The future looks strong for the Vienna Ballet following an evening of premieres Wednesday that featured a completely original work and promising last-minute casting.
Four pieces were included on the "Dance Perspectives" (Tanzperspektiven) programme, by choreographers including Britain's David Dawson, France's Jean-Christophe Maillot and American Helen Pickett, all performed for the first time by the company.
A specially created piece for the Vienna Ballet by German-born dancer-choreographer Patrick de Bana also had its world premiere here, with star Kirill Kourlaev drawing loud applause from the demanding audience.
The absence of first solo dancer Nina Polakova, taken ill on the morning of the performance, necessitated some last-minute casting changes with soloist Kiyoka Hashimoto stepping up to take her role in Pickett's "Eventide."
But it was rookie Natascha Mair, aged 18 and who joined the corps de ballet just six months ago, who had everyone talking after her cool performance in Dawson's "A Million Kisses to my Skin," replacing Polakova and holding her own alongside many of the company's greatest names.
Understudy Mair drew some of the loudest cheers of the evening as well as special praise from Ballet director Manuel Legris after the performance.
The talent and fire of another young dancer, Russian Robert Gabdullin, who joined the company last year as soloist, was meanwhile showcased in "Eventide."
While the Vienna Ballet has long had a strong set of female dancers, the male talent has been more limited and the increasing inclusion in the programme of new names like Marcin Dempc, Greig Matthews and Dumitru Taran -- all promoted from corps member to semi-soloist last year -- seems an attempt to fill this hole.
One male star in the company however is Kourlaev, who eclipsed his colleagues in de Bana's new creation "Windspiele" with his impeccable pirouettes and impressive jumps, drawing loud applause and cheers.
De Bana's choreography, to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, was accompanied by the Vienna Opera orchestra and veteran Philharmonic violinist Rainer Kuechl.
The orchestra already opened the evening with pianist Igor Zapravdin in "A Million Kisses to my Skin," a fluid and graceful choreography accentuated by simple costumes and decor -- light blue leotards against a black backdrop.
Similar to Dawson's piece, Maillot's "Vers Un Pays Sage" was both dramatic and playful with first soloists Olga Esina and Roman Lazik turning in a stunning pas de deux.
"Eventide" was more messy, with armour-like costumes against oriental music from Ravi Shankar, Philip Glass and others.
An example of the Vienna Ballet's increased cooperation with leading contemporary creators under director Legris, all four choreographers were involved in staging Wednesday's premiere.
Pickett even agreed to add new music to create an updated version of "Eventide," which was first premiered by the Boston Ballet in 2008.