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Kirov Ballet - VI International Ballet Festival

Program 6: Igor Zelensky Gala Performance

by Catherine Pawlick

March 23, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

For the Festival’s second evening dedicated to a principal male dancer, Igor Zelensky took to the stage in three varied works that displayed the range of this great dancer’s talents.

As Apollo in “Apollo,” his boyish charm and obvious good looks lent credibility to the character. Whether strumming his lyre or performing a powerful entrechat six, he fit into Balanchine’s abstract choreography so effortlessly, one could have just as easily been sitting in the hall of the Met. As such, the piece almost seemed an ode to Zelensky’s “American years,” his ability and choice to go beyond traditional classical choreography. For the ballet, Zelensky was flanked by the lovely Viktoria Tereshkina, the only one of the three muses who mastered Balanchine’s off-balance, hip-guided développés and lent an energetic jazziness to the role of Terpsichore. Olga Esina danced Calliope reservedly, and Maya Dumchenko, despite her smiles, also danced conservatively in the role of Polyhymnia.

It was Zelensky’s masterful presence in the second ballet, a premiere, that drew even more attention. Russian choreographer Alla Sigalova created “Concerto Grosso” to Handel’s composition No. 6 (recorded in 1944 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and played via sound system) specifically for this evening dedicated to Zelensky.

Dressed in black pants, black turtleneck, black wool cap and jazz shoes, Zelensky worked his way through even more modern steps – his arms straight, hands flat or fisted, steps casual and turns light – somehow managing to dramatize this spare, libretto-less role. The stage was fully exposed for this piece, void of backdrop save for the theatre’s own far wall. Towards the end of Zelensky’s variation, the metal racks of overhead stage lights were lowered behind him as he continued to dance downstage. The work was intriguing in style. After so much Forsythe, Balanchine and Petipa, Sigalova’s movements were refreshing to watch and demand a second viewing. Zelensky’s performance attested to his flexibility as an artist and ability to excel in modern choreography as well as more traditional works.

The evening closed with Zelensky leading Daria Pavlenko through Balanchine’s “Diamonds.” Here he proved his classical capacities (lest anyone have doubted them) once again in this ode to Imperial Russia. Pavlenko almost distracted from Zelensky’s evening, so sumptuous was she as his ballerina, grace filling her every move. She was Russian Imperial grandeur, running with passion through the choreography, her long shapely feet on display through every promenade. And he was her prince, his grand jeté manège a reminder that even Balanchine began at the Vaganova Academy and that complete control over one’s physique, one’s technique and dramatic delivery are what make a star such as Zelensky.

At the ballet’s conclusion, a single red rose was delivered to each female in the corps, and then red rose petals and silver confetti dropped onto Zelensky from overhead in a celebratory fashion, crowning the evening with bright sparkle and beauty, just as Zelensky graces the stage with the same traits.

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