Full disclosure: I'm not much of a classical dance fan. I enjoy a sharply performed Robot, a good Pop-and-Lock, the occasional well-executed Worm. Por ejemplo:
C'mon, who could argue with that?
But when I heard the Kirov Ballet was performing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, I decided to put aside my personal prejudices in an effort to expand my cultural horizons. After all, this is the Kirov we're talking about, not just any old ballet troupe. Opting out of seeing them because I've never been a fan of ballet would be like opting out of having dinner with Einstein because I've never understood quantum mechanics. For over 200 years of Russian political turmoil, the Kirov has soldiered on as a testament to their country's appreciation of the art form. Sure, they may not do the Running Man as much as one might like, but when it comes to classical dance, it would be an understatement to say they've pretty much got it nailed.
Friday night's performance of Giselle may have finally made me a ballet fan. Diana Vishneva (who also graced the Performing Arts Center's stage last February for Beauty in Motion) portrayed Giselle's heartbreak with a sincere and apparent passion. Her two co-stars, Andrian Fadeev as Albrecht and Dmitry Pykhachev as the woodsman Hans, more than held their own. But like I said, I'm no ballet critic. I can't tell you if they executed every step flawlessly or not or if they landed every jump the way it was intended.
What I can tell you is that when Ekaterina Kondaurova appeared during the second act as Myrtha, queen of the supernatural Wilis, floating across the beautiful artificially moonlit stage en pointe as though suspended in water, I was sold. When her band of Wilis emerged from the wings, executing their moves in synchronicity, I understood what all the fuss has been about. Physically grueling (I frequently can barely stand up on my own two feet, much less balance on my toes), technically precise, emotional and expressive, this was ballet as I can imagine it's meant to be seen—as fascinating, entertaining and affecting in its own way as the most bombastic krump. Mea culpa: I was blind but now I see. Now to try to get into this whole opera thing I've been hearing so much about.