Nina Ananiashvili and nine dancers from her State Ballet of Georgia along with eight Georgian musicians charmed a full house at Avery Fisher Hall Saturday night. The audience was mostly Eastern European. Everyone seemed to be dressed to the nines. No one heeded the no flash camera rule, and it seemed everyone had a camera despite security's scrutiny at the ticket entrance. Well, you know, it's Nina. The ushers were helpless.
There was no real need to throw bouquets on the stage - not when you could walk right to its edge and gently lay the roses on the marley and have Nina come over, pick them up, and shake your hand as happened after her second performance of the Dying Swan. Yes, the second performance. You see, Nina performed the Dying Swan twice last night – two different versions. The first time she bourreed out with her back to the audience, arms rippling as only Nina can do. The swan's death ended abruptly and tragically – with the swan resisting to the end as it spun a half circle on the floor to its final pose. The second version saw Nina bourree out facing the audience, arms rippling. This time the swan died with a quiet sense of resignation, sorrow, and peace. The Dying Swan was kind of the best part of the evening which was focused on the early choreography of Alexei Ratmansky. Nina was the one responsible for Alexei getting his first choreographic opportunity at the Bolshoi, and as they say, the rest is history.
Charms of Mannerism (1997), Bizet Variations (2008), and Dreams about Japan (1998) offered a glimpse of Ratmansky's progression as a creator. The Bizet Variations most closely resembled the current state of his development. With its three couples engaging in their individual stories with lovely lyrical, flowing choreography, it reminded Haglund of Seven Sonatas – a whole lot. The Charms of Mannerism and Dreams about Japan reflected Ratmansky's habit of ending a piece with everyone in the cast grouped together on the stage staring at the audience, sometimes waving happily. We've probably seen enough of that; it appears in both The Bright Stream and The Little Humpbacked Horse. In Charms and Dreams, Ratmansky tried to employ humor which often seemed unsophisticated and sometimes even geeky. Haglund thinks it's time to get serious about generating new work that doesn't repeat old choreographic ideas or resort to overdone humor. Hopefully, we'll get something like that in the new Firebird for ABT.
Nina only brought nine dancers with her. The women looked and danced like a cohesive unit whereas the men were far more varied in appearance and ability. Philippe Solano excelled in his Sagi Musume solo in Dreams about Japan, a version of which you can watch here. There were lots of interesting moments in his solo which were then interrupted with arbitrary ballet tricks. Ratmansky inserted fouettes and pirouettes in much of the evening's choreography by force rather than by integrated design, but for what reason? We've seen this trait in other of his works. If it has to do with what he perceives are audience expectations or its understanding of ballet, then it's truly an insult. Besides, everyone knows the ages-old rule in ballet: when you don't know what to do, soutenou – not fouette and pirouette – those don't even rhyme.
Anyway, Haglund wants to report that Nina looked and danced wonderfully. Her leg lines are still long as we remember them, her face still beautifully soulful, her connection with the audience still from her heart to ours. Many thanks to Nina for the charms, dreams, and above all the many years of her Swan: