The Bolshoi Ballet’s Flames of Paris – A Review

The Bolshoi Ballet’s London season has ended on a high note with Flames of Paris, Alexei Ratmansky’s reworking of Stalin’s favourite ballet.

Knowing the original was a Soviet-era ballet about the French Revolution I thought I was in for a gloomy time as aristocrats fell before the righteous hordes of workers. Nothing of the kind. With a plot you could write on the back of a postage stamp, this lighthearted wisp of a ballet was a delight.

Ratmansky wrote Flames Of Paris for golden couple Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev who returned to dance one performance with their old company in London, winning rave reviews. (Vasiliev is now based at the American Ballet Theatre and Osipova joins the Royal Ballet this month). But instead I saw Ekaterina Shipulina and Vladislav Lantratov in the roles of the young lovers Jeanne and Philippe. Both of them were wonderful, erasing any regret I might have had at missing the big stars. Lantratov, especially, brought a Russian elegance to the muscular choreography, showing a masculine assertiveness worthy of Putin himself while staying just this side of self-parody. Denis Savin, as Jeanne’s brother Jerome, was sprightly and energetic and Anna Tikhomirova showed us some spectacular pointe-work as the actress Mireille de Poitiers.

The Bolshoi Ballet’s Flames of Paris - A Review

The Flames of Paris © Elena Fetisova

The ballet is full of big, showy dancing, heroic leaps and positively dangerous lifts, mixed in with peasant dances for the workers and a childlike jumping twist for Louis XVI, whose court looked a very pleasant place to while away a few hours.

But then came the shock ending – in the closing minutes Jerome’s aristocrat girlfriend Adeline (Anna Rebetskaya) is pulled from the crowd onto the guillotine and executed as the workers, led by Jeanne and Philippe, advance menacingly on the audience.

Flames Of Paris is not such a lighthearted work after all…

Flames of ParisWikipedia: Flames of Paris (original Russian title Plamya Parizha) is a classical ballet with music by musicologist and composer Boris Asafyev based on songs of the French Revolution, and originally choreographed by Vasily Vainonen, with design by Vladimir Dmitriev.