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"Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jul 27, 2003 7:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

An Interview with Howard Sayette

– staging “Les Noces”

By Stuart Sweeney for CriticalDance

July 2003

Howard Sayette grew up in Los Angeles, and received his training from many of the post Diaghilev Russian émigrés, including Tatiana Riabouchinska. He danced in Denham's Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo from 1956-1960, and was
Soloist in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet from 1960-1972.

From 1978 to 1998 he was the ballet master of the Oakland Ballet Co. in
California, which, along with the Joffrey, was dedicated to the revival of
many Diaghilev ballets. The Oakland Ballet was the first American company to
stage Bronislava Nijinska’s “Les Noces” and the revival was supervised by Bronislava's daughter Irina. It is this version which is the source for his stagings of the work on ten companies to date.

Having set “Les Noces” on the Kirov in June 2003, he is now in London to rehearse the Company for their UK premiere of the work. Howard is suitably discreet about working with the Kirov, but reading between the lines I have the impression that Millicent Hodson’s descriptions of her problems with the very hectic Kirov schedule have not come as a surprise to him. We talked about “Les Noces” and the role this extraordinary work has played in his life.

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Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Jul 28, 2003 2:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

This extravagantly realized filmic representation of three of Fokine's most famous choreographic works has raised hackles among dance scholars--there's been some quibbling about details, such as how the Golden Slave dies in Scheherazade.
I wouldn't describe the death of the Golden Slave as a "detail". It should be the single most dramatic moment in the ballet and it now ceases to exist in the Kirov's version of Scheherazade replaced by an ineffectual substitute death. The new overlong pas de deux is also a serious stylistic error.

I would go so far as to suggest that the Kirov management should seriously consider a complete overhaul of this ballet if it is to retain a permanent place in the repertoire.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 28, 2003 4:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Official casting for the remaining performances of Homage to Diaghilev

29th July:

Chopiniana – Irina Zhelonkina, Yana Selina, Daria Sukhorukova and Igor Kolb

Les Noces – Alexandra Iosifidi and Ivan Popov

Schéhérazade – Svetlana Zakharova and Igor Zelensky

30th July Matinee:

Chopiniana – Daria Sukhorukova, Yana Selina, Irina Golub and Igor Kolb

Les Noces – Alexandra Iosifidi and Ivan Popov

Schéhérazade – Tatiana Tkachenko and Danill Korsuntsev

30th July Evening:

Chopiniana - Irina Zhelonkina, Yana Selina, Daria Sukhorukova and Igor Kolb

Les Noces – Alexandra Iosifidi and Ivan Popov

Schéhérazade - Tatiana Tkachenko and Danill Korsuntsev

<small>[ 29 July 2003, 06:43 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  coda [ Mon Jul 28, 2003 4:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

"I wouldn't describe the death of the Golden Slave as a "detail". It should be the single most dramatic moment in the ballet and it now ceases to exist in the Kirov's version of Scheherazade replaced by an ineffectual substitute death."
I think it depends on the performer. Nikolai Tsiskaridze danced the Golden Slave with the Mariinsky several times: once with Zakharova and a few times with Nioradze. His "death" is a true dramatic moment although he is allowed the same length of time and music as other dancers: his acting there is not naturalistic but tastefully realistic. I have seen it myself and agree with Igor Stupnikov who wrote in the "Dancing Times" that Tsiskaridze's rendering of the death scene is "unforgettable".

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 28, 2003 4:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Coda, I look forward to seeing Tsiskaridze as the Golden Slave at some stage and can well believe that he would do it more than justice.

Svetlana Zakharova and Faroukh Ruzimathov certainly sent sparks flying in this evening's performance. They were very well matched and ably supported with excellent dancing by the other soloists and the corps. As usual I gave myself up to Schéhérazade and enjoyed it immensely. Vladimir Ponomarev is every inch the powerful ruler, unlike the bumbling Pasha in "Le Corsaire" who would have been deposed within 5 minutes. Perhaps this and the extraordinary sensuality of the dancing is what makes it work. And after all the sex there is a poignant ending.

"Chopiniana" was rather spoilt for me by the accompaniment of orchestra and perpetually rustling plastic bag. Stern words were exchanged before the second work and all rustling ceased. Igor Kolb made his usual soft landings and Irina Golub was praised by all I spoke too and rightly so. The corps formed the patterns and clusters as elegantly as ever in this ballet from the heart of the Kirov's 20th C repertory.

I was move and thrilled by "Les Noces", but will report at greater length when I have seen it later in the week. I have the impression that Mikhail Agrest, the Conducter, set a pace too fast for the dancers in some of the sections.

<small>[ 29 July 2003, 06:33 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Jul 29, 2003 4:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Chopiniana or Les Sylphides as it is known outside of Russia, is always handicapped by the strident Polonaise that the Russians use as an overture. Fokine’s first thoughts for this music with an opulent ballroom and Polish nobles were discarded almost at the outset but we are left with this inappropriate piece at odds with the mood of dreamlike melancholy that follows.

Last nights performance was exquisitely danced by the Kirov’s superlative corps de ballet with every last dancer catching the reflective dreamlike mood. Daniil Korsuntsev as the poet danced with elegant softness and with soundless landings from his jumps, his pas de deux with Daria Sukhorukova a lesson in how to make your partner appear totally weightless. The presence of Irina Zhelonkina dancing the waltz in her usual impeccable style added to the very high standard of this performance, but it was Irina Golub, dancing the Prelude who made me catch my breath; a sylph of matchless grace and purity, she illuminates the stage with the radiant quality of her dancing.

Les Noces is probably the least cheerful wedding celebration you’re ever likely to see. The clue is in the text of the music: The reference to a matchmaker tells us that this is an arranged marriage and Nastasia (the Bride) approaches her nuptials with more a sense of foreboding than of happiness. There is much sorrow as the parents take leave of their daughter to a rather uncertain fate; the bride herself is in pensive mood throughout and apprehensive about her future.

Nijinska, the choreographer of this magnificent work always wanted the text sung in the language of the country of the dancers performing it, therefore I had previously heard the ballet sung in English and French and the Russian came as a wonderful bonus, sung superbly by members of the Kirov Opera.
Of course this was a totally new style for the Kirov dancers and in time I’m sure they will adapt to it, but I noticed what appeared to be a couple of apparent teething problems that I’m sure will disappear with familiarity.

The more I see of the Kirov’s Scheherazade the more it irritates me, as just about everything in the production is wrong. The curtain rises not on Leon Bakst’s dazzling riot of colour, but on an approximation of his designs, watered down to allow space for the dancers but killing the feeling of claustrophobia in the suffocating gilded cage of the harem in which these unfortunate women waste their lives.

The next major irritant is the playing of the role of the chief eunuch, as in this version he becomes little more than a clown. Nicholas Beriosoff, who successfully staged this ballet around the world, used to perform this role well into old age with a sly venal subtlety totally lacking in the Kirov take on this character. Did the roles creator, Enrico Cechetti, play it for laughs? I don’t think so. No one in this ballet should amuse us.

Then comes the duet for Zobeide and the Golden Slave; to put a long romantic pas de deux into this ballet robs it of the fierce sexual impetus of a brief encounter and implies a romantic element that shouldn’t in fact exist. I seem to remember reading that Nijinsky never in fact touched Zobeide’s body but allowed his hands only to appear to touch her. I shall have to go back to Karsavina’s book Theatre Street and check that one out.

I have already expressed my regrets over the current staging of the death of the Golden Slave. For the record he should die upside-down with a spin on the neck and his feet pointing to the ceiling with a death spasm shaking his entire body.

A burst of the very warmest applause greeted London favourite Faroukh Ruzimatov as he made his entrance as the Golden Slave and if his technique is now a little bit diminished by age, his charisma is not and he dances with the passion and intensity of one completely engrossed in his role. As Zobeide Zakharova lacks the voluptuous quality that her role requires and burning lust seems to elude her. Nevertheless she relishes the drama of the role and brought a real sense of tragedy to her suicide. A pity the production’s merits cannot match those of the dancers.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jul 29, 2003 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

I've changed the cast list above, which now shows that Korsuntsev replaces Ruzimatov for the evening performance of "Schéhérazade" on 30th July.

click for latest casting for the season

<small>[ 29 July 2003, 06:42 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Lyndsey Winship [ Tue Jul 29, 2003 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Just got back from the Kirov's Homage to Diaghilev. Thought the whole programme was beautifully presented, but for me, Les Noces was definitely the highlight. Nijinska's choreography and Stravinsky's music remain powerful and edgy 80 years after their creation. The other two works, Chopiniana and Scheherazade, were shown up as museum pieces in comparison – but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.

Full review to follow.

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Wed Jul 30, 2003 6:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

I am devastated that Faroukh is not dancing this evening.

Author:  mehunt [ Wed Jul 30, 2003 7:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

He's not injured, is he?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jul 30, 2003 11:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Don't know the details I'm afraid. But there is no word of anything serious.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jul 30, 2003 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Oops! Guess who forgot to do the papers today and remembered during the matinee of Schéhérazade:

Kirov Ballet triple bill
By Luke Jennings for The Guardian

The opening night of the Kirov Ballet's Homage to Diaghilev programme, while promising much, proved a surprisingly muted affair. The evening opened with Chopiniana, Mikhail Fokine's moonlit reverie. Known in the west as Les Sylphides, the ballet has a delicate ethereality that is intended to evoke the Romantic ballets of the 1830s and 40s. An early fall by one of the principals, however, appeared to unnerve the ensemble. Thereafter, although all the dancers were moving and breathing as one, tension and caution were evident at all levels. Only Irina Golub seemed unaffected; she danced the Prelude with beguiling, unhindered lightness.....

....[re. Schéhérazade]Zakharova departs the Kirov shortly for the Bolshoi, leaving a vacancy in the snake-hipped enchantress department. She will be missed.

Love that final sentence.

click for more


Diaghilev Triple Bill/ Kirov Ballet
By Clement Crisp for The Financial Times

I take it as a happy portent that the Kirov Ballet is reclaiming the old Ballets Russes repertory. A few Diaghilev works originated on the Mariinsky stage: the impeccableChopiniana a prime example. Others, such as the company's awful Petrushka, were Soviet-era misapprehensions. But re-identifying Fokine, Nijinsky, Nijinska and - most significant - Balanchine as Petersburg creatures (all educated on its blessed stage) is worthwhile.

Petersburg roots, Mariinsky attitudes, are there as grain of the artist, if not always the output. So, fascination at the Kirov triple bill on Monday night, which brought the first London showing of the troupe's newest acquisition, Nijinska's Les Noces, framed by an ancestral treasure, Chopiniana, flawlessly done, and by that bedizened old ghost Sche{'}he{'}razade.

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Hokum in the harem
Ismene Brown for The Daily Telegraph reviews Homage to Diaghilev.

What Serge Diaghilev represents to the Western ballet world is everything that revitalised a dying performing art, gave it a hundred years' new life and a multitude of new colours. European and American dancers know this deep in their soul. What he represents to his original company is harder to tell.

The Soviets considered his Ballets Russes renegades and obliterated them from dance studies for 70-odd years. Paying homage to him now, the Kirov are galloping to catch up with his modernist revolution, next week performing a dubious version of Nijinsky's legendary 1913 The Rite of Spring, this week his sister's equally extraordinary 1923 Les Noces.

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Hitched at last: the Kirov’s proletarian wedding
By Debra Craine for The Times

ONE of the most exciting developments at the Kirov Ballet over the past decade has been the company’s acquisition of some of the Diaghilev ballets, works made by Russians choreographing abroad in the heady atmosphere of Paris in the early 20th century. People like Mikhail Fokine and Bronislava Nijinska, who began their careers at the Kirov’s home theatre in St Petersburg and ended up — like so many Russian exiles — in America. Their ballets make up the Kirov’s current triple bill at the Royal Opera House, billed as a Homage to Diaghilev.

click for more

Author:  Joanne [ Wed Jul 30, 2003 11:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Don't worry Stuart - it happens to the best of us!

Review from The Independent.

Although she spent most of her career abroad, Bronislava Nijinska was one of the Maryinsky Theatre's most gifted daughters, and it was high time the Kirov Ballet performed one of her works. This has at last arrived in the form of Les Noces, created for Serge Diaghilev's itinerant Russian Ballet in June 1923 and given its Maryinsky premiere last month, almost exactly 80 years later.


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Jul 31, 2003 12:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

Homage to Diaghilev, Wednesday 30th July, 2003

The Wednesday matinee performance of Homage to Diaghilev proved more enjoyable than my visit on Monday. As usual, performance quality was higher than on the first night and a central seat was a great advantage for the first two works. In particular, the exquisite patterns of “Chopiniana” showed up clearly. The sets remind me of Watteau and combined with the return to the ballet aesthetic of the Romantic era this may seem a strange way to greet the 20th Century. However, it did represent a break from the late-19th century spectaculars of Petipa and others and the lack of narrative heralded a new approach. The corps de ballet was the star of this performance perfectly executing Fokine's lines and clusters. The female soloists blended with the style of the corps and Igor Kolb brought a fresh energy to the role of the Young Man.

“Les Noces” was more satisfying this time. The first night nerves were mostly gone and the ensemble dances better synchronised. The orchestra and soloists, especially the men, gave an excellent concert performance, but I wonder how much account conductor Mikhail Agrest takes of the needs of the dancers.

The triangle of girls at the end of the first scene needs to be clearer and the Bride has her head to one side rather than the central position, which I prefer, of the Royal Ballet version. However, given that Nijinska constantly changed her ballets, both are likely to be “authentic” versions. Overall, Alexandra Iosifidi was impressive as the Bride and there was a notable coup de theatre at the end of the third tableau when she and her Mother break their rigid self-discipline to lunge out to each other in despair; the separation across half the stage symbolising their loss. The group dances for the girls had an exciting snap and Elena Sheshina kicked up her heels briskly in the short solos. However, there was greater variability among the men. Some have managed to instil the robust movement required, while others still seemed to be wondering what they were doing there. The wedding scene had great power, with the unhappy acceptance of the bridal couple contrasting with the celebrations of the corps. The unfolding of the final tableau was very beautiful and raised some gasps around me.

In an interview with John Drummond, Ninette de Valois spoke of her time with Diaghilev, "I got a tremendous thrill from "Les Noces" of the greatest ballets still that has ever been produced." It remains a thrilling work and, with its unique combination of ballet, folk and early modern dance, a vibrant reminder of the explosion of creativity in the 1920s, before the heavy hand of dictatorship swept away so much of the avant-garde across Europe. I hope "Les Noces" remains a regular in the Kirov rep, so that the Company can fully absorb the distinctive style required.

The Kirov has performed “Schéhérazade” for nine years and they dance it with great conviction. It’s unusual for a ballet to be so unashamedly about sensuality and greed in a variety of forms. I always give myself up to its delicious kitsch and put aside all concerns for political correctness. The Oxford Dictionary of Dance says its, “…exoticism and sexuality seem, inevitably, rather tame to modern audiences.” Well, this ballet fan respectfully disagrees.

I love the quick, high stepping movement of the girls and the servants and the sinuous back bends of the Odalisques in fetching pink. Vladimir Ponomarev as the Sultan anchored the performance with his powerful characterisation of an absolute ruler, but the heart of the work is the relationship between Zobeide and the Golden Slave. Tatiana Tkachenko is only three years out of the Vaganova Academy, but painted a clear picture of a manipulative and passionate woman; you don't get to be first choice in the harem by being a dab hand at scrabble. She danced with musicality, if not quite the flexibility of some others I have seen. She controlled the Golden Slave completely and made sense of the final scene as she almost succeeds in recapturing the Sultan’s heart and finally chooses to kill herself.

Beforehand, I thought Daniil Kosuntsev an unlikely Golden Slave, but he is big and beautiful and it was understandable that Zobeide was smitten and visa versa. If he was short on sensuality, his high jumps and soft landings were spectacular. The orchestra again gave a fine performance of the wonderful tunes that appeal to so many from childhood onwards. In particular, the solo violin, presumably from the Leader, Ludmilla Tchaikovskaya, gave a poignant interpretation and the music accompanying the orgiastic banquet scene set my heart racing.

For variety and overall dance standards this programme lived up to my high expectations. However, London audiences do not flock to triple bills and it has proved the least popular of the Kirov programmes this year. I hope this doesn’t have an impact on programming for future tours.

<small>[ 31 July 2003, 07:43 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Thu Jul 31, 2003 1:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Homage to Diaghilev" programme in London - 20

I don't think so - he is dancing another programme. It turned out to be a pleasant evening - Korsuntsev was a good Golden Slave but it is not his role in the say way as for the Uzbek Faroukh (although Korsuntsev is from Uzbekistan).

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