Sensual gluttony. Bolshoi ballerina Svetlana Zakharova and other members of the company created Amore, which allowed my eyes and ears to gorge upon this celebration of aesthetic and sonorous beauty in its highest and purist form. The performance consists of three acts, each capturing the essence of love through movement and melodies. Zakharova glides ethereally amongst the other ballet dancers, propelling the audience through the turbulence of Tchaikovsky, Bach and Mozart. This performance challenges the gaze of the audience; the stage is vibrating with stimulation, from a waft rippling a blood red skirt, to an affirming arch of a finger announcing the flourish of a pirouette. One constantly sought to squeeze yet more from the stage, each perspective offering a different experience.
The first piece, ‘Francesca da Rimini’, explores Dante’s lustful second circle of hell, a classical story of forbidden passions, every movement masterfully choreographed by Yuri Possokhov. Francesca’s five chambermaids project her internal conflict, ensuring that her anguish and frustration gives way to an erotic consummation of love with Paolo (played by Denis Rodkin), fills the air with both her power and vulnerability. The guardians of the inferno in Rodin’s late nineteenth century sculpture ‘The Gates of Hell’ are enlivened and satanically ensnare the adulterous lovers in eternal punishment.
This traditional piece is followed by Patrick de Bana’s specifically constructed ballet ‘The Rain Before It Falls’, allowing the previous thread of tension to bleed through. Synthetic sounds permeate the otherwise smooth strings, providing the basis of Denis Savin’s menacing presence, as he vies with the harmonious interplay between Zakharova and de Bana. The three ballet dancers exist only in and amongst one another, as this piece rests on their connectivity; de Bana plays with the idea of negative space, as fingers, arms and legs construct rigid geometric shapes. Zakharova’s limbs caress the air, only to vigorously carve it up again.
The finale, ‘Strokes through the Tail’, is simultaneously a melancholic and comedic expression of love, birthing an exploration of transgender identities. The ENO orchestra reverberates ecstatically around the theatre, and the dancers pursue this enthusiasm as they punctuate the movement with slick and refined expressions of comedy, by inhabiting the body of the opposite sex. Male ballet dancers have traditionally been stereotyped as homosexual, narcissistic and effeminate, divergent from traditional masculinity. This piece self-consciously satirises this unfounded prejudice, by confronting the issue with humour and challenging preconceptions of the physicality of each gender through cross-dressing. The ingenious costume designer Igor Chapurin blurs the boundaries of sex, showing it to be both arbitrary and insurmountable. Male torsos command the stage, subtly alluding to the unfeasibility of female nudity. In particular, this final performance contributes to the enduring dialogue that seeks to define the conventional and classical ideology of Amore, by letting it play out through the lens of identity politics and sexuality.
Amore is playing at the London Coliseum until November 25 2017.