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BWW Reviews: LEGEND OF LOVE Opens the Bolshoi Cinema Season

With live broadcasts­ in major cities around the globe, the Bolshoi Ballet opened it's season of seven simulcasts with Yuri Grigorovich's Legend of Love, originally performed in 1961, with Maya Plisetskaya, Marius Liepa, and Natalia Besmertnova in the leading roles. In this current production, the principals were Maria Allash (replacing Sveltlana Zakharova), Denis Rodkin, and Anna Nikulina. The drama of this story was written by Turkish Poet and political prisoner, Nazim Hikmet, while in prison. The composer, Arif Melikov was in attendance, at the Bolshoi Theatre. The set designer, Simon Versaladze, created a Middle Eastern décor. The costumes, too, although anchored on colored unitards, had a Middle Eastern flavor.

This was an early production of Grigorovich, which helped to launch his choreographic career. In reviving it we see his signature large corps de ballet groups of men and of women, dancing repetitive movements, with few soloists; not unlike his subsequent, better known ballets: Spartacus and The Stone Flower. The story of Queen Mekhemene Banu's (Allash) sister, Princess Shyrin (Nikulina), who lay dying and could be saved only if the Queen gave up her beauty to her sister, as told by a stranger (Evgeny Golovin). Out of duty, the Queen did this, only to find that the two sisters fall in love with the same man, the court painter, Ferkhad (Rodkin), whom they encountered as they strolled together through the Palace grounds, after the younger's recovery. Ferkhad is entranced by the beauty of Shyrin. So, the typical story of that era, the moral choice between duty and Love, is at the core of this drama. Because I have read the production notes and listened to the well done intermission interviews, in three languages, can I recount the story here. The choreography was not entirely clear as to the details of the tale. What we saw were good looking dancers, costumes, and sets, mesmerizing the audience with or without a clear storyline. Rodkin and Nikulina were beautiful and emotional dancers, just lovely to see. Allash was well suited to her role, contributing the meaning by her demeanor.

Before the curtain opened and between acts, the excellent interviewer told us about what we were to see, as well as the history of this revival. During the intermission, Rodkin generously agreed to be interviewed. He spoke of his dream coming true, at only 24 years old, to dance in Grigorovich's ballets, first dancing the lead in Spartacus and now The Legend of Love. He gave us insight into the difficulty of dancing this choreography and the unusual way of using the arms and "broken" wrists (demanded of some of the corps de ballet, as well). Melikov spoke of composing for Grigorovich from their early years and having made a career of work together. He said, too, that there were five of them working on the original production (choreography, music, design, lighting design, and libretto), from five different countries. The onstage glimpse at the dancers warming up, before each act, was fun to see.

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From This Author Rose Marija