Diana Vishneva is an important Russian ballerina with an illustrious career at the Mariinsky. She is also a long-time guest artist with American Ballet Theatre, one of New York’s premier troupes. She is both technically and artistically accomplished – and physically beautiful – and has charmed London audiences in the classics.
But as with many senior ballerinas, these classical laurels aren’t enough, and Vishneva has sought a contemporary strand to her career. The problem is that the choreographers she’s chosen serve her ill, with Jean-Christophe Maillot and Carolyn Carlson creating ballets that slavishly track her classical technique without extending her artistic range. Indeed, by London standards, the two-part programme is dated, over-long and under-choreographed, relying on Russian angst and old-world balletic line. It comprises two works that are essentially elongated solos that mix torrid gesture and exaggerated extensions – both long abandoned by innovative European dance makers.
The first piece Switch by Maillot is a dreary romantic trio for Vishneva and Gaetan Morlotti and Bernice Coppieters from Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. The quality of dancing is faultless, but artistically the piece is dated, with black-on-black decor and lurid emotions. Vishneva is served no better in Woman in a Room by Carlson, another black-on-black work that sees her cut up lemons and serve them to the audience. On this evidence, the sublime Vishneva has missed the contemporary developments seized by her balletic peers, and rather than leading the artistic avant-garde, she unintentionally shows how far Russia now choreographically lags behind the West.