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Kirov Ballet

'The Sleeping Beauty'

by Becca Hirschman

October 12, 2005 -- Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, California

The Kirov Ballet returned to Berkeley last night with Konstantin Sergeyev’s “The Sleeping Beauty.” Based on Petipa’s choreography and including “fragments” by Fedor Lopukhov, the October 12th performance served as a Diana Vishneva tour de force. Her Aurora proved to be the highlight of the night and made me glad I traveled via MUNI and BART to see her come of age, draw blood, slumber, and after much beauty rest, find love with a man who wears golden slippers and, thanks to some technical help, hits a bulls-eye on the first attempt.

Vishneva’s interpretation added magic to the air, and while this is normally a fairy’s job, no one could outshine her. She convincingly transformed from 16-year-old ecstatic teen to confused spindle pricker and then wise, love-stricken bride. All eyes followed Vishneva from step to step, and while the corps de ballet’s missteps were minor, they greatly lacked the oomph and zest which Vishneva provided.

Uliana Lopatkina’s Lilac Fairy served as a nice balance to Vishneva’s dynamic Aurora. Appropriately bathed in a bright lavender spotlight throughout, Lopatkina displayed steel will and languid limbs, and this Lilac Fairy differed from the sprightly fairies of days gone by; her mature portrayal displayed an urge to provide protection and guidance, a mystical mother figure if you will. Trust me, don’t mess with her or she’ll arabesque you! Carabosse, played rather creepily by Igor Petrov, discovered this on several occasions.

One of Vishneva’s most glorious moments came in Act I where she piquéd into attitude and then relevéd into attitude entournant, adding a side cambré and making the entire movement seem circular and all-encompassing. She continued this sweeping image through each step, and her développés, passés, and pirouettes seemed never ending. This magnified when, dancing with her Prince Desiré (Igor Zelensky), she was on pointe in a low penché with the same spiral-like side cambré, and Zelensky held onto her hip softly while pulling away and promenading her, emphasizing the curve of the movement while displaying trust between the two dancers.

Zelensky’s Prince combined nobility with humbleness. His dancing, while crisp, contained a natural elegance that shone through constantly, such as in a set of chaîné grand jetés in a large circle, but came to fruition in his partnering sequences. Dancing with Vishneva, he held her softly yet steadily, and they made a spectacular pair onstage.

Other dancers stood out, particularly Yana Selina’s effervescent Lightheartedness Fairy and flirty Puss (the cat), Viktoria Tereshkina's polished Diamond Fairy, and Yana Serebriakova’s shining Sapphire Fairy and poised Courage Fairy. Anton Korsakov’s Blue Bird fluttered about with strong brisés and lovely pointed toes, but his Princess Florina (Yulia Bolshakova) had issues taking flight.

The sets added a needed ambiance and featured a sprawling golden gate (not the kind we have in San Francisco), a springtime garden full of greenery, and a sepia-toned forest. In addition, the orchestra overcame a sloppy Prologue and played well for the remainder of the evening.

Vishneva’s Aurora conveyed beauty in an infinite amount of ways, but it couldn’t conceal some of the major imperfections. The Kirov brought the older “Beauty,” as their new version doesn’t fit on U.S. stages, yet this one still looked cramped  on the Zellerbach stage (perhaps due to the multitude of well-coached students on loan from San Francisco Ballet School), and at three hours and 40 minutes, this “Beauty” treads on overstaying its welcome. Overall, the dancers looked tired and lacked energy, and it was the three leads, particularly Vishneva’s divine interpretation, that kept me awake and wanting more.

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