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Russian ballet wows audiences at Abu Dhabi Fest

Silvia Radan / 16 March 2013

ABU DHABI — It may be over 200 years old, but Russia’s oldest and arguably finest ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, has been one of the highlights of the tenth Abu Dhabi Festival so far.

Both March 14 and 15 performances sold out weeks ago and the audiences of the Emirates Palace auditorium were in standing ovation both nights.

“I’ve rarely seen anything more beautiful and graceful on a stage. I used to do ballet myself years ago and I know how difficult it is; yet, they make it look so easy. For me, they really are the best classical dancers in the world,” said Russian Elena Reyes, who lives in Abu Dhabi.

The programme was “Homage to Fokine”, Mariinsky Ballet’s tribute to the great Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine (1880-1942), whose work thrust the company onto the world stage.

In the early years of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes — in fact, a rebellious breakaway troupe from the Mariinsky Ballet — Fokine’s ballets gave his European audiences intoxicating visions of Russian folklore and fairytales from the Orient.    

“Homage to Fokine” is showcasing three of his most remarkable works: Chopiniana, the ballet known in the west as Les Sylphides, which is a Romantic ballet of the 1830s in which a poet dances with airy sylphs in a glade, to Chopin’s music; The Dying Swan, choreographed by Fokine in 1905 for the legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who performed the dance about 4,000 times, depicts the last moments in the life of a swan; and Scheherazade, a colourful exotic ballet, which follows the beginning of the Arabian epic fairy tale, when Shahryar, king of India and China, pretends to go on a hunting trip to test his wife’s fidelity.

“We are so fortunate to have formed a strategic partnership with the Mariinsky Theatre and brought this important piece of Russian cultural heritage to life ... so that we in Abu Dhabi are able to relive a pivotal moment in the history of modern dance,” ADF founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo said.

While Abu Dhabi audiences have previously been spoiled by a couple of Bolshoi Ballet performances in the past, this was the first time the Mariinsky Ballet has come to the UAE.

Mariinksy Ballet director Yuri Fateyev said it was a ‘pleasure and an honour’ to bring the classical ballet to Abu Dhabi. “From Japan to Australia and all across the USA, we have travelled the world performing for international ballet enthusiasts. This is our first time in the UAE and we are absolutely delighted with the reception we have received so far.” The Festival continues until March 31. Information on tickets, schedules, venues and upcoming performances can be found on the festival website - www.abudhabifestival.ae.



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