Tokyo Komaki Ballet commemorated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationships between Japan and Mongolia with a triple bill of Ballets Russes works: Afternoon of a Faun, Prince Igor and Petrushka. Komaki Ballet and the National Ballet of Mongolia are active participants in a number of cultural exchanges between the two nations. This time, a number of dancers from Mongolia – such as Altan Dugaraa, second soloist with Boston Ballet– performed as guest artists.

Komaki Ballet greatly contributed to the introduction of ballet in Japan. Its founder, Masahide Komaki, danced at the Shanghai Ballet Russes in the 1940’s. Upon his return to Japan, he staged the first performance of Swan Lake in this country in 1946, and later the Japan premières of Scheherazade, Petrushka, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and works by Anthony Tudor. The company's history is very much interweaved with that of ballet in Japan, and since Komaki’s death in 2006, the company strives to preserve his legacy.

Ballet Russes repertoire makes for a fitting tribute, as Masahide Komaki was the first Japanese to dance those ballets and given the works' significance throughout the company's history. 

Altan Dugaraa, as the Faun in Afternoon of a Faun is an expressive performer with long lithe limbs and beautiful lines. A fresh and youthful creature, Dugaraa’s Faun won critical acclaim in 2013 (Boston Ballet London tour) and his charismatic, seductive performance here did not betray expectations. His relationship with the Nymph, Sanae Shuto, was finely tuned, and his ecstasy at the end like a little death...pure sensual pleasure.   

As Prince Igor’s story takes place in central Asia, the casting of two Mongolian dancers in the leading roles of the Polovtsian Dances infuses the sequence with realism. Komaki’s staging, based on Fokine’s choreography, also borrows attributes from earlier Russian versions, and features an added female role – and pas de deux – in the allegro movement. Wakana Shimizu (a young dancer who has just joined the company) was a charming lead, with airy leaps and an attractive, delightful performance. Byambaa Batbold, from Mongolia (and a former soloist with K-Ballet Company) was like a whirlwind...a powerful, masculine leader. The ensemble was strong and, with the chorus on stage, made the audience really feel the dry desert winds on the grand stage of the New National Theatre.

Komaki gained critical acclaim dancing Petrushka in Shanghai – and it was said by some critics at the time that he was the oriental Nijinsky. The ballet has been performed by the company more than 200 times, and this performance met my expectations. Altan Dugaraa, with his turned-in feet and listless limbs, delicately portrayed the miserable stray puppet Petrushuka, desperately in love with the ballerina doll whose not in the slightest interested in him, feeling for the brutal Moor instead. Dugaraa's versatility is noteworthy, acting here a poor floppy pierrot doll everyone would feel sorry for a sharp contrast to his sensual Faun of the beginning of the evening.

With Petrushka, Komaki also altered the original Fokine choreography slightly, but the liveliness of the dancers on stage, the gypsies, peasants, nurses, children and acrobats remains, bringing color and vigour on a stage lighted up by the elaborately-crafted designs based on Alexander Benois'. Looking at the dead soul of Petrushka hanging from the roof of the cottage, I once again rejoiced in the timeless and universal quality of this hundred year old work. Komaki’s spirit will live on with the legacy of those masterpieces.