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Stars of the White Nights Festival
by Catherine Pawlick
June 12, 2011 -- Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Considerable time has passed since the Mariinsky Ballet last performed “Jewels,” but its appearance during this year’s White Nights Festival is a welcome return to the Balanchine section of the troupe’s repertoire.
The measured symmetry of poses delivered in the opening sequences of “Emeralds”, as if the dancers themselves are jewelers etching the facets of a green gemstone, is Balanchine’s ever-fresh ode to French classicism. Arms crossed at the wrists, curved elbows linking partners, croisé positions, interwoven steps suggest the planned nobility of a verdant Versailles garden, the dancers’ movement soothing, like a cool fountain. Neoclassical technician Maria Shirinkina danced the first couple with the ever-attentive Maxim Zuizin, her almost transparent frame suggesting a young emerald, but her precision never wavering; the “compass” promenade in tendu called to mind again the tracing of grand garden plans, or an engraving on a precious gem.
Zuizin was an excellent choice as her partner, his double pirouettes perfectly placed, perfectly erect, with perfectly pointed feet. Yana Selina, who has danced in the Pas de Trois for nigh on five years now, still brings an ebullience to the crossed walks en pointe; she was accompanied by Filippe Stepin and Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, forming a threesome that was well-matched in style and presentation. Daria Pavlenko’s sensuality and warmth added a new dimension to her section alongside the stately Andrei Ermakov. Pavlenko luxuriated in the dance, every cell of her body emoting to the audience, her eyes flashing a regal presentation that was missing from Shirinkina’s accurate, cooler performance.
The alarming shift to the ardor of “Rubies”, led by Ekaterina Kondaurova, brought us to another realm, away from cool French gardens and into Stravinsky’s temperamental playground of passions. Precision was not lost in Kondaurova’s dance, where she moved as a proud Siren, sultry and commanding, among her four courtiers – Anton Pimonov, Aleksei Nedvega, Fedor Murashovand Vasily Tkachenko. She delivered each pencheé smoothly, her entire performance encompassing precise placement and assured movements. Unfortunately the same could not be observed in Alina Somova, who slapped her pointe shoes to the ground through the “stepping” sections of her pas de deux, her right wrist oddly folded throughout. Her feet remained unpointed during crucial transition steps, and supporting legs in arabesque were turned in. In order to adhere to the choreography, a squareness in the promenades and profile sections should have been present, and more care taken with the presentation of legs, feet and hands. Diana Vishneva in this same role offers spice, passion, and seduction. Somova seemed to be going through the motions with minimal effort and the result, this evening, was disappointing, far from the tenets of the Vaganova schooling in technical terms. In great contrast, her partner Alexander Sergeyev attacked his solo sections with energy, precision and verve, emitting the image, if one exists, of a “hot” red Ruby. He supported her in the duet areas with attentiveness, but this did not seem to help the cleanliness of her delivery. Sergeyev’s own virtuosity and dramatic range – from a playful Mercutio just a week ago, to the energetic neoclassicism of Rubies – speaks to his own talents as a performer.
The crowning glory of the evening, “Diamonds”, presented the best of the Mariinsky’s ballerina-gemstones, that of Uliana Lopatkina. Partnered by Evgeni Ivanchenko, who has not supported Lopatkina as frequently in recent performances, the couple presented noble classical purity at its peak. As precursors to her elegance, Evgenia Dolmatova stood out among the four demi-soloists, while Andrei Ermakov, this time partnering Yana Selina, called attention not only to his stately presentation but his acute timing in the duet work.
Lopatkina’s slow perfection, unfurled across the series of movements with care, forethought and precision, epitomized the flawlessness of the most coveted gemstone, and yet she incorporated a warmth and enjoyment of the dance that brought both human warmth and visions of royalty to the role. As the unparalleled technician of adagio in the company, Lopatkina fills out even the final milliseconds of a musical phrase with unhurried, fluid movement. One moment a swan, another a princess searching for something in the distance, she can shift as suddenly as a diamond catching a new ray of light, and then disappear again into the choreography. Even during the coda and ensemble work in the finale, when the tempos quicken and test her musicality, she never falters, instead hearing the notes individually and accenting each of them with the appropriate step. Numerous curtain calls attested to Lopatkina’s brilliance, but we expected nothing less from the diamond of the Mariinsky.
Mikhail Agrest conducted.
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