Angelin Preljocaj's Le Parc is a timeless piece, and it's becoming a classic in contemporary ballet. It was created in 1994 and was the choreographer’s first work for the Paris Opera Ballet. In 2011 it entered the repertoire of the Saint Petersburg based Mariinsky Theatre, the opening night taking place on the company's famous historic stage. Four years later, it’s now performed on the new stage of the Mariinsky II. For this special occasion Diana Vishneva returned to Saint Petersburg, appearing next to Konstantin Zverev who was also her partner during the première performance. The work is as beautiful and moving as ever, and Diana Vishneva’s passion still burns bright.

Diana Vishneva and Konstantin Zverev © Valentin Baranovsky | State Academic Mariinsky Theatre
Diana Vishneva and Konstantin Zverev
© Valentin Baranovsky | State Academic Mariinsky Theatre
Le Parc is a ballet about identity, etiquette and formalities as well as hidden passions and sexual desires. The piece is set in the gardens of the French court where noblemen and noblewomen play an elusive game with each other. The three acts show what’s happening there during daytime and night, balancing lust and love, eroticism and romanticism in stylised group dances and duets.

Each act opens with the gardeners, a group of four dancers who act as cupids. Their choreography stands out because of its contemporary style, that involves grounded pliés and sharp movements on electronic beats. They create geometrical shapes with their arms and hands, moving extremely fast and synchronised. The erotic and suggestive signs look a bit awkward on them because of their disciplined and robotic look, but the precise execution of the choreography is very impressive.

We then moves on to the love games of the corps de ballet. Dressed in period costumes with waistcoats and heeled shoes they dance in strict formations resembling the trimmed geometrical shapes of a palace garden. Some of the dancers turn out to be woman dressed in manly outfits, and it soon becomes clear that they take the lead in this game. They seduce the men with light and playful steps and a quick look over their shoulder. The stately movements with a flirtatious touch seem to come naturally to the Mariinsky dancers. At the end, one couple, Diana Vishneva and Konstantin Zverev, hold each others gaze before dancing a pas de deux in which they show interest in the other but keep their distance.

The game continues in act two. The night has fallen and the women are now strolling around the garden in big flowery dresses, giggling and whispering. In this frivolous scene a woman faints, and the others quickly gather around her, until another decides to separate herself from the group and pretends to be fainting too. The event goes on for a little while until the men appear on stage. The women hide behind the trees and reappear in underwear. From now on there is no etiquette, no mask anymore, and the dancers give in to their sexual desires. All but one, Konstantin Zverev, who beautifully expresses his adoration for Vishneva by kneeling down and striking his head over her body, but no matter how gently he takes her face in his hands, she would not give herself in to him just yet.

© Valentin Baranovsky | State Academic Mariinsky Theatre
© Valentin Baranovsky | State Academic Mariinsky Theatre
Act three culminates in the most touching pas de deux I’ve ever seen. The passion inside Diana Vishneva is finally awakened and she fully gives herself to her lover Konstantin Zverev. The tension is released and formality and theatricality make way for purity and sincerity. Dressed in a nightgown with her long hair hanging loose, Vishneva hangs into Zverev’s chest, answering to his love in the same way he declared it to her in the second act pas de deux. A particular memorable moment is when he lifts her up and performs endless turns while their lips are pressed together in a loving kiss. Their strong physical and emotional connection in this intimate moment make you feel you’ve seen something truly special.