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What renegade choreographer Boris Eifman has done to move Russian ballet into the twenty-first century, former ballet master of the Bolshoi Ballet Igor Moiseyev has done to preserve the dance heritage of the Russian people. He uses his command of theatricality, prolific movement invention, cultural sensitivity, and understanding to raise folk forms to the highest artistic level.

"Summer," from the dance suite The Seasons, opened the program with typical Moiseyev fare: a grand array of more than forty dancers in brightly colored costumes weaving in and out of complex formations, celebrating with vibrant displays of technical virtuosity and complicated footwork at ever-increasing speed.

With quivering chests and arms and stylized patterns, three men in tightly knit formation simulated the takeoff and soaring flight of eagles in the stunning, abstract Kalmuk Dance.

The troupe's celebrated classic, Partisans, found Moiseyev at the peak of his abilities, uniting movement, staging, costumes, and props into a powerful, haunting tribute to the mountaineers of various nationalities who together fought the Nazis. Robed from head to toe in black blankets, the fighters glided nobly around the stage (as though on motorized platforms), their sedate march gradually unfolding into a bravura display as the men and women exploded into action against the enemy, their torsos vibrating with the bursts of fire from their rifles. The dancers, whose performances until this point had seemed to be by rote, finally began to connect emotionally to the movement.

While Jewish Suite: Family Joys, a recent addition to Moiseyev's ongoing dance cycle Pictures of the Past, found him exercising his mastery within a narrative framework--from the two fathers sealing their bargain to the wedding ceremony and celebration--Seven Beauties found him reveling in the simplicity of formal repetition: lines, delicate footwork, curved arms, and a circle. In Egyptian Dance, premiered in Egypt in 1998, Moiseyev dipped sketchily into the dance form of another culture. Although not kitschy, even with the gaudy costumes, this brief number came across as underdeveloped.

The marvelously funny and inventive Two Boys in a Fight, based on the wrestling sport of the Nanayan people of Russia's frigid northern region, was a real crowd pleaser--especially when one dancer popped out of his costume. The concluding Gopak, the best known of all Russian folk dances, with its deep knee bends, powerful kicks, and high jumps, lacked the fire I remember from the last time I saw the Moiseyev.

Overall, the dancers' energy seemed to be dampened by the absence of live music. The occasional onstage violinist, in different pieces throughout the evening, was totally overwhelmed by the taped score. The encore, however, a square dance to American folk music, revealed the similarity of dance forms across oceans and continents.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1999

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