'Apollo', 'Prodigal Son', 'Symphony in C'
by Catherine Pawlick
17 July 2008 - Mariinksy Theatre, St. Petersburg
Perhaps due to the visit of the President of Italy, or perhaps the peak of the “White Nights Festival”, the Mariinsky Theatre burgeoned with patrons on Thursday night as the company performed an all-Balanchine bill that included one special piece.
Alexander Sergeyev graced the stage in the title role of “Apollo”, alongside Ekaterina Osmolkina’s debut as Terpsichore. Sergeyev’s passionate energy and raw individualism proved exactly what this role needs, and is by far the best rendition of the young god that I’ve seen here in four years worth of performances. Apollo’s power was apparent as Sergeyev pushed his arms through the air, exploring the limits of his human form, now gaining his balance as a young god, now tugging at the three muses who pull him forward as if like racehorses. At the end of each of the muses’ variations, Sergeyev’s erect posture stipulated the pride and omniscience of a true deity. Throughout, he was a master of the role.
Yana Selina was brightly pleasing as Calliope, her sketches in the air full of grace. In the ensemble work, her arabesques remained suspended longer than the other ladies. Maya Dumchenko danced Polyhimnia with verve, but had difficulty in the pique pirouettes to arabesque. She seemed to leave even Apollo a bit displeased. Unfortunately, Osmolkina did not fare much better. While adequate, her Terpsichore lacked the stuff that a true Dancing Goddess is made of: her hip shifts on pointe weren’t quite Balanchinean, and she left me longing for more.
In “The Prodigal Son”, Andrey Ivanov was given ample food for his great acting chops. A consummate performer with not nearly enough exposure in dramatic roles, Ivanov excelled as the impetuous Son alongside his friends, danced by Grigory Popov and Anatoly Marchenko. The short duet between Popov and Marchenko in which the two boys battle it out contained the perfect amount of masculine recklessness. As the father, veteran Vladimir Ponomarev was an imposing figure in the initial and final scenes. As Ivanov pulled himself up into his father’s embrace with every last bit of strength, it was impossible not to feel the surge of emotion stirred by this old tale.
And finally, there was “Symphony in C”. This ballet of all ballet’s has not been performed here at the Maryinsky in at least four years. One can ponder the possible reasons: injuries and various dancers on tour here and there means that rarely is a cast – despite the overlarge size of this troupe – all available at the same time. Tonight was a treat. Four principal couples, eight soloist pairs, and 28 corps members all appeared and danced one of Balanchine’s greatest works to repeat curtain calls from the audience. It was a ballet – and a night – I will never forget.
I shall go to my grave with an image of Uliana Lopatkina moving through the series of ultra slow fouettes into arabesque en pointe, her legs shifting through perfect academic positions with lyrical grace, a combination of pinpoint accuracy and sheer elegance. If her partner, Ivan Kozlov, was less than poised in his role, it still didn’t detract from the ultimate ballerina of the Mariinsky claiming her spot in the Second Movement.
She offered visual relief from her predecessor in the First Movement, Alina Somova of the stiff, widespread fingers that marred classical and neoclassical lines alike. My heart went out to Andrian Fadeev, who once again was given the responsibility of supporting this young thing. Nonetheless he managed a triple pirouette that paused en releve, closed in fifth and then finished with a perfect double tour. I laughed out loud when, intent on continuing to bow in front of the curtain, Fadeev had to pull her offstage with his arm. That moment epitomized the essence of Somova: lacking in grace and professionalism, and determined to be rewarded for both deficiencies, like it or not.
Luckily another distraction in the first movement were the demi-soloists. Yana Selina with the rarely cast Fyodor Murashov, and the equally rarely cast Maria Shirinkina with Maksim Krebtov. This foursome amazed with their crystalline delivery. Shirinkina has hardly been given such prominent placement on stage to date, and she truly rose to the occasion, expressing herself as a true Balanchine ballerina would. You would never guess that she is not yet 20 years old. Both Murashov and Krebtov were considerate cavaliers, and Selina’s arabesques were to the eyes what silk is to the skin.
For those that love panache, the Third Movement brought Olesya Novikova and Leonid Sarafanov, resident deliverers of fanfare and pyrotechnics. If Sarafanov’s feet were slightly sickled in his precise tours, no one was the wiser for it, because he completes everything with a “ta-da” gesture that makes you believe he’s just done something fantastic. Novikova’s legs were crisp, her arms soft in the speedy partnering sections -- she was an equal match for Sarafanov’s bravura on all accounts. Both dancers are invigorating to watch.
The Fourth Movement brought us Nadezhda Gonchar alongside Anton Korsakov. In hindsight there isn’t much to say about Korsakov. The demi-soloists, Anastasia Petushkova and Karen Iohanessen, with Daria Vasnetsova and Denis Firsov, drew my attention instead. Nadezhda Gonchar of course is a woman of steel: always reliable, always on her game, always there in place and on time. And this, after having danced the “Siren” in “Prodigal Son” earlier that evening.
Pavel Bubelnikov managed another uncharacteristically impressive evening, for the orchestra sounded magnificent under his baton.