CriticalDance Forum

Mariinsky (Kirov) Spring - Summer 2004
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Apr 22, 2004 11:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Mariinsky (Kirov) Spring - Summer 2004

mariinsky celebrates balanchine century

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of George Balanchine, the greatest ballet choreographer of the 20th century who was an alumnus of the Mariinsky Ballet, the Mariinsky Theater fittingly premiered a new tribute programme last week. It consisted of three of Balanchine's early masterpieces created between 1940 and 1951 - "The Four Temperaments," "La Valse," and "Ballet Imperial" (later renamed "Piano Concerto No. 2").

click for more

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Apr 24, 2004 7:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky (Kirov) Spring - Summer 2004

I saw this article yesterday and am so happy for Daria! ;-)

Author:  mehunt [ Thu May 20, 2004 8:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky (Kirov) Spring - Summer 2004

A report from Catherine on the Corsaire in St. Petersburg. Sounds like it was wonderful!

"Le Corsaire"
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
by Catherine Pawlick
19 May 2004

When not spoiled with monthly or even annual displays of the Kirov Ballet's prowess, it becomes easy to allow memories of their performances to remain housed in the archives of the mind, everpresent, but perhaps gathering dust, or fading slightly. A delicate "Swan Lake" here, a historical "Sleeping Beauty" there, or even an electric "Rubies", as we saw last fall in their most recent tour -- these are the images one holds on to, classical and neo-classical, danced always with reverence and adherence to tradition. But then the tour ends, the company goes home, and we may tend to forget their greatness, or if not forget, then simply allow the memories to fade when confronted with something more local, more easy to access, or simply, more American. While we watch "Don Quixote" at San Francisco Ballet, or any number of Balanchine works in New York City, the Kirov continues to strutt their stuff in St. Petersburg, doing what they do best but without much daily coverage in the! United States. In an effort to change that, this reviewer has begun a personal pilgrimage to the city of the Mariinsky's birth, hoping to provide the dance audience with some more frequent glimpses into the company's goings-on in their home location.

The Kirov Ballet's stunning production of the full-length "Le Corsaire" is testament to their rich 250-year heritage, offering colorful drama, coherent story line, brightness of presentation and yes, even freshness in the dancing. On May 19, they gave a singular performance of the ballet in St. Petersburg to a sold-out house. The ballet was not on the bill in April and will not reappear at any point through July, reiterating the vast expanses of talent-in-numbers that the company relies on. Indeed, their performance schedule for any given month may includes one night of Bayadere, one of Don Quixote, a few William Forsythe works (a new addition this year, as most readers already know) and no ballerina seems to dance anything twice. Fold into the mixture full-length operas several times per week, and you have an impressive production line of artists constantly at work on several things at once in the Mariinsky Theatre. The ballet side of that line came to the fore Wednesd! ay night.

The magnificent shipwreck that opens the ballet had left a dramatic impression. If it had less tossing than the last performance seen by San Franciscans in 1990, it was none the worse for the slight difference.

The first dancer to hit the stage was the feistily feline Andrian Fadeev as Lankdeom, the businessman/female slave trader (aka Harem Promoter). With a cat-like arch ever present in his back and sweeping arm gestures, he commanded the stage throughout the entire first act. Arguably he was the most consistent and most clean of the male dancers on the bill, and watching him in this role only reinforces the wide range he has as an artist. He became the money-hungry slave trader, or maybe the role transformed him. Either way, one didn't doubt for a second he loved women as much as he loved the dollars they brought to his pockets.

Our Medora of the evening was Irma Nioradze, technically proficient but slightly less tantalizing than Altynai Assylmuratova was in her very memorable performances in the same role. Ms. Nioradze has -- as any principal ballerina with the Kirov does -- an impeccable technique. But she is also a bit freer with her movements, her back less pliable, as she tends to drop it slightly in arabesque lines. Nonetheless the audience appreciated her in the role, and she gave a brilliant manege of pique turns during the Act II pas de deux.

In almost contrary fashion, Gulnara was danced by the exquisite Ekaterina Osmolkina. She displayed an elegance and refinement of movement that stole the show from Nioradze. Her long, slender arms and neck only added to her gracious aura. One hopes that her talents will be quickly rewarded with more such roles in the future.

The title role was danced by Anton Korsakov, much to the audience's delight. Clearly a left-turner, he gave Act II's famous pas de deux a ton of energy (although the stage did appear slippery under his feet for a brief moment) and verve. He was matched energy-wise by Ilya Kuznetsov, a significantly larger dancer with a much wilder delivery, quite appropriate for his role as Conrad. (The reviewer confesses to not understanding clearly the reasoning behind this pas de trois plot-wise (Conrad, Ali and Medora) in the full-length version, as there is no explanation for it in the ballet's notes aside from Conrad wishing for Medora to join him and Ali in a dance.) Kuznetsov was powerful and believable as the shipwrecked pirate, his long blonde hair hanging loose, and his jumps and turns aptly weighted. But for all his largesse, his was overshadowed by Fadeev's faultless presentation.

Other highlights of course, include the corps de ballet. The entrance of the nine slave girls into a circle of weightless grand jetes (shoulders all down, necks all high, and arms uniformly at shoulder height, of course) were a delightful essay in uniformity. And the "Jardin Anime" in the last Act was a blessing to behold. Clothed in white wigs, pale pink large tutus, the well-known garlands in hand, this section recalled the same from "The Children of Theatre Street", and indeed, eight Vaganova students en pointe were not visibly any different from their company member counterparts. The corps at large has the benefit of the signature Vaganova emboites, delivered hip-height and with ballon that easily hides the effort necessary to perform these repeatedly.

One cannot mention the full-length Corsaire without some reference to the Odalisque trio in Act Three, the section that displays challenging choreography and a demand for clean, highly developed technique. What better place for this than the Kirov. The three ladies, Nadezhda Gonchar, Viktoria Tereshkina and Yulia Kasenkova were beautifully synchronized, Gonchar's gargouillades worthy of envy, and Tereshkina's pique arabesque-to-double pirouette manege reminiscent of Irina Chistiakova's strong delivery in the same solo.

"Le Corsaire" is a fairytale on stage, replete with drama, deceit, love and friendship among amazingly colorful sets, costumes and dancing. It's hard to imagine any company other than the Kirov being able to match the overall presentation of the work, and perhaps testament to the company's heritage that they manage to do so.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu May 20, 2004 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky (Kirov) Spring - Summer 2004

Many thanks for this vivid description Catherine. I saw the Kirov production in London a couple of years ago and it was full of fine choreography, colourful designs and wonderful dancing. I also saw, and enjoyed greatly, Kuznetsov as Conrad. Can't say that the drama does much for me or even makes me smile, but there you go.

Really looking forward to your future reports.

<small>[ 20 May 2004, 10:53 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  mehunt [ Tue May 25, 2004 7:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky (Kirov) Spring - Summer 2004

Catherine is still filing remotely, but hoping to be back on the forum personally soon. Til then, here is her next report:
Kirov Ballet
"Legend of Love"
24 May, 2004
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
by Catherine Pawlick

In the final days before the opening of the "Stars of the White Nights" Festival in St. Petersburg, the Kirov offered a glimpse into Soviet-era ballets with Monday night's performance of "Legend of Love". The three-act exemplar of Soviet realism displayed Yuri Grigorovich's choreography at its budding, if lengthy, best. At nearly three hours long, the story of forbidden love and self-sacrifice remains a commentary on the Russian State's voice in the arts in the late 1950's, while offering a coherent language of choreography unique to the ballet itself.

Grigorovich, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet, found his early beginnings at the Vaganova School. But "Legend of Love," one of his first choreographic works, is testament to the largesse better known at the Bolshoi. Ensembles of men performing petit and grand allegro, ensembles of women doing pointe work, and every dancer speaking the language of the ballet -- as observed in their straight arms, fluttering hands, bent elbows and knees, and flat palms -- this is the native "tongue" of the libretto by Nazym Khikmet, set to music by Arif Melikov. Sets and costumes bespeak the Middle-Eastern palace and village settings: Arabic letters decorate the buildings, heads are nearly always covered, scarves plentiful and Egyptian-type arm movements percolate throughout.

The theme of self-sacrifice is central to the libretto. Queen Mekhmeneh Bahnu's younger sister, Princess Shyrien, is dying. A stranger enters, claiming he can cure the princess. He demands the Queen's beauty in return, and she obliges. Once saved, the princess is horrifed at her older sister's disfigurement. Shyrien then falls in love with a local artist, Ferkhad, who believes it impossible to ever dream of being with Shyrien.

Sofia Gumerova made her debut in the role of Queen Mekhmeneh Bahnu on Monday night, an authoritative ruler clothed in a (usually) black unitard with scarves on her head and hips. Gumerova was believable in gesture, and her legs and feet mezmerizing in their articulation and line. Coached by Olga Tchenchikova, she was a pleasure to watch, and seemed more self-assured in the emotions of this role than in some of her performances in "Jewels'" in the States last fall.

In pleasant contrast to the evil queen, Yevgenia Obraztsova also debuted in the role of Shyrien. Obraztsova is a more compact, sprightly dancer with lean legs. She was champagne in pointe shoes, her youth and happiness accentuated by the white unitards that identified her benevolence.

Ferkhad was danced by the strong, consistent Nikita Shchegliv. He approached his jumps with a grandeur befitting Mukhamedov or Vasiliev, even if he did not always achieve their same height. Likewise his partnering was notable, aside from a few moments of unease during a gymnastic-like lift with Gumerova at the end of the ballet.

The ensembles of men and women, befitting Kirov caliber, were pleasing to watch, even when the group sections tended towards lengthiness. Women clothed in ocre leggings and black skirts decorated with gold coins, and men dressed as guards or village people added to the middle-eastern feel of the ballet, lending greater coherency to the libretto and the ballet's choreographic language. Steps in the men's ensemble sections offered a view into one of Grigorovich's later works, "Spartacus", where renversés, large unique leaps, and synchronic steps are even more prevalent. Grigorovich's talent for creating a believably authentic non-Russian setting is visible in "Legend of Love."

Act Two offers another dramatic conflict. The village people have no water, and have to cut through a mountain in order to procure more. The Queen, it so happens, is also in love with Ferkhad, who meanwhile has found his true love in the Queen's sister. The Princess leaves the palace in order to be with Ferkhad. The Queen is told of this by the Vizir (one of the court advisors), and enraged, she sends the guards after her sister.

Vizir was danced by Ilia Kuznetsov, who offered a persuasively wicked conspirator to Gumerova's alternately grieving, enraged persona. At the end of one of their pas de deux', he lifts her in a frog position above his head, his hands under her thighs, and she balances there as he walks across the stage. The lift, and Kuznetsov's strength, drew applause from the audience.

As the story goes, the guards find the lovers, and Shyrien entreats the Queen to allow them to be together. The Queen agrees, but only on condition that Ferkhad cut through the mountain to procure water for the people; the Queen then separates the lovers.

This ballet also has its vision scene, similar to Bayadere or Sleeping Beauty. While at the mountain, Ferkhad dreams he sees his beloved in the water of the stream. They dance a romantic pas de deux and then Shyrien leaves. Notable in the choreography is that only during the second pas de deux do Shyrien and Ferkhad actually touch each other. The first pas is entirely lacking in any physical contact between the two lovers, but this somehow doesn't give any sense of disconnection. It rather effectively emphasizes the lovers' longing for each other.

"Legend of Love" ends in rather Soviet fashion. After Shyrien begs the Queen to allow them to be together, the Queen agrees, but this time changes her part of the bargain: Ferkhad must give up his work on the mountain and leave the people to be with Shyrien. Ferkhad cannot betray the hopes of the people, and Shyrien also knows this. So ends the plot: the Queen is still disfigured, the lovers separated, and the artist Ferkhad chipping away at the mountain, because the happiness of the people is dearer to him than Love itself. As such, the libretto offers plenty of food for thought, especially in our current era of personal gain being of primary interest.

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