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Kirov Ballet - VI International Ballet Festival

Program 4: 'Sleeping Beauty'

by Catherine Pawlick

March 19, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

On the fourth evening of the Sixth International Mariinsky Festival, the much discussed Kirov reconstruction of “Sleeping Beauty” greeted the audience along with guest artist Alina Cojocaru from the Royal Ballet. Brightly colored costumes and “authentic” choreography from the original 1890 production kicked off the more than four-hour marathon that the full house sat through patiently, no doubt many of them curious to experience this Royal Aurora.

Cojocaru has also been much discussed in recent years. She joined the Royal Ballet School in 1997 on a Prix de Lausanne scholarship, returned to Kiev to complete the last year of her training and then joined the Royal Ballet in 1999 where, after just one season, she was promoted to First Soloist, and two years later to Principal. She is blessed with an extremely tiny, compact frame and doll-like face, which fit well in the characterization of Aurora. However, her feet are surprisingly unimpressive, at times even distracting from her lines. It is clear that Cojocaru’s success is based on her expressiveness and light port de bras.

In this performance, as Aurora, she was the ever-gracious, young beauty coming of age, and managed the famous sequence of attitude balances quite well. Her enveloppes a la seconde displayed flexibility and more elegantly pointed feet, leading one to believe that her shoes -- overly soft, wide and boxy, allowing her to sink into the floor during adagio sequences -- were to blame. But a professional dancer of this caliber is already well aware of such nuances. My attentions were drawn elsewhere.

Unfortunately, for its authenticity, the choreography in this production is much diluted from the well-loved Sergeev version. Despite this fact, moments of glory appeared here and there. The most impressive of them was Daria Pavlenko in a long awaited return to the stage (she was billed to dance in “The Nutcracker” in early March but I have yet to see proof that she in fact danced that morning). After at least a five-month absence from the St. Petersburg stage, she danced and mimed the role of the Lilac Fairy, emitting benevolent warmth to the very reaches of the house.

Here one wished for a short moment that the Sergeev version could have reproduced itself, simply so as to indulge in Pavlenko performing that version of the Lilac Fairy variation. The First Act variation in the reconstruction gives her a series of pique attitudes to perform, and that is about the extent of her solo dancing. The rest is mime, but it almost didn’t matter, she was so welcoming and so beautiful, truly a rare jewel that we see much too infrequently.

If the Lilac Fairy suffers from lack of movement in this production, Prince Desire is hardly better off.  Only his variation in the last Act gives him a chance to move, and with Andrian Fadeev in the role, one is always left wanting more. Fadeev was an elegant Desire, noble in gesture, reliable as always in his partnering, with accolade-worthy split second timing. His double cabrioles in the above mentioned variation were clean and high. Although somewhat regularly billed, as with Pavlenko, it is a pity he doesn’t dance even more frequently.

Honorable mention goes to each of the fairies in the First Act (Nadezhda Gonchar, Yana Selina, Yulia Kasenkova and Ekaterina Petina), although it was Olesya Novikova’s bright dancing in the temps de fleche solo (she was the third fairy) who drew one’s attention for her exactitude, clarity, and ravishing long lines.

The Third Act’s Jewels pas de quatre was also praiseworthy, with razor sharp Viktoria Tereshkina leading the group as the Diamond fairy. She attacked the variation with power and precision, a Balanchine ballerina in her abandon, but Petersburgian in style. She was flanked by Yana Serebriakova as the Sapphire Fairy, Ekaterina Osmolkina as Gold (the program incorrectly listed Yulia Kasenkova as Gold) and Ksenia Dubrovina as Silver, all of whom danced faultlessly.

Yana Selina and Anton Lukovkin danced the White Cat and Puss in Boots with adorable charm, both equally relishing the playfulness of their feline roles.

Ksenia Ostreikovskaya danced Princess Florine to Maxim Eremeev’s Bluebird. Having not seen Eremeev in this role previously, I was impressed with his ballon in the faille assemble manege. With some facial expression added to the mix, his would be an incomparable Bluebird. Ostreikovskaya, as always, danced with a purity of style and line, a refinement that continues to set her apart.

One interesting inclusion in the restored version of this ballet is the short pas de deux between Cinderella and Prince Fortune. Although these characters still enter during the wedding scene in the Sergeev version, they do not dance. Here they dance, or rather, promenade several times around the stage without lifts or complex choreography of any nature. After seeing it once, one realizes why this section was removed from the Sergeev version, but it nonetheless fills in a logical gap in the libretto and is so brief it does not detract from the rest of the dancing.

To her credit in the final Act, Cojocaru’s faultlessly performed variation drew incessant applause from the audience. It became apparent that either she anticipated the conductor’s timing, or Boris Gruzin, the conductor for the evening, had an innate sense for her own musicality. In either case, the results impressed, and as the curtain came to a close, the panorama of cherubs in the sky with Aurora and Desire happily united below them led one to believe that fairy tales do come true.

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