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Kirov Ballet

'Don Quixote'

by Catherine Pawlick

October 24, 2005 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

‘Don Quixote’ is one of the lightest and most comedic ballets in the classical repertoire. With its combination of technical feats (32 fouettes and one-armed lifts), comedy (Basil’s “suicide” scene) and storyline, this ballet is always a pleasant mood-lifter. Monday night’s full-house greeted Elvira Tarasova and Mikhail Lobukhin as Kitri and Basil. Both dancers gave steady, balanced performances that hinted at the heritage of the Kirov.

Tarasova is one of the elder artists in the company (she doesn’t fall into the “under 26” age group) and is seldom seen on stage. This soloist, with her strong, polished technique and a dash of old-fashioned trustworthiness rarely seen among the high legs and gymnastics of the younger generation, seems to have come out of the woodwork to perform a leading role. Her strong technique allows a smooth delivery, and one doesn’t worry if a step will be completed or if she will falter. While her Kitri did not have the fire of Olesya Novikova, Tarasova is a reliable, mature artist graced with beautiful arches and true Vaganova style port de bras. Watching her, one had the distinct impression that she was one of the few remaining Kirov ballerinas who pay tribute to the company’s traditions and past greatness.

Mikhail Lobukhin debuted as Basil, proving himself more than worthy of the role. Equally steadfast in both his solo and partnering work, he was the amiable guy next door whose attentions were easily attracted by other women, but just enough to have Kitri racing back to his side. Lobukhin managed both overhead, one-armed lifts on time, pausing enough to allow Tarasova to tilt her head to the audience after she was airborne, one eyebrow-raised, as if to suggest the pyrotechnics were a piece of cake. The audience laughed aloud as Lobukhin infused the suicide scene with humor. He was more good-natured than fiery, but the temperament was a fair match for Tarasova’s similar qualities.

Daria Vasnetsova also debuted in this performance as one of the flower girls next to Marina Zolotova, and both danced quite well except for one slight bumper car moment in the canon of consecutive piqué turns. Vasnetsova’s stage presence and leg work are impressive. Her lanky, seemingly pre-pubescent, frame stands out from the rest although her port de bras will need some polish.

As the Queen of the Dryads, Tatiana Serova was adequate, if not lengthy and ethereal. Her Italian fouettés appeared difficult, but her solo work was sufficient. Amour, danced by Elena Chmil, was bright, quick and ebullient, her strong legs and musicality lending a cute quality to the role that is second only to Evgenia Obratsova’s interpretation.

The Fourth Act variation was performed by Elena Sheshina, who was agile and self-assured in the role. Two dancers slipped in this act, suggesting maybe something had been left on the floor during intermission. Galina Raxmanova, in the colorful Fandango dance with Kerin Johanassen, got tangled by her skirt and tumbled briefly to the ground. She was back up and dancing in the blink of an eye. One of the tutu-ed guests in the pre-wedding pas de deux sequence also slipped to the ground briefly and was back up seconds later.

Despite these minor faux pas, the evening had an old-fashioned taste to it. Reliable performers such as Tarasova and Lobuhkin ought to serve as examples for some of the company’s younger dancers, as they prove that dramatic quality and understatedline can often produce a more beautiful performance than acrobatic feats devoid of thespian intelligence.

Mikhail Agrest conducted.

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