The "Highlights" program of the Bolshoi Ballet, which opened at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Tuesday, continued with performances Wednesday afternoon and evening, with the matinee performance containing the most spark and fluency. While the idea of the highlights program (translation: snippets of repertory, presented out of context) might otherwise jar, the kitschiness of the general repertory saves these fragments from seeming incoherent. Even the presentation of single acts of Artistic Director Yuri Grigorovich's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Spartacus" does not unnerve because the core of these ballets is in showmanship rather than in development and shaping thematic material.
Wednesday evening's "Romeo" saw a new Tybalt in Aleksei Lazarev, whose conviction and power in the role -- his eyes glinting with fervor -- are unknown outside the Bolshoi. As Paris, Yuri Posokhov danced with the same pure style as did Aleksei Dovgopoliy Wednesday afternoon, though without Dovgopoliy's extraordinary pliancy.
For Wednesday performances in the role of Spartacus, the company's newest superstar, Irek Mukhamedov, came alive in a way he never did in last week's "The Golden Age." The role seems to have caught Mukhamedov's imagination, galvanizing him to give the fullest value to each step and gesture. The exhilarating leaps that are Mukhamedov's signature were particularly breathtaking at the matinee, especially an aerial turn in which he seemed to spin stretched out parallel to the ground. In the evening, Alla Mikhalchenko as Aegina did not have the sensuality and daring that Maria Bilova displayed in the role Tuesday.
There also were new divertissements shown at the Wednesday performances. From Grigorovich's version of "Swan Lake" came a pas de deux with Lyudmila Semenyaka and Aleksei Fadeyechev at the matinee and a pas de trois with Fadeyechev, Tatyana Golikova and Alla Khaniashvili-Artyushkina in the evening. Semenyaka's amplitude, her variegated phrasing and her vivid personality showed her to be a ballerina in the true sense of that word -- that is, she knows how to command attention by her very presence. In both pas, Fadeyechev, too, proved himself a star, though one who is modest and calm. However, the pas de trois in general seemed restricted and lacking in impetus.
In other new divertissements there was an emphasis on visceral thrills. The most remarkable of these, Asaf Messerer's extremely brief though spectacular pas de deux, "Spring Waters," serves as a virtual paradigm for the Bolshoi style, with its emphasis on acrobatic feats and sculptural form. When Leonid Nikonov carried Bilova off, supporting her with just one arm fully stretched over his head, the audience went wild.
The evening audience also was brought to its feet in cheering for the bravura fireworks of Nina Ananiashvili and Andris Liepa in "Le Corsair." As flashily danced by Nina Semizorova and Aleksandr Vetrov, "The Talisman" seemed to belie the program's attribution of its choreography to Marius Petipa ("recreated by Peter Gusev"); it looks like no other Petipa ever seen here. Other cast changes included Posokhov as a new partner for the divine Natalya Bessmertnova in "Chopiniana"; Semizorova and Yuri Vasyuchenko were given the impossible task of recreating Tuesday's blockbuster rendition of the "Don Quixote" grand pas by Semenyaka and Mukhamedov.