The Taming of the Shrew As Ballet

Treated to vivacious interpretation by The Bolshoi Ballet, Shakespeare’s familiar tale emerges a meld of classical and contemporary. We know we’re not in Kansas anymore when Yanina Parienko, alone on the stage, changes into her toe shoes, files her nails, paces and preens as the orchestra tunes.

Iconoclastic choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot combines established tradition with theatrical movement one might relate to Broadway and film work by Jerome Robbins or Agnes de Mille. Thus we see pas de deux in which a resistant character flattens her feet and stiffens like a doll, a perfectly executed turn propelled by aggressive kick or slap resembling martial arts, Katherina dragged, let drop, and leapt upon by her new husband.

Artemy Belyakov & the Company – Photo by Mikhail Logvinov

Ultimately Maillot’s vision is his own, of course. Use of arms is notable. The fluency of contradictory violence morphing into embrace often emerges a series of push-pull moves that approach, reject, caress, cling, then flee. Partners fold around and cascade down each other’s bodies. Bianca’s choreography embodies youth and femininity while that of Katherina is forceful (if not quite shrewish.) Petruchio doesn’t go far enough. He’s cocky but not brutal and manly. Formation dancing is, for the most part, eschewed.

As in the original play, Baptista (Artemy Belyakov) will not allow sweet daughter Bianca (Olga Smirnova) to marry until he finds a husband for her harridan elder sister Katharina (Ekaterina Krysanova). Three suitors pursue Bianca, lustful Gremio (Vyacheslav Lopatin), conceited Hortensio (Igor Tsvirko), and poetic Lucentio         (Semyon Chudin), whom she chooses. Any man who approaches Katharina is quickly, dispatched.

Olga Smirnova as Bianca and Artemy Belyakov – Photo by Elena Ferisova

Mercenary womanizer Petruchio (Vladislav Lantratov) arrives, confronts, and, in his way woos Katherina who submits in a weak moment. They wed. He drags her to his home, tests and mistreats her in hopes of eventual taming. Gradually she sees the quality of man she might have with acquiescence. In turn, Petruchio realizes his new bride is worth more than her dowry….

There are tangential characters, liaisons, and events in this interpretation which are thoroughly confusing unless you’ve read the synopsis. An unnecessary, omnipresent Housekeeper (Yanina Parienko) is easily mistaken for Katharina early on. A jealous widow (Yulia Grebenshchikova) –who? is eventually paired with Gremio. (Both in black they might be mistaken for a portent of death.) As one of a group of masked bandits, Grumio steals Katherina’s necklace, possibly at the behest of his master. The program says she accuses her new husband. It’s a fine conceit, but we don’t see it.

Olga Smirnova as Bianca and Artemy Belyakov – Photo by Elena Ferisova

Stark Set Design by Ernest Pignon-Ernest features a white, arched Padua-perfect, double bridge comprised of two stairways that split for varying use in other scenes. And a row of modern, rotating obelisks which alter mood in accordance with Dominique Drillot’s redolent Lighting and Projections.

Augustin Maillot’s Costume Design  is attractive and unfussy. Petruchio’s cool guy hat, suspenders and faux fur coat describes him with style. I don’t, however, understand the choice of Katherina’s first dress, a green number rife with slits, oozing come-on. This is a woman who rejects men. That she’s spirited away from her father wearing a pristine white ballet skirt and appears en route to have dirtied it, is a fine touch. (The skirt is replaced by one with grey ombré coloring.)

Ekaterina Krysanova as Katerina and Vladislav Lantratov as Petruchio- Photo by Mikhail Logvinov

The four lead dancers are excellent, creating two well balanced pairs. Lack of exaggerated character for which we long is directorial, not a performance issue.

The production captivates but doesn’t move us.

Opening Photo: Ekaterina Krysanova as Katerina and Vladislav Lantratov as Petruchio – Photo by Jack Devant

Lincoln Center Festival presents
The Bolshoi Ballet
Ballet Director Makhar Vaziev
The Taming of the Shrew
Choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot
Music Dmitri Shostakovich
New York City Ballet Orchestra conducted by Igor Dronov
David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center
Though July 30, 2017

About Alix Cohen (1771 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.