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Kirov Ballet - 'Swan Lake'

by Catherine Pawlick

September 13, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

The Mariinsky Theatre opened its 226th season in traditional Russian fashion. “Swan Lake” graced the stage after the company's month-long vacation, a break which resulted in the troupe's high-energy as well as several new faces in the corps de ballet, fresh from the Vaganova Academy. Two expert interpreters led the way as Viktoria Tereshkina (Odette/Odile) joined Andrian Fadeev (Prince Siegfried) in a terpsichorean ode to utter classicism.

This performance could be perceived as a test run for the company's approaching North American tour which begins in October and covers Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and two Canadian cities before heading to Japan by mid-November. Just as last year's U.S. tour stops focused on “The Sleeping Beauty”, this year “Swan Lake” will be performed in each of these locations. Not surprising then to see refreshed costumes for the production in each of the three acts. The men attending the Prince's birthday celebration in Act I now have new doublets in richer hues of dark mauve or beige velvet and odd hats of gold; the women have more simplified headdresses – headbands with flowers by their ears, a la Giselle – and pink or blue underskirts (to match the men) with long white overlays trimmed in gold. The Act III national dances also boasted new garments, here also heavily gilded with gold and in richer colors, but generally maintaining the previous designs. The six princesses had new snow white gowns, but unfortunately their overlarge headdresses, which replaced smaller Juliet-type caps, diverted from the dance. These were, however, minor distractions given the main attraction of the evening: the Swan Queen and her retinue of lithe, white swans.

The trend, at least for opening night at the Mariinsky, and even with the garment revisions, could be deemed conservatism and tasteful restraint. Who, then, better to dance the challenging dual role of Swan Queen and Evil Sorceress than Viktoria Tereshkina. Known for her power as Myrtha in “Giselle”, her razor sharp precision as one of the gemstones in “The Sleeping Beauty”, and her virtuosity in “Etudes”, Tereshkina's talent lies in her refined technique. The tenets of Vaganova training seem embedded in each cell of her body, providing the strength to carry out virtually any role (at least, those she has danced to date) effortlessly, exactingly, excitingly.

Tereshkina is also a naturally gifted turner – something not readily visible in certain roles. This means that when 32 fouettes approached during the Black Swan coda, she made every second turn an a la seconde releve with both arms in allonge for the first 16 counts. Impressive, but not surprising, for such is her aptitude. The audience went wild for this feat on Wednesday night, as if it was an unexpected gift.

Given her capacity for bravura and powerful steps, one might expect to be disappointed by Tereshkina's Odette. One might expect a weaker interpretation of the fluttering, vulnerable, innocent swan, and a stronger, even overpowering Odile. Such expectations were happily felled in this performance, which presented one of the Kirov's most well-rounded dramatical technicians. For indeed, to be effective, drama itself demands a well-developed strategy. Tereshkina's balanced approach lent credence to her maturity as an artist and her heretofore deserved and well-earned praises.

Tereshkina's technique is miraculously contained within the parapets of the classical paradigm, and yet, for its traditionalism, never approaches boring or stale. Her limbs are essays in streamlined efficiency – neither hyperextended nor overmuscled, they repeatedly place themselves into beautifully artistic lines. Her port de bras too is breath-infused: wilted elbows or stiff fingers aren't to be found here. Absent too are some of the more common unsavory habits. No faulty arabesques were displayed, no limbs flailed, no mixed emotional delivery was given, no lopsided interpretation encompassed Tereshkina's portrayal.

In sum, her dancing is genius, and Tereshkina's lyrical talents give her an added advantage over the growing popularity of gymnast-ballerinas. Tereshkina is an artist. Her every movement speaks the word, and this performance defined it.

As Tereshkina's Prince Siegfried, Andrian Fadeev once again did justice to the role. His poised manner met the requirements of royal blood from his first entrance. Clearly despondent throughout the first Act, his soul then seemed to come alive upon encountering Tereshkina's Odette. Later, as he soared effortlessly though the Act III variation, his charming, boyish grin greeted the audience time and again as an introduction to each virtuosic jump. He appeared a child at play in the choreography, the stage his playground in which to romp.

Also with revised costumes, the Act I Pas de Trois was a well-rehearsed presentation of three of the company's finest dancers. Ekaterina Osmolkina and Irina Golub matched each other's staying power and height of leg in the repeat pique arabesques. This lent a symmetry that is often lacking to this section of dance. Vasily Scherbakov, a seemingly untamed Nijinsky in his airy faille assembles, brought excellence to the variation, if some of the supported turns in partnering were slightly awry. Altogether the trio offered a brief but exemplary model of refined technique that was taken even further, as previously noted, by the evening's hero and heroine.

As Rothbart, Ilya Kuznetsov attacked his own steps with hungry gusto, consuming the stage and revelling in his sinister role. The swan corps itself was a pristine reminder of what this company does best: uniform adherence to historical classicism.

Pavel Bubelnikov conducted.

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