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Irek Mukhamedov remains one of the most popular dancers here in Britain--even the government has honored him with a medal, bestowed by the Queen herself in January 2000. So the charismatic fusing of this once-Soviet dashing and muscular Tartar with the exquisite Petersburg porcelain figure of Altinai Asylmuratova promised an evening of rare delight. The two dancers from two different Russian classical traditions may be nearing the end of their careers--Mukhamedov is now 40, while Asylmuratova, recently appointed director of the Vaganova Academy, is 39--rebut they still individually exude that rare talent and theatricality that set audiences tingling.

Mukhamedov has directed his own small touring company since 1992, using different dancers each time and performing on a setless stage to the accompaniment of two pianos. This year his twelve dancers came from Russia, The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Adventures in Motion Pictures. The somewhat thin divertissement program offered four party pieces from the Soviet era, including Moszkowski Waltz, pleasantly performed by Novosibirsk's Vladimir Grigoriev and the Royal Ballet's young Romanian dancer, Alina Cojacaru, (though lacking the legendary dare-deviltry of the Bolshoi's Struchkpova and Lapauri), and Goleizovsky's Mazurka, daintily danced by Natalia Ogneva from Moscow Classical Ballet. The English contributions were the pas de deux from Ashton's The Dream and a contemporary piece by William Tuckett titled Unobtrusive Detail and performed with pizzazz and style by Nichola Davies and Martin Harvey.

Asylmuratova, fresh from her unprecedented successes during the London Kirov season during the summer, remains a dream to watch, even when just making a reverence to her fellow dancers, as in the first work, Class Concert, choreographed by Mukhamedov (which enabled him to show off his muscular bravura). With supple and beautifully proportioned body, short gamine haircut that emphasizes her lovely features and luscious long legs that swoop effortlessly skyward, she magnetizes with every movement. Pitted against Mukhamedov, with his dark, smoldering eyes and penetrating gaze, his cheeky grin and wonderful sense of humor, you should have the recipe for an evening of captivating allure. But, to be honest, while the two stars were beguiling in themselves, the program did not build on their prodigious talents. Unlike last year's duets--Petit's Bolero and a sultry, sexy piece by William Tuckett, to music of Louis Armstrong--this year's program lacked the sizzle and sensuality needed to spark off the partnership and, all too often, the choreographic cloud canopy befogged the sparkle of our stargazing.

In Sita, the legend of the goddess of agricultural land choreographed for them by Darsham Singh Bhuller, the star duo presented controlled sculptured Indian poses and rolled symbolically on the floor. But it seemed unnatural to see the Kirov's prima ballerina earthbound rather than soaring heavenward--and she has proved herself far more seductive in her classical roles. The second premiere, titled Some you Win, created by Gillian Lynne (of Cats fame) to Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, was an On the Town-type piece that, sadly, didn't go anywhere. (Boy sees girl out with another boy, dreams of her, loses her.) While Mukhamedov, out on the razzle with his two pals, had some macho moments--and he still can do pretty good barrel turns--Asylmuratova in her funereal black fringed chemise and gloves is just not a Cyd Charisse, and she looked bemused at having to dance choreography that didn't do her justice. All in all, not the slickest of evenings. But then, who really cared when two great artists such as these were together?
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001

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