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Kirov Ballet

All Forsythe Program: 'Steptext', 'Approximate Sonata', 'The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude', 'In the middle, somewhat elevated'

by Catherine Pawlick

November 1, 2005 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

It would not matter so much what order the ballets on the Kirov’s all-Forsythe program were presented, for after leaving the theatre, the overall impression is the same: one of powerful, abstract, classically based movement on the streamlined bodies of ballet’s thoroughbreds: the Kirov.

As it stands, the piece opens with an apt audience-warmer, “Steptext,” which never fails to throw audience members for a loop with its opening: house lights on, curtain already up and Bach’s Partita No. 2 screeching between moments of silence as the first man on stage plods through his arm movements. For the November 1st performance, that man was Andrei Mercuriev, who offered a fluid port de bras while his legs remained glued in place. Later, Andrei Ivanov and Maxim Krebtov accompanied him, along with Daria Pavlenko -- her ultra lean body clothed only in a flash of red unitard. Pavlenko’s flawless lines were mesmerizing and her arm sign-language was done in a manner of pertinent communication. Like Sologub, she makes Forsythe’s choreography her own. Ivanov and Krebtov were attentive partners, and all four dancers demonstrated mastery of both Forsythe’s style and his intention.

The ever mind-boggling opening for “Approximate Sonata” was performed by Alexander Sergeev in his debut in the “lion” role. The mind will always seek meaning amidst chaos, which this ballet demonstrates more than others. The offstage voice telling him to raise one arm higher than the other, to “go,” and to “return,” Sergeev following the instructions, the “Da” sign upstage, the suggestions of contact improvisation at points in the choreography, the piano chords echoing –all seemingly connected in a very disconnected way.

Beyond the opening sequence, Sergeev also presented himself as fluent in Forsythe. He approached the entire ballet with high energy and full movements, partnering agile Elena Sheshina in the introductory and closing sections. Yana Serebriakova, clothed in fluorescent green pants, danced with Maxim Chashegorov, displaying lean lines and quick transitions. Ksenia Dubrovina and Maxim Ziuzin were smooth and accurate. But it was Ekaterina Petina and Anton Pimenov who stole the show with their professionalism and intricate partnering work, perhaps the true Forsythe disciples within the Kirov.

The third ballet on the bill, “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude,” is the closest to a balletic work on this program, offering the dancers a vehicle for canons, duets and synchronized dancing, with intricate footwork more classically-based than the movements in his other ballets. Olesya Novikova, Tatiana Tkachenko and Ekaterina Osmolkina, in flat green tutus, danced with, between and around Alexander Kulikov and Vladimir Shlyarov, clothed in boy-short leotards to the sounds of Schubert’s 9th Symphony, in D major. Tkachenko’s fluidity and Novikova’s curved lines were as noteworthy as the men’s seemingly endless jumps and turns. As a group, the dancers suggested a royal court of times past, heads held high, energy to match, not stopping until the final chords, the final curtain and the final pose – in fifth position.

The audience-shocker is always saved for last on this bill. “In the middle, somewhat elevated” emits its club-like electronic music into the far reaches of the theatre halls and, with matching extremism, the dancer’s extensions and flexibility are strained seemingly to the limit by various stretches, pulls and tosses. Slow is merged into abrupt, complex movement that then becomes slow once again. Irina Golub’s name topped the cast list, and she was partnered at times by Andrei Mercuriev with precision, but for this piece the leading soloist could be any of the women onstage. Indeed, both Ekaterina Petina and Ekaterina Kondaurova, in their respective solos, drew more reverence for their long, lean lines and accurately accented movements. Alexander Sergeev appeared here again, sturdy and reliable as he partnered Petina. Mikhail Lobukhin also deserved praise for his work with Ksenia Dubrovina, who alone seemed more new to the work than the other dancers.

This performance of Forsythe further attests to the accomplishments of the Kirov dancers in their adaptation to the choreographer’s abstract style, which, if not in direct opposition to the basis of classical training, at least bends it in new directions. It is to the dancers’ credit that they follow that direction so easily and with such energy.

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