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Kirov Ballet - 'The Sleeping Beauty'

by Catherine Pawlick

January 29, 2005 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

On either side of the Mariinsky stage, one level up from the orchestra on the belle-etage, are two boxes, similar in size and appearance to the Tsar’s box at the back of the hall, each seating about ten people in two rows of chairs. The “director’s box” is supposedly the one to the right of the stage. Ballet Director Makharbek Vasiev, it is said, stands or sits here when he decides to watch a performance from the auditorium. The box to the left, at least to this viewer, remains mysteriously unnamed. And lest these coveted places be disturbed by those who are unwelcome, access to these stage-side boxes is provided at the orchestra level, through a back staircase and several connecting antechambers, each decorated in color-based themes. A room decorated in velvet Mariinsky green, the next in deep maroon silk with the signature Mariinsky harp carved into the dark wood backing of the chairs. These chambers are akin to rooms in the Hermitage or other historical buildings in this city, littered with antique furniture that should no doubt be in a musuem, and one feels the weight of history silently in the surrounding air when passing through them.

It was from this palatial vantage point in the left, unnamed stage-side box that I was able to view tonight’s stalwart “The Sleeping Beauty”, with a similar cast as before, only this time with one new addition. Suffice it to say that being able to see feet and eyelashes up close is even more exciting when those and other appendages belong to members of the Kirov Ballet.

A young Olga Esina debuted as the Lilac Fairy – perhaps the explanation for the long line waiting to file into the theatre at quarter to the hour. Her skeleton and musculature are similar to resident Lilac Fairy Ekaterina Kondaurova’s – that is, tall, long of line, but with supple feet and extraordinary flexibility. Although the line of sight so close to the stage and yet a good ten feet above the performers is somewhat skewed, it did offer a clear view of Esina’s 180-degree turnout, no matter what her position. If her emotional delivery was not quite connected throughout the evening  (that will come with time), she has enough expression and grace to excel and mature in the role. Esina was alternately the regal leader of her fairies, the serious, unsmiling guardian of Princess Aurora, and the rosy-cheeked bestower of benevolence and good fortune. Her technique, meanwhile, was unquestionable and consistent. She met the grand music that introduces her variation with equal grandeur – each double pirouette finishing in tendu was faultless, and her extensions, while next to her ear, were somehow not overdone.

The fairies in the first act were a delight. Ksenia Ostreikovskaya danced the Fairy of Affection with a soft smile in the slow adagio. Tatiana Tkachenko was the Fairy of Playfulness, her variation filled with vigor and spark. Yana Selina impressed, as always, as the Fairy of Unconcern; her snappy allegro movements sparkled. Yana Serebriakova danced the Fairy of Boldness with strength, direction and self-certainty. Only Elena Vasiokovich disappointed as the Fairy of Generosity, her tiny arms and wrists stiff, and her movements angular.

The corps de ballet provided a suave to the eyes in the first act Waltz, their spring green costumes always managing to infuse the spectator with a breath of freshness and hope.

Freshness and hope were also the theme in Ekaterina Osmolkina’s performance of Aurora this evening. Her first entrance was airborne, offering soufflé-light jetes and solid balances. Her dream sequence pas de deux in Act II was adequately ethereal, aided by the strength of partner Leonid Sarafanov. And her delicate manner evoked youth and beauty, fresh in its newness and never stale.

Sarafanov, again as the brown-haired Prince, drew applause for his split jetes and expert timing. He has the ability to suspend himself in the air when jumping – in double assembles, for example – and cushions everything with soundless, soft landings. His final act variation was delivered with almost over-certainty, as if to say to the audience, “watch this”, finishing nearly in the wing but right on time. He held himself coolly as the Prince in the second Act, nodding to his fellow royalty with aloofness. His Prince is regal and polite but strong and steadfast. At least for this reviewer, his rendition is believable.

Act Three brought the true fairytale entertainment of the evening, but in fact it was the Jewels’ pas de quatre that drew the most attention. Daria Sukhourova danced Silver, alongside Yana Serebriakova’s Sapphire and Tatiana Tkachenko’s Gold. The brilliant Diamond leading them all was Viktoria Tereshkina, razor sharp, dancing with all of the power of New York City in her bounding, regal steps. A better casting choice could not have been made, for Tereshkina’s maturity makes her a ballerina down to every cell in her body, and that comes through in her performances, especially something as technical and classical such as this.

Ksenia Ostreikovskaya reappeared as Princess Florina alongside Bluebird Maxim Chashegorov. Ostreikovskaya’s variation was a welcome relief from her struggles with partner Chashegorov. That she was visibly disturbed by his inattentive partnering was not as disappointing as her justification for being so – he seemed to decide on his own when her turns would stop or how long he might feel like lifting her. He too seemed happier in his solo work and perhaps the couple should be recast with different partners the next time around.

Valeria Martinkiok was the White Cat – an unexpected departure from the usual Yana Selina in the role – but nonetheless a pleasant interpreter of the playful feline next to Anton Lukovin’s Puss in Boots. And Elena Vasiokovich was a frightened little Red Riding Hood, more well cast here than as a Prologue fairy. The strong partnering of Andrei Yakovlev helped.

Clocking in at four hours, the Kirov’s “The Sleeping Beauty” is not for early retirers, and the full house suggested that every moment of it is worth watching. Boris Gruzin conducted.

Edited by Jeff.

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