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Kirov Ballet

All Balanchine Program: 'Four Temperaments', 'Prodigal Son', 'La Valse', 'Ballet Imperial'

by Catherine Pawlick

November 3, 2005 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

The All-Balanchine program continues to grow on the Kirov dancers, and if some of the choreographer’s more modern movement challenges them at times, his more classically-based ballets are close to being an accomplished part of their repertoire.

“Four Temperaments” had a stumble here or there, and a lack of abandon overall, but nonetheless presented some of ballet’s cleanest lines in its black-and-white display of Kirov physiques.

Aside from Olga Esina’s stumble off-pointe in the en pointe, plie-ed promenade in the opening Theme, her partnering with an unidentified man billed as Sergei Popov (but who was not Popov) went rather smoothly. Olesya Novikova was partnered by Alexei Nedviga as the second couple, and both executed their sequences without difficulty.

Ekaterina Kondaurova’s grace and certainty shone in her short pas de deux with Maxim Zuizin, performing the “spider leg” walk offstage. Kondaurova’s flawless lines are heavenly to regard, especially in a spare leotard ballet such as this one. Among the first three couples in the theme, she drew the most attention for her polished line and appropriate expression. Of all the women in the ballet, she most resembles the Balanchine ballerina.

Anton Korsakov, listed in the program to dance the Melancholic variation, was replaced by Maxim Zuizin in a laudable expression of the temperament’s traits. Zuizin’s arched feet and well-proportioned body complimented his expression. From his dancing one receives the impression of timidity, but moments of serious drama manage to peek through.

Ekaterina Osmolkina, appearing rail thin, danced the Sanguinic variation with Alexander Sergeev. Her altered frame detracted from what is usually a beautiful display of line, while his accuracy and reliability were commendable.

Andrei Mercuriev was quite dramatic in the Phlegmatic variation. Sturdy in his delivery and balances, his arm gestures were suggestive of Petrouchka in their momentary floppiness before being flanked by the four longest-limbed dancers –Daria Sukhorukova, Yana Serebriakova, Elena Vostrotina and Ksenia Doubrovina.

Ekaterina Petina as Choleric was powerful, assured and strong in both temperament and technique in between air tosses performed by Alexander Sergeev.

In “The Prodigal Son,” Mikhail Lobukhin exhibited all the impatience of an immature young boy determined to make it on his own before the harsh reality of the real world strips him of all his belongings. Lobukhin’s strength – dramatically and physically – was visible. Daria Pavlenko, as the unfeeling, seductive Siren, was a coldly beautiful temptation for Lobukhin’s naive character. In the last moments of the ballet, the strain of the Son’s venture into the outer world was visible through Lobukhin’s acting – his pained face and sobbing motion a testament to his acting talents.

Lest one has been starved for something more traditionally-oriented, ‘La Valse’, the third ballet on the bill, made up in classicism what the former two pieces were lacking, at least from the point of view of stereotypical balletic elegance. Ekaterina Kondaurova, the epitomy of beautiful sophistication, reigned supreme in the main role, honoring it with cool reserve and classical chic. She was easily the belle of the ball, while partner Vladimir Shishov seemed only too taken with the lovely girl. When Death seized her hand, her steps quickened, and she looked at her foot movements as if they weren’t her own. Given Kondaurova’s red hair, the moment was strongly reminiscent of Moira Shearer in “The Red Shoes”. Before falling lifeless in the center of the floor, she tossed her bouquet offstage and performed the series of partnered tour-jete/kicks with rebellion. Shishov’s disbelief at the turn of events was visible in his searching glances. When the curtain fell, one wanted to see it all over again.

“Ballet Imperial” crowned the evening with more classicism, if not as mysteriously as “La Valse,” then more lightheartedly and idyllically. Tatiana Tkachenko in the leading role bore more softness than in previous performances, which, combined with her ever-present surety and attack, made for a true ballerina. Igor Zelensky, her adoring partner, was princely perfect in every way, dismayed at her evasiveness, and entranced at her presence. Irina Golub danced the second soloist’s role in blue, but her performance was, unexpectedly, dimmed by Tkachenko’s stronger stage presence and polished delivery.

Mikhail Sinkevich conducted the nearly four-hour evening admirably.

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