The celebrations of Maya Plisetskaya’s 80th birthday (years that her beauty and blazing temperament utterly deny) continue round the world, a fact unprecedented and heart-warming. On Sunday night the Royal Opera House was the setting for a succession of variously splendid or noxious duets, a solo, and the unhappy moment when Ivan Putrov injured his knee during part of Giselle’s second act and was unable even to hobble off stage. All good thoughts to him.
A listing of these events is about as interesting as the contents of someone else’s laundry basket (well, at least to the nice-minded), and I record that dance honours, in an evening that brought artists from Moscow and St Petersburg to join Royal Ballet dancers, went especially to Uliana Lopatkina and Ilya Kuznetsov in La Rose malade, a grieving duet to the Mahler fifth symphony adagio, which Roland Petit made for Plisetskaya. Dazzling were Alina Cojocaru and Stephen McRae (vivid in dynamics, witty) in a duet from Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, and commandingly good was the account of Alexey Ratmansky’s Middle Duet from Svetlana Zakharova and Andrey Merkuriev to a score from Yury Khanin that sounded like disintegrating Bach, matched by an academic language that was convulsed, broken, reassembled like its music, and which fascinated me.
There was more, much more, not least a Dying Swan in hysterical extremis from Irma Nioradze, and that wonky interpolated duet from Scheherazade that looks like a graphic illustration of the onset of amoebic dysentry, in which Farukh Ruzimatov was somehow astonishing. And Plisetskaya reigned: dancing her fiddly little Béjart solo, Ave Maya, but triumphing over it, of course, and then reminding us of performances in Carmen and Bolero, sketching steps, her torso and arms replete with dance, beautiful as her own icon. A star. A fire- storm. An affirmation of life.
By Clement Crisp