Marius Petipa’s, Raymonda, still continues in ballet for the 118th year since its world premiere on January 7th, 1898. This week, the romantic ballet, set in three acts, is brought to the Opera House in the John F. Kennedy Center by the Mariinsky Ballet. Under the direction of Valery Gergiev, this classical ballet company from St. Petersburg, Russia is the resident company for the Mariinsky Theatre. With history, prestige and originally performed by the famous ballerina Pierina Legnani, The Mariinsky Ballet brings forth, Raymonda, a well known ballet later revised by Konstantin Sergeyev.
The overture piled with synchronous notes, introduces the ballet with a light air before the curtain rises. The music played by The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, conducted by Gabriel Heine and composed by Alexander Glazunov, with a libretto by Lidia Pashkova and Marius Petipa, sets the tone for the ballet with a balance of melodies. Staccato notes are purposely placed in certain measures to accompany the choreography. The rhythm for this ballet is essential to the choreography which requires coupés’, passés’, and pirouettes’ executed on certain notes.
Principal dancer Oxana Skorik, who portrays the main character Raymonda, has an elongated physique possessive of an irenic quality. Adagio, which is her forte in addition to penché, ascends through the ballet. Her quality becomes angelic as the elegant scenery, set by Simon Virsaladze, transforms around her.
The costumes, set by Simon Virsaladze, particularly Raymonda’s tutus, are exquisite in nature as they conform to her body and truly allow Oxana Skorik showcase her talent. Her developpé a la seconde revealed in a dazzling blue tutu, is extended with the gratification of an experienced ballerina.
Skorik’s variations and the Pas de deux with Timur Askerov (Principal dancer), who plays Jean de Brienne, are miraculous. During the Pas de deux, both Skorik and Askerov understand themselves individually and each other in space, all the while breathing during transitions and cambrés. Askerov supports Skorik with a charismatic persona which embodies an engaging danseur. Askerov also stands out in his solo in the third act which showcases flawless technique, visible through his pirouettés and ballon.
The love story in Raymonda, between Raymonda and Jean de Brienne, is like none other, as the couple’s relationship last through trials and tribulations (i.e. the evil character Abderakhman.) Oxana Skorik and Timur Askerov both showcase this love through skilled classical technique.
The Principals in Raymonda are meticulous, whilst the Soloist gain momentum in their experience. Soloists Kristina Shapran and Nadezhda Batoeva, who portray Raymonda’s friends, have the technique and ability to pull through the choreography. Although, in Shapran’s solo, she is a bit hesitant to attack the movement. The Coryphées showcase precision in their footwork but with heavy feet.
Raymonda requires a full cast of principals, soloists, coryphées, corps de ballet and supernumeraries in a three hour feat of magic and fantasy. The art form of ballet, which has been crafted and practiced for centuries now still holds strong through the Mariinsky Ballet in its 233rd season.
Running Time: Three hours, with two 20-minute intermissions.
The Mariinsky Ballet performs Raymonda through Sunday, February 28, 2016, at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.