“Dances of the World”
Igor Moiseyev Ballet
Hall of Church Councils
April 7, 2023
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf
I’ve had the Moiseyev Ballet on my wish list for quite some time. During my latest visit to Moscow, I lucked out: one of their rare performances was announced for the Hall of Church Councils. Though it was a challenge to find the venue and its entrance (not a single poster to be found), I arrived in time. The spacious 1300-seat hall happens to be located right between the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (the largest of the Russian-Orthodox churches) and the Moskva river. The buzz of excited children (and audience members of all ages!) filled the foyer.
“Dances of the World” was comprised of eleven folk dances from, as the title suggests, all over the world – each choreographed by the company’s founder Igor Moiseyev (1906 – 2007). His vast choreographic legacy has been kept alive by the 88 dancers and small symphonic orchestra of 35 musicians based in Moscow.
“Summer” – the Russian dance – picked up in pace once Roman Gavrilov had coaxed coy Eugenia Pankova to dance. They were quickly joined by an array of other couples, heels and toes tapping the floor in dashing rhythm. It took only a few minutes for the audience to begin clapping along to the flurry of turns and squat dances, infected by the boisterous spirit that the company radiated throughout. Clapping continued during the Hungarian dance – “Pontozoo” – this time as part of the four male dancers’ snappy show-off.
The brightly-colored, white-dotted dresses and braided, ribbon-laid hair of the six women tackling the Russian “Polyanka” made them seem cheeky youth at a village fair. They – and their six male companions – were after nothing more (or less!) than exuberant fun and banter.
The four couples of “Pictures of the Past” went one step further in their overtures. As they shucked and nibbled at pistachios, they sauntered about as if on a small-town Sunday morning promenade. We’re back in the 1920s, where a small band (featuring a balalaika, accordions, and a spirited tambourine) accompanies the strolling dancers. Flirtations abound in all directions, causing some consternation – but soon enough, every Jack returned to his Jill, and the couples entered into a perky quadrille, mingling with the musicians (who, as it turned out, could also cut up a mean floor).
The twelve young men who perched drowsily on and next to a green fence in the Moldavian suite were brought to their feet by the brazen Yury Chernyshkov (presumably the “cunning Mokanu” of the piece’s title). His pranks were swiftly avenged, though. First, the men snag Chernyshkov’s gray cap, then his embroidered vest, and finally his scarf. Showing off his prowess as a dancer, Chernyshkov wins back every piece of clothing and, in a moment of feeling his oats, snatches everyone else’s caps in return. The men laughed on, failing to realize that it was in fact they who had been fooled.
Especially heartwarming was the suite’s second part, in which Chernyshkov encouraged the terribly shy Artem Anisimov to approach one of the women (Anastasia Sorokina). Chernyshkov’s step-by-step instruction (which flew in the face of the old saying about leading a horse to water) was a beautiful success, making Chernyshkov happy as a lark. It was a joy to watch him skip about with glee.
The Moiseyev Ballet traditionally announces its program orally. After the break, the mood had reached such a temperature that each title was greeted with cheers. Smiles abounded in the Greek “Sirtaki”, in which men one-upped each other while pulling off audacious feats. “Tlyapatet”, by contrast, was a calm and solemn processional dance, originally performed by the Adyghe in the North Caucasus. Its twelve women wore red, floor-length velvet robes and late 19th century cothurni (open wooden shoes with metal trimming). Their high props only allowed a measured gait that was accentuated by the rattle of maracas.
A brisk volley of clapping and lightning-fast footwork cranked up the pace in the Argentinian “Malambo”. Given the daredevil nature of the solos (which saw ankles thump onto the floor as if made from rubber), Argentinians must not be a squeamish folk.
The Mexicans preferred to score by showing off their fashion. The color white dominated their “Sapateo” and “Avalulko” – pants, shirts, floor-length dresses – everything was pristine white. Tasteful accessories – straw hats, huge silver earrings, and pink-and-green hair ribbons – hinted at a festive summer celebration. The eyecatcher was a set of black overskirts embroidered with huge colorful flowers, which the women suddenly revealed from behind their skirts’ lavish white frills.
A jump westward across the Pacific brought us from Mexico to Mongolia – and, more precisely, to the all-gold sculpture that was Ekaterina Tikhonova. Kneeling on the floor, Tikhonova moved first just her fingers, then her hands and arms. She finished her calming ritual dance in the spotlight, modestly hopping on her toes.
A fanfare heralded the entrance of sailors, identifiable in their blue-and-white striped shirts and sailor hats. Their commander (Artem Anisimov) kept the crew in line and on the move scrubbing and polishing the ship. The machinery worked like clockwork – no chance for a cigarette break or a chat! – not least thanks to two diligent mechanics: Igor Okhlopkov (an expert with the wrench) and Yury Chernyshkov (a dutiful distributor of oil). You need a well-kept navy of dancers like them to preserve the ties between cultures all over the world.
A quote by Elena Shcherbakova, the artistic director (and former dancer), sums up the spirit of the company: “Everything around seems to be outdated, needs to be updated, and Igor Moiseyev has a timeless, unique perception of the world (…)”. The fruits of this perception are warmth and soulfulness, which the company offers in abundance.
|Link:||Website of the Igor Moiseyev Ballet|
|Photos:||(The photos partly show another cast from an earlier performance.)|
|1.||Russian dance “Summer”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|2.||Russian dance “Summer”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|3.||“Old City Quadrille” from “Pictures of the Past”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|4.||Suite of the Greek dance “Sirtaki”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|5.||Suite of the Greek dance “Sirtaki”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|6.||Adyghe dance “Tlyapatet”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|7.||Suite of Mexican dances, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov
|8.||Suite of Mexican dances, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov|
|9.|| Mongolian sculpture, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet / E.Masalkov
|10.||Naval Suite “Engine Room”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet|
|11.||Naval Suite “Engine Room”, “Dances of the World”, Igor Moiseyev Ballet 2023 © Igor Moiseyev Ballet|
|12.||Igor Moiseyev © Igor Moiseyev Ballet|
|13.||Elena Shcherbakova and Igor Moiseyev © Igor Moiseyev Ballet|