The Russians have a reputation for producing large, lavish, production heavy spectacles - and the Mikhailovsky Ballet St Petersburg did so at the beginning of their London run. But sometimes, simplicity is key. Multiplicity. Forms Of Silence & Emptiness is essentially nothing more than a physical realisation of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is simple. And it is beautiful.
A scene from Multiplicity, The Mikhailovsky Ballet, Coloseum, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
The musical maestro himself is a constant presence (played by Marat Shemiunov), in period dress, appearing to observe the action, or take part, playing the petite and perfect Sabina Yapparova like a cello, manipulating and controlling her with a bow.
There are clear Cullbergian references in choreographer and Artistic Director Nacho Duato’s work (he was with the Cullberg Ballet Company before Nederlands Dans Theater in the 1980s) - flexed feet, splayed legs in a frog like posture and deep, angular limbs. It’s a contemporary technique that suits these fine athletes and their whippet-like physiques well.
Moving like notes on a stanza, they walk in a straight line before curling outwards in formation like a treble clef. Dancers moonwalk to harpsichord, contract and undulate to the baroque music and slice the air with cutting pirouettes and sharp knee’d jumps. They move in a way that is angular, jarring, constrained.
The choreography is simplistic as opposed to extremely innovative or sophisticated, and there are a few blips in the unison sections (and one or two from the orchestra pit), but the overarching experience is one of intense beauty from such perfect harmonization of music and movement.
The final image is of Bach lying prostrate with the magnificent Polina Semionova, a symbol of death, harbinger of doom standing over him. Dancers move like notes stuck inside the body of a piano within a tiered stage structure. It’s one that will resonate for a long time.