- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bolshoi means “big” in Russian, and the Bolshoi Ballet, dancing here this week, rightly claims to be the biggest ballet company in the world. The group is devoting its one-week run at the

Kennedy Center (the performance opened Tuesday and concludes Sunday afternoon) to its massive restaging of “Le Corsaire.”

Marius Petipa, the principal choreographer of “Le Corsaire,” made five versions of the ballet in his lifetime; while its score was originally created by Adolphe Adam, nine other mediocre composers contributed to the score over the years, particularly Cesare Pugni.

In its present incarnation, the plot for this juggernaut of a ballet runs to three full pages in the program notes. That’s a lot of notes about a creaky story full of situations and characters one could care less about.

The Bolshoi’s dancing is grand, technically brilliant - and big. Its movements fill the theater, and its energy galvanizes the audience. Never mind that the plot revolves around selling women into who-knows-what kind of slavery; it’s a long-ago story about a far-away time.

Impressive as her dancing was, Maria Alexandrova in the principal role of Medora, “a young Greek girl,” was cool, mostly projecting an aura of “important ballerina.” Her partner, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, a fine technician in the title role, was also somewhat a cipher as a hero.

Standouts were Anastasia Stashkevich for the purity of her dancing with Denis Medvedev; Nina Kaptsova for her air of infectious gaiety; and the vibrant performances of the three Odalisques - Olga Stebletsova, Ekaterina Krysanova and Anna Leonova.

The current production of “Le Corsaire” was re-created two years ago by two men who have been friends since they were classmates at the Bolshoi ballet school 20 years ago: Alexei Ratmansky, recently director of the Bolshoi Ballet and now artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre; and Yuri Burlaka, who took over the directorship of the Bolshoi Ballet from Mr. Ratmansky in January.

This weekend holds the prospect of a special experience for those coming to the Saturday or Sunday matinees, when two young dancers, Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, who made such an impression with their magical and dazzling performances here two years ago, will return and dance the leading roles of Medora and Conrad. Let’s hope that lightning strikes twice.

WHAT: Bolshoi Ballet in “Le Corsaire”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

WHERE: Kennedy Center Opera House

TICKETS: $47 to $135

PHONE: 202/467-4600

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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