Lambarena redux

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  August 23, 2006

No problem telling which composer is which. Hérold is witty, winsome, and hard to forget, from the Dance of the Chickens to the Ribbon Dance for Lise and Colas to the Lancashire Clog Dance; Hertel is so pallid and generic, so second-rate 19th-century ballet, he’s impossible to remember. And Spoerli’s choreography is never as funny, as romantic, or as particular as Ashton’s. Valentina Kozlova is a glowing if diva-ish Lise, but she looks at her capable and attentive Colas, Chris Jensen, as if he were the stand-in she’s dancing with while waiting for her prince charming to fly in from Moscow. Otto Ris, in drag as Lise’s mother, might be all right in a theater but is too hammy for the TV camera; Martin Schläpfer’s Alain, here with a red kite instead of the red umbrella Ashton gives him, is one-dimensional and has little to do. There’s some French Revolution flavor — the curtain rises on sleeping soldiers who later march off as the villagers salute — but no dancing chickens. The 1981 Royal Ballet performance of the Ashton Fille, with Lesley Collier and Michael Coleman, is available on a Kultur DVD; there’s also the 1989 Australian Ballet performance on a Kultur videotape.

But the company connection? Check out the cheeky fellow in the rust vest and dun breeches, one of the friends of Lise and Colas, the one with the chipmunky smile that recalls Walter Koenig as Chekov on the original Star Trek. On track six, he has a brief solo that ends with a well-executed double tour; on track 16, he tries to keep Lise’s clogging mother upright, winds up grabbing her breasts, and gets slapped for his pains, after which he turns to his fellows with a priceless look of injured innocence. Yes, it’s Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. His career is no mystery: he was a principal at San Francisco Ballet for 10 years and danced with the Dutch National Ballet and the Basel Ballet before that. But this is the first time any actual footage of his dancing has turned up. Will loyal BB subscribers clamor for more?

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