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Kirov Ballet - 'Jewels'

by Catherine Pawlick

January 15, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Adding brightness and vivacity to the stage, the sparkle of the Kirov’s “Jewels” on Sunday night was an apt choice that cured, for a few hours, the mid-season doldrums of an arctic winter.

In addition to old hands, the program featured several newcomers in the Balanchine masterpiece, a three-act work that has only gained in luster in subsequent seasons. Faure’s hauntingly beautiful score accompanied Ksenia Ostrakovskaya and Maxim Zuizin in the opening of ”Emeralds”. They danced the first couple with nobility, Ostrakovskaya smiling softly throughout, and Zuizin paying rapt attention to both steps and partnering. Sofia Gumerova danced the second solo with help from Sergei Popov in equally regal fashion. Continuing the elegant mood, Gumerova floated effortlessly through her attitude turns, gracing the audience with her own enjoyment of the dance. She appears increasingly relaxed and self-assured, lending an additional level of refinement to her dancing. When added to her usual sophistication, this spells the makings of a great ballerina.

”Rubies” opened with its usual near-shock quality:  Karinska’s signature bright red costumes, and Stravinsky’s irregular phrasing and pounding notes. Ekaterina Petina was the center attraction at the opening of this act, smoldering in the partnering section with her four suitors – Anton Pimenov, Maxim Krebtov, Alexei Nedvega and Vasilii Sherbakov.

Petina was stern and powerful, unforgiving in both her glances and her flexible extensions, as the men ran around her, rearranging her four limbs. This contrasted with Olesya Novikova’s more playful sequences in the role often danced by Diana Vishneva. For Novikova the message was more about brightness than severity, more sparkle than power. The effect was a slightly diluted (read less acrobatic but equally Gumby-like) version of Vishneva, surprisingly pleasant for its balanced nature. Anton Korsakov was the slightly disappointing partner for Novikova, his lackluster presence suggesting fatigue or disinterest or both.

“Diamonds,” easily the highlight of “Jewels”’ triptych stole the show. It featured the accomplished Andrian Fadeev supporting Alina Somova in her debut in the role. This Balanchine tribute to Imperial Russia opens with hints of “Swan Lake” in the port de bras, and closes with a grand march reminiscent of the royal courts. Somova danced adequately, though appearing unpolished during moments of faster phrasing. She is of the bambi category – long, slim legs with lovely feet, but they do not always appear to be under her own control. The result is legs shot up without consideration, mostly due to faster tempos but sometimes even in the slower sequences. To his credit, Fadeev was not only ever-adoring (his enraptured glances suggested he was completely taken with her) but unwaveringly steadfast in all of his partnering efforts with Somova.

The corps de ballet was a visual accolade to Russia’s ballet traditions – streamlined, synchronized, coordinated, and brilliant like the diamonds they portrayed, and even more valuable in so many ways. Necks held high like true nobility, they were a metaphor for the riches of Russia, and an exemplar of sparkling dance.

Mikhail Agrest conducted.

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