Nureyev tribute ends Vienna Ballet season

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A tribute to Rudolf Nureyev topped off a hit season for Manuel Legris's Vienna Ballet with the former French etoile providing two of the highlights on Tuesday evening.

The Nureyev Gala, due to become an annual event, marked the end of Legris's first season as director of the Vienna ensemble, which has seen a renaissance on his watch.

The dancer also kept his promise to appear on the Vienna stage this season.

Clocking over three hours, not including interludes, the marathon evening kept the audience enthralled with a mixture of genres, pas de deux and set pieces.

In total, 13 pieces followed in quick succession, choreographed by Nureyev or contemporaries like Jerome Robbins, Kenneth MacMillan, Maurice Bejart and William Forsythe.

"Before Nightfall" by Nils Christe, a modern piece with four couples, presented a first breath of fresh air, with Nina Polakova and Mikhail Sosnovschi stealing the show.

Olga Esina and Kirill Kourlaev impressed both as the teasing Esmeralda and shy Quasimodo in a scene from Roland Petit's "Notre-Dame de Paris" and in John Neumeier's Bach Suite III.

But the stars of the evening were without a doubt Polakova and Legris, who turned in beautifully passionate performances in Jerome Robbins' "In the Night" and the pas de deux from MacMillan's "Manon."

Polakova was deservedly named first solo dancer after the gala.

The evening ended with the impressive finale from "Don Quixote," the Vienna Ballet's biggest hit this season.

In line with other great ballet companies and to raise the company's profile, Legris has been keen to promote his dancers and on Tuesday named Liudmila Konovalova as first solo dancer -- a position he created last year -- alongside Polakova.

He also elevated Natalie Kusch to the rank of soloist and two more female dancers to semi-soloist.

Paying tribute to Legris's former mentor at the Paris Opera and a man with a a long history with the Vienna Ballet, the Nureyev Gala was only fitting to close this season and was eagerly awaited by a public that has found renewed interest in the Ballet.

Nureyev, who died in Paris in 1993, was a regular guest dancer or choreographer with the Vienna Opera company from 1964 to 1986 and also obtained Austrian citizenship in 1982.

© 2011 AFP

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