What is it about ballet that makes even the most unathletic among us feel so hopeful?
During Wednesday night’s appearance by the Russian National Ballet at Artemus Ham Hall, I kept wondering if my childlike glee was the result of all that disciplined movement. Or maybe it was just the joy in watching people defying gravity in ways Stephen Schwartz could only imagine. Or maybe all that skill was secondary to the dramatic stories and attitudes that the choreography suggested.
Beats me. All I can say with confidence is that as an ignorant but appreciative observer, I found it a hell of an evening.
The company — founded in 1985 in Moscow — is well-known for its full-length, traditional (well, in Russia anyway) takes on the likes of “Sleeping Beauty,” “Don Quixote” and “Swan Lake.” Here, in a quick-moving program, we were treated to hearty samples. The appetizers were enough to pique your curiosity for the complete productions.
Things got off to a seductive start with the pas de deux from Act III’s wedding celebration in Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and continued with teasers from “Carmen,” “The Humpbacked Horse” (based on the fairy tale by P.P. Yershow), “Le Corsaire” (inspired by Lord Byron’s poem) and “The Dying Swan” (created by Anna Pavolva in 1907).
The visuals were surprisingly complete. I expected the elegant and fantasy-inducing costumes, but was taken aback by a series of stunning tableaux.
The program notes offered an entertaining historical insight into each piece, which helped make the experience more accessible.
A sidenote: I went to the performance very much aware that the company recently had been in the news. On Feb. 2, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that members of the troupe were attacked in a hotel by a man who was upset that the dancers were speaking Russian. There were no major injuries, but the incident was an American embarrassment. It’s amazing, though, how easy that sort of hate can be discouraged by art. You can’t watch these dancers and not think kindness.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
WHAT: RUSSIAN NATIONAL BALLET
WHEN: FEB. 11
WHERE: ARTEMUS HAM HALL, UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS