BWW Review: SVETLANA ZAKHAROVA - MODANSE, London Coliseum
Continuing a series of personal projects away from the mainstay of the Bolshoi repertoire, Svetlana Zakharova returns to the London Coliseum once more with Modanse, a chic double bill of UK premieres with high-calibre support from a range of Bolshoi Principals and Soloists. Stylish it may be, with opulent costumes and some original choreography, but the cumulative effect lacks impact as a vehicle for the ballet superstar to shine.
Gabrielle Chanel has moments of being highly atmospheric, with its strictly monochrome colour scheme, stark spotlights and simple projections courtesy of Ilya Starilov. There are elegant, authentic Chanel-designed costumes to adorn Zakharova too, who masters moodily holding a bright white cigarette to her lips.
In contrast to Bigonzetti's abstract opener, Yuri Possokhov's take is a linear trot through some distilled snapshots of Chanel's life and loves. The storytelling has clarity, if lacking a little excitement, and the most successful scenes featuring the full ensemble. There's a stylish impression of a day at the races with hoity-toity Parisian women who leave Coco feeling inferior and alone. She later invites the same pompous ladies to her studio to update their attire to something more modern; the scene also introduces fellow Principal Jacopo Tissi as Chanel's love interest, Arthur Capel.
The universal appeal of Chanel and a Russian ballet superstar is sure to pull in the crowds for a unique experience of dance, but it's a shame we don't gain true insight into Chanel's character and motivations through the choreography.
The opener Come un Repiro is another monochrome display, with each of the female cast in quirky high-fashion costumes from Helena de Medeiros (neat corseted bodices with puffball-like tutu skirts). Mario Bigonzetti's choreography is deliberately athletic with tricks and gymnastics aplenty, but it lacks charm and is more about impressing with extreme flexibility and cores of steel. However, the excellence of the Russian technique and style is still showcased to great, crowd-pleasing effect to a recording of Handel's melodic score.
Each dancer has a solo or duet in the spotlight. Two of the women establish a strained relationship as they try to outdo each other in sequences of warp-speed poses and moves, but it's unclear what it amounts to. Zakharova is naturally effortless: her extensions ping, and her legs seamlessly tilt over 180 degrees without any discernible strain. Tissi is impressive once again, demonstrating boundless energy and controlled strength in some difficult lifts.
On stage, Russian dancers have such a strong identity, markedly different from the more familiar likes of the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet that UK audiences are accustomed to. Zakharova's bill offers some welcome contrast with sophisticated execution. It's just a shame the concepts don't quite come up to scratch.
Modanse runs at the London Coliseum until 5 December