CriticalDance Forum

Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season
Page 8 of 9

Author:  Kevin Ng [ Thu May 05, 2005 7:37 pm ]
Post subject: 

>I guess white smoke has left the chimney: The Maryinsky has a true Manon.

Cygnenoir, the Mariinsky already has a great Manon in Diana Vishneva who has danced the role since 2001, much longer than Daria Pavlenko whose debut performance was only in January. I've seen Vishneva dance the ballet in St. Petesburg with different partners - Igor Zelensky, Manuel Legris etc.

Author:  Cyngenoir [ Fri May 06, 2005 11:42 am ]
Post subject: 

Oh, I forgot about Diana.
I'll re-phrase: The Maryinsky has
another great Manon in the making.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed May 11, 2005 5:37 am ]
Post subject: 

While I haven't seen Diana in the full length Manon, I saw her in the pas de deux with Malakhov in Moscow at the Benois awards last month. Impressive...but I prefer Sologub (and/or Pavlenko) in the role.

Cygnenoir -- i haev to agree with the poster you mentioned. I haven't yet seen Gumerova as Kitri, but that's because I chose not to. I've seen her enough to understand her dancing style, and she isnt of the spicy variety. She was not as appealing in "Giselle" as others here have been. She's a beautiful dancer with a lot of natural talent, but emotion and drama dont seem to be her forte as much as they are for some other Kirov ballerinas. Just my .02.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed May 11, 2005 8:02 am ]
Post subject:  An Evening of Ballet - May 8, 2005

An Evening of Ballet:
"Serenade", "The Dying Swan", "Polovtsian Dances", and "Leningrad Symphony"
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
8 May 2005
By Catherine Pawlick

On the eve of May 9, termed Victory Day in Russia in honor of the end of World War II, the Mariinsky Theatre, along with many other cultural and political organizations in the country, honored the 60th anniversary of the date with a mixed ballet program that began quietly and ended on a note of pathos and strength.

"Serenade", to Tchiakovsky's hauntingly beautiful, ever-inspiring score was danced with beauty and reverence by the Kirov dancers. Ksenia Ostreikovskaya danced the lead with ample veneration for steps and style. Her sweeping waltz section with Danila Korsuntsev was delivered with verve, the two of them visibly feeding off each other's energy for the prance around the stage. Ostreikovskaya was slightly overshadowed, however, by Ekaterina Osmolkina's explosive energy – emotional as well as physical-- and attractive arabesque lines, which remained intriguing from her very first entrance to the ballet's close.

Sofia Gumerova appeared as the "black angel", both guiding and interrupting Denis Firsov's connection with Ostreikovskaya. If the dancers didn't quite accomplish the proper "black angel" pose on downstage left, the underlying steps and timing were faithful to Balanchine's style.

Saint-Saens' "The Dying Swan" was disappointingly danced by Tatiana Amosova, whose muscular arms were no compensation for the lack of delicacy and emotion in her movement. After seeing Lopatkina's performances of "Odette", it becomes difficult to watch an amateur attempt such a well-known solo. The suddenly brisk tempo at the swan's end served only as a source of audience gratitude. There are others in the corps who would be better served being cast in role that demands such attention and responsibility.

"Polovtsian Dances", a fragment from the second act of the opera "Prince Igor" was the evening's emotional reprieve. First appearing as part of the "Russian Seasons" program shown in Paris on May 19, 1909, the program was a demonstration of Fokine's effort to create a ballet focused on the corps de ballet, rather than – as with "The Dying Swan" – a soloist. Fokine wrote, "here I tried to give an example of a dance of the masses. For this work the corps de ballet is more important than the ballerinas or soloists … To create an exciting, emotionally striking dance was an important challenge for me."

Fokine's departure from classical steps here is neither surprising nor apologetic. If the choreography appears more Arabian or character-based than classical, Borodin's music is entrancing and the dancers' energy, on which the bulk of this ballet's success depends, is catching. This very short but colorful ballet is pure entertainment. Islam Baimuradov carried forward the leading male role with abandon, and Galina Raxmanova drew ample applause for her spirited dancing as well.

The premiere of "Leningrad Symphony" took place April 14, 1961 on the Kirov stage, a good sixteen years after the victory that it commemorates. Set to the music from the first part of Dmitri Shostakovich's "Seventh Symphony", it quickly became a milestone of Soviet ballet in the beginning of the 1960s. The one-act ballet was choreographed by Igor Belsky to commemorate the struggle with the Germans, to celebrate the victory over fascism, and to honor those who perished in Russia – over 20 million people.

The musical score itself was composed in the grave days of the siege of Leningrad. As the program states of the famous score, "The whole world heard in it the pathos of hatred of fascism, the grief for those who died and the faith in future victory." The idea behind the ballet's creation was that history should not repeat itself.

"Leningrad Symphony" is said to have surpassed many full-act ballets in its strength and high-caliber, and the impressions it offered during this performance were no different. Its premiere performance featured Yuri Soloviev and Oleg Sokolov as the Youth and Alla Sizova and Gabriela Komleva as the Girl – setting quite a standard for future dancers to live up to.

The symbolism in this ballet is apparent: the Russian men enter in grey pants and white Tshirts; the women in white dresses, and later in grey dresses; the Germans in brown uniforms and black boots with skeletal faces, raising their arms intermittently in "Heil" fashion. A symbolic chronology is offered through music and step: the Girl and Youth in love, are separated by war, indicated on the back scrim by red clouds. The Germans enter, taking the Russian men prisoner. Russian women in grey capes and hoods stand downstage in tableau format as the battle between the prisoners and fascists takes place upstage.

On Sunday night, Irina Golub and Vladimir Shishov did history justice in their roles as the Girl and the Youth, respectively. Golub was her delightful, girlish self, light and charming in the first half, and stricken with grief and shock in the second. Shishov managed to impress with his ballon and aplomb at several points. As the last Russian left standing, he believably fended off the enemy with a force stemming from someplace in his central torso.

Of note is that no weapons or gestures suggesting them are present in this ballet. As the women enter after the "battle", still clothed in grey, their heads are bowed as they bourree silently across the stage. It is here that Golub's dramatic talents became most visible. One had the impression that she was going through the motions of the dance, numb in the shock of loss created by war. As the curtain falls, she stands with both hands outstretched to the audience, eyes wild, searching for answers in a gesture of pleading and confusion.

One does not have to be a Russian citizen born on Russian soil to appreciate the poignancy of a ballet such as "Leningrad Symphony". Indeed, given the current climate of American Imperialism, one wonders the effect such a ballet would have on American audiences in the wake of Iraq. One hopes it might prompt more people to consider the costs of war in non-monetary terms. Art speaks volumes to those who listen.

Alexander Polyanichko conducted this evening's program.

Author:  KANTER [ Fri May 13, 2005 3:05 am ]
Post subject:  Thank you

Thank you for this most interesting account, that one hopes will not fall upon deaf ears.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri May 13, 2005 6:15 am ]
Post subject: 

My thanks too, Catherine. I saw "Leningrad Symphony" at the Kirov celebration of the 300th Anniversary of St Petersburg at London's Royal Opera House. Here's what I wrote at the time:


The balletic high spot of the first half was Belsky’s ‘Leningrad Symphony’ to the gloriously martial 7th Symphony of Shostakovich. In the programme, alongside the glittering stars of today’s Kirov there was a startling image of a skeletal faced man clutching some bread. The memory of those times and the 900,000 who died in the siege of the City between 1941-1944 clearly remains vividly strong in St Petersburg. The ballet paints a very black and white picture of the conflict with none of the ambiguity of ‘The Green Table’ or ‘Dante Sonata’.

One could say that the Hitler/Stalin pact, the Katyn Massacre and the imprisonment of so many Russian prisoners of War when they returned to their mother country, paints a much less clear moral picture. However, the choreography does capture the spirit of the ordinary people of this City who resisted the Nazis in such terrible conditions. In 1943 this resistance made it possible for the Soviet Union to win the battle of Kursk on the Eastern Front: eight months before D-Day, when the Germans lost the largest tank battle that the world had seen, their eventual defeat became unavoidable.

The huge leaps of the male defenders, the arrogant goose-stepping of the invaders and the sorrow of the Russian women, particularly in the stillness of the final scene all make for a great emotional sweep reflecting the scale of the conflict, the sacrifices and the suffering. For the ballet to work, you have to give yourself up to its operatic quality, but I was happy to do so. Daria Pavlenko was very moving in the lead female role, without ever going over the top.


It's good to see that this fine ballet is maintained in the Kirov/Mariinsky repertoire.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon May 16, 2005 5:14 am ]
Post subject: 

Stuart, your comments did the ballet more justice than mine. That's a beautiful review excerpt.

"Leningrad Symphony" really is a poignant piece. I have been here a year now and this is the first I've seen it. I can imagine it was equally touching at the 300th anniversary. I think its a shame American audiences can't see this ballet.

Author:  Cyngenoir [ Wed May 18, 2005 1:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

The Maryinsky exchanges with the Bolshoi May 23-25. Gumerova
will be dancing Nikiya in the Vikharev 'Bayadere.' Has anyone
seen her Nikiya; and if so, what were your impressions?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu May 26, 2005 4:41 am ]
Post subject:  The Ballets of Mikhail Fokine

The Ballets of Mikhail Fokine
"Spectre de la Rose", "The Dying Swan", "Polovtsian Dances", "Scheherezade"
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
22 May 2005
by Catherine Pawlick

With Diaghilev's moor-decorated lettering, "Les Saisons Russes" was sewn onto the second main curtain of the Mariinsky theatre last night, for an evening of Fokine which displayed the famous choreographer's ability to use classical ballet technique as a starting point for creative expression.

"Le Spectre de la Rose" was first choreographed for Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina in 1910. Set to Von Weber's music orchestrated by Berlioz, the story tells of a young maid returned from a ball who, inhaling the scent of the rose from the party, fantasizes about dancing with –some say a young man, and some say an embodiment of the rose, with Dance itself.

"Spectre" is not commonly shown in western ballet companies, and indeed rarely performed even in Russia. The photographs one sees in ballet picture books of Karsavina and Nijinski seemed to come to life on stage the Maryinsky theatre on Sunday night. Irina Zhelonkina perfectly portrayed the girl in the white Victorian-era dress, but Igor Kolb drew more attention as the Spectre. His entire torso undulated as his arms waved on romantic port de bras. With each step he highlighted Fokine's lifelong goal: shedding the confines of classical steps, infusing movement with meaning, and unifying the music, costumes, steps and subject matter. In sum, dramatic expression over virtuosic displays.

Dramatic expression was indeed the entire theme of the evening, but as the curtain opened to the second Fokine piece, a repeat performance by Tatiana Amosova of "The Dying Swan" it became clear that not every Maryinsky dancer has the Fokine touch. Upon her first entrance, Amosova's arms seemed only slightly improved over her April performance, but pathos continues to be absent from her delivery. In the final descent to the floor, she slipped slightly, placing a hand -- not a wing-- to the ground, and "dying" a bit ahead of the music for the second time. This was discouraging given the historical bent of the ballet, the history of this theatre, and the willingness of the administration to entrust such a role to Amosova -- a second time.

In opposition to the focus on solo dancing in both "The Dying Swan" and "Spectre", "Polovtsian Dances" offers a reverse perspective -- a mass of dancers onstage in lively, ethnic costumes with steps based in character dance and not in classical ballet. Polina Rassadina and Aleksei Timofeev led the rest of the Maryinsky corps de ballet with spank and panache, a welcome departure from the previous ballet. This ballet is over almost before it begins, but the energy relayed Borodin's "Prince Igor" music is addicting, and the choreography displays Fokine's ability to create steps for the multitudes as well as the few.

"Scheherezade", in some ways, might be the refined, more firmly libretto-based version of "Polovtsian" in terms of dance for the masses, but as most of us already know, it also carries solo dance -- but not of the classical sort. One explanation for the sold-out house was the casting for this ballet. Irma Nioradze next to Farukh Ruzimatov, two of the oldest dancers currently on the company roster, but two of the most beloved as well, appeared in the final Fokine ballet of the evening.

In two words, bright intensity. Between the colorful costumes, risque theme and expressive choreography, Ruzimatov's smouldering gaze was met by Nioradze's own sultry sexuality, the two lovers clearly lost in their own world of passion. Ruzimatov's split jetes and airborn acrobatics remained as impressive as before, and Nioradze did a fine job of slinking about the stage in her step patterns. Despite their respective ages, or perhaps because of this, the performance was a captivating, fresh example of some of the best the Kirov can do.

It seemed that just when the going got fun, the fun was wiped away with the arrival of the Harem king, stern Shahriar, danced and mimed admirably by Soslan Kuliaev. Nioradze's solution to the problem was, in order: pleading for forgiveness, attempting to kill her husband, and finally, since neither he nor his younger brother Shakhezman, danced by Andrei Yakovlev, would take the knife from her, the last --obvious or not-- resort, suicide.

Despite the program's closure on a rather sombre note, the evening was a delightful reminder of the treasures of Fokine and the companies that preserve them.

Boris Gruzin conducted.

Author:  KANTER [ Thu May 26, 2005 5:00 am ]
Post subject:  "Spectre de la Rose"

Irina Zhelonkina and Igor Kolb - now there's a high-powered poetic conclave !

Will we see more of Irina Zhelonkina on the Paris tour this autumun than has been the case in the recent past ? One of the very, very, very few people left in the profession who will NOT pick up the leg and turn the dance into a three-ring circus ?

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue May 31, 2005 9:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Ballets of Mikhail Fokine

Despite the program's closure on a rather sombre note, the evening was a delightful reminder of the treasures of Fokine and the companies that preserve them.

In fact it is companies other than the Kirov that preserve the treasures of Fokine. The versions performed by the Kirov are largely inferior to those performed elsewhere.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:43 am ]
Post subject: 

Cassandra -- Aside from ABT in the 80s, when they used to in fact perform in San Francisco, I have never seen an American company perform Fokine works -- with the exception of Les Sylphides. (ABT may still perform this, I dont know, as they haven't toured to SF in decades and I don't/didn't live in NYC). I think the Kirov deserves credit for trying to maintain these in their repertoire, for there are, as I'm learning, hundreds of ballets that fall out of the repertoire and into neglect for various reasons.

Here is a recent review of mine:
“The Magic Nut” – premiere
Kirov Ballet
Maryinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
04 June 2005
By Catherine Pawlick

Home-grown choreographers in St. Petersburg are few and far between. The ones that do exist are underfunded, underexposed and can be counted on one hand. Big names include Boris Eifman, and the Tatchkine company. Choreographers within the Kirov are poorly promoted and without means to fully demonstrate their talents. Alexei Miroshnichenko is one young, talented choreographer whose works were set on Peter Martins’ Summer Session last year, and who was invited to choreograph solo variations for participants in the Moscow International Ballet Competition. But you won’t see his name on any big Kirov theatre productions, for any number of reasons.

Kirill Simonov is another “home grown” choreographer whose tastes lean towards the Forsythean and who, some might say, is unofficially the Kirov’s resident choreographer. Simonov was called upon by the Maryinsky to create a ballet for the company in 2003.
A significant number of man hours and rubles later, the results were displayed on the Mariinsky stage. “Princess Pirlipat”, the predecessor to the holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker,” debuted to child-filled audiences and poor reviews. The theatre decided to attempt a revision, and this year’s “The Magic Nut”, which first premiered on May 14 with choreography by Bulgarian-born Donvena Pandoursky, is the result.

Both “Pirlipat”and “The Magic Nut” attempt to fill in the blanks left by the libretto of “The Nutcracker”. They relay the tale of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” of which the holiday ballet is only part. “The Magic Nut” begins with the birth of Princess Pirlipat in the bird kingdom. She is born from a Faberge egg. The guests at the celebration include members of the rat nobility whose Queen, Krysilda, considers herself a peer of the bird queen in whose ******* she lives. Krysilda and King Cardinal Kryselieu present the newborn with a Nutcracker doll. The doll frightens Pirlipat and is taken away. The rats steal the sausages that were prepared for the celebratory banquet and Pirlipat’s father, the King, asks Drosselmeyer who is responsible. He points to the rats, who are then sentenced to execution. Krysilda vows to avenge these rat aristocrats’ lives and casts a spell on the Princess. The King calls for Drosselmeyere to protect his daughter. Drosselmeyer introduces mousetraps and cats to keep the rats away from Pirlipat. Sixteen years later while asleep, Krysilda sneaks past the now-fat sleeping cats and bites the Princess, who is then transformed into a Nuccracker. The cats try to flee, the King arrives and Herr Drosselmeyer arrives on the scene with his nephew. Young Drosselmeyer tries to comfort the disfigured Pirlipat. The King charges Drosselmeyer with the responsibility of remedying the situation. Herr Drosselmeyer and Young Drosselmeyer make their way into the Rat Kingdom, and steal the Magic Nut. Upon breaking it, Pirlipat is restored to her former beauty and Krsyilda, in another attempt to punish the do-gooders, turns the Young Drosselmeyer into a Nutcracker. Herr Drosselmeyer, distraught, seeks a way to break the spell. Pirlipat recoils in horror and offers no help, and so Drosselmeyer finds a young girl, Masha, who loves the Nutcracker.

Simonov’s “Pirlipat” was infused with modern choreography, far from classical. One of the difficulties in this ballet was the influence of Mikhail Chemiakin’s outrageous costumes, containing large masks with long noses and tails. Dancers say these costumes inhibit movement (aside from being uncomfortable and hot). They’re also not very pleasant to look at. Unfortunately Pandoursky’s “Nut” retains the bulk of the old Chemiakin look, and any changes remain visually negligible at best. The result is, with the exception of a few scenes, a rather grotesque and frightening “fairytale” that is bound to result in more nightmares than sweet dreams.

During the ballet's third “premiere” performance on Saturday – for three “premieres” were listed on the playbill, but this is the “premiere” that occurs during the White Nights Festival -- the house was full, mostly of little girls in poufy gauze hair bows, some in ballet “dresses”, all within arm’s length of a mother’s hand. To this sold-out house some of the oddities described above began, and one had to sift through them in order to find the moments of inspiration and greatness.

Those moments of inspiration were rare but present. Two new scenes added to the ballet by Pandoursky were not present in Simonov’s “Pirlipat” and, if distracting from plot continuity, at least provide respite from the ugly rat kingdom. The first is a whimsical underwater aquatic kingdom, full of trident-carrying plastic fin-wearing sea creatures of various shapes and sizes, and seaweed girls in green unitards with two-foot tall seaweed ‘hair’ that whish to and fro. There is even an oversexed female frog who latches on to the Drosselmeyer men like a chemical reaction gone wild. The second is a heavenly kingdom situated in the clouds with satyrs, cupids and Bacchanalian characters. The latter has a delightful sequence with the leading nymph “Temptress”, clothed as a greek goddess, her hair rimmed with a green wreath, danced by Tatiana Tkachenko. Tkachenko is allowed a set of fouettes after her sensual pas de deux with the Young Drosselmeyer, which was by far the technical highlight of the entire ballet. These scenes are puerile entertainment for the younger members of the audience, showing the temptations and distractions faced by the relatives Drosselmeyer on their way to finding the Magic Nut and as such they distract slightly from the flow of the libretto. They offer only glimpses of interesting dancing but should be credited for their whimsical nature.

For this premiere, Prince Charming – rather, Young Drosselmeyer, danced by Andrei Mercuriev – saves the day, but only in time for Fate to boomerang and deliver him a blow of condemnation. Nonetheless, from his first entrance onstage, cleanly clothed in white tights and red-and-green doublet, he was the breath of fresh air and touch of reality – unmarred by strange costuming that impedes the view of these classical dancers' lines everywhere else in the ballet. His jumps and partnering were ever steady and always reliable. Moreover, one could sense his care for Pirlipat, danced by Dumchenko, despite her character's superficial qualities. Dumchenko for her part danced cleanly and also brought a touch of humanity to the production. One felt relief being able to see a ballerina clothed in pointe shoes, tights, and a simple dress costume, against the background of the other outlandish wardrobe decisions.

Sergei Slonimsky, currently professor of the St. Petersburg Conservatory and receipient of numerous prizes, takes a Prokofiev-like approach to the musical score, similar to “Peter and the Wolf” – Drosselmeyer’s presence is represented by somber organ chords that suggest evil sorcery more than kind-hearted magic. Cats dance to lone xylophones, mice to retro electronic music and so on. Were the score more complex or the musical symbolism more consistent, this approach might add another dimension to the score, but it fails to do so. There is no link to the themes of Tchaikovsky – Slominsky states that he did this purposefully-- and no readily recognizable representation for the various characters on stage. One exception to this exists -- the pas de deux between Pirlipat and Young Drosselmeyer. Maya Dumchenko and Andrei Mercuriev danced those simple steps to music that was fully symphonic. A shame that more of the score does not follow this pattern.

Unfortunately too, Pandursky’s choreography neither deviates drastically from its preceding version (by Simionov) nor does it offer a fresh approach in this ballet. There are no choreographic fireworks, and in fact the bulk of the steps are simply space fillers, never complex or deeply challenging. Some of the underwater characters are not dancing – they're merely hopping to musak in plastic fins. As such, this is more a musical than a ballet, more a children’s entertainment production than a work of high art. If one approaches it that way, disappointment won’t follow.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:46 am ]
Post subject: 

Can anyone here comment on the Sitnikov-Sitnikova relationship (if there is one?)

Vaganova Academy Graduation Performance
Kirov Ballet
Maryinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
06 June 2005
By Catherine Pawlick

To a parent- and sibling-filled audience, the 263rd graduating class of the Vaganova Academy, currently under the directorship of former Kirov ballerina Altynai Assylmuratova, performed on the Mariinsky stage several times this week. Moments of promise were sprinkled in among glimpses of overdone egos and frazzled nerves during the three and a half-hour trial.

The pressure for every dancer was 'on'. These performances help determine who will receive contracts within the Mariinsky Ballet, those who will find employment in other local companies, those who may have to look abroad or into other forms of dance altogether. A dancer's graduation performance can be the start of a promising career within the theatre, or can be a signal that he/she should look for backup methods of employment.

Divided into three acts with two half-hour intermissions, the first graduation performance on June 6 included ten ballet excerpts beginning with "Exprompt", to Prokofiev's music with choreography by Larionova. This cosy piece featured the youngest dancers on stage this afternoon, (not current graduates) as part of the corps de ballet, to the backdrop of Olga Smirnova alongside Victor Lebedev, both also members of the younger classes. Blessed with a gangly slenderness all, their spirits were devoted and giving, ready to please. Smirnova displayed commendable epaulement, although she gushed more than necessary during her reverence. There is something about young talent overacting in moments when sincerity are more appreciated – this was an example -- that dims one's enthusiasm.

The second excerpt was from Kuzmina and Markova's "Duet" to the music of Mozart. Marina Kanno of Japan and Andrei Ermakov, both of the graduating class moved through the funky choreography with interest. Kanno was flexible but her physique lacked a sense of length; Ermakov showed elasticity in his jumps, and seemed an obvious contender for a spot in the company.

The hauntingly beautiful seventh waltz from Chopin's "Chopiniana" (known in the West as "Les Sylphides") was danced beautifully by the promising Ekaterina Ploshkina, who still has one year left until graduation, and Nikolai Koripaev, who finishes the Academy this year. Ploshkina's doll-like features and delicate graceful movements were a heavenly match for Chopin's score. She didn't rush her phrasing and her walks on demi-pointe had professional polish. Koripaev was a very strong lifter, a reliable partner, but his individual jumps and ballon left room for improvement.

Wagner's "Valkiri", choreographed by former dancer Sergei Vikulov, is a combination of the strength of Spartacan women and the punch of modern dance in unitards. Liobov Kozharskaya led the running, jumping and kicking around the stage followed by four members of the older classes. Kozharskaya's strength and supple frame were apparent through her light jetes and suspended saut-de-basques. She is another natural talent.

The pas de six from the ballet "Markitantka", choreographed by Saint Leon, and Bournonville-esque in flavor was danced by Namixo Maeda and Philippe Stepin to the backdrop of Anna Lavrinenko, Elena Silyakova, Marina Nikolaeva and Roui Tamai. Maeda is the smallest of small, with a cute smile and tiny proportions. She is slight, but her technique is secure enough that she added a layer of emotional allure. A highlight came from the second variation, danced by either Lavrinenko or Silyakova or Nikolaeva (it wasn't explicitly stated in the program – my best guess is Lavrinenko as she appeared later and also impressed). She was the pleasantest of them all in technique, line and __expression. This ballet is a mini treasure and one that should be pulled from the archives more often.

Following the first intermission we watched the pas de deux from "The Fairy Doll". Sergei Legat created this ballet to Drigo's music, and it was featured extensively in the Kirov Ballet's 1991 U.S. tours, but somehow since then has faded from the repertoire both at home and abroad. It is an exquisitely charming piece that features two mimes competing for the attention of a fairy doll in a big pink tutu. Svetlana Bekk, with one year left until her graduation, danced the piece with dramatic flair and a strong technical base. The two mimes, Pavel Maslennikov and Valentine Levagin, were devoted suitors. The choreography here is more intricate partnering than pyrotechnics, but offers a good forum for budding talents (or polished ones) to strut their stuff.

The pas de deux from Faust was danced entrancingly by Evgenia Dolmatova and Andrei Ushakov to Bach's evocative music. She dressed in a bright orange unitard with a gold space-age tiara and he with merely skin-colored tights, the couple twisted in any number of tangled poses. The first half of the duet is somber in nature and then it picks up, at which point both Dolmatova and Ushakov emitted a sparkling energy. Both dancers showed professionalism and promise.

Ekaterina Ivannikova and Ivan Sitnikov, (the latter presumably a relation of Professor Sitnikova at the Academy, but this reviewer is not privy to that information) danced the pas de deux from "Esmeralda" with attraction and flair. Ivannikova infused her very echappes en pointe with sensuality; Sitnikov is tall and lanky – he could use more strength, but was consistent in his delivery.

"The Gypsy Dance" to Rachmaninoff was then executed with dark magnetism by a number of dancers. Of them only Dina Mazur drew attention for her dramatic abilities.

Assylmuratova found a fine vehicle to display the various talents of the graduates in the final act of "The Sleeping Beauty", which comprised the third section of this afternoon's performance. Reappearing here were Liobov Kozharskaya as the Lilac Fairy, Dina Mazur as the Gold Fairy, and Svetlana Bekk as Little Red Riding Hood. Kozharskaya displayed grace as well as technical expertise in her role; Dina Mazur was apt as the Fairy of Gold (in Western versions, simply "Gold" in the Jewels pas de trois). Bekk exhibited more keenly her acting abilities as well, shivering in fear as she bourreed away from the Big Bad Wolf.

Others deserving of mention are the White Cat and the Bluebird, danced by Anna Lavrinenko and Maxim Eremeev, respectively. Lavrinenko was a warm, relaxed, flirtatious feline, who offered a sigh of relief to the tensions brought on stage by other dancers. One could almost hear her purr. Eremeev exhibited high ballon and tight entrechat six. His future seems solid.

Unfortunately Princess Florina, danced by Svetlana Smirnova was another case of overdone egotism. Her arms were inconsistent and somehow barely reflected Vaganova style: wrists sometimes floaty, elbows sometimes too bent. She can whip her leg up to her ear but hasn't enough strength to hold a balance, and her lines were not as refined as some others.'

Daria Vasnetsova led the entourage as Princess Aurora, and reminds one of a young Evelyn Cisneros – she oozes a warmth and unassuming grace that is rarely found on stage. Vasnetsova sports strong, well-arched feet, long legs and beautiful lines. As such she's no different from many Kirov dancers, but her personality sets her apart. Her performance was marred only by several technical missteps: in the final promenade her partner had overturned her, and to save herself she came off of pointe, delivering the final penchee on flat foot. In her variation she ran out of room in the final downstage manege, which caused her to stop, pause, step back, and pose when the music finished, at which point Asylmuratova's head went into her hands from the Director's box. Vasnetsova should not be faulted for these minor issues. Her innate poise is not something that can be taught, and the articulation attests to her own attention to detail as well as her fine training.

The final graduation performance (there are three separate performances) on June 12 included repeats from the program described above, with a few variations. The first section was “Chopiniana”, and proved that the Vaganova Academy can perform this classic at a level that not only matches but exceeds most American professional renditions. Daria Vasnetsova led the Mazurka with breath-infused movement, a lovely arabesque line, and a winning smile, missing only some of the quick hops in attitude (before the releve turns). Anna Bocharova delivered the Eleventh waltz with slightly wobbly delivery and Anna Lavrinenko danced the prelude with lightness and almost overdone epaulement. Andrei Ushakov danced his section of the Mazurka with nice beats and a deep plie.

In this concluding performance the pas de deux from “The Fairy Doll” was performed again, but this time by Elizabeth Chprasova, who has one year remaining at the Academy. She is blessed with naturally arched feet and exuded a simple happiness that was pleasing to watch. Her technique needs a bit more polish – an arabesque leg in the coda was a bit flopping – but she has the seeds of professional delivery already within her.

Other highlights included the pas de deux from the ballet “Futile Caution”, choreographed by Gorski to music by Hertel. Namiko Maeda reappeared in this second Bournonville-esque dance alongside Maxim Eremeev. Despite Maeda’s catching smile and accurate technique, Eremeev stole the show. He exhibited an upper body fluidity, clear, airbound cabrioles, stunning petit allegro beats, perfect triple pirouettes and tight double tours – all of which won him applause worth three callbacks onto the stage.

Evgenia Dolmatova danced alongside Kirov company member Ivan Popov in the pas de deux from “The Sleeping Beauty”. Popov’s dependable partnering were an obvious choice for the partner to a talented young graduate – Dolmatova was poised, graceful and mostly musical throughout.

A slight disturbance came with the tangling of a prop in the “Pas d’Esclave” from “Le Corsaire”, danced by Maria Chugai and Philipp Stepin. At the point when Stepin tried to unwind her veil, he didn’t manage to do so, and the couple was forced to complete the pas de deux with her veil still wrapped over her head, shoulders and torso down to her waist. This precluded the first overhead lift, which was no doubt a safer route to go, but didn’t preclude the pair from finishing the pas to satisfied applause from the audience. Chugai’s port de bras need time to develop fluidity as they still carry the “teen” look. But Stepin’s triple assemble-grand plie sequence in his variation was remarkable.

The last section of the afternoon was the Grand Pas from “La Bayadere” featuring a guest appearance by the company’s Ekaterina Osmolkina. Konstantin Zverev partnered her solidly, and his own jumps were strong, but not quite to the level of Sarafanov or some company members. Throwing Osmolkina into the mix provided an instant standard by which to better judge the other graduates. Two sets of soloists were amply armed to attach the corps choreography, but Osmolkina’s own professionalism and grace easily trumped them all.

In sum, the Vaganova Academy continues to churn out dancers of high caliber. It will be interesting to watch which of these create names for themselves and what Fate has in store.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:52 pm ]
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Catherine, thanks for your lush, yet thoughtful reviews. I can hear the music! :)

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Jun 08, 2005 8:23 am ]
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Toba -- Am glad you liked them! :-)

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