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Kirov Ballet - 'La Sylphide'

by Catherine Pawlick

October 29, 2004 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

At first glance it is a typically balletic theme: the Scottish peasant James leaves his home and fiancée to chase an airborne sylph. In the process, he unintentionally kills her and loses his own life. The fundamental premise of the contradiction between spiritual ideals and grounded, human existence is timeless, and the Kirov’s production of “La Sylphide” upholds that tradition.

As the program notes: “First performed on March 12, 1832 on the stage of the Grand Opera de Paris, ‘La Sylphide’ marks the beginning of a glittering era in the art of ballet -- the epoch of romanticism.” That era upheld the main theme of romanticism, the discord between dreams and real life, which is the central focus in this ballet.

On Friday night, the cast featured the young and effervescent Evgenia Obratsova as the charming, fleeting Sylphide. Her weightless jetes, beautiful lines, and ear-to-ear grin kept James, danced by Vladimir Shklyapov, in her chase. Obratsova is the image of a baby ballerina, and definitely one to keep an eye on as she continues to mature in more dramatic roles. Here she fit right in as the ever-ebullient, evasive spirit of the air, the fair-haired image of unattainable feminine ideals and unreachable beauty. Even her soft, slow death evoked a being who bore no anger, only love or despair.

Shklyapov, for his part, offered crystal clear beats a la Bournonville in all of the petite allegro sequences. His James was bright-eyed and youthful, enchanted with the ephemeral sylph, and torn – but not too much so – between his fiancée at home and the promise of mystery at his window. Indeed, he found the decision to leave home and humanity for the promise of the unattainable an easy one, as he raced out the door.

The lead Sylphide in the forest scene was danced by Yulia Bolshakova, easily recognizable for her slight frame, wide eyes, and mature carriage. Bolshakova danced Nikita in the Shades Scene from “La Bayadere” during the Vaganova School’s Graduation Performance on June 17. She was joined by fellow newcomers Maria Lebedeva, Olga Esina, and Irinia Idina.

It was easy to see why Bolshakova was the top of her class during the graduation performance, and no surprise she is already dancing soloist roles on the Kirov stage. Bolshakova’s ethereal qualities are expert. Her features suggest elements of both Olga Chenchikova and Altynai Assylmuratova – her neck is long, her back straight, her sternum held high. She has long limbs and beautiful feet, but strength as well. She is another baby ballerina on the horizon.

Alexander Polyanichko conducted.

Edited by Jeff.

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