March 9-15, 2006
Back in the bad old Soviet Union days, the words "Russian" and "ballet" used together instantaneously meant superstars and brilliant theater. But they didn't suggest contemporary or experimental, which is one reason why some of the system's greatest dancers slipped across the Iron Curtain to Western freedom.
In the years since the Russian Federation emerged out of Communism's ruin, Russian dancers have had no problem experimenting as much as they want. The Bolshoi Ballet, for one, experimented with Western-style administrative blow-ups and snafus that threatened to destroy this cultural icon.
Along the way cooler heads decided to create a ballet company honoring the Russian classics while encouraging experimentation as well. One result is the Russian National Ballet Theater, founded in the late 1980s, a company dedicated to presenting old and new choreography. Sergei Radchenko, who danced with the Bolshoi for 25 years, is at the helm, ensuring high artistic standards.
However, it seems this troupe knows on which side its cultural bread is still buttered, since its touring history reveals it steadily showcasing Swan Lake, Giselle and Nutcracker, ballet's big three. Locally, we'll see Giselle, wonderful old-fashioned theater with enchanted maidens dancing as lovely white tutu-ed wraiths.
Russian National Ballet performs this grand old ballet with more than 35 dancers and recorded music. Given Russian ballet's undiminished luster, tickets are disappearing fast. It's a safe bet that no matter how experimental the Russians get, they'll never look better than in their own ballet classics. (Maybe they'll give us a peek at the new stuff next time.)
Giselle, Russian National Ballet, Wed., March 15, 7:30 p.m., $33-$45, Zellerbach Theatre, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., 215-898-3900.