CriticalDance Forum

Kirov in London, 2005 - Forsythe programme
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Apr 17, 2005 3:52 am ]
Post subject:  Kirov in London, 2005 - Forsythe programme

Svetlana Ivanova and Vladimir Shklyarov in "Forsythe's "The Vertigenous Thrill of Exactitude"
Image by Valentin Baranovsky

The Kirov Ballet


Two Ballets in the Manner of the Late 20th Century:
1. Approximate Sonata
2. The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude

In the middle, somewhat elevated

Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden

24 July at 2.00pm and 7.30pm
Displaying their phenomenal versatility, The Kirov Ballet will perform four Forsythe ballets here for the first time.

The opening Steptext to Bach’s magnificent Chaconne, Approximate Sonata and The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude all demand of the dancers incredible feats of bravura and stamina. In the middle, somewhat elevated is widely acknowledged to be one of Forsythe’s greatest works.

click for booking details

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:07 am ]
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I've moved a post by Cassandra:

An article by the excellent Lyndsey Winship about the Forsythe additions to the Kirov repertoire: ... 298912.ece

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:09 am ]
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Thanks Cassandra - that does make a good read. Can't wait to see the all-Forsythe programme.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:12 am ]
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My goodness - everybody's doing it. I'm pleased Lyndsey got in first:

Russian revolution as US ballet rebel puts Kirov dancers in a spin
Centuries-old company opens UK repertory to 'Antichrist'. By Charlotte Higgins for The Guardian.

It sets the golden standard for classical purity and grace, fiercely adhering to a tradition that has been handed down in an unbroken line since its origins in the 18th century.
So why is the Kirov - one of the world's greatest ballet companies, alma mater of Rudolf Nureyev and Natalia Makarova - working with an American choreographer once dubbed the "Antichrist" of the ballet world?

For when the Kirov's London season opens on Monday, among such traditional favourites as Swan Lake, La Bayadère and Romeo and Juliet will be a programme of works by William Forsythe which famously rip apart both the conventions of classical ballet steps and the way classical ballet is performed.

click for more


He is Mr anti-ballet; they are the most classic of ballet companies. What happened when Forsythe met the Kirov?
By CLIFFORD BISHOP for The Sunday Times

Like any protracted courtship, it had its ups and downs, and the accounts of those involved are either coy or contradictory. When Makharbek Vaziev, the artistic director of the Kirov Ballet, went to Frankfurt in late 2001 to entice the leading choreographer William Forsythe into making a dance, like any good suitor he did not go empty-handed. It was a long time ago, he protests, but if his memory does not let him down, he went bearing, oh, perhaps, Diana Vishneva, Daria Pavlenko, Natalia Sologub and Igor Zelensky. Just as I am digesting the idea of so much largesse — three brilliant soloists and one of the most glamorous, charismatic men in ballet, essentially scattered at a choreographer’s feet like groundbait — Vaziev adds: “Oh, and Zakharova, she was there.”

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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:15 am ]
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Does anyone have impressions of these ballets? I"m VERY curious what audience members think of the new addition to the rep ("Sonata")>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jul 22, 2005 8:01 am ]
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Hi Catherine, how's things in St. P? Any dance running in the summer?

Sunday is Forsythe day with matinee and evening performances. A number of CDers are attending and I'm sure we'll let you know how it was received in London. Three of the four pieces on show are in the RB rep, so it will be interesting to report on the contrast in styles between the two companies. "Approximate Sonata" is the newcomer for us, apart from an extracted duet by the Ballet Boyz. It will also be the first performance in the UK of the complete "Two Ballets in the Manner Style of the Late 20th Century".

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jul 24, 2005 5:29 pm ]
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A fascinating evening with the Kirov men impressing more than the women, in general. "Approximate Sonata" was a success with a series of fine pdds, after its bizarre opening. But the Kirov take on "In The Middle Somewhat Elevated" was the high spot - one of the most exciting ballet performances I'm likely to see this year. More later.

Author:  kurinuku [ Mon Jul 25, 2005 2:18 am ]
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Kirov Ballet: Forsythe
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

But what makes Vishneva breathtaking is that in the middle of her slamming, scintillating foray into post-modernism lies everything she knows about being a ballerina. Without forcing the issue she brings moments of lyricism, poignancy, even grandeur to her role that make the choreography appear huge.

published: July 25, 2005

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 25, 2005 2:45 am ]
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An interesting review from Judith Mackrell. To avoid confusion, Mackrell saw the matinee wirh Vishneva in "Steptext". The evening performance featured Daria Pavlenko.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Jul 25, 2005 6:17 am ]
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Hello all!

To your question Stuart, the second half of the company remains dancing at home in St. Petersburg through July 29, the final performance of the season. It is obvious from casting programs that this is the "second tier" within the company, as most of these bodies and faces rarely if ever make it to the stage.. unfortunately when you see them, you know why. I will be reviewing that season-end performance, but judging by last Tuesday's program, the company might do well to rethink hiring procedures and/or cut the company size down a bit. (disappointing is an understatement). Both nights (19th and 29th) here are the All-Fokine program. I have already expressed my opinion of Amosova's dying swan, but the tourist audience seems to like it. And with Ruzimatov in "Scheherezade", they're guaranteed a full house. Anyway -- more on this later.

As to the London tour:

I get chills just thinking about the Forsythe program! I'm so thrilled that it impressed in London, and am interested to hear more about the gender comparisons (did the women just not have the punchy energy required?) ITMSE is now one of my favorite ballets, but I really liked Approx Sonata too.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 25, 2005 8:24 am ]
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On your StP update, Catherine, I wonder if the problem with these new casts was lack of rehearsal time - I know this can be a major problem at the Kirov.

I'm putting some thoughts together about the Forsythe programme and, like you, I preferred "Approximate Sonata" and "In the Middle etc".

Author:  clarky [ Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:33 am ]
Post subject:  Kirov Forsythe Programme

Whilst Diana was technically near-perfect, she did not have the punch and aloofness of Daria Pavlenko, in Steptext. Daria's performance exceeded any performance I have ever seen of this Ballet.

Irina Golub gave by far the superior performance in "ITMSE", she really seemed to "let go", and her movement was a delight to watch.

Kondaurova, was the revelation of the final ballet, and appeared to be a pure Forsythe dancer.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:40 am ]
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“Forsythe” programme, Kirov, Royal Opera House, London, 24th July (eve)

Speaking at a Ballett Frankfurt Study Day a few years ago, Deborah Bull told us about her experiences working with William Forsythe. She described the first time she had to rehearse one of his ballets in front of the choreographer, knowing that just because she had passed the test with his assistant didn’t mean she would please the chief. But, rather than settle for safety first, she decided to go for it in her own way and Forsythe approved.

So, while the Forsythe repertoire poses challenges to dancers due to the technical difficulty and the innovatory quality of the movement, having mastered the steps the key factor is that “go for it” quality. Overall, the Kirov’s first Forsythe programme in London was fascinating, with the men totally convincing as they attacked the off-balance choreography and a more mixed picture for the women.

“Steptext” from 1985 pits a solo woman against three men and overtly challenges our underlying assumptions about the theatre experience. It starts without warning with the theatre lights up as Andrei Ivanov approaches the front of the stage and essays some sinuous body and arm movements, with his anchored legs spread wide. After a short reprise by Mikhail Lobukhin, Daria Pavlenko enters and stands on the spot making right-angled patterns with her forearms. As the work progresses, at regular intervals all the lights dim, while the dance continues unseen on-stage and the exquisite accompaniment, Bach’s “Chaconne from Partita no.2”, starts and stops in mid-phrase. Thus, both in terms of what we expect to see and hear in an opera house and the manner in which it is presented, we have all our preconceptions disrupted, just as Forsythe disrupts and reassembles the ballet vocabulary.

The trio of men, completed by Vladimir Shishov, attacked the mix of classical and off-centre steps brilliantly and established a competitive atmosphere with sharp glances. Pavlenko is a divine dancer, but her performance here was less convincing, despite the exquisite, sculptural shapes she created from time to time. The problem lay with her interpretation – right from the opening forearm section, she seemed ill at ease and sometimes gave the impression of a sulky victim, as she was manhandled by her posse of pursuers. Here in the UK we are used to seeing Sylvie Guillem and Oksana Panchenko giving as good as they get in this role. Indeed, with Guillem, you sometimes wanted to tell the ref to stop the fight as the boys were taking such a beating. Pavlenko’s approach left the work with a hollow centre that the virtuosity of the performers couldn’t fill. From reports elsewhere, it seems that Diana Vishneva may have made more of this role in the matinee performance.

Although most of the programme consisted of works performed regularly by ballet companies around the world, Forsythe has taken the unusual step of giving the Kirov “Approximate Sonata”, the first of “Two Ballets in the Manner of the Late 20th Century” and, although London audiences have had the opportunity to see the second part, “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude”, this was our first opportunity to see the full work from 1996. After another unconventional opening with Andrei Ivanov slowly walking to the front of the stage, gurning to a pop vocal and asking for and receiving instructions from a voice off-stage, he embarks on a duet with Evgenia Obraztsova, who immediately reassured me that some of the Kirov women have fully mastered the Forsythe aesthetic with her ease in the mix of neo-classical and contemporary steps. In all there are four duets for eight dancers and an occasional solo or larger ensemble. This focus on partnering gives “Approximate Sonata” a more intimate feel than much of Forsythe’s work. All the dancing was admirable and at the end Obraztsova and Ivanov return and rehearse some of the material, discussing performance details and the curtain falls on her happily reprising an earlier section.

“The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” is 12 minutes of neo-classicism on speed and one of Forsythe’s most frequently performed, but least interesting works, in my view. After the initial dazzle of the pyrotechnics, there seems little else and poor sound quality of the recorded Schubert score and some out of synch movement from the women lessened the impact of this performance. Nevertheless, Leonid Sarafanov and Andrian Fadeyev revelled in the demanding choreography and Tatiana Tkachenko was sufficiently comfortable with the high pace to phrase the steps deliciously.

To close, we had the longest of the four works, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” created in 1987 for Paris Opera Ballet with Sylvie Guillem in the central role. This will be one of the most exciting dance performances I see this year, with all nine performers “going for it” with great confidence. Whereas the traditional Kirov aesthetic may be described as “nothing but perfection”, Deborah Bull recalls that Forsythe is relaxed about mistakes, in order to encourage risk-taking. This atmosphere was apparent, but there were few mistakes I could see as the dancers flicked out incredible extensions and darted around the stage. Unlike “Vertiginous” the occasional unison sections were always together, adding to the power of the performances. Tkachenko impressed again; Yana Serebryakova, with blond hair swinging, attacked the choreography mercilessly and the tall Ekaterina Kondaurova seemed to defy biomechanics with the flexibility of her dancing.

The three men, Maxim Khrebtov, Alexander Sergeyev and Mikhail Lobukhin continued the excellent male dancing we had already seen and gave fine support in the grounded duets, featuring weight transfers that reminded me of contact improvisation. In the lead role, Irina Golub was in her element with great pace and suppleness, but above all it was her phrasing that delighted. In the final duet, she even played with the choreography, half swooning in her partner’s arms and when the lights suddenly went out in the middle of a sequence, I have rarely been so disappointed that a dance work has ended. I suspect that “ITMSE” will still be danced in 50 years and held up as one of the supreme examples of post-modern ballet and with the electrifying Kirov performances, its place in the A-list is assured.

The virtually full house gave the dancers ringing applause at the end and, hopefully, this will reassure promoters that mixed bills can be made to work for London audiences, with the right marketing. For myself, I am eager to see more of the Kirov performing the ballets of William Forsythe plus the recent contemporary ballet addition, "Remembrance" by David Dawson and I hope that these successes will encourage further extensions beyond the classical and neo-classical repertory.

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Jul 26, 2005 3:19 am ]
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Kirov Ballet/Forsythe Covent Garden, London
by CLEMENT CRISP for the Financial Times

Kirov style, that elegance of means, that bred-in-the-bone aristocracy, shows off Forsythe's sometimes aggressive, usually illuminating, shifts in ballet's traditional language with surest sense of their potential.

published: July 26, 2005

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jul 26, 2005 7:19 am ]
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Stuart, what a stellar review. I felt as if i was watching it with you. Thanks so much for the detailed and superbly descriptive report.

As to the issues 'back home' :wink: -- in all honesty, this isnt an issue of rehearsal time. BUT that does play a role. The evening was supposed to begin with Ratmansky's Middle Duet, and I'd expressly planned to attend for the sole purpose of seeing this ballet (which I love). The other three ballets were Fokine. At the last minute (it is said) MD was replaced with the White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. This is strange bc the Kirov rarely does "excerpts" from full length ballets. But so it was.

Tatiana Serova was paired with Andrei Yakovlev. (I'm trying to be polite here and am having difficulty). Neither dancer has much of a neck which, especially in the case of Odette, is nearly unforgiveable. Because of Serova's size, or Yakovlev's (lack of) strength, or for some other unknown reason, the series of hops in arabesque to overhead lift (x3) from upstage right to downstage left were replaced by arabesque hops + promenade in attitude. My friend who also attended left halfway through this ballet excerpt to go read in the hallway. She's Russian. This is how bad it was.

I remind myself that this is the KIROV in an excerpt from the most classical ballet in any repertoire (arguably). Yes it is tourist season, and yes there were 'bravos' anyway, but...

My impression is that someone else (or two other dancers) should have been given the lead roles. Changing choreography in this way is not acceptable in my book, especially not at the Kirov. This wasn't the Forsythe program after all.

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