The name of this ballet compels us to look for some Russian chthon and Russian emptiness within it, things that became fashionable in the mid-2010s and which appeared in numerous forms, ranging from eponymous groups in social networks to the novels of Alexei Salnikov. The composer Nastasia Khrushcheva lauds this very emptiness and melancholy, and this is related in the narrative prologue. The ballet was written for the Mariinsky Theatre – it is a continuation of the piano cycle Russian Dead-Ends – and in the production this is performed by the composer. The "Russian" in Russian Dead-Ends – II comes with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: it is not highlights from specific works, but rather typical phrases of harmony that are put to use here – they flow in cycles, they gather pace, they break off suddenly, they appear once again, and so on ad infinitum. The original source is hard to discern: familiar motifs, having barely appeared, instantly vanish, much like the halts seen just outside the windows of trains on the Trans-Siberian railway.
The dance renders the concept of emptiness more complex and strips it of any specific Russian qualities. On the vast stage there are just two pairs of performers: one in the centre, the other on a bench towards the rear. Two age projections of one and the same couple, two versions of one and the same relationship, essentially two different ballets set to one and the same music: Maxim Petrov prefers to explain neither this division nor the melodramatic subject, which also constantly eludes the audience. One critic categorised Russian Dead-Ends – II as a modern romance, where "the movements selected by the choreographer reveal the situation more reliably than the game of mimicry ever could": "Behind all the neoclassical duets, synchronicities and variations, laid bare to see clearly is the story of an unhappy and hopeless love." (Tatiana Kuznetsova, Kommersant). That, apropos, is only one of myriad possible interpretations. Bogdan Korolyok