The Bolshoi's season at Drury Lane got off to a pleasing start with its first programme which was a winner. The first half consisted of Act 2 of Yuri Grigorovich's version of "Swan Lake". The corps de ballet of swans, which has been scaled down to 18 from the normal number of 24, had a uniformity typical of Russian companies.
Interestingly there are three big swans instead of two in this Grigorovich version. Anna Antonicheva danced Odette beautifully with a warm femininity. She has a long and thin line, and her dancing had an elegiac tone that was moving. Antonicheva's legwork was sharp. In her solo, she articulated very well the passage where Odette does a 'develope' with her working leg which she then turns back with a 'passe'. Her Prince Siegfried was the noble Sergei Filin who danced with a romantic ardour.
The second half of the evening had five divertissement numbers. Antonicheva returned for the short adagio from "Raymonda" partnered by Andrei Uvarov. Then we saw the pas de deux from Vainonen's version of "Nutcracker" which the Kirov had danced in the London Coliseum in 1996. Nina Kaptsova has an old-style Bolshoi glamour, with a slightly heavy upper body which is compensated by her incisive legs. Interestingly in this version, Masha does no 'gargouillades' in her solo. Her partner Yan Godovsky was more demi-caractere in style. He showed off his impressive turns and jumps.
My favourite item was the pas de deux from Bournonville's "Flower Festival at Genzano" danced with great flair by Anastasia Goriacheva and Dmitry Gudanov. Their dancing abounded in joy. Goriacheva danced with delicacy and finesse the intricate knitting steps in Bournonville's choreography. Gudanov is a natural Bournonville dancer, with an impressive ballon, and excels in the 'battu' and 'elance' steps. His double tours en l'air, which he executed in both directions, were dazzling. I greatly look forward to seeing him in "La Sylphide" pas de deux in the Bolshoi's second programme, with Svetlana Lunkina.
22-year-old Svetlana Lunkina was the discovery of the Bolshoi's last season at the London Coliseum in 1999. This time she excelled again in the "Giselle" pas de deux. Lunkina cuts a ravishing figure with her long and thin limbs. Her legs have great power in adagio. Her Giselle had a dreamy elusiveness which captured the heart of this ballet. The large floating lifts were strongly executed by her Albrecht, Sergei Filin.
However I was slightly impressed by Maria Alexandrova in "Don Quixote" pas de deux. I remember Alexandrova as an imperious Myrtha in the Bolshoi 1999 London season. Two years on she has developed into a monotonous hard-edged virtuoso dancer without much softness. Her self-congratulatory air in her dancing was slightly off-putting. Andrei Uvarov had a dazzling virtuosity as Basilio. His powerful manege of 'coupe jetes' were space-devouring.
In the first variation, Maria Allash travelled in her grands jetes like a javelin in typical Bolshoi fashion. The second variation was stylishly danced by Olga Suvorova who had a lovely port de bras.
The house wasn't particularly full on the two evenings that I attended, but there was loud applause from the excited audience. The divertissements in the other two programmes look interesting and are highly recommendable.