June 3, 2016
Next to me sat two young men. They kept reading the synopsis and wondering how a ballet would depict pirates and pashas. Turns out, “Le Corsaire” manages this feat quite wittily. Based on the visually opulent 1814 full-length ballet by the great Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev, and staged by Anna –Marie Holmes, “Le Corsaire” pits love against a miserly father, wealthy pasha and unsavory slave owner.
Performed to lush music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes the ballet benefited from clearly defined characters portrayed by Herman Cornejo as the lovesick pirate, his love Maria Kochetkova and her friend Sarah Lane topped by the speedy Daniel Simkin and hilarious Victor Barbee.
Ballerinas decked in harem pants, bare midriffs and diaphanous scarves cozy up to pirates brandishing swords, and bubbling bazaars conjure up the production’s “oriental” exoticism.
Crazy about the gorgeous slave Medora (Maria Kochetkova), the pirate Conrad (Herman Cornejo) whisks her away from the slave owner, Landendem (Danil Simkin) who is about to get top drachma from the portly pasha, boisterously portrayed by Victor Barbee.
Medora’s youthful friend Gulnare (Sarah Lane) remains at the palace wit the Pasha and nearly steals his heart and the audiences with her shimmering balances, sprightly leaps and teasing beats.
A general sadness or contemplativeness pervades Kochetkova’s performance, which is distinguished by a curvaceous foot that consistently initiates all her steps. Quite a marvel, but Lane’s talent spills out her open chest and lighthearted personality. Agile and lean, Simkin’s turns can dazzle but unlike in the past, (very likely to save his knees) he doesn’t dip into a deep knee bend and then pop back out. This move was perfected by a previous ABT dance, Vladimir Malakhov—but it’s brutal on your knees.
Craig Salstein continues to find bright nuances in his characters—on this occasion he’s both loyal and treacherous—and Cornejo retains his strong characterization fueled by clean, sparkling technique and attentive partnering.
In the traditional dream sequence, the ABT corps demonstrates the power of the onstage dance community, breathing as one while maneuvering through complex patterns, and intricate steps.
Not surprisingly, the swashbuckling ballet ends after a chaotic skirmish. Conrad escapes with the beautiful maidens to the pirate ship only to be swallowed by the sea.
As for the two young men, well, they couldn’t believe a ballet could be so “crazy action-packed!”
EYE ON THE ARST, NY – Celia Ipiotis