#TBT: Royal Ballet Principals in a Gala Tribute to Tchaikovsky (1993)

July 8, 2020

It’s not often that you get to see eight principal dancers sharing a stage, but Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s centennial is a special circumstance. In a 1993 gala honoring the composer, former Royal Ballet principals Darcey Bussell and Zoltan Solymosi, Leanne Benjamin and Tetsuya Kumakawa, Lesley Collier and Irek Mukhamedov and Viviane Durante and Bruce Sansom performed alongside The Royal Opera Chorus in Madame Larina’s ball scene from the opera Eugene Onegin.

In choreography by Ashley Page, another former RB principal and the former director of the Scottish Ballet, the dancers weave in and out of ensembles and duets without slowing down a beat. The waltz pushes tradition with swivels, near-constant direction changes and lifts that skim the floor. While the women show their dynamism in brisk pointework and steps that spring from open positions, the men fully jump and turn in between partnering. From Bussell’s expansive traveling and Kumakawa’s wild allégro to Collier’s sprightly footwork and Durante’s ethereal charm, each dancer displays their individuality and star qualities in featured duets. The energy bubbles to a froth by the finale, when all four couples return to the stage dancing in unison, accompanied by the rich chorus of voices. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!