CriticalDance Forum

Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Feb 17, 2005 5:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

"The Nutcracker" with Vaganova School Students
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
15 February 2005
by Catherine Pawlick

While for many professional ballet dancers, the word "Nutcracker" may summon memories of the trials and tribulations of surviving the 20-plus performance run that plagues some companies beginning on Thanksgiving weekend, for those who have viewed the ballet from outside the curtain the idea usually elicits more positive memories. Thoughts of holiday cheer, gingerbread houses, fireplace coziness, surprise gifts and the mysterious magic that comes with Christmastime are just some of the ballet’s routine connotations. While American companies tend to perform this work only during the Christmas season, others perform it throughout the winter weather months, and often even year-round. The latter is the case at the Mariinsky Theatre, which in fact offers two versions of the holiday classic. The Kirov Ballet’s repertoire contains the recent, modern version by Kirill Simonov, with costumes by Chemiakin, which may be viewed even during the summer months. But the theatre also offers Petipa’s classical version, edited by Vasilil Vainonen in 1934. Surprisingly, it isn’t the company who performs this production, it is the students of the Vaganova Academy. And lest one think this is simply a student showcase, think again.

As part of this year's inaugural "Tchaikovsky Festival" (Feb. 12 - 20), dedicated to the great composer, Vainonen's version of "The Nutcracker" was performed competently by those very students, suggesting that the dim moments sometimes suffered by the Kirov Ballet may be soon overshadowed by the next generation of even better and brighter stars.

Tuesday night's performance shared the features of many classical versions of “The Nutcracker” – snow flakes falling on the scrim, a wintry outdoor porch greeting scene, guests in turn-of-the-century attire gathering at the home of the well-to-do Schtalbaum’s. But for this Russian version, or one might say revision, there are several notable differences. Clara, known as Masha, is danced by two girls. For act one, the young Masha is danced by a girl who can’t have been dancing en pointe more than a year or two; and from the moment the Nutcracker turns into a Prince at the end of the second act, a more mature, teen-age Masha, danced by an older student, in this case the lovely Daria Vasnetsova. The dancing bear from the first act remains what would now be considered politically incorrect in the West – a dancing moor who both pleases and frightens the party children. What western audiences know as the dance of the Sugar Plum fairy is danced instead by mature Masha and her Nutcracker Prince; and the musical sections often dedicated to the snow scene pas de deux in other versions here are danced completely by the corps de ballet of snowflakes.

First Act highlights in this performance included all three of the dancing toys. As the Harlequin-like dancing clown, Kirill Leontiev was bouncy and as flexible as a cloth puppet. As the dancing doll, Ksenia Romashova was quite mechanical, her very thin legs appearing ideally doll-like. And the moor, danced by Denis Sapron, for all his stern scariness, got to the crux of the base-heavy measures in his section of the score.

Yulia Zubareva, the younger Masha, cannot escape mention. As the only child of her age group onstage who danced en pointe with Drosselmeyer, and whose preciousness was practically tangible across the many rows of audience members in the orchestra, her choice for the role was an obvious one. Her training and preparation was apparently quite thorough, from her joy at receiving the Nutcracker doll, to her fright during the mouse/soldier battle and her etiquette at first greeting the Nutcracker prince, before quickly being replaced by Princess Masha.

Vasnetsova is one of the most promising budding ballerinas to grace the Kirov stage. Not one of her movements was technically inproficient, and she has feet and legs to rival Zakharova’s. But this was not what impressed most. It was her demeanor, her movements, flooded with a grace and warmth that wa inn fact surprising on this stage. This calm self-assuredness seems more at home, at times, in other companies or on other stages, but it allowed one to enjoy the performance rather than wondering who might miss a lift, or forget a prop, or slip and fall. Her smile was constant, and she radiated sheer joy in all of her dancing. Her place in the Kirov company, based on this performance, should be secure.

Vasnetsova’s partner, Philip Stepen, danced more strongly than many of the men habitually seen in the corps de ballet of the Kirov. (This is not to say that other, more competent male corps de ballet members don’t exist – they simply, for whatever reason, do not often perform). During the “Sugar Plum pas de deux”, one of the suitors (unfortunately his name is undetectable from the program) repeatedly lifted her so high, one would have assumed she was weightless. The remaining three suitors (also unmentioned in the program) were all equally competent in their partnering efforts, suggesting that the Kirov company should acquire some promising male dancers once these gentlemen graduate.

Act Three’s land of the sweets is an impressive salve to the eyes – bright, warm pink hues fill the stage sets, and the various dances were a pleasure to behold. Most remarkable were the mirliton/shepherdess participants, here simply deemed “Pas de Trois” in the program. For this trio, Ekaterina Ulitkina and Olga Smirnova two very petite girls who must be all of ten years of age, danced en pointe, partnered by the small but steady, and quite confident Daniil Lopatkin. The Russian trepak burst onstage with vim and vigor – Ekaterina Grazhdankinia, Tataina Gorodienko, Denis Sapron and Oleg Demchenko all deserve recognition.

As with the second act’s snow scene, so the third act’s waltz of flowers – a sea of pale pink, romantic-length tutus danced by mostly polished Vaganova students -- promises the continuation of the ever-famous corps de ballet in the Kirov Ballet company.

Valeriy Obsyanikov led the performance from the orchestra pit, and the Children’s Choir of the Mariinsky Theatre sang during the appropriate sections during the snow scene. It is a testament to the traditions of the Mariinsky, and the long list of pedagogues who have themselves graduated from the Vaganova School, that such talent continues to reproduce itself within the art of ballet in St. Petersburg.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Feb 18, 2005 3:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

The Kirov has now updated their website (Hallelujah!) with details of the International Ballet Festival:

The opening night information confirms the new Dawson piece, Forsythe's "Approximate Sonata" and "Vertiginous" plus "Apollo" set by PNB's Francia Russell:

Thanks to Marc Haegeman for the information.

<small>[ 18 February 2005, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Feb 27, 2005 10:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

For those who, like me, are fans of Daria Pavlenko, there are some super images of her performances from the contemporary ballet rep. Enjoy:

Author:  djb [ Sun Feb 27, 2005 1:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Thanks, Stuart. Pavlenko is my favorite of the Russian dancers I've seen recently, and I was impressed by her ability to be so good in different styles. I'd love to see her in the ballets from the photos.

Author:  Kevin Ng [ Sun Feb 27, 2005 5:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Diana Vishneva too has a beautiful and informative website.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Mar 17, 2005 10:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

The updated schedule for the International Ballet Festival is here. Stars such as Svetlana Lunkina, Dmitry Gudanov and Nikolay Ziskaridze from the Bolshoi, Laurent Iller, Agnes Letestu and Jean-Guillaume Bart of the Paris Opera, and Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg from the Royal Ballet will participate:

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Mar 26, 2005 1:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Opening Night -- V International Ballet Festival

“Apollo” – George Balanchine
“Approximate Sonata” – William Forsythe (Mariinsky Premiere)
“Reverence” – David Dawson (World Premiere)
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
24 March 2005
By Catherine Pawlick

*First in a series of reviews for the V International Mariinsky Ballet Festival*

It is said that the mark of a good work of art is one that leaves a lasting impression, creates pause for reflection, implants an image or idea inside the viewer that continues long after the viewing has ceased, long after the individual has left the music hall, museum or theatre. The ballets that premiered during opening night of the Mariinsky Ballet’s Fifth International Ballet Festival fall into this category. The Mariinsky premiere of William Forsythe’s “Approximate Sonata” and the world premiere of David Dawson’s “Reverence”, created specifically for six Kirov dancers, both offered food for thought in their billing as “two ballets in the manner of the 21st century”.

True to its name, the Festival is indeed international in nature. Roberto Bolle of Italy’s Teatro La Scala danced the title role in the first ballet of the evening, Balanchine’s “Apollo”, flanked by three Kirovian beauties as his muses. Fitting as an audience warmer for an evening of three contemporary works, “Apollo” a la Kirov is an increasingly intriguing dish. Bolle’s technically careful rendition of the role displayed his musculature to advantage, but the abandon found in some other interpretations was missing. Bolle was more adult deity than baby god learning to walk, and a sense of curiosity at his new life was missing. He was shown the way by the lovely Viktoria Tereshkina as Terpsichore, the ever-frailer Maya Dumchenko as Poligymnia and newcomer Olga Esina as Calliope. Of the three, Tereshkina was the most goddess-like of them all, which is more impressive when one considers that this was her debut in the role. There is a perfect sense of regal grace and self-confidence in her dancing that, combined with her beautiful proportions, speaks of heaven. Her strong facility allows her a good degree of certainty in Balanchine’s works that is rare among Kirov ballerinas and results in almost faultless performances. Dumchenko is equally beautiful to watch –her legs seem endless and she has a doll-like face that was made for the stage – but in this performance her strength seemed to be lost at the expense of her thin frame. She stumbled in each of the pique turns into plie arabesque in her variation. Esina’s dancing was reliable, if a bit raw, a testament to her younger years.

The USA and, tangentially, Germany were presented in the second ballet of the evening, this time danced entirely by Kirov dancers. The Kirov Ballet premiere of William Forsythe’s “Approximate Sonata”, first set on Frankfurt Ballet in 1996, was delivered in polished, expert fashion with confidence by all involved. Kudos for this feat go to Noah D. Gelber, former NYCB, Royal Ballet of Flanders and Frankfurt Ballet dancer, SAB graduate and, since 1997, one of Forsythe’s assistants who continues to set the choreographer’s works on companies across the globe. Gelber spent significant time last year setting and rehearsing the piece on the company (only to have last summer’s premiere cancelled by company management), and returned this year to ensure the choreography, costumes and sets would adhere to Forsythe’s standards. His hard work has paid off. Seeing the six Vaganova trained Kirov dancers swivel, shift, and carve innumerable abstract lines in space was another step forward in Kirov history.

“Sonata”, for the uninitiated and in the absence of any program notes that might help determine its deeper meaning, is set to the music of Tom Williams with additional audio effects by Pumpkin. It begins with the sound of a growling lion against a Bjork-like musical theme. A man in a purple tank top and blue pants makes large growling shapes with his mouth, slowly walking forward as a lion. He suddenly shouts out in Russian, and a woman’s voice answers back through a loudspeaker “da” (yes). “Do you see my hands?” “Yes… do the lion.” He leaves his track on stage right and runs to the center of the stage, beginning to dance. “Go back” the voice tells him and he returns to lion stance. That the voice-over is localized for Russian is a warm touch for the local audience.

Following this unique introduction, the first couple in “Sonata”, Elena Sheshina and Andrei Ivanov, began to dance. Sheshina is one of the shorter dancers in the troupe, but often cast for her ability to move. She proved faithful to her talents here, and if one isn’t attached to the long, lithe body type, she is a pleasure to watch.

Forsythe’s choreography is both discovery of and play with movement. He pushes the limits of hip joint rotation in off-balance, tilted penchees, ronds en l’air and quick movements following slow, liquid ones. The other Kirov dancers seem to have mastered this vocabulary with equal understanding. Ekaterina Petina, a young beauty with thin, muscular legs and incredible facility was pulled and twisted into any number of positions with partner Anton Pimonov, whose solo section depicted him going through a series of invisible “holes” upstage, which he did with competent professionalism. Viktoria Tereshkina returned (her second ballet of the evening) with the young Maxim Ziuzin and was challenged only perhaps by Petina for the “most accomplished Forsythean” award among the Kirov ladies. Tereshkina, as already noted, is a ballerina of the regal type, and she brought her trademark exquisite certainty to this piece as well, even when moving at lightening speed through the complex choreography. Yana Serebriakova and Dmitri Pixachov completed “Sonata”’s casting with equally impressive delivery.

As the dancing in “Sonata” begun, so it ended, with Sheshina and Ivanov together. After a choreographed pas de deux, the two fall into “human walk” stance and begin to discuss choreography onstage, gesturing, trying a sequence, stopping, and then trying another. This is a comforting side of Forsythe, although to some balletomanes it may seem strange. The division between dancer and person, the separation between onstage or off, dancing or not – is revealed before us on stage. One remembers this is still choreography – they’re supposed to be looking like they’ve stopped dancing – but it is awfully close to what one might see in a glimpse at a studio rehearsal.

Finally Ivanov stands upstage, arms crossed, watching Sheshina go through a series of her own movements. As the curtain slowly drops, she is still moving, and he is still watching. The dance, Forsythe might be saying, continues, whether or not the spectators watch.

It was in almost eery fashion, then, that the world premiere of David Dawson’s ballet concluded in a manner choreographically quite similar to “Sonata”. This may be due to Dawson’s own ties to Forsythe. A graduate of the Royal Ballet School (1991) and former dancer with Birmingham Ballet, English National Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, Dawson joined Frankfurt Ballet in 2000 as a principal dancer and retired from the stage two years later. His choreographic achievements began earlier however, in 1997, with a composition for the Dutch National, for whom he continues to create new works and was just named resident choreographer this year.

Having performed Forsythe during his own dancing years, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Forsythean influences are readily visible in Dawson’s work. His movement themes are the same, even some of the steps are the same, but Dawson’s choreography is a bit more fluid, a touch – and only a touch – more classical. Arms might be in classical positions but hyperextended. Sweeping lifts and dancers running, arms and heads thrown back, occur throughout the piece. As in Forsythe, the movement is edgy and often, but not always, stems from the hip. Dawson’s musical choice – Gavin Briards’ String Quartet No. 3, further emphasized the ballet’s classical tendencies. But costumes – long-sleeved black leotards with material hanging from each wrist for the girls – and sets – the stage became a dark grey box – had overtones of mourning and containment.

Dawson commented in an interview included in the festival program that this ballet was his internal answer to the physical side of the musical score. He called this work a “journey which gives immeasurable joy. The story presents itself as some sort of death, both spiritual and physical, which can shift someone into another dimension. It is a tale about the future.”

Combined, the costumes and music did in fact suggest death and transition. The movement itself, while not seeming particularly morbid, also held overtones of dejection and solitude. The dancers dance alone and with each other, but the overall sense is that they’re each separate individuals, going through life on separate paths that may overlap but are distinctly their own.

It is said also that Dawson created this ballet to depict the personalities of the specific six Mariinsky dancers chosen for its debut. But on first viewing, it is very difficult to determine the intended “personality” effects for each of the six.

Sofia Gumerova, quite unlike her usual self, smiled and appeared freer, in a fabulous mood perhaps, but her movement cool and reserved as she usually is. Natalia Sologub’s speed seemed to be a metaphor for passion, or her love of movement. Daria Pavlenko – who seemed airbound much of the time, but in lifts not in jumps – had an alternatingly tragic and dramatic quality about her. Of the men, Mikhail Lobukhin, when not partnering Sologub, ran across and around the stage with abandonment.

At the end the six individual personalities were more visible. Pavlenko and partner Andrei Merkuriev, along with Gumerova and Alexander Sergeev, walk upstage, while only Sologub remains downstage, dancing to the tune, well, of her own drummer. Pavlenko continues looking straight ahead, certain of her direction. Gumerova pauses and looks back to watch Sologub, who seems lost in her own movements, while Lobukhin, remains nearby. The curtain closes.

Having vanished at the pre-agreed upon time for an interview with this reviewer this past weekend, Mr. Dawson may have proven his professionalism, or at least his talent, by the premiere of “Reverence”. That the Kirov administration is keen to add new choreographers and new works to their repertoire is a welcome gift indeed.

The Fifth International Ballet Festival, which runs from March 24 to April 3 in St. Petersburg will feature dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet, among others, in a wide range of works from strictly classical to some of ballet’s newest creations.

<small>[ 26 March 2005, 04:28 AM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Mar 27, 2005 11:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

V International Ballet Festival Mariinsky
Diana Vishneva Gala Performance
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
26 March 2005
by Catherine Pawlick

As part of the Fifth International Mariinsky Ballet Festival, Diana Vishneva, darling of the St. Petersburg ballet circles, launched the first of three gala performances offered by Mariinsky’s leading ladies with flash and panache. From the serene pas de deux in the Shades scene of “La Bayadere” to the flashy playfulness of “Rubies”, Vishneva exhibited a full range of dancing styles and emotional delivery to a full house on Saturday night. If the program can be faulted, it is only for not offering her a chance to demonstrate her professional dramatic ability – something that distinguishes her from many of her contemporaries -- to its full extent within the span of one evening.

The program opened with the audience-capturing Shades scene from “La Bayadere.” No balletomane, tourist, boyfriend in tow, or otherwise categorized spectator is immune to the impression left by 32 Kirov ballerina-shades, virtual mirrors of one another, stepping onto the stage in pristine white tutus for the famous series of arabesque penchees. Thanks to the corps de ballet’s polished work, Vishneva was able to enter the stage with the mood fully set for her pas de deux with Danila Korsuntsev. Her initial movements were cool perfection, melting into one another, the image of the perfect ballerina in Solor’s dream. And aside from one minor stumble in the series of quick pique en-dehors to arabesque, not a step or gesture was amiss. Even in her coda, the series of lightening speed soutenue turns were unbelievable. Her energy level was higher than in last month’s “Ten Years in the Art” anniversary performance, in which she danced “Giselle” with Andrian Fadeev. This pas de deux was a glimpse of Vishneva at her technical best.

Comment should be given equally to the three Shade soloists who danced during Vishneva’s offstage interludes. Ekaterina Osmolkina led the cabriole variation, fully aware of the audience and dancing for them. Ksenia Ostreikovskaya danced the sissone brise variation cleanly, and Olesya Novikova’s series of hops in arabesque drew the audience’s attention. The three dancers complimented each other in the trio sequences as well.

After a brief intermission, the tone shifted from classical to modern with the premiere of “Bras de la Mer”, an abstract piece created specifically for Vishneva and danced in it with her by Petr Zuska of the Prague National Ballet. The work displayed Vishneva’s modern dance capabilities – she could be any Graham or Ailey dancer -- but was light on clearly understandable emotion, perhaps because it left so much room for interpretation.

The ballet opens with the woman, Vishneva, seated in a chair, a man standing to her left slightly behind the chair, and both of them on a table in the middle of the stage. The couple is dressed in drab beige, farmhand-like clothing, her hair in a braid. The first musical section sounds like a harmonica, during which the couple and the chair, through a series of interwoven movements, come off the table. His first motion is a sudden recoiling of the arm from its place resting on her shoulder, then bending down towards her, his head either seeking consolation or expressing mourning. The second section is piano music and then we hear a French voice singing about the sea, the theme from which the ballet’s title is taken. Every possible manner of movement is performed with the chair, table and couple: sliding under or over the table, lifting and dragging it, using it as a see-saw. Similar movements are performed with the chair. Throughout, Vishneva appeared distraught or simply distanced from her partner emotionally. It wasn’t clear what the couple’s relationship to each other was – love, abuse, disgust? The two danced separately more than they danced together, and negative connotations overrode positive ones for the most part. At the ballet’s end, places were reversed as the man sat in the chair and Vishneva, standing behind him, recoiled her hand from his shoulder, and then bent down towards him. This was undoubtedly “modern” ballet both choreographically and in its abstract emotional presentation. The work proved Vishneva’s adaptability to different choreographic styles, and exhibited her serious dramatic nature.

Following “Bras”, as a brief respite for Vishneva, Ratmansky’s enticing “Middle Duet” was danced by Natalia Sologub with Andrei Mercuriev. The combination of music and choreography in this short work is indescribably alluring. One could watch this ballet hundreds of times and never tire of it. Steps vary from a tug-toss tango, in which Sologub is shaken (not stirred), to Mercuriev whirling Sologub around in circles, her arms and legs outstretched and her head limp, like a doll. Sologub’s mesmerizing limbs, shown off by a short black leotard dress, are icing on the cake. One is wont to say “do it again please, just one more time” once they finish. It seemed almost an injustice to have such a delicious balletic interlude danced by Sologub in the program dedicated to Vishneva – but it only added to the evening’s visual pleasures.

Following “Middle Duet”, Vishneva returned for the brief pas de deux section from “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” with Maxim Khrebtov. Tom William’s pulsing, slurping, seeping music allows a choreographic release from any classical confines, and Vishneva took advantage of this, accentuating every overstretched position, off-balance penche or
fast footwork.

Despite the program-announced but nonetheless tedious 40 minute intermission following the second act, everything was in order production-wise for the finale of Balanchine’s “Rubies”. As the curtain opened, more than one gasp escaped from the audience; “classy” someone was overheard saying nearby. As she has done before, Vishneva epitomized a jazzy Western soubrette in her expressions and movement. Balanchine’s choreography is her playground, and she is having the time of her life onstage. Boyish but polished Andrian Fadeev was her partner in crime, enjoying himself equally during the hitchkicks and high jumps in his variation followed by the other “boys” in tow.

Whereas Vishneva’s Ten Year Anniversary performance in February showed her strengths as an actress and was arguably light on technical challenges, this evening’s gala performance proved to be the opposite. Based on this program, the ballerina’s technical range – with the sole absence of fouettes – cannot be doubted. And between her glacial nature in “Bayadere”, troubled expressions in “Bras” and saucy playfulness in “Rubies”, it is clear that the range of her dramatic ability is infinite. No singular ballet contains a wide enough array of dramatic expressions and technical challenges to be an apt vehicle for all of Vishneva’s talents. The most we can hope for is to glimpse some of her various aptitudes in each performance.

May Diana Vishneva’s successes on the world stage continue for many years to come.

Author:  rita [ Mon Mar 28, 2005 3:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

What was the program of Vishneva Gala last month?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Mar 29, 2005 3:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

She danced "Giselle" for her "ten years in the art of ballet" (ten years on the Mariinsky stage) anniversary performance. It was the most *in-love* Giselle I have ever seen. But she stumbled in the Act One pique turns and hops on pointe. Other than that, it was very impressive. When she was asked (in mime) during the first act, "do you love him?", she looked down, shyly, and you could see her entire body fill with joy, and from someplace inside this surge of emotion came up, she raised her head and beamed, nodding quickly.

I have never seen a Giselle acted like that before.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Mar 29, 2005 3:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

V International Ballet Festival Mariinsky
Daria Pavlenko Gala Performance
"Daphnis and Chloe", "Steptext", "La Valse"
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
28 March 2005
by Catherine Pawlick

Daria Pavlenko is a phenomenon that eludes precise categorization. She is a mystery in motion. A strange obscurity surrounds her persona and her dancing, perhaps partly due to her youth – she is the youngest of the few active dancing female principals at the Kirov Ballet, and her career is still just beginning – perhaps due to events in her personal life – she lost her parents at a young age, they never saw her perform – but perhaps for some other, larger, preordained reason. In the article dedicated to Pavlenko in the Mariinsky's Fifth International Ballet Festival program, Yulia Yakovleva compares the dancer to Maximova, and describes her features: "with cunning eyes… and a shy smile, always ready to be covered with sadness." Indeed there is a sense of tragedy and mystique in Pavlenko, but an equally prominent compassion and warmth in her dancing. Yakovleva theorizes that Pavlenko is one of those rare dancers who appear suddenly, every 30 years or so, unannounced, unexpected but long awaited:

"Two or three times every 100 years there is a massive surge of talent. Several years in a row dancers and ballerinas are added, each one more beautiful than the next. And then the spring falls dry for 30 years or even longer. The last of these emergences is the 'young daughter'. Strangely created, remaining on her earthly path, her origin and destination both unknown, with the calling of a tragic actress and the stamp of a cruel personal fate. She arrived late to the dividing of the spoils. Material wealth, titles, awards -- all of these pass her by. No one expected her, but her calling is too strong to be ignored. Her roles reflect the gleam of a deep red sunset of a great era."

A more accurate description would be difficult to find. The air of soulfulness about Pavlenko, the sense of buried grief that emerges at times, the playful warmth in her smile, the beauty of her lines and her movement – all are at once describable and elusive. She excels in enigmatic roles such as "La Valse" or those touched by a hint of misfortune such as "La Bayadere", quite likely because they so closely mirror parts of her. But she also shines in abstract works with emotionally empty slates, which she fills with defiance, power, or longing, as required. Her repertoire credits include lighter fare as well – Princess Florina from "Sleeping Beauty", the Odalisque Trio from "Corsaire", and Calliope and Terpsichore from "Apollo", the grand pas de deux from "Paquita", to name a few. One would not want to typecast Pavlenko, it would limit her possibilities and growth.

Physically, although not the tallest Kirov ballerina, she is long-limbed. Her long, arched feet extend her lines, contributing to an appealing coltish-like quality in her legs, and her flexibility allows her to easily accomplish anything from the extreme edges of Forsythean repertoire. In classical roles her attention to detail is appreciable; she is one of few Sylphides, even among the Kirovians, with proper epaulement. I recall watching her rehearse a passage from Balanchine's "Diamonds" two years ago. She repeated the same challenging sequence with her coach several times, intent on perfection. Following a Berkeley performance on the company’s last tour – one in which audience members raved about her – she emerged from the theatre distraught. "The next time will be better," she kept repeating. How can one explain to such an ethereal creature that what she offered was already beyond what most American audiences ever see?

The gala performance in her name on March 28 at the Mariinsky offered Pavlenko another chance to demonstrate her skills, and she did not disappoint. Despite the administration's (dare one say typical?) unfortunate programming decision to set Pavlenko's program for a Monday night, when her counterparts received billing on Saturday and Wednesday nights, the house was nonetheless perhaps 90 percent full. The audience was comprised predominantly of young people – the elder crowd was conspicuously absent this evening. One hopes that this is due to the expansion of the younger ages within the audience.

The premier of Kirill Simonov's "Daphnis & Chloe", created for Pavlenko, opened the program. It featured six couples clothed in 1920's style turquoise boy-short, one-piece bathing suits and swim caps, dancing, hopping and swimming around the stage. Attempts to follow the course of the complete mythological libretto in this ballet were for naught. The most that could be surmised was that Daphnis and Chloe were two very young, very naпve, very playful children, enjoying a day at the beach. When the remaining six couples lay down, performing a "swimming" motion, breast-stroke style on the floor, reminiscent of a 1940s water ballet, Pavlenko wanted to join the fun. Partner Mikhail Lobukhin repeatedly prevented her from doing so, interrupting her intentions with some dance steps that would distract her from her goal. No sooner would she again reach for the group of swimmers, wonder-eyed and intent on joining them at play, than Lobukhin would pull her away again, gently. And once she began dancing with him, that smile would return, the swimmers were forgotten. A metaphor for Pavlenko’s uniqueness, her star calling? Or the implication of the human ability to adapt and find happiness in our Fate, whatever it may be?

A few odd musical decisions pervaded Simonov's choreography. At musical crescendos, the dancers end up frozen, staring at the (high) horizon, or flat on the floor, motionless. On the one hand, this is an extreme departure from most typical choreographical interpretations of similar musical sequences. As such, some might consider it refreshing or "new." On the other, this misuse of wide-open possibility is slightly disturbing, especially when the music in question is Ravel’s Suite No. 2 “Daphnis and Chloe”, created in 1912 specifically with this myth in mind.

However, to Simonov’s credit, "Daphnis and Chloe" had its charming moments as well. The "butt scratch" as all the dancers walked upstage, their back(sides) to the audience, offered an authentic, human injection (thankfully brief) of people at the seaside. A few of his lifts –- Pavlenko does a double retire-passe and then kicks both arms and both legs out, jellyfish-like –- often echo Forsythe or Ratmansky's creations. And the six women doing echappe-passe pointe work, arms relaxed and legs moving in isolation, was one of the more effective, more intelligent choreographic decisions he has ever made.

Unlike Vishneva's 40-minute intermission, Pavlenko doesn't herald to diva-like status. And this is refreshing. Both intermissions during her program were brief. Following the first, we shifted to Forsythe's "Steptext". It seemed fitting that Natalia Sologub, who so often performs this work, was watching Pavlenko from a few feet away, and seemed to approve of the results. Pavlenko's elasticity is only one of her fine attributes, which is allowed full display in this ballet. Although not as compact as Sologub, Pavlenko's long lines are intriguing, especially clothed in a unitard. When pushing away her partners' arms, and during Forsythe’s mimed arm "sign language", Pavlenko injected a sense of "leave me alone" bordering on anger and then, indifference, as she would resume her movement.

"Steptext" always begins without music, the house lights on, stage completely dark, with a male dancer performing a series of movements from the waist up, in silence, downstage. With repeat viewings one would think audiences might catch on, but it still takes the full dimming of the lights and functional soundplay in order for it to register with the viewers.

The final ballet of the evening, Balanchine's "La Valse" was perhaps the perfect choice for Pavlenko. Although it left the program void of hard-core classical samples of her work, "La Valse" gave room for her to express the tragic, the mysterious and the beautiful all at once. Express them she did, partnered by Andrei Mercuriev, the partner of choice for his impeccable timing and equally non diva-like attitude.

From the very first, the two were enchanted with each other at the ball. Upon Death's arrival, Pavlenko was hypnotized in her new direction, shrinking in horror at her image in the glass, and then unable to cease gazing at herself, already swathed in Death's clothing. As Death twirled with her, everyone else frozen in time and unaware of Pavlenko's encounter, one understood another aspect of what Balanchine was saying in this ballet. Fate, Death included, waits for no one. Fate is invisible to most of us, and, witnessed by the dancing couples who do not stop to answer Mercuriev's pleas for help, beyond our control to either prevent its effects or undo its intentions, however harmful or innocuous they may be. And yet there is beauty here, now, to enjoy – the twirling couples, the whirling music. A greater metaphor, again, for Pavlenko -- not of death, but of life? Ballet is her calling. To have it any other way would make no sense. No one saw her coming, no one predicted her arrival. But she is here, she is beautiful, and we should enjoy her God-given gifts as long as we can.

We wouldn't have it any other way.

Author:  kurinuku [ Fri Apr 01, 2005 12:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Bolsheviks at the ballet
by JENNIFER HOMANS for the Australian

But this dismissal of Soviet aesthetics raises a serious problem. Ballet has no universally accepted standardised notation, so the "text" of a dance exists in the minds and the bodies of those who perform it. Vaziev and his team are breaking the chain and removing many of the Soviet links, yet they depend on teachers and coaches whose careers were made in the '50s, '60s and '70s. These Soviet veterans feel that the accomplishments of their era are being lost and betrayed, with dire consequences for the future of Russian ballet.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 01, 2005 2:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Catherine, thanks for the description of Vishneva's "Giselle". Personally speaking, give me artistic expression over technical perfection any day.

<small>[ 01 April 2005, 03:52 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Intensity and grace
By Galina Stolyarova for The St Petersburg Times

At the Fifth International Ballet Festival, currently in full swing at the Mariinsky Theater, modern choreography takes the center stage. The event, showcasing performances of works by William Forsythe, Kenneth MacMillan and George Balanchine, opened on March 24 with a world premiere of a ballet by prominent British choreographer David Dawson.

click for more

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Delighted that Galina Stolyarova enjoyed the new Dawson piece so much. She is correct to say that he is a "British choreographer", however, the irony is that he is almost unknown here. This is because most of his dancing and choreography has been for Germany and Dutch companies.

Hope we get to the work of this successful, British ballet choreographer soon.

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