Sturm und Drang—2017 saw the dance world roiling with it, both on and off the stage. Israel’s culture minister hit the headlines for refusing arts funding to performances involving nudity; Palestinian-Syrian refugee Ahmad Joudeh made a prominent debut with the Dutch National Ballet after fleeing death threats from Islamic State; discord boiled over in Moscow as the director of the Bolshoi’s long-awaited “Nureyev” was placed under house arrest on what many suspect are trumped-up charges intended to punish him for celebrating the life of a gay man on stage—a conspicuous challenge to Putin’s ban on so-called ‘homosexual propaganda.’
When Svetlana Lunkina, one of the world's foremost ballerinas, arrived in Toronto fresh from the Bolshoi Ballet just a few years ago, she was greeted with enthusiasm, and a touch of curiosity. What would Toronto do with a star of her stature? At 18, Lunkina was the youngest dancer to perform the role of Giselle in the history of the Bolshoi, and her debut cast no doubt about her future. She rocketed to principal and danced for fifteen years in the great theatre.
The final programme of the Royal Ballet’s Spring/Summer season sees the company perform a mixed bill of work by their founder choreographer, Frederick Ashton. Including two of his narrative works, one comic (“The Dream”) and one tragic (“Marguerite and Armand”), as well as the first piece he created for the Royal Opera House stage (“Symphonic Variations”), it’s a bill that pays homage to this admired choreographer. While there are times where the age of these works feels noticeable, the programme is, nonetheless, an enjoyable close to the season.