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Kirov Ballet - 'La Sylphide'

by Catherine Pawlick

June 21, 2006 -- Mariinsky State Theatre, St. Petersburg

The rarely seen Elvira Tarasova, replacing Zhanna Ayupova, took to the stage on Tuesday night alongside Andrei Batalov for a sparkling performance of Bournonville’s “La Sylphide”. As the White Nights Festival continues, the Kirov is showing that it need not go overseas to prove high quality dancing – the same can be found at home.

On the heels of Daria Pavlenko’s stunning rendition of “Giselle” this past weekend at Kennedy Center, the question arose as to what the reserve troupe would hold in tow. The answer is encouraging: both Batalov and Tarasova demonstrated keen understanding of Bournonville style and technique, making for a poignant and highly artistic performance.

Elvira Tarasova is an overlooked soloist who never, it seems, quite received her due within the Mariinsky. In Ayupova’s heyday, Tarasova was still within the company ranks. Now more mature, she still remains a soloist, but one who is rarely cast. Only this year have we witnessed her Kitri and one other role.

Blessed with supple feet, a light jump and fluid arms, Tarasova seems as technically capable as anyone else to perform principal roles. In this performance her understanding of the character’s emotional elements allowed her to present a Sylphide full of warmth and playful mischief who tried to steal James’ heart. Tarasova offered several statuesque,, photograph-worthy poses that demonstrated the dipped elbows of romantic port de bras. And yet in the Bournonville petit allegro sequences, with her arms serenely held in fifth low, the batterie of her pointework and jumps attested to her strength.

Batalov’s talents have already been chronicled, and as James he too revealed a remarkable capacity for sharp batterie and airborne jumps. While tamer in the first Act, by Act Two his petit allegro was on fire. He is a supreme example of idyllic Bournonville technique, and can be matched perhaps only by Sarafanov within this company in terms of cleanliness, accuracy and ballon. With his upper body relaxed and well-positioned, he performed a dazzling display of battu and jetés, finishing on time with the music at every turn.

While Yulia Kasenkova was listed in the program for the role of Effie, an unconfirmed Polina Rassadina danced the role instead, with bright facial expressions and snappy footwork. Despite the soft shoes that the entire corps de ballet wears for “La Sylphide”, every manner of step, beat or pointed foot was clearly articulated by all.

Lovenskjold’s impactful score was conducted by Alexander Polyanichko.

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