Moscow State Academy of Choreography Graduation, Bolshoi Theatre – 17 May 2017

Just as in June every year the Vaganova Academy students appear in 3 graduation performances on the Mariinsky Theatre stage, so too the Moscow State Choreographic Academy, in some ways Moscow’s equivalent to the Vaganova Academy, holds performances for its graduates on the Bolshoi stage every spring. On 17 May the first of this year’s performances took place, featuring a three act programme that covered everything from classical to new works.

Act I began with a Moscovian version of Chopiniana, slightly altering from the classical purity in choreography shown at the Mariinsky. A faster tempo throughout replaced the usual legato flavour of the piece. Here, a swivel step is changed to a clear faillé tombé, and there, the standard first position port de bras shifted to a folded elbow with the hand near the ear. The heads of the corps de ballet sylphs alter positioning based on the breath of their arms (at points where the Mariinsky version does not shift the head position). Port de bras during the tour jeté pose during the Waltz in G Flat major were shifted to an allongé position rather than first position overhead, done at the Mariinsky.

Graduate Ekaterina Fateyeva danced a swift Prelude but maintained the lyrical feel of the section. In the Eleventh Waltz, Camilla Matsi injected sudden puffs of speed when moving from position to position.

Margarita Grechanaya and Mark Chino danced the duet with equal reliability; and in the initial diagonal of jumps in the Mazurka section, Grechanaya energetically darted about the stage.

Act II crowned the evening with the presentation of Alexei Miroshnichenko’s Variations on a Rococo Theme to music by Tchaikovsky. This innovative contemporary work uses the theme mentioned in its title, adorning three girls in classical gold tutus with black overlays accompanied by four men in black velvet tunics. The opening pose, with each of the three girls punctuating the line of boys, has the females tip slowly into pencheé, their tutus flopping upward. Alexandra Trikoz danced the sparkling first pas de deux with Valery Argunov in choreography decorated with numerous pas de chats, temps de flêche and echappés en pointe. As each of the three sections progressed, the colour of the back scrim altered to fit the mood of the musical section, from yellow to blue and purple. Ekaterina Fateyeva performed the second pas de deux with Denis Zakharov, a technically polished young dancer, and Polina Afanasieva danced the final pas de trois with Marchello Pelitsioni and Mark Chino. Afanasieva is a lovely doll-like dancer, with petite proportions and perfect feet. These dancers used the structural patterns of Miroschnichenko’s choreography to their benefit. At one point, the three girls hold hands and intertwine in center stage while the men dance around them, a veritable nod to the “intricacy” of the Rococo era.

Act III brought seven divertissements, starting with the White Adagio from Swan Lake featuring Tatiana Osipova and Denis Pestryakov. Osipova, whose physique recalls Svetlana Zakharova, 190-degree extensions but a lack of attention to the carefully held fingers of the Vaganova tradition.

The charming Elizaveta Kokoreva, a short soubrette type with a welcoming stage manner and lovely port de bras, danced a vibrant duet from La Fille Mal Gardee with Denis Zakharov, whose impressive ballon and balances led him to repeatedly pull off four and five pirouettes with ease. Triple cabrioles and double tours highlighted some of his pyrotechnics, while Kokorova has the enviable ability of positioning her toes straight in her pointe shoes while the feet are pointed, a minute detail of technique that is difficult to accomplish by most dancers.

The haunting Phantom’s Ball by Dmitry Briantsev was danced with feeling by Stanislava Postnova and Anatoly Soya, both emitting a sense of naive youth and freshness in the flowing duet.

The danse des Forbans from Le Corsaire came next, delivered at a slower tempo but with utter panache by Anna Lebedeva, Oleg Pshenichnikov, Alina Lipchuk, Vitaliy Getmanov and Lav Matisse alongside Grigory Ikonnikov.

Camilla Matsi returned in the pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty accompanied again by the indefatigable Mark Chino and followed by a sultry rendition of the Bolero from Don Quixote danced by Daria Kanshina and Pyotr Gusev.

The tiny powerhouse Valeria Shikina entered the Flames of Paris pas de deux with flying ribbons and soaring emotion accompanied by her partner Igor Pugachev. Though nerves seemed to take over at several moments, Shikina’s innocent appeal was enchanting, and Pugachev emanated a masterful stage manner that even Ivan Vasiliev would envy: some of his jumps seem direct replicas of those done by the great star, and won him more applause than any other performer during the evening.

The Moscow State Academy of Choreography has some promising graduates this year and it will be interesting to see how they develop as professionals. Igor Dronov conducted the distinguished Bolshoi Orchestra attentively.