The story may be a bit thin but the quantity of its dancing makes up for it. Laurencia is a ballet little known in the west (though the Mikhailovsky Ballet brought it to London in 2010). Combining the jollities of Don Quixote with the revolutionary fervour found in Flames of Paris, Laurencia is really just an excuse to fill the stage with non-stop dancing. Set in a picturesque Spanish mountain village, the lives of the happy community are shattered at the return of the local warlord who claims his droit du seigneur on pretty girls. Laurencia manages to escape his grasp twice but at her wedding to Frondoso, they are both taken to the castle where she is ravished, while he is left to languish in the dungeons. Passionately, in her dirty, tattered wedding dress and with tangled hair, she rallies the village folk to revolt. Armed with pitchforks, shovels and axes, they storm the castle, release Frondoso and kill the Commander, after which there’s another excuse to dance.

For all its quaintness, there is some spectacular dancing in it. The ballet, based on Lope de Vega’s novel Fuente Ovejuna, was created in 1939 by the great Georgian dancer Vakhtang Chabukiani. It was the perfect showcase for his own incredible dancing talents and this ballet, together with his other works, changed the idea of the male dancer as being just a partner of the ballerina, to being a true virtuoso dancer.

In 2010, Mikhail Messerer meticulously researched and carefully revised the old Soviet ballet production performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1956, bringing it back to life with its wall-to-wall dancing. This production bursts with colour and activity and everyone, from the corps to the principals, gets the opportunity to shine – even the tall and the short alcaldes (town magistrates) had their bumbling, stamping-on-each-other’s-toes moment. There were many solo roles which evidenced excellent technique and grace, and most noteworthy was Oksana Bondareva as Jacinta, the first girl to be taken (literally) by the Grand Commander. A beautiful dancer with a lovely open upper body and fluid arms, she offers excellent delicate footwork, showing the lightest of bourées and stretched jumps. She was also very convincing in her dramatic moments. Sabina Yapparova took the role of Pascuala, whose job was to tie the story together, coming on every time the principals needed to catch their breath. She presented a joyous, dainty dancer with strong technique and good jumps. The Commander’s lusty soldiers were well acted by Pavel Maslennikov and Philip Parkhachov, while Nikolay Korypayev and Andrey Yakhnyuk were impressive with their fine technique in the pas de six, leaping high with well stretched limbs and in perfect unity. The corps de ballet had a selection of styles from Russian classical to Spanish flamenco and were well-drilled and tidy, keeping straight lines and showing enthusiasm.

The orchestra, again conducted by Valery Ovsyanikov, pulled out all stops with Alexander Krein’s full and expansive score. However, as in the other two ballets of this tour (read about them here and here), the night belonged to Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in the roles of Laurencia and Frondoso.

The skills of Vasiliev’s Frondoso sent shivers of delight into the audience as he attacked Chabukiani’s taxing technique with gusto. His cheeky grin, adorned by a pencil-thin Clark Gable moustache, confidence, charisma, bravado and super-powered spontaneity – which were all trademarks of the choreographer – sent him forth to conquer Laurencia’s heart – and the audience’s too. He relished every opportunity in his many flashy solos, to show off new tricks – more complicated jumps, higher leaps, faster corkscrew turns, and the very challenging spectacular leap where he is horizontal in the air, dolphin shaped, for a brief moment. Nothing seemed to faze Vasiliev technically and, unlike Chabukiani (as seen in old clips), he always showed polished steps with fully stretched legs and clean, finished poses, no matter how fast he has been twirling beforehand.

Whenever Osipova comes on stage, it is as though the sun has come out. She simply glows in her love of dancing and we bask in her warmth. Her feet barely touch the ground as she flies across the stage and she is always convincing in her roles. In this ballet, she, like Vasiliev, pushed the barriers of classical technique even further and presented new dazzling configurations to the original choreography. Mouths dropped at the speed of her turns – this time triple pirouettes in her multi-turns, another time with her leg held à la seconde (straight out at the side) or bent in front – all done at great speed and on the spot. Her high-off-the-ground jetés en tournant seemed even higher, and when she stopped after encircling the stage at lightning speed, it was on a pinhead. And of course there are those famous Laurencia leaps around the stage where the ballerina’s head leans back to touch her back foot. Osipova revelled in this – as did the audience – her white tiered frilled wedding dress falling like snow as she landed making her appear weightless. She is pretty good at the acting too and with great presence led her village mob to victory.

The tour continues without this super partnership and London audiences will miss them dreadfully. However, all being well, they will make a guest appearance with their old company – the Bolshoi Ballet – in the summer. So book now!