Gerber, Baron Boris Fitinhof-Schnell and Albert Zabel, Sets and Costumes: Bob Ringwood, Medora: Alina Cojocaru, Conrad: Vadim Muntagirov, Ali: Junor Souza, Guinare: Erina Takahashi, Birbanto: Yonah Acosta

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