CriticalDance Forum

Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Oct 25, 2003 3:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

The Kirov Ballet Dances Fokine
By Don Kolman for

The choreography of Mikhail Fokine is seldom seen today in the repertoire of the world’s major ballet companies.....

.....Fokine firmly believed ballet at that time was too absorbed with technique and athleticism. He strenuously objected to the use of ready-made dance steps, short skirts, and pink dancing shoes. He emphasized to his students the need for dancers to appeal not just to the audience’s eyes but also to its soul and emotions. He fervently believed that music, scenery, and dance should all come together to form a single whole. His influence on fellow choreographers of the first half of the twentieth century is marked. This is especially true in the case of George Balanchine.

click for more

Author:  Andre Yew [ Mon Oct 27, 2003 2:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Kirov's second cast: It's love over lust
Lewis Segal, LA Times

If the Kirov Ballet's opening night leads in "Scheherazade" emphasized pure, delirious lust, two new principals brought implications of forbidden love to the Thursday performance of Mikhail Fokine's one-act 1910 dance drama at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Nov 15, 2003 9:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Reviews (not previews) from the Boston papers.

Christine Temin from the Globe:

The Kirov brings back its harmony

In the West, the most frequently performed work by the early 20th-century Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine is "Les Sylphides" - for all the wrong reasons. The steps are deceptively easy-looking, and the ballet requires just one male dancer, which endears it to directors of regional groups chronically short of men.

In Russia, the work is still known by its original title, “Chopiniana,” which seems appropriate since the original demands a unique style and spirit - which the Kirov Ballet conveyed exquisitely at last night’s opening of a four-day run in the Wang Theatre. It was its first visit to Boston since 1992. More ...


And T.J. Medrek from the Globe:

Ballet from Russia with love

When ballet was a novelty in America, people commonly called it “Russian ballet.” The Kirov Ballet reminded us why last night when the FleetBoston Celebrity Series brought the company, along with the Kirov Orchestra, from St. Petersburg to the Wang Theatre.

It’s not that the Kirov dancers are that much better than our own. But they exhibit such an extraordinary uniformity of style and (high) technical level that they convince you they are. Ballet is part of them, not something they’ve learned to do. More ...


<small>[ 15 November 2003, 10:11 AM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Nov 15, 2003 9:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

From Theodore Bale in the Boston Herald:

Kirov ballerina fired up for all-Fokine program at the Wang

Of all the roles Kirov principal ballerina Irma Nioradze has danced, the lead part in Michel Fokine’s “The Firebird” is her favorite.

“Only a brave woman can die for love,” said Nioradze, “and ‘Firebird’ reminds me of a joke we Russians have. We say that it’s better to be in true love for just one day than to be sad for your whole life.” More ...

Author:  Shanti [ Sun Nov 16, 2003 9:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Having lived in the world of ballet my whole life, I had somehow always missed seeing the Kirov perform. Last night's Fokine program in Boston was revelatory in so many ways. It took me so long long to recover from the overwhelming perfection of 'Chopiniana' that it was difficult to move on to the other two ballets. To see a company of that size, cohesion and purity of form was truly awe-inspiring - I felt I was witnessing a great and rare treasure carefully and meticulously passed down through history. While I have seen Chopiniana many times before I felt I was really seeing it for the first time. For me, the use of the backs and the arms of ALL the dancers, and particularly the corps, brought incredible depth and subtlety and a heart-breaking quality to all the movements. I was overcome with emotion as I watched it and I felt incredibly fortunate to have had the experience of seeing this unique company.

The other moment of great, great beauty in this program for me was the final scene of 'Firebird' with those truly exquisite white and blue costumes on the men, and the long white dresses on the women. I thought it was one of the loveliest, most affecting visions I've ever seen on a stage. After seeing the quality of the sets and costumes they have it has made me grieve all the more for the sets and costumes that must have been lost in the fire.

All in all, I will be thinking about this performance for a very long time.

Author:  ncgnet [ Sun Nov 16, 2003 1:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Last night we saw the Kirov perform their Fokine program in Boston. The first piece was “Chopiniana”. I am more familiar with the revision we see here as “Les Sylphides”. I’ve never seen “Les Sylphides” danced to a tempo as slow as that of “Chopiniana”last night and am sorry to admit that instead of being enthralled at times I had trouble keeping my eyes open. Nevertheless I was impressed by the Corps. Aside from the precision of their dancing they are similar in appearance to an extent that makes our American companies seem more diverse than they perhaps are.

After a long intermission the next piece was “Scheherazade.” The rich sets and costumes offered a welcome relief to the somewhat dull backdrop for “Chopiniana” and the scrim displayed during the loooong overture. My first reaction was one of disappointment though, there was not a lot of dancing. However, I began to think of this as a period piece, and to think of how an audience in 1910 might have reacted, and came to appreciate it more. I could almost imagine Nijiinsky whirling around the stage as the Golden Slave…. My favorite scene was the slaughter at the end. I’m not a bloodthirsty person, but there was a gracefulness to the appearance and dispatch of the harem and slaves.

Another long intermission, another loooong overture, and on to “Firebird.” Of the three pieces this is the one I would enjoy seeing again. The costumes looked familiar. Several years ago the National Dance Museum in Saratoga had a special display on “Firebird”, and I think these costume designs were illustrated there. Tatiana Amosova was a convincing firebird, and there were dancing friends, threatening monsters, etc. to enjoy. Again, the precision of the Corps was impressive. I found some of the dancing by the captives and monsters reminiscent of the tavern scene in Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son.” Perhaps this was an example of Fokine’s influence on him?

“Firebird” is in two scenes, the first one comprising about 90% of the piece, and the second one quite short. Unfortunately the first scene ends dramatically with the destruction of Kastchel’s soul, thunder and lightening, and an opaque black scrim falling. Unfortunately because some in the audience thought that was the end of the performance, applauded, and got up to leave!

I was not impressed by the orchestra. It is a good orchestra but not a great one. During “Scheherazade” the violins sounded too screechy at one point, and during “Firebird” the brass sounded tinny. Overall the tone of the orchestra seemed thin. I have been spoiled by ballet accompanied by excellent orchestras. We also found the overtures for all three pieces to be very long. I began to wonder if something had gone wrong back stage so they were not ready to dance after all, but now assume it is a stylistic difference in how they present ballet.

What is the company called in Russia? The ads, tickets, and program call it the Kirov, but inside the program it is called the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra. I’m wondering if they use Kirov when touring, because it is a more familiar name from the recent past?

We have friends who were planning to see every performance. I’m glad to have seen what we saw, but would not want to see the same program again. It would be interesting to see if the Kirov would have the speed for a Balanchine program, and it could be wonderful to see them do “Swan Lake.” As it is, it was useful to see these versions of Fokine’s ballets for their historical context and the pleasure of some of the dance moments.

Author:  S. E. Arnold [ Wed Nov 19, 2003 6:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Review: Kirov Ballet

Presented by the FleetBoston Celebrity Series and The Wang Center for the Performing Arts

In a sense, the three works choreographed by Michel Fokine presented by the Kirov Ballet at the Wang Center in Boston offered a montage on the subject of paradise lost and regained.

The softness of Chopiniana manifest, for example, in its carefully measured pace, the rounded elegance of its spare movement choices, the transparency of its nine orchestrated Chopin piano pieces, its angelic population of wing born ladies costumed in white blend with its pastoral setting to fashion a picture of the world before the Fall. Scheherazade, on the other hand, combined flesh exposing costumes, its heavily draped and vivid décor, the sensuousness of Rimsky-Korsakov’s score, its corrupted population of humans living in a world of slavery, doubt, betrayal, and blood-lust with its ever building frenzy of effort to show a world trapped by an excess of sensation and desire. The character of the Firebird, however, made otherworldly, powerful, and lean by her musical signature of harp, celesta, seriating rhythmic figures, and Stravinsky’s unsweetened harmonies freed the world of its monstrous evil. Once liberated from the calcifying effects brought by the evil Kastchei’s spells- he liked to turn his male victims to stone, Fokine demonstrated the world’s return to the grace of Chopiniana by the simplicity of Firebird’s ending. Rather than offering a spectacle of Imperial grandeur, the apotheosis that joined Ivan Tsarevich to the Princess, reunited the twelve couples, and discovered the radiant city behind the ruins of Kastchei’s realm entailed steps no more complicated than a walk.

The ending of Firebird, however, also showed that the return to the grace of the timeless Chopiniana was incomplete, if not impossible. In addition to the political revolution implied by the Firebird’s defeat of the tyrannical Kastchei, the release of the Princesses from Kastchei’s enchantment and the Princes from their tenure as monuments literally re-started time. Change, the Firebird’s altered thermal mode, now informs the world, and Kastchei, his costume and character marking a familiar figure of Death –skeletal, violent, and male- fills change with mutability. The Firebird and Kastchei indeed vanished as the libretto stated, but from sight not from influence. In contrast, the innocents of Chopiniana held, for example, in the bourrees, the curvilinear chains or continuity of the corps sculptural poses, and the encapsulating arms also built its insularity. One alas cannot go home again. Nevertheless, by definition the ideal world of Chopiniana somehow touches the material world of its concert mates with form. If this is so, then the lone male in the crowd of Chopiniana’s Sylphs is the model for Scherehrazade’s Shah Shahryar and his harem.

Although weathered by familiarity and cracked by enlightened moral values, the Kirov nevertheless brightened to a high polish the dance, if not the production and rhetorical aspects of Firebird and Scherehazade. One of those highly polished moments was the pleasure of viewing Irma Nioradze perform the role of Firebird on Friday evening and Fobeide in Scherehazade on Saturday. The contrasting roles showcased Nioradze’s dramatic abilities. Consistent with the fidgety and often piercing sounds of her music, Nioradze’s Firebird was as wild, intense, and as fiercely jealous of her independence as a hawk. In fact, if the characters of the Firebird and the Golden Slave in Scherehazade mean to embody an élan vital, a force of nature that refuses domestication, then the “bright power” (to borrow a description of hawks from poet Robinson Jeffers) of Nioradze’s Firebird was unequivocally convincing. As Fobeide, the Shah’s favorite wife, Nioradze also found in the rich colors of Rimsky’s harmony and orchestration the motivation for her character’s emotional and thoughtful conflicts. Whether as sweet and pliant as a violin solo or as courageous in will as a brass fanfare or as rapturous as the liquid reach of arpeggiated chords Nioradze’s ability made her character believable in an otherwise doubtful story. And, in a flight of synaesthetic fancy inspired by Nioradze’s musicality, one mused that if she were asked to dance the harmonics- the whistling sound produced by the strings heard, for example, within the opening measures of Firebird- of a particular combination of steps she would convincingly do so.

In spite of Chopiniana’s vision of simplicity, the vigor and near impossible flexibility of Fokine’s choreography neatly represented, for example, by the sudden and frequent backbreaking backward bends of Sherehazade’s three Odalisk Girls challenged that vision. On the other hand, given the wildness of the title character’s “bright power” along with the simplicity and emphasis on coupling manifest in its apotheosis, Firebird expanded that vision of paradise to accommodate both simplicity and vigor.

<small>[ 21 November 2003, 05:03 AM: Message edited by: S. E. Arnold ]</small>

Author:  ncgnet [ Thu Nov 20, 2003 6:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

From the Boston Phoenix:

The rose and the scimitar
The Kirov’s Fokine, plus Boston Conservatory


The first great choreographer of the 20th century, Mikhail Fokine, set out to reform Russian ballet. The classical edifice built by Petipa, Ivanov, and the Mariinsky school in St. Petersburg was suffering from decadence and over-familiarity, Fokine thought, and it needed to be scraped down to the essentials of training and dramaturgy. Away with virtuosity for its own sake, egomaniacal performances, characters who had nothing to do with the story, overblown productions, generic movement and mechanical mime conventions. In order to realize his choreographic innovations, Fokine had to flee the reactionary management at the Mariinsky. For the best four years of his career he worked as house choreographer for Serge Diaghilev, who imported Russian ballet to Europe with sensational success. More...
A whole new world?
Reflections on the Kirov Ballet and As You Like It


There hasn’t been much mystery about the Kirov Ballet in its most recent visits to this country, either its two-week Lincoln Center Festival appearance in July 2002 or the six-week tour that after touching down in California, Detroit, and Cleveland concluded this past weekend at the Wang Theatre. Just about everybody agrees on the company’s big, soft technique, delectable ensemble, and superb finish. Like its home town of St. Petersburg, the Kirov has as its ethos a cubic geometry, all logic, volume, and weight. The city’s geometer is its founder, Peter the Great, who in 1703 built what would become Russia’s new capital from scratch. The ballet company’s geometer is harder to identify.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Nov 21, 2003 2:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Jeffrey Gantz writes:

Shéhérazade is Fokine’s salute to Shakespeare, with Shah Zeman standing in for Othello’s Iago, or Lear’s Edmund, or Much Ado’s Don John, and Zobeide a more complex figure than Desdemona in that she shows affection for Shahryar but saves her passion for the Golden Slave.
This is a novel reading of "Shéhérazade", but much as I enjoy the over-the-top faux-orientalism and unbridled lust of this Kirov production, I have to say that it reminds me of Shakespeare not one jot. Am I missing something?

<small>[ 21 November 2003, 03:50 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Shanti [ Fri Nov 21, 2003 4:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

I agree with you completely, Stuart. I read this review yesterday and thought "What can he be talking about?" Definitely a stretch!

Author:  mehunt [ Fri Nov 21, 2003 9:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Yes, I was kind of scratching my head and squinting at that article too...

Author:  mkl6462 [ Wed Nov 26, 2003 7:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

I have always heard that the Kirov was amazing, a place of great tradition. I now know what everyone was talking about. It was partly depressing and partly liberating to see them perform.

There is nothing like that in America, I have seen ABT, NYCB, Sarasota Ballet in Florida, Boston Ballet, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and the list goes on (I know Mark Morris and Paul Taylor are not classical ballet companies but they still have dancers and do perform) but none of them have what the Kirov showed.

The Kirov dancers dance with so much history. They don't show off and they don't dance "with pride" because the movement is their pride, being themselves is showing off. Perfectly placed, and SO classical. Even if the shapes are ones your teacher tells you are wrong, when they do it, it seems as if there is no other way for ballet to be done.

I fell in love with Chopiniana, their backs are so wide, so strong, and they show them with such grace. Sheherazade was incredibly impressive, showing how long their lines are, which was odd at first because the whole ballet is so bent, but its an active bending for them, somehow... Firebird was the only part that I didn't like as much, I think Balanchine, in some ways, has/had a better connection with the music than that of Fokine...
Either way I would just like to say Bravo to the dancers, it was amazing. Beyond words...

Author:  djb [ Wed Nov 26, 2003 10:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

They don't show off and they don't dance "with pride" because the movement is their pride, being themselves is showing off.
Well said!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Nov 30, 2003 2:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA, 2003 - Fokine Program

Hi mina (aka mkl6462) and welcome to CriticalDance. You have started in great style with your impressions of the Kirov, which make interesting reading. Hope we hear lots more from you over the coming months.

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