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Kirov Ballet - 'Giselle'

by Catherine Pawlick

September 22, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

For the sixth time in her career, Daria Pavlenko greeted the audience in the title role of “Giselle” on the Mariinsky stage. Her performance was another high-quality example of this Kirov principal’s capabilities as a true ballerina.

There is an indefinable quality in Pavlenko’s dancing that stems from her heart. It is her heart that she puts forward when she steps onstage, and the results are palpable. Pavlenko’s approach is not one of razor-sharp precision or coldly calculated steps and gestures. She moves towards the dance from an emotional place and the result is more understandable, more human, and more beautiful for her approach.

From Pavlenko’s first entrance it was tempting to mistake her for the young Ekaterina Maximova. Her eyes, lit with eager anticipation as she quickly skimmed through the initial ballone circle, searched the stage for the man who had knocked at her door. Her curled smile was a bright illustration of innocence and curiosity, a young girl, full of life, whose heart is about to be broken by a (depending on one’s interpretation) cold-hearted brute.

For his part, Vladimir Schklyarov fit the role of that brute in every way. As the Albrecht you love to hate, his insincerity and deception was clear from the start. Just moments after their meeting, he lifts Giselle’s head and swears eternal love, hinting at the disjointedness in his ‘game’. Blessed with the looks of a prince, Schklyarov’s acting was commendable, while unfortunately his partnering work was, at points, sadly lacking. At the end of Act I, when Giselle is to sit on Albrecht’s knee following their dance, Pavlenko waited for Schklyarov to position himself and help her. Something went wrong and instead of meeting his knee, Pavlenko met the floor, unable to recover before the next bar of music began. Since Schlyarov has two free arms at this point, it is unclear what happened or why he wasn’t supporting her. Schklyarov repeated the blunder in the moments before the final curtain, when, at the end of Act II, Albrecht is lying on the floor and, according to the choreography, should raise his arm to hold Giselle at the waist while she balances in arabesque in front of him. His arm was lifted, but there was no support offered: Pavlenko tried three times to lift her leg into arabesque and finally continued on, bouree-ing offstage. How disappointing that Pavlenko must be submitted to these gaffes, more so that neither was a technically difficult choreographic moment. They simply required attention and placement.

Dmitri Piikhachov, appearing even more handsome than usual, offered yet another repeat performance of his high-quality acting as Hans. Each time he fulfills this role, one wants him to win inside the fated love-triangle. In the moments before he reveals Albrecht’s true identity, he asks Giselle twice “do you love him” – impacting for the emotion he infuses into the moment and the mime.

Elvira Tarasova, in a rare treat, appeared as Myrtha in Act II. Warmer in character than many interpreters of the role, she was nonetheless calculating in each step and gesture. Tarasova has a Bournonville-esque pas de couru jete: with a still torso and smooth arms, she can execute nearly any manner of jump freely. Her command of the stage and of her entourage of wilis was regal in every sense of the word.

More, however, must be said about Pavlenko. It was with complete joy that she took every opportunity to dance. In Act I, Queen Bathilde’s request for her to do so was met with excitement brimming from every cell of her body. In her variation, she garnered applause for her hops en pointe. And during the mad scene, one had the distinct impression that she had already departed for the Next World. While Pavlenko seems too human to follow the route of Olga Spessistseva, her passion for the art of ballet in an odd way makes this role – at least in the first act -- even more fitting for her. Given the relative dearth of her appearances on stage until recently, it makes perfect sense that one would see her bursting with energy and joy at the chance, yet again, to dance.

In Act II several details underlined Pavlenko’s virtuosic interpretation. Following the interlude where the rosemary branch breaks, Myrtha’s own power pulled Pavlenko’s Giselle away from Albrecht to center stage. The Pavlenko/Tarasova pair tended to step in tandem – Myrtha backwards as Giselle went forwards – both after the initial entrance and during the pas de deux, which lent a greater coherency to Giselle’s existence in this other world. At the beginning of Act II, Pavlenko’s port de bras mimicked the motion of tears, underlining not only her character’s emotional state, but the humanistic side of her spectre, an approach that not all ballerinas take.

In the peasant pas de deux, Elena Sheshina and Philippe Stepin offered a smooth delivery even if several of their bows afterwards seemed superfluous. As Moyna and Zulma, the endlessly slim legs and long arms of both Daria Vaznetsova and Daria Sukhorukova did justice to their short variations.

With any luck, the Pavlenko-Schklyarov pair will have additional opportunities to display their talents or perfect specific choreographic moments, as the case may be. Regardless, this performance enraptured the heart of at least one spectator in the audience.

Valeriy Obyasnikov conducted.


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