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Diana Vishneva

'Beauty in Motion'

by Kathy Lee Scott

February 13, 2008 -- Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, Califorinia

For those expecting traditional dance, the evening featuring Kirov Ballet's principal dancer Diana Vishneva would disappoint. The Beauty in Motion program on Feb. 13 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center highlighted three choreographers using ballet dancers in modern lingo.  All three were commissioned by Vishneva to create dances for the show.  Working en point, Vishneva joined fellow Kirov  dancers Maria Shevyakova and Ekaterina Ivannikova in three piecesOpening the evening, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky (Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director) selected Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire." Four dancers (Vishneva, Igor Kolb, Mikhail Lobukhin, Alexander Sergeev), in long white pants, tunic tops and skull caps, cavorted on stage to the atonal music and harsh, guttural German singsprache. According to the playbill, in the first section, Pierrot contemplates his life, which includes his desire for Columbine (Vishneva).

Ratmansky kept the ballet turnout on his dancers, modifying the traditional arms to angular ones and increasing the contact among them. The men lifted, swung and manhandled Vishneva in varying combinations. She would alternately claw at one or another, then wrap her arms around a partner in desperation. Other times, she'd push against one when he reached for her. Vishneva alternated between a loving nature toward one of the men (Pierrot?) and mocking him with the other two men. Several times she'd point offstage.  All in all, the piece was confusing as all the men looked alike except for changing from skull caps to coned hats and one donning a beard during one part. The coupling and uncoupling of the dancers made no sense.  However, all performed with great and beautiful technique, as expected from such experienced performers.

The second piece, "F.L.O.W. (For Love of Women)," began on a dark stage where only the three women's lower legs and arms were illuminated by black light. Vishneva, Shevyakova and Ivannikova manipulated their limbs in various movements to produce flying birds (hands), hearts and a single dancer (one of the ladies' arms were the legs and feet; another's hands were the hands and the third's single hand was the head). The experimental movements, choreographed by Moses Pendleton of Pilobolus and MOMIX fame, generated both laughter and quiet "so enough already" comments.

Pendleton's second section had Vishneva lying on a mirrored ramp. She arched her back and bent her knees such that she appeared almost spider-like with the reflections. In the third section, Vishneva played with a prop: a beaded headdress with strands of beads hanging to the floor. At first, she confined her movements within the beaded environ, and then she stuck her hands through the top portion. The boundary broken, Vishneva began to twirl, slowly at first and then faster until the beaded strands flew up and created a shimmering aura around her. She modified the twirls a bit, doing piqué turns and balancés in place to make the beads whirl at an angle. The effect was reminiscent of whirling dervishes.  While the experiments seemed fun, they didn't require a prima ballerina's expertise to perform.

The final piece, "Three Point Turn," paired Vishneva with Desmond Richardson, a former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater principal dancer. Choreographer Dwight Rhoden used electronic music by David Rozenblatt to depict romantic relationships, from their sweetness to their complexities. Three couples (including Lobukhin and Shevyakova; Sergeev and Ivannikova) moved in front of a steel structure, each in matching outfits. They danced turned in for the most part, using common modern movements.  Rhoden gave the two Kirov men beated jumps while Richardson remained grounded. Each man manipulated his partner in rolls, swings and lifts. They sometimes changed partners, but primarily they remained with the same ones throughout the dance.  The couples didn't seem to connect with each other except to make sure they did the choreography. There was little emotional rapport among any of the pairs, although they looked pretty doing the steps.

The music included loud percussion sections, which contrasted with the smooth gestures of the dancers. Other times, the men used abrupt, rapid steps to communicate with the women. The piece served to illustrate the difference between earthbound modern and air-borne ballet . Another distinction between the styles was how the ballet dancers extended their lines out when they lifted their legs while the modern dancer seemed more compact.

For a ballet lover, the dances didn't satisfy, and the music selections further assaulted the audience's ears. Despite the disappointment, the dancers, choreographers and musicians received standing ovations.

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