Svetlana Zakharova’s Amore is generous as a star evening, while being shakier on content. The Bolshoi ballerina appears in all three works, with a live orchestra, new ballets and a de luxe supporting cast. The quality of the choreography ranges from the bug-eyed melodrama of Francesca da Rimini to the more thoughtful Rain Before It Falls.
Zakharova is one of the Bolshoi Ballet’s biggest names, a tall, long-limbed dancer with a steely technique and supermodel glamour. She’s in demand around the world, and had a starring role in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics. In Amore, she’s chosen to emphasise her dramatic side, with works specially created for her by Yuri Possokhov, Patrick de Bana and Marguerite Donlon.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s score, Possokhov’s Francesca da Rimini is a top-volume retelling of Dante’s tale of adulterous passion. Zakharova is an elegant if rather frosty Francesca, winding herself through decorous embraces with Denis Rodkin’s Paolo. Mikhail Lobukhin seethes and rages as her husband. The men’s choreography is packed with big Bolshoi jumps – at one point, Lobukhin actually throws Zakharova at Rodkin, so he has room for another few leaps – and brow-clutching gesture.
Around the central trio, court ladies in red take up angular fashion magazine poses, while three demons in muscle-shaded body tights writhe around in generalised torment. Pavel Sorokin conducted a stormy performance by the orchestra of English National Ballet.
De Bana’s Rain Before It Falls is an abstract relationship drama. Dressed in flowing purple, Zakharova sits at a table. Lifting one hand, she pulls her head to the side, as if arguing with her own thoughts. When Denis Savin and de Bana himself appear, they could be memories or choices she needs to make. There’s an appealing, interior quality to de Bana’s staging, while Zakharova finds a new softness in her interactions with her two partners, a closer engagement.
Danced to Mozart’s 40th symphony, Donlon’s Strokes Through The Tail is a quirky romp for Zakharova, in a floaty tulle skirt, and five men, bare-chested in tailcoats. The ballerina directs the rest of the cast with a pointing finger or shaking out her limbs like a marionette. The men scamper around her, bouncing into springy jumps or pratfalls.
Donlon adds some timid gender bending: a man in a skirt is an easy laugh, while Zakharova in a tailcoat is all dapper femininity. But Strokes Through The Tail does show this sometimes remote ballerina as one of the gang, while highlighting her precision and sense of chic.
'Amore' is at the Coliseum till 25 November. Box office 020 7845 9300