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A Classic Tale Brings Modernity to Ballet: Bolshoi's "The Legend of Love"

by Rita Kohn
October 26, 2014
AMC Castleton Square 14
6020 E 82nd Street
Indianapolis, IN 46250
Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association
Yuri Grigorovich's choreography and Arif Malikov's music for "The Legend of Love" are mesmerizing. Within the storybook setting created by Simon Virsaladze, the Persian legend of unrequited love here plunges us into the themes of sisterly love, sacrifice and jealousy set within a kingdom in the midst of a crisis—the water supply has disappeared. The libretto by Nazym Hikmet and Yuri Grigorovich bristles with the political and intellectual sensibilities of the Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet, who refashioned the ancient text into a 20th century play in which duty to one's people rises above personal desires.

Grigorovich and Malikov have been credited with creating the quintessential 20th century ballet, just as Marius Petapa and Tchaikovsky were credited with the quintessential 19th century ballet with "The Sleeping Beauty."

Merging Persian classical movement and modern dance technique upon classical ballet, Grigorovich created a breakthrough, immediate masterpiece. The dancers have had to acquire a whole new movement language and develop an intuitive balance between pulling dimensional characters from within themselves while maintaining the fluidity of the story. By integrating traditional mime into the dancing, Grigorovich further brought classical ballet into a modernist sensibility. He borrowed from opera to bring forward each main character's subtext in a heightened scene through a surrounding corps de ballet in the same way an operatic chorus supplies contiguous breadth and depth. And just as Griforovich echoes Martha Graham, Malikov brings to mind every other 20th century Russian composer. Together they evoke the essence of why the queen willingly gives up her beauty as the only way to save her sister from dieing, only to regret her sacrifice when she realizes that the man she loves has instead fallen in love with her sister. In a fit of jealousy and in the wake of the people's pleading for something to be done for their sake, the Queen sends Ferhard on an impossible task—bore through the mountain to get to a water supply. Foregoing his desire for the Princess, Ferhard undertakes the impossible task so as to save the kingdom.

The visual elements of the production are sterling. Camera work to make us feel as though we are in Moscow was superb.

On Oct. 26 Maria Allash stepped in as Queen Mekhmene Banu for the ailing Svetlana Zakharova Anna Nikulina danced Princess Shireen and Denis Rodkin was Ferhad, the court painter. The entire cast was superb in every way.
More at: www.fandango.com, www.bolshoi.ru/en/performances/71/ and www.amctheatres.com/movies/.

Photo © & courtesy of Damir Yusupov

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