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Kirov Ballet

Artistic Soiree Dedicated to Gennady Silutsky

by Catherine Pawlick

April 27, 2007 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Gennady Silutsky, born December 23, 1937, graduated from the Vaganova Academy in 1956, joined the Kirov Ballet, and during his long tenure there danced numerous roles with the company – from Desire and Siegfried, to Crassus from “Spartacus”, Van Lichen in “The Red Flower”, the Brahmin in “La Bayadere”, Girei in “The Fountain of Bachchisarai”, Abderakhman in “Raymonda”, and many others. He danced with some of the greatest ballerinas of the era – including Irina Kolpakova and Natalia Makarova – and after completing his dancing career, returned to the Vaganova Academy where he continues to teach while still coaching full-time within the Theatre.

With glossy booklets for sale in the foyers that covered his life in the theatre, and glass displays containing old programs, photographs of Silutsky and his Desire costume in the grand hall, the Mariinsky Theatre paid complete tribute to this great artist and man on Friday night with an evening of ballets featuring his students, past and present.

The evening began with a “master class” led by Silutsky onstage. He opened the program with a brief speech. “A tradition stands before you,” he began, to great applause. Explaining that while it is traditional to never applaud during the Vaganova state exams, “your applause is needed, not just tonight, but every night,” he said.

The master class was indeed an exam of sorts, as 6 boys performed pre-determined combinations at three barres set on the stage. A pianist was situated downstage left to accompany them. It was a treat to see – the nature of the combinations, their musicality, timing, and level of difficulty – and to hear Silutsky’s sparse comments to the boys, as he shouted “all together!” or “precise!” or “powerful!”, encouraging the boys to do their best. 

By the time the group moved in to the center, the combinations grew more challenging and included some of the most difficult petit and grand allegro I have ever seen, but the boys performed all of it – for the most part – with ease. In the center, one of Silutsky’s 2004 graduates, Alexander Sergeev, joined the group for an adagio. His crisp line, highly arched back during arabesque, more emotive nature, musicality, and clean delivery stood out from the rest, immediately drawing into bas-relief the path that these boys will hopefully follow in the coming years when they join the company.

At intervals Silutsky commented on the proceedings, at one point stating, “On the one hand (what you are seeing) is upbringing; on the other, it is great art.” When the combinations were finished, a large basket of flowers was delivered to Silutsky’s feet onstage, and the audience gave him several curtain calls as he bowed with the boys.

After a brief intermission, Silutsky reappeared dressed in a suit and tie sitting in the Tsar’s box to the left of the stage to watch Parts II and III of the evening. Part II was “Scheherezade”, performed by Yulia Makhalina and Igor Kolb. Makhalina seemed more present in the role than she has previously, and Kolb emitted a true panther-like passion as he slithered at her feet. Alla Sizova, Elena Bazhenova and Viktoria Kutepova danced the three odalisques with sultry abandon. At the final curtain, after many of the dancers had received large bouquets of flowers on stage, each walked over and passed (or threw) their bouquets to Silutsky’s box, bowing in reverence as if to underline the point that this evening was for him.

Part III was a series of divertissements that began with Olesya Novikova and Leonid Sarafanov in the Grand Pas from “Don Quixote”. As one of his first performances as a principal dancer with the company, Sarafanov danced adequately, but had a bit of trouble in the overhead lift that shifts into a fish dive. Novikova’s timing was excellent, but she imported a limp-elbowed port de bras that seemed more appropriate for “Giselle”, and one wondered if this was a statement about personal style or something that had been overlooked during rehearsals. Underlining his strengths in solo work, Sarafanov’s coda was stunning, however, and Novikova completed the 32 fouettes with only a slight stumble at the end.

Jerome Robbins’ “In the Night” was danced by Ekaterina Kondaurova and Sergei Popov. Popov, another one of Silutsky’s students, was an apt partner for Kondaurova in most sections of the brief dance, and the final lift – which is akin to the shoulder kneel performed in “Raymonda” – although slow, was steady. Popov and Kondaurova also gave their flowers to Silutsky.

Echoing Sunday night’s gala, Viktoria Tereshkina repeated her virtuosity in “Grand Pas Classique” with equal precision and verve, this time with Danila Korsuntsev at her side.  Korsuntsev proved a superb partner for Tereshkina’s innate technical prowess, although his solo work seemed dulled by a knee injury that he seemed to be favoring during the solo. Considering the circumstances, he too deserves praise for the output.

Kolb also repeated his gala performance of “The Swan”. Viewed from the orchestra, this time the piece revealed several new aspects. At the recorded laughter, Kolb recoiled and ran in fear. His initial emotions – from drunken glee to complete horror – were easily readable from the house. And the movements seemed to be part of his character: thumbs up, wrists curling, legs parallel, brisk movements that ranged from expansive to introverted. His acting efforts brought wild applause from the audience, and he bowed to Silutsky in thanks.

As the highlight of Part III, the pas de deux from “Talisman” was also repeated, this time with Sergeev in the male role alongside Ekaterina Osmolkina. Sergeev’s youthful look, clean lines and attentive partnering drew high marks. He did not carry the sloppy pirate look that can often accompany this piece, and his jumps were airborne and clean. His tour-jetes end in a crisp split high above the stage – a feat that not all of the company’s men can perform. Osmolkina was feather-light and girlish in her variation. This Petipa snippet was as refreshing to the eyes as it was to the heart. If nothing else, it is clear that in Sergeev Silutsky has created a fine young dancer of the highest caliber whose short tenure in the theatre has already brought him leading roles.

With the exception of Igor Zelensky’s appearance in the “Corsaire” pas de deux, the final two pieces were less engaging. The audience seemed to enjoy Leonid Sarafanov dressed in only a loin cloth as he performed tribal movements in “Goodbye to the Jungle”, but this reviewer would have preferred a more classical work.

Zelensky was welcomed onto the stage with warm applause and repeat curtain calls – which he deserved for a tight solo and reliable double work. Unfortunately Alina Somova was his partner, and with the departure of the many touring visitors who were in town for the recent Festival, the Petersburg audience was less than impressed with Somova’s fanfare.

Appearing coltish, with bent wrists, hyper-extended elbows, raised shoulders, and inappropriate epaulement, Somova moved through both the pas de deux and the variation. Sadly, at each reverence, the audience finished applauding before she finished bowing. The sensation was one of artificial creation: audience reaction seems to have no effect on the dancers or the casting in this case, which is supremely frustrating.

Thus, after four hours of dance dedicated to Silutsky, one emerged with a true sense of the evolution inside the Mariinsky Theatre, the tradition that perpetuates itself via great men such as Silutsky.

As with tradition, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so Silutsky himself is more than a single human being. He is dancer, teacher, coach; he is part of the Mariinsky tradition. That the Mariinsky Theatre is custody to such troves of talent and knowledge is what sets it apart from other ballet institutions, making it both invaluable and irreplaceable. May the love, talent, and knowledge that Silutsky has shared with so many continue to serve him well in his career, and may he find reward in the great gifts he has given to us all.

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