To Russia and Maya With Love…..
Iconic ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, likely performing Scheherazade
Last night the Mariinsky Ballet — the Russian company once also known as the Kirov — performed Anna Karenina at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. The story, based on the novel by Tolstoy, centers on one woman, Anna, torn between her husband and little boy, and her lover. She ultimately throws herself in front of a train because deciding between love and duty proves too much to bear. This main plot of the novel played out through the dancers last evening, through basic choreography (lots of developee’s for the ladies and a several tours en l’air for the gents) to the music of Rodion Shcherdin, the husband of ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. I will not even attempt to critique the dancing because — while there were not feats like multiple fouette turns or a gravitas laden pas de deux — as someone who trained in ballet, it is impossible for me to be impartial when I know what required effort goes into making each step perfect. Chalk it up to conflict of interest.
The role of Anna was originated by ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. Plisetskaya, 85 years old, was originally expected last evening — an honorary night for her –but her husband was taken ill in Munich.
While I sadly cannot share the tale of meeting one of the greatest ballerinas of all time, some details from the post premiere dinner (sponsored by the White Nights Foundation) at the Madarin Oriental Hotel appeared to speak to the current moment. Seems that people will always go back to what’s familiar to them historically. Yoko Ono, who slipped out before the Chilean sea bass supper, told me that she loved the music. I remarked it was more harmonic, dissonant, to which she — an avant-garde musician herself– heartily shook her head in assent. Gabriel Prokofiev, the composer’s great great grandson, deejayed the post party with his own dissonant take on what could have been grandpa’s scores as Mariinsky company dancers waited in the wings for someone to spin them around. (Nobody did. I credit the intimidation factor of `suits’ attempting to tango with pro nymphs.) I remarked to a friend that the tunes reminded me a bit of Kubrick’s music throughout his last film”Eyes Wide Shut.” All the while, Russian guests — of which there were several for the company’s return to Lincoln Center after at decade — threw back shots of premium vodka in chiseled ice shot glasses.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to see this version of Anna Karenina — choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky– lies also with the ‘zeitgeist.’ Yuri Fateyev, Deputy Director of the Mariinsky Ballet, (and one of my dinner companions) explained, with a mischievous glint in his eye. “You know the story of a woman who has two men, but also a child or children with one of them is very common right now.” He threw back a shot of vodka. “Yes.” I said. “But hopefully they are not throwing themselves in front of trains.”
GET TICKETS FOR PERFORMANCES FOR TOMORROW THROUGH THURSDAY: MARIINSKY BALLET LINCOLN CENTER
**SPECIAL THANKS TO JONATHAN MARDER, WHO WAS KIND ENOUGH TO INVITE ME AS HIS SPECIAL GUEST AS A FORMER DANCER AND NOT SPECIFICALLY AS PRESS