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Kirov Ballet - 'Giselle'

by Catherine Pawlick

October 9, 2005 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

While the rest of the company began its US tour in Los Angeles this week, the Kirov Ballet’s reserve troupe entertained audiences at home with a “Giselle” of several unanticipated surprises. While one might expect those left at home to be second rate -- and while that would be logically explainable by the need to finance a 220-member company largely with proceeds from foreign tours -- Sunday night’s performance proved otherwise, in which newcomers debuted pleasingly in several roles.

As Giselle, Maya Dumchenko’s veteran experience in the role expressed itself through in her dancing and acting abilities. The character’s innocence and fragility was perfectly expressed in Dumchenko’s movements: impossibly light ballones, emotion stemming from her epaulement and smile at the very first entrance. Only after Albrecht’s declaration of love did joy and abandon seep into her portrayal, but she maintained the shy, peasant demeanor throughout the first Act.

Evgeni Ivanchenko is a well-known Albrecht in this theatre. His cool, princely looks take him far, but animal magnetism, or even simple energy was lacking -- he appeared tired and not up to his usual technical feats in this performance. His first set of sissone arabesques sported a high leg, but by the time Act Two arrived, it wasn’t clear if he would in fact have the strength to fend of Myrtha and the other wilis.

The first surprise came in the debut of Dmitri Pikhachev as Hans, or Hilarion. He brought all the fiery passion of Tybalt to the role, lending it a sense of realism that rarely comes through with those who dance this part. One could see and feel not only his sincere love for Giselle but his even more sincere hatred towards Albrecht. A combination of extremely well-timed gesture and mime in his moments on stage could have won him an award. Upon Giselle’s death, when Ivanchenko ran toward him with a sword, one almost heard the words “Go ahead, kill me, you’ve already killed her”, as Pikhachev kneeled in front of Albrecht, chest up and head flung back, ready to die. Pikhachev deserves not only praise but a promotion for this performance.

Another newcomer -- although not debuting in the role -- was the lovely Viktoria Kutepova as Myrtha. She had the beauty and cold, unforgiving stance of the wilis’ queen, and the icy perfection of technique that lends the role its sense of otherworldliness. Her jete landings were relatively light, and while she does not carry the fireworks of Tereshkina to the role, she held her own with regal serenity.

Daria Vasnetsova, just out of the Vaganova School this June, danced Mulna with the most upright carriage of anyone in the company, doing justice to the solo role and her training.

Mikhail Agrest conducted admirably, although one of the oboes had difficulty at one point during the performance.

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