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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Triple Ballet Bill Promises Best of 20th Century

For MTThe performance of “Na Floresta” will be Duato’s first venture in Russia.
This weekend, the ballet troupe of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater presents its final premiere of the season, a triple bill of one-act ballets titled “Choreographic Masterpieces of the 20th Century.”

Two of the works on the bill are new to Moscow: “Na Floresta” — Portuguese for “In the Forest” — a ballet by the highly regarded Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato that was originally created in 1990 for The Netherlands Dance Theater; and “Marguerite and Armand,” the work of Britain’s leading 20th-century choreographer, Frederick Ashton, first staged in 1963 for London’s Royal Ballet as a vehicle for the now-legendary dance partnership of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.

Filling out the program is a revival of “The Ghostly Ball,” choreographed in 1995 by the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko’s principal ballet master for nearly two decades, Dmitry Bryan­tsev.

Duato’s home base is Madrid, where he has served for the past 19 years as artistic director of Spain’s Compania Nacional de Danza. The staging of “Na Floresta” for the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko is his very first artistic venture in Russia, though invitations have repeatedly gone out to him in the past from both the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters.

“Na Floresta” is one of Duato’s most popular works and has been danced by ballet companies throughout the world. Entirely abstract, without any hint of a story line, it is set in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil and can perhaps most accurately be described as a hymn in praise of that region’s extraordinary natural beauty. Its music is a 23-minute score by Brazil’s most prominent composer of the 20th century, Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Duato visited Moscow for a few days last week to oversee final preparations for the premiere of “Na Floresta” and in a brief conversation just before his departure pronounced himself well-satisfied with the work of the mostly young dancers he chose for his Moscow casts. He particularly praised their beautiful technique and their zeal in seeking to master the unfamiliar and extremely difficult dance vocabulary of “Na Floresta.”

The choreographer has hinted at a return to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko to create an entirely new ballet. Meanwhile, he is already at work with his own Madrid company on another new ballet for Moscow, to be presented at next summer’s very special Chekhov International Theater Festival celebrating the 150th anniversary of Chekhov’s birth. Rather than attempting to set a Chekhov play or story to dance, Duato has turned to the author’s life, particularly as reflected in his detailed notebooks, with the idea of fashioning a ballet that the choreographer hopes “will say something about Chekhov’s soul.”

Shortly after his defection from the Soviet Union in 1961, Rudolf Nureyev was engaged by the Royal Ballet, where the then-23-year-old dancer found himself paired with Margot Fonteyn, a ballerina nearly two decades his senior. The partnership worked extraordinarily well and, in the case of Fonteyn, effectively opened the door to what amounted to a new career, one filled with fresh energy and imagination.

Ashton soon decided to create a ballet especially for the pair, basing its story on the novel “La Dame aux Camelias” by Alexandre Dumas the Younger, the same tale employed by Giuseppe Verdi for his opera “La Traviata.” For music, Ashton commissioned an orchestral arrangement of the Piano Sonata in B Minor by Franz Liszt, very appropriate music, in his view, considering that Liszt had allegedly been a lover of Marie Duplessis, the real-life model for the heroine of Dumas’ novel.

Rehearsals of the ballet proved difficult and at times explosive. The passionate duets, in Nureyev’s words, were “totally improvised. … We had like kind of orgasm.” After much delay, the work finally received its premiere in March 1963. Its reception proved overwhelmingly favorable, and it went on to be regularly danced by Fonteyn and Nureyev for the next 14 years.

“The Ghostly Ball” was one of the most successful of the many ballets created by Dmitry Bryantsev during his term as principal ballet master of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko from 1985 until his apparent murder in the Czech Republic five years ago. Bryantsev gained particular renown for his skill at devising ballets in miniature and “The Ghostly Ball” consists, in effect, of a series of “miniatures,” five sharply contrasting duets, each performed by a different pair of dancers. In their separate ways, all of the duets seem to evoke both the world of ballet as it was in bygone times and the atmosphere of Bryantsev’s native St. Petersburg. Like “Marguerite and Armand,” “The Ghostly Ball” is danced to an orchestral arrangement of music originally written for piano, in this case, works by Frederic Chopin.

“Choreographic Masterpieces of the 20th Century” (Khoreograficheskiye shedevry XX veka) plays on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater, located at 17 Bolshaya Dmitrovka. Metro Chekhovskaya, Pushkinskaya. Tel. 629-2835.