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Kirov Ballet - Fokine Evening

'Spectre de la Rose', 'The Dying Swan', 'Polovtsian Dances', 'Scheherazade'

The drama of Fokine

by Catherine Pawlick

May 22, 2005 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

With Diaghilev's moor-decorated lettering, "Les Saisons Russes" was sewn onto the second main curtain of the Mariinsky Theatre last night, for an evening of Fokine which displayed the famous choreographer's ability to use classical ballet technique as a starting point for creative expression.

"Le Spectre de la Rose" was first choreographed for Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina in 1910. Set to Von Weber's music orchestrated by Berlioz, the story tells of a young maid returned from a ball who inhaling the scent of the rose from the party fantasizes about dancing with - some say a young man, and some say an embodiment of the rose, with Dance itself.

"Spectre" is not commonly performed by western ballet companies, and indeed is rarely performed even in Russia. The photographs in ballet picture books of Karsavina and Nijinsky seemed to come to life on stage at the Mariinsky theatre on Sunday night. Irina Zhelonkina perfectly portrayed the girl in the white Victorian-era dress, but Igor Kolb drew more attention as the Spectre. His entire torso undulated as his arms waved on romantic port de bras. With each step he highlighted Fokine's lifelong goal: shedding the confines of classical steps, infusing movement with meaning, and unifying the music, costumes, steps and subject matter. In sum, dramatic expression over virtuosic displays.

Dramatic expression was indeed the entire theme of the evening, but as the curtain opened to the second Fokine piece, a repeat performance by Tatiana Amosova of "The Dying Swan" it became clear that not every Mariinsky dancer has the Fokine touch. Upon her first entrance, Amosova's arms seemed only slightly improved over her April performance, but pathos continues to be absent from her delivery. In the final descent to the floor, she slipped slightly, placing a hand -- not a wing-- to the ground, and "dying" a bit ahead of the music for the second time. This was discouraging given the historical bent of the ballet, the history of this theatre, and the willingness of the administration to entrust such a role to Amosova -- a second time.

In opposition to the focus on solo dancing in both "The Dying Swan" and "Spectre", "Polovtsian Dances" offers a reverse perspective -- a mass of dancers onstage in lively, ethnic costumes with steps based in character dance and not in classical ballet. Polina Rassadina and Aleksei Timofeev led the rest of the Maryinsky corps de ballet with spank and panache, a welcome departure from the previous ballet. This ballet is over almost before it begins, but the energy relayed Borodin's "Prince Igor" music is addicting, and the choreography displays Fokine's ability to create steps for the multitudes as well as the few.

"Scheherezade", in some ways, might be the refined, more firmly libretto-based version of "Polovtsian" in terms of dance for the masses; but as most of us already know, it also carries solo dance -- but not of the classical sort. One explanation for the sold-out house was the casting for this ballet. Irma Nioradze next to Farukh Ruzimatov, two of the oldest dancers currently on the company roster, but two of the most beloved as well, appeared in the final Fokine ballet of the evening.

In two words, bright intensity. Between the colorful costumes, risque theme and expressive choreography, Ruzimatov's smouldering gaze was met by Nioradze's own sultry sexuality, the two lovers clearly lost in their own world of passion. Ruzimatov's split jetes and airborn acrobatics remained as impressive as before, and Nioradze did a fine job of slinking about the stage in her step patterns. Despite their respective ages, or perhaps because of this, the performance was a captivating and fresh example of some of the best the Kirov can do.

It seemed that just when the going got fun, the fun was wiped away with the arrival of the Harem king, stern Shahriar, danced and mimed admirably by Soslan Kuliaev. Nioradze's solution to the problem was, in order: pleading for forgiveness, attempting to kill her husband, and finally, since neither he nor his younger brother Shakhezman, danced by Andrei Yakovlev, would take the knife from her, the last resort -- obvious or not -- suicide.

Despite the program's closure on a rather sombre note, the evening was a delightful reminder of the treasures of Fokine and the companies that preserve them.

Boris Gruzin conducted.


Edited by Staff.

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