Three Faces of Vishneva

BY LORI ORTIZ | You have to hand it to Diana Vishneva, the beautiful ABT and Kirov ballerina. She could do anything her heart desires, and does. Her spirit of adventure and support inspired three choreographers to go all out, at her command.

The unifying notion of the program she put together of works made especially for her is something-for-everyone — not to mention “Beauty in Motion,” the title of the triumvirate treat at City Center February 21-24.

Beauty in motion at City Center.

Man-of-the moment Alexie Ratmansky, who recently turned down a resident choreographer's position with New York City Ballet, contributed “Pierrott Lunaire.” His ballet, to the 21 sections of Arnold Schoenberg's song cycle, tells of love and human foibles through Commedia dell' arte characters with different traits – Pierrott, Harlequin, Cassander, and Columbine.

Vishneva is a memorable Columbine, the object of affection, though the roles aren't specific throughout. She and three men wear white long-skivvies and skullcaps. Vishneva removes hers to reveal a short flounce champagne-colored dress. At times, they don cone-shaped hats and two men wear white clown make-up. The music is performed live by mezzo-soprano Elena Sommer and a quintet of Kirov instrumentalists.

The Ratmansky dance, rooted in ballet tradition, places Vishneva in her element, of course. Her precise pirouettes turn our heads. The men are at her whim. She walks Mikhail Lobukhin, a Kirov soloist, off the stage by the scruff of his neck and he ambles like a big cat or tiger.

Entrances and exits are the most interesting part of this elegant dance-play. The characters are timeless. We are aided in following the intriguing story by extensive program notes.

Tatiana Chernova's set is a projection of her painting — roses exchanged by Adam-like figures — in the “Moscow neoclassical” style. There are no visual cues to help us with the story of Pierrott's preoccupation with the moon, though he might look up a few times. This performance is filled with rich dancing and choreography of the highest order, even if the archetypal characters don't fascinate everyone. The world-weary man next to me promptly fell asleep.

Vishneva's taste will convince MOMIX fans. Moses Pendleton's “F.L.O.W. (For Love of Women)” is squishy lava-lamp to new-agey music. But Pendleton succeeds in showcasing the ballerina, especially in a spectacular vision of her whirling in a birdcage-like prop. Her strong arms propel the curtain of spokes outward and she is a centrifugal force, Ã La Loie. “F.L.O.W.” doesn't tax us, and doesn't look like hard work.

In the second segment, Vishneva lies on a raked mirrored platform and we see the double image of her in various shape-shifting poses. “My precious love will only come from above,” is one of the lyrics in the accompanying song called “nanO.”

The stage is in blackout for the opening section. Three dancers' blue hands and forearms glow in the dark. Later, their six legs are added and finally, like the balloon animals twisted by party entertainers, they are incredible glowing swans. Few are not wowed by this magical dénouement. For a few moments, we've forgotten all about ballet.

In “Three Point Turn” Vishneva and Desmond Richardson comprise the central couple among three. Richardson speaks eloquently, meltingly, in Dwight Rhoden's choreographic language, making the other performances pale in comparison. Imagining the driving maneuver as a metaphor for relationships, one can picture the movement — a series of abrupt spurts, looking back over the shoulder and swinging forward quickly. Vishneva slides between Richardson's legs. In Richardson we understand it's about give and take, need and integrity, and climaxes of exhilarating passion.

The Rhoden/Richardson relationship will surely go down in history as among the greatest artistic symbioses. The other dancers, in varying degrees, succeed in mastering the intricacies of the movement.

The music is an excellent and unusual score of electronic music composed and performed live by David Rozenblatt. “Three Point Turn” ends with the pairs in unexpected kisses – Rhoden's manner is not always linear and pretty — to a shivery, tinkling triangle in the music.