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Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:31 am ]
Post subject:  9 June Kirov Ballet - A Choreographic Journey

Kirov Ballet
A Choreographic Journey: ‘Reverence’, ‘Etudes’, ‘In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated’
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
9 June 2005
By Catherine Pawlick

There are evenings of ballet that quench one’s thirst for a formal classical ballet, and those that cover a broader range of styles and choreographers, the promise of something new, modern, or out of bounds. This week the Kirov Ballet danced a well-rounded program, billed as “A Choreographic Journey” and including works by David Dawson, Harold Lander and William Forsythe that demonstrated –in moments of strength and with the proper casting -- just how wide their range can be.

Dawson’s ballet, it should be stated, requires more than one viewing. He has said in various interviews that the message in the ballet, as its title suggests, implies a farewell of sorts. But the ballet tracks the stages in a relationship between a man and a woman – initial attraction, the discussion phase, and then, the final farewell. This isn’t readily apparent from his choreography but if one looks, it’s possible to piece together the message.

Upon second viewing this message became clearer. Sofia Gumerova begins the ballet in a series of pulls, tugs and circular movement. Three couples – Gumerova alongside the promising young Alexander Sergeev, Ekaterina Petina alongside Andrei Mercuriev, and Natalia Sologub next to Mikhail Lobukhin -- perform a sequence in cannoned fashion. One couple breaks off, expressing their own relationship in movement, and then the second couple does the same. Sologub holds a suspended retire passé and finishes a whirlwind of motion with a simple port de bras to fifth en avant. Petina and Mercuriev danced to the low cello chords in Briars’ score with synchronized timing. Their complementary sizes and approach to movement suggest that this pair should be cast together more frequently – Petina devours Dawson’s choreography and Mercuriev is a prince in any ballet, ever-present, always precise. Alexander Sergeev demonstrated wild abandon in his detached solo, arms aloft, before dancing with his partner. The final line of three couples performing arabesque, soutenue, developpee front, and then laying on the ground is in essence the farewell. They all walk upstage except for Sologub, still dancing as the curtain falls.

Although initially billed as the final ballet of the evening, the presence of Sultan Burnei in the Tsar’s box required the reorganization of the program, and “Etudes” thus became the second ballet of the evening (thus allowing the Sultan to depart during the second intermission). This VIP presence also resulted in a late start to the performance and tens of not-so-secret security men with squiggly ear pieces standing throughout the theatre. But it was worth the short delay to see this ballet. Who better to dance for one of the world’s richest men than one of the world’s most polished ballerinas? Victoria Tereshkina danced the lead in “Etudes” with her usual majesty and sparkle, using even her eyelashes to enthrall the audience. Leading up to this, however, was the distraction of watching 12 Kirov ballet dancers at three ballet barres with perfect fifth positions and 180 degree turnout performing the series of barre excercises: tendus, battements, fondues, releves. It was a glimpse of a dream: a ballet factory, beautiful silhouettes, tutus, pointe shoes, plies.

It then goes without saying that Leonid Sarafanov would not be far from this sort of action. Arriving onstage as one of Tereshkina’s two partners, Sarafanov flashed his signature good boy Dentyne smile (literally -- there was a visible gleam from his teeth shortly after his first entrance on stage). He also flashed his signature split jete manege, and his “aha!” finish to each tour, turn, jump or pose. His counterpart, Vladimir Schkliarov met the various choreographic challenges with equal tenacity, if slightly less polish.

Of the corps de ballet, Yana Selina drew attention for her pirouettes from fifth position in the “pirouette” section, and Ekataerina Kondaurova for her light, quick series of brises moving downstage.

The final ballet of the evening, William Forsythe’s “In the Middle Somewhat Elevated” (ITMSE) infused energy into the laziest viewer, but not at its usual over the top level. Unfortunately Nikolai Tsiskaridze’s guest appearance in this ballet was not as energy-infused as the rest of the work. Tsiskaridze approached the Forsythe movements with plenty of time to spare, removing willfully or otherwise the accents that give this choreography much of its oomph. The result was a rather lethargic, slightly effeminate Bolshoi danseur in a shiny green unitard alongside Irina Golub as the main soloist. While approaching the ballet with more energy, Golub’s petite frame didn’t emit the same shock effect as Pavlenko or Sologub manage to do in this role. She and Tsiskaridze were polite and adequate, but manners and textbook accuracy haven’t any place in a Forsythe work. Kondaurova’s spider leg lifts, on the other hand, were electric, and filled with the right kind of Forsythean punch that perks up the ballet. It seems that the longer limbed, more gymnastic a dancer, the more impressive he or she is in ITMSE. Ekaterina Petina and Alexander Sergeev also drew attention for their attack and abandon. It is probably as well that this singular lukewarm offering wasn’t viewed by the Sultan.

Boris Gruzin conducted.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Jul 27, 2005 6:08 am ]
Post subject: 

Kirov Ballet – Mixed Program
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
19 July 2005
by Catherine Pawlick

While the best-known stars of the Kirov Ballet grace London with a two week tour that displays a good 75% of their repertoire, the “reserve troupe” has stayed behind to entertain local devotees and tourists here in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the term “reserve” refers not only to the unrecognizable names on the playbill, but to a mostly inferior level of dancing as well.

The first disappointment came with the unadvertised, unannounced replacement for the evening’s opener. Ratmansky’s entrancing “Middle Duet” – truthfully the sole reason I raced to the theatre early – was replaced at the last minute with the second scene from the first act of “Swan Lake”. Normally one would be excited at the change in billing. What could be more beautiful than watching the Kirov dancing an excerpt from one the most classical of ballets on their home stage? As it turned out, something else could have been.

One can debate where the problem resided: under-rehearsing, the last minute replacement ballet, perhaps an injury or recasting. With a troupe of 220 dancers none of these reasons hold much weight, although the rehearsal issue is the most forgivable and most logical. Most unfortunately, judging from the dancing, rehearsal time was not to blame. Andrei Yakovlev partnered an ungraceful, unemotional Tatiana Serova in the white swan pas de deux. As Tchaikovsky’s hauntingly beautiful score rose from the orchestra pit, Serova’s overmuscled legs went through the step patterns without accent, her neck disappearing into her shoulders, her head thrown back at inappropriate moments. If she had put thought into her interpretation of the role, or even into displaying the steps with beauty and poise, it was not evident. One could sense no emotion from Serova, and even the releve, ronds de jambs a la seconde displayed a great lack of staying power. Her costume did not help matters – a strange display of white puffs on the bodice implied Frederick’s of Hollywood more than classical ballet.

Yakovlev partnered her adequately, but the pair completely cut out the series of lifts following the arabesque hops en diagonale, replacing them instead by a releve promenade in attitude each time. This alteration of classical choreography in a company that should be upholding the global standard is unacceptable, and if Serova’s size was to blame, there are plenty of smaller females in the company who could have done the role more justice without any alteration in the steps. As Serova turned towards Yakovlev for the final step into retire-passe, sous-sous en pointe, before the petit battements en promenade, she ran into the corps members forming a line behind her and ended up walking in a circle around herself. The entire ballet excerpt was as if the theatre had morphed into another company and time zone: one kept thinking this could not possibly be the Kirov Ballet, the same company that is home to Pavlenko, Lopatkina and Vishneva. The qualitative differences were too dramatic.

The sole point of interest in this ballet was the big swans. Despite a tempo much too fast for their long limbs, their execution was lovely and precise.

As if to torture us a bit more – and in an oddly similar programming choice – Tatiana Amosova’s “The Dying Swan” continued the ornithological theme. It must be said that to the backdrop of Serova’s Odette, Amosova’s delivery was acceptable. She still speeds through the ending, and does not achieve the effect of Lopatkina, but it was a degree of improvement upon her last performance in this short role.

“Polovtsian Dances” followed, in a simple and colorful diversion from the animals-in-flight trend. Here Yulia Slivkina and Mikhail Berdichevski (in his debut) danced the leading Polovtsians with vigor and fresh expression. This short ballet is a pleasure to watch for its energy and ethnic dancing.

The final ballet of the evening was no doubt the magnet for many of the spectators: “Scheherezade” featuring Farukh Ruzimatov and Yulia Makhalina as the Slave and Zobeida, respectively. Ruzimatov was, as always, in his element in this role. Ruzimatov draws the viewer into the ballet’s plot and maintains that connection until the tragic ending. He exuded all the magnetism of a prowling feline on the hunt, his smoldering passion for Makhalina barely contained within his every movement and gesture. Stealthy leaps and catlike grace gave his character an earthy nature, in pleasant contrast to Makhalina’s slightly evasive but still passionate characterization. He drank thirstily and in haste from the cup she handed him halfway through their pas de deux, and she was the grateful recipient of his attentive pursuit.

Makhalina, for her part, danced an authentic Zobeida. As she contemplated suicide, Soslan Kulaev as Shaxriar glanced at her. No sooner was he looking her way than she snapped her head back, returning a blank stare that revealed none of the thoughts in her head. It was a small moment of acting genius on Makhalina’s part that added a layer of depth to the role. The two stars deserved every bit of warm applause and every long-stemmed rose bestowed upon them at evening’s end.

Mikhail Agrest conducted.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jul 27, 2005 7:18 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks, Catherine - good to hear that Ruzimatov can still cut it in "Scheherazade".

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Jul 30, 2005 2:26 am ]
Post subject: 

And how! At 42, he's still "got it"!

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Aug 01, 2005 8:09 am ]
Post subject: 

Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season Close – All-Fokine Program
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
29 July 2005
by Catherine Pawlick

The 2004-2005 Kirov Ballet season neared its July 30 at the Mariinsky Theatre as those company members not on tour in London danced the mixed bill of Fokine works with clarity of purpose and dignity on the 29th.

The eternally sublime “Les Sylphides” initiated the evening with an infusion of grace and ethereal eloquence. Unlike the previous week’s awkward excerpt from “Swan Lake”, “Sylphides” (or “Chopiniana” as it is known here), thankfully void of uneasy moments presented the refined, cool Kirov technique on some of its most excellent dancers.

Sofia Gumerova danced the Prelude, her exquisite feet and legs embodying a strong sense of musicality and her epaulement faithful to the period of the ballet. Her only drawback came in a strangely deliberate dragging of her second leg in the pique sur le coup de pied diagonale during this variation, leading one to wonder if a rehearsal director had changed the choreography. If her Prelude was somber, she was smiley and vibrant in the finale, a strange and nearly inexplicable character change within the same ballet.

Veronika Ivanova and Evgeni Ivanchenko danced the seventh waltz together. Ivanova, a very petite blonde, was sprightly in her grand-jete variation, and soft in the waltz section. Ivanchenko manages a high second leg in every tour-jete, and his turnout stems even from his ankles, making him quite lovely to behold. From my vantage point in Lozhe “O”, the large Tsar’s box to the left of the stage, I was able to see his participation in the partnering and lifts more clearly than a view from the orchestra would have allowed. He is a commendable partner and princely soloist in his own right.

Yulia Kasenkova, a questionable casting choice, danced the eleventh waltz with stiff fingers and a lack of length that contrasted to the other soloists in the piece. However, she was energetic and accurate in her execution. Daria Vasnetsova was easily spotted in the corps de ballet. Her success at the Vaganova graduation performance (see my review from June 6) is now confirmed.

The remainder of the program was a repeat of July 19: “The Dying Swan”, “Polovtsian Dances” and “Scheherezade” with much the same casting for all pieces.

Tatiana Amosova again danced the Dying Swan. Her rendition does not differ radically from performance to performance, as confirmed by this repeat of last Tuesday’s bill. She may receive praise for consistency, but still does not achieve the effect one would hope for in the short, emotive, historical piece.

In “Polovtsian”, Anna Sisoeva, Anastasia Vasilietz and Ekaterina Mikhailovtseva deserve honorable mention for their invigorated dance sequences as prisoners. Mikhail Berdichevski again danced the role of leading Polovetz with strength and the required warrior-like evil gaze.

“Scheherezade”’s casting was also unchanged, with the return of Ruzimatov and Mahkalina to the two leading roles. My nearby vantage point allowed me to see even Makhalina’s eyelashes and Ruzimatov’s gold body glitter up close. Whether it was the proximity to the stage or the energy of the dancers, this performance was about twenty degrees hotter than last Tuesday’s. The electricity between Ruzimatov and Makhalina was palpable, and the suspense in waiting for Shakhriar’s return to the fort added juice to the anticipation. Ruzimatov gazed at Makhalina with hunger, never taking his eyes off of her. She flitted between smouldering passion, cool indifference and playful glee, now handing him the cup from which to drink, now turning her back to climb the staircase, follow as he may.

Soslan Kulaev was a fearsome Shakhriar with vengeance gleaming from his gaze. Pavel Moskvito as Shakhezman was equally stern. Boris Gruzin conducted the entire evening.

The company will return to the theatre in late September and from there head to the United States for their three-week, three-city tour.

Author:  ripowam [ Mon Aug 01, 2005 5:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

But wasn't the July 30th Giselle the closing ballet performance of the season?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:02 am ]
Post subject: 

ripowam, yes, it was. Unfortunately when I requested press tickets the last ballet of the month listed was the one I did in fact review.

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