Posted by: viewfromtheriva | November 8, 2017

Kirov’s Death and the Dervish–exciting and uneven

Death and the Dervish, here the soul of the tormented Ahmed, in a body suit, dances a duet with him

One of the great Balkan novels, Death and the Dervish, by Mesa Selimovic, is a story of bureaucracy, betrayal and a search for the self.  The book recounts the story of Sheikh Nuruddin, a dervish residing in an Islamic monastery in Sarajevo during the turbulent 18thC when the Ottoman Turks ruled over the Balkans  After his brother is arrested, Ahmed must descend into the Byzantine world of the Turkish authorities.   After harrowing experiences, he begins to question his entire existence and find resolution by searching for his very soul.  Published in 1966, some feel the book is also a metaphor for the author’s views on the Communist society of the times.

Kirov stages it magnificently, with towering set pieces and wonderful costumes that capture the story’s dark Kafkaesque essence.  Although several dancers were off their marks for some dramatic lighting, the scenic design, lighting and evocative music by fellow Macedonian Goran Bojcevski were compelling.

Tomislav Petranovic as Ahmed, was outstanding

As the tortured Ahmed Nurudin, Tomislav Petranovic, new to the company, was outstanding.  Muscular and athletic, his performance revealed both the yearning and anger of a soul in torment.

Ajla Kadric, in a full body suit, was haunting as Ahmed’s soul–she danced poetically, full of restrained passion.   Salvatore Cerulli, also new to the company, lit up the stage when he appeared, but it was Irina Ciban Bilandic who was dazzling each time she was paired with Ahmed.  (After she got pregnant, we wondered what would happen after the birth of her child….would she return or retire?  Clearly she has come back with even more poise and power. And those extensions!)

Also in fine form was Ivan Boiko as well as the brothers Dimache.

Having recruited a new group of very talented dancers (replacing some members, who left over both personal and artistic differences), this young Macedonian choreographer has brought a completely new oeuvre to Split.  Whether it’s 9 to 5, East/West or his other works, Kirov’s dramatic, physical choreography with ambitious staging and music to match marks a new era for the company.

While clearly very talented (he has worked all over the world)–some of his choreography is breath-taking, like watching Irina gracefully slide hands-free off Tomislav’s back– the Kirov lexicon relies a lot on what we have seen before in his other works–and in Death and the Dervish, despite the flashes of brilliance, for me, the production often devolved into repetitive motifs.

Most surprising was the ending.  It was surely meant to be a powerful moment when Ahmed unmasks death.  But instead of being surprising, it was predictable and abrupt and the music leading up to it seemed out of place.

So in sum, a wonderful evening of exciting ballet, but not quite as resolved as it might have been.



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