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Review: Bolshoi Ballet Confounds With Its ‘Taming of the Shrew’ at Lincoln Center Festival

Lincoln Center Festival

By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, July 31, 2017

I particularly enjoy story ballets. I think it’s fascinating to see the creative ways in which choreographers tell stories, describe characters and convey emotions using only movement and gesture without words. However, despite the fact that I’m familiar with the Shakespeare play and with a detailed synopsis in the program, I had no idea what was going on in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s version of The Taming of the Shrew presented by the Bolshoi Ballet as part of the Lincoln Center Festival at the David H. Koch Theater last week. It took most of the first act for me to understand who the characters were or what was going on. I couldn’t even determine which woman was Katharina and which one was her sister Bianca. It wasn’t just pared down; it was incoherent.

Lincoln Center Festival

Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov in ‘The Taming of the Shrew;’ photo: Jack Devant.

Sometimes costumes can help to identify characters, but the designs were also seemingly random. It was clear that this was not set in Shakespeare’s time, but I had no idea where or when it might have been taking place. It struck me as funny that a costume designer named Augustin Maillot chose to dress Katharina in a version of a maillot (a one-piece swimsuit). It didn’t give a hint as to her character. (I did, however, like the beautiful dress he created for Bianca – a blue maillot with a dyed overskirt, in matching blue and partially white.)

Lincoln Center Festival

Olga Smirnova and Artemy Belyakov in ‘The Taming of the Shrew;’ photo: Elena Fetisova/Bolshoi Theatre.

The set by Ernest Pignon-Ernest was architectural, a sleek, grand double staircase and some pillars. It suggested a wealthy home for the action to take place.

I gave up trying to follow any plot, characterization or even dramatic sense, and just enjoyed the wonderful score by Dimitri Shostakovitch, which was marvelously played by the New York City Ballet Orchestra and conducted by Igor Dronov. The music comprised a variety of rhythms, melodies, and dramatic textures that should have inspired inventive choreography. (I could imagine the music as a movie soundtrack.) Maillot’s dance vocabulary included a mash up of classical ballet, modern dance and ordinary gestures. And there were some pleasant moments within a romantic pas de deux or in some patterns for the corps, but nothing struck me as particularly original. I was aware of lost opportunities, especially for defining character, but also, for instance, Maillot might have choreographed something funny to Shostakovitch’s quirky and surprising use of the popular American song, “Tea for Two,” but instead he used bland, literal gestures of drinking tea.

Lincoln Center Festival

Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin (in front l. to r.) with members of the Bolshoi Ballet in ‘The Taming of the Shrew;’ photo: Elena Festisova/Bolshoi Theatre.

No matter the choreography; it was a joy to watch the gorgeous, exquisitely fine artists of the Bolshoi Ballet. I saw Ekaterina Krysanova as Katharina and Olga Smirnova as Bianca, both of whom moved so very beautifully. Vladislav Lantratov was a manly Petruchio with an appropriate swagger and Semyon Chudin was Lucentio, Bianca’s ardent suitor. The corps was excellent, with the men showing off the exciting, hyper-masculine grand jétés and gymnastic tricks for which the Bolshoi is famous. The company of thoroughbred-like dancers deserved the cheers and applause that they received.

Lincoln Center Festival

Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov in ‘The Taming of the Shrew;’ photo: Mikhail Logvinov/Bolshoi Theatre.

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The Taming of the Shrew presented by the Bolshoi Ballet as part of the Lincoln Center Festival at the David H. Koch Theater on July 26-30, 2017. Music by Dmitri Shostakovich. Choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot; assistant to choreographer: Bernice Coppieters; set design by Ernest Pignon-Ernest; costume design by Augustin Maillot; assistant to costume designer: Jean-Michel Laîné; lighting and video projection design by Dominique Drillot; assistant: Stefani Matthieu; dramatist: Jean Rouaud; répétiteurs: Yan Godovsky, Victor Barykin, Josu Zabala;
music director and conductor Igor Dronov; New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Cast: Ekaterina Krysanova (Katharina), Vladislav Lantratov (Petruchio), Olga Smirnova (Bianca), Semyon Chudin (Lucentio), Igor Tsvirko (Hortensio), Vyacheslav Lopatin (Gremio) Yulia Grebenshchikova (Widow), Artemy Belyakov (Baptista), Yanina Parienko (Housekeeper), Georgy Gusev (Grumio), with Ana Turazashvili, Daria Bochkova, Anastasia Gubanova, Victoria Litvinova, Angelina Karpova, Daria Khokhlova, Alexei Matrakhov, Dmitry Dorokhov, Batyr Annadurdyev, Dmitri Zhuk, Maxim Surov, and Anton Savichev.


Cover: Vladislav Lantratov and Ekaterina Krysanova in ‘The Taming of the Shrew;’ photo: Elena Festisova/BolshoiTheatre.


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