‘Ivan the Wonderful’ fans the “Flames of Paris”

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Russia’s latest Sputnik-in-orbit, Ivan Vasiliev, swapped between adorable, formidable, and simply irresistible as French revolutionary “Philippe” in Mikhailovsky Ballet‘s production of “The Flames of Paris” tonight at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It was a West Coast debut for the Mikhailovsky, an impressive second-tier player to Russia’s Bolshoi and Kirov ballets.

High above the Segerstrom stage, Ivan soared and sailed; he spun then twisted; he wrenched and torqued at the apex of his leaps. (Then he did it again in his curtain call!) The retro ballet, dating to Stalinist Russia of the 1940s, is fabulous vivid fun, by turns French, then Russian, always powered by classy, confident dancing. The company offers a gorgeous glimpse of impeccably trained dancers, who with bouyant effortlessness render their awesome Russian technique invisible. Clad at ballet’s end in wonderful “directoire” costumes, they’re ace performers, too.

“Flames,” whose compact narrative extinguishes the fire of revolution with balletic whipped cream, includes two extended dance set pieces: one, each, for white-wigged Royals and earthy, oppressed proletariat. The latter shows a rabble-rousing mob swathed in French “tricolor” and seething in anger as they tromp in jagged, lurching choreography. How rare that this fascinating remnant of Soviet agit-prop could reach the shores of Southern California in 2014. Must viewing…

The Flames of Paris | Mikhailovsky Ballet | Segerstrom Center for the Arts | thru Sunday

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