A feast for the eyes and ears, the prestigious Mariinsky Ballet sweeps back to The Kennedy Center’s lavish Opera House this week for their annual engagement. While this is something that DMV ballet fans look forward to every year, this year is a special treat. The Mariinsky presents a joyous and opulent new version of “Paquita,” rarely performed in its entirety, now playing through October 13th 2019.
Set in 19th century Spain, “Paquita” tells the tale of a beautiful young woman stolen away as a child by travelers. She is trained to be a street dancer, where she catches the eye of a dashing caballero’s son, Andres. He walks away from life as he knows it to follow the beautiful Paquita, and joins the traveler family to prove his devotion. They fall in love and then the group comes to a wealthy woman’s home for a special performance. When the widow’s daughter takes a fancy to Andres, he gently turns her down; he only has eyes for Paquita. The daughter, Carducha, is furious at her affections being spurned, and sets up the travelers for an accusation of theft by planting valuables in their wagon. When the wagon is searched, Andres accidentally kills an officer in the resulting scuffle and he and Paquita are arrested. What will become of the young lovers? Will the secret of her true parentage ever be revealed?
Overall this ballet was a feast for the senses and is not to be missed.
The Mariinsky Ballet brings an impressive pedigree to the Kennedy Center stage. This company is intrinsically linked to the Russian choreographic art, and as anyone who knows about ballet knows, the Russians are some of the best in the world. Not only was this company influenced by the incomparable Marius Petipa, who served as their ballet master beginning in 1869, but also some of the most recognizable dancers in history have danced with the company; most notably, Anna Pavlova.
This production of “Paquita” is not a revival of the production of the 1800s, but is instead a reimagining by choreographer Yuri Smekalov. While this new version honors the repertoire of St. Petersburg ballet, it also refreshes it. Several numbers have been re-orchestrated, the beautiful score has been added to, and some of the numbers have been rearranged. The choreography has also gotten a re-fresh by Yuri Burlaka, who revived Petipa’s vision by reviewing surviving records of the original production. This three-act version, complete with the Grand Pas Variations that close the show, is a celebration of the classical ballet tradition.
This reviewer saw “Paquita” on Tuesday night and was incredibly impressed not only by the technical achievement of the production but also the scale of the production as a whole. The gorgeous backdrops and sets, the sumptuously detailed costumes, the rich playing of this jubilant score; this ballet was perfection. Viktoria Tereshkina was lovely as the title character. Her dancing was tight and precise, but also her smile and stage presence were excellent. She particularly excelled in Act III as she did an impressive series of pirouettes as part of the finale of the Grand Pas Variations. She was able to move effortlessly from upbeat movement to more melancholy dance.
Timur Askerov also impressed as Andres. His artistic prowess and raw charisma allowed him to shine in this role. His circular leaps towards the end of the show were stunning in both their controlled power and technical skill. Tereshkina and Askerov also performed well together.
Their dancing moved from sweet flirtation to joyful devotion, which you could follow easily through their choreography and interactions. Other standouts were Yekaterina Chebykina as Cristina and Renata Shakirova as the villainous Carducha. Finally, the young students of the Vaganova Academy absolutely stole the show. Their two featured dances were both technically impressive as well as infused with effervescent energy. It was amazing to see that these young dancers had not only a high level of danceability at such a young age, but also that they had such sparking stage presence as well.
As impressive as the dancing in this production is, it is threatened to be overshadowed by the sumptuous costumes and ornate sets. The backdrops are seemingly hand-painted and epicly sized. Combined with the detailed set pieces, it truly brings the world of “Paquita” alive onstage.
(Production design by Andrei Savbo). However impressive the sets were though, they could not touch the rich and opulent costumes that dazzled throughout the show. These costumes were historically relevant, colorful, of high quality, and maybe most impressively, were represented across a large cast. Everyone is a scene had fully realized characters represented through their wardrobe. Nobles had tiara and gowns, with the men fully outfitted all the way down to false facial hair. Servants had their own specific look, and then the travelers stood out with their own unique look. The show really outdid itself when the Grand Pas Variations began in Act III.
Stunning tutus in vibrant jewel tones with sparkling accents all over dominated the stage and enhanced the technically challenging choreography by the corps de ballet and soloists alike.
(Costume design by Elena Zaitseva). Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the gorgeous musical accompaniment provided by the live orchestra. One interesting bit of information is that conductor Gavriel Heine is the first American in history to graduate from the prestigious Moscow Conservatory.
Overall this ballet was a feast for the senses and is not to be missed. If you are a fan of classical ballet, be sure to see “Paquita” before it leaps out of the Kennedy Center.
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours with 2 intermissions.
“Paquita” by the Mariinsky Ballet is now playing at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It is appropriate for all ages, but due to the length of the ballet, it is recommended for audiences 10 and above. For more information on tickets, please click here.