A youthful premiere of contemporary choreographies by Jiri Bubenicek, Paul Lightfoot and Jiri Kylian on Sunday proved the Vienna Ballet was well on the path to a renaissance.
"Schritte und Spuren" (Steps and Traces), the third premiere under Manuel Legris's five-month-old reign as ballet director, showed a fresh company light years away from stuffy old productions.
The evening kicked off with its highlight, "Le Souffle de l'Esprit" by Czech Jiri Bubenicek.
Set against a pure white background, the performance was sleek and playful, featuring the always excellent Ketevan Papava and Denys Cherevychko, and bringing forward young talents like corps de ballet member Davide Dato, who more than did justice to the buoyant choreography.
The wonderfully grotesque "Skew-Whiff" by British-Spanish duo Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon meanwhile drew the loudest cheers of the evening, carried by its four dancers.
Mihail Sosnovschi showed off his comic potential, accompanied by Cherevychko, a fine Masayu Kimoto and the exquisite Ioanna Avraam in a whimsical performance that caused regular chuckles in the packed opera house.
A more moody "Glow-Stop" by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo -- the only piece performed before by the Vienna Ballet -- had a chaotic start but eventually came together in the pairs' performances and its plays with shadows.
Rounding off the program was Czech Jiri Kylian's "Bella Figura," a slower, more lyrical choreography by a favorite of Legris.
In all, this was an evening designed to showcase the dancers, with minimal costumes and set design, simple plays of light and at times, complete silence to accompany the movements on stage.
While technical and musical problems showed the venerable opera house still had some way to go to ensure a flawless ballet performance, the dancers proved they were up to the task to turn the long-neglected Vienna Ballet into a vibrant company.
Along these lines, another premiere is already planned for the end of the month: an evening dedicated to young talents.
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