(photo by John Ross, from Ballet.co)
Things got a bit crazy on the Met stage last night! With Craig Salstein madly shooting off his guns as the up-to-no-good pirate Birbanto, Marcelo Gomes as the wily, endearingly ferocious head pirate Conrad, and Jose Manuel Carreno as the fiercely unslave-like Ali the slave, I thought someone might get hurt.
This (pretty much uncontestedly silly) ballet tells the story of a group of pirates that happen upon a Turkish bazaar at which women are being auctioned off as slaves. Conrad the loveably aggressive head pirate falls for Medora, one of the women the big Pasha has just bought. Then power struggles ensue: he and his men steal her, Lankendem the bazaar owner steals her back, and so on. Of course Medora and Conrad eventually end up together. Their ship crashes as they flee the Pasha, but they end up safe on a glacier, forever together.
(photo of Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes by Mira, from Danza Ballet) (Neither dancer was in the cast I saw; I just liked this picture)
Craig Salstein is always very dramatic, always great with character and he often dances the lovable nerd, but his Birbanto here was all testosterone, more traitor than friend to Conrad. His dancing was excellent — all those crazy kicking jumps high and precise. Seriously, when he decided to turn against Marcelo’s brawny Conrad, it was like Pirates of the Caribbean (not the movie but the Disney ride — which is actually kind of scary; you never know what deep-voiced, gun-fire-laden brawl is coming up around the next corner).
After a wicked solo, Marcelo took what seemed like a minutes-long series of bows in character, throwing his arms about in the air, pumping his fists. Maybe they were in character … maybe they were in dancer persona meant to say, “I nailed it, look at me!” In any event, the crowd went nuts. You’ve got to have guts to do that!
Nina Ananiashvili danced Medora. She is a very lively, very dramatic dancer and she was my favorite Medora so far. She wasn’t quite as athletically strong as Paloma but she did a wicked series of fouettes in the second Act and her projection of character more than made up. She really vamped up the sweetness and innocense, as did Sarah Lane as the slave girl Gulnare (I felt sorry for Sarah as she was getting shown and sold by Lankendem; Yuriko Kajiya’s Gulnare was more playful and carefree about her situation).
My favorite part: Nina flung herself with wild abandon into Marcelo’s arms during the bedroom scene! And of course he did crazy dives with her, tossing her small body around like a doll. So I finally got my flings with wild passionate abandon that I’ve missed in all the Tchaikovsky PDDs of late! Thank you Nina 😀
Jose was Jose. His Ali is far more masculine, more just-one-of-the-guys than Angel Corella’s, whose is more of a protective guardian angel. When Jose’s Ali went to wake up Conrad after he’d been tricked into a deep sleep by Birbanto’s poisoned rose, I thought he was going to toss him across the room. When Angel’s Ali did the same, he lightly but urgently plucked at David Hallberg’s chest. Jose doesn’t do Angel’s “genie spins” — the up and down movement with the standing leg during the multiple pirouettes that drives the audience stark raving mad. His turns looks more brawny and muscly and powerful. Angel is definitely more flamboyant. It kind of does look like he’s tweaking his nipples
(photo of J.M. Carreno from PBS)
(photo by Gene Schiavone, from Danza Ballet)
Gennadi Saveliev was Lankendem. He delivered well on all those barrel turns with the legs slicing through the air, same as Daniil Simkin. He’s a much taller man than Daniil and his long limbs made some of those turning jumps look really spectacular. I don’t think he has the tautness and control of Daniil, but he was still stunning.
The three Odalisques were well danced by Simone Messmer, Renata Pavam and Kristi Boone. Kristi, again, really stood out to me with her strong legs and sharply pointed feet and miraculously held-out arabesques. I can’t wait to see her Siren in Prodigal Son next week!
At the end, bows went on forever and a day and Nina and Marcelo were bombarded with bouquets from the left side of the theater. During curtain calls, Nina girlishly pulled him along to the opposite side of the stage so they could receive more flowers Sweet night. I think her many fans are slowly trying to prepare themselves for her upcoming retirement.