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Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Oct 09, 2004 3:11 am ]
Post subject:  Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia
Fall Season Opener: Swan Lake – A Palpable Love
8 October 2004
By Catherine Pawlick

Summer vacation works wonders. At least it did for the Kirov Ballet’s return to the theatre tonight for the start of the fall 2004 season. The company appeared reenergized after their annual break, more expressive and even more technically sound (if that is possible) than in many of their summer performances.

Despite the existence of the perpetually tourist-filled (and therefore minimally appreciative) audience and seemingly requisite latecomers, the second night of the season at the Mariinsky Theatre was the ballet’s first chance to shine. Following yesterday night’s opera, “Life of the Tsar”, the Kirov Ballet chose the most classical of classics, “Swan Lake”, to ring in the season.

And a good choice indeed it was, enhanced by the casting: Uliana Lopatkina as Odette/Odile, Danila Korsuntsev as her Prince Seigfried, and Ilya Kuznetsov as Rothbart.

One has not seen a real ballerina, a modern, 21st century ballerina, in the fullest sense of the word, until one watches Lopatkina in Swan Lake. And one doesn’t even realize this until after having seen her dance a completely classical role. This reviewer had, until tonight, only seen her in “Diamonds” and “La Valse”, and thus expected an excellent performance, consistent with those neo-classical roles. Lopatkina surpassed not only expectation, but almost possibility itself with her emotionally-engaging, meaningful interpretation of what is often considered the most challenging of classical ballet roles.

Lopatkina’s entry onto the stage as Odette serves as a snapshot of the white swan’s role. Unlike many ballerinas who simply enter the stage and begin the choreography, she stepped on stage, up onto pointe, arms stretched overhead, the image of the woman-swan. She stood there poised for perhaps only a nanosecond, but long enough to set the tone of the entire character. And then, to the backdrop of her musical theme, she began to dance. Consistent with that entry was her extremely controlled delivery. Not one step was misplaced, off-balance, ahead of or behind the music. Her tempos were notably slower, but instead of being painful, they only accentuated her long lines and supreme technical control. Few ballerinas across the globe can match this sort of control -- indeed, not one competitor comes to mind – in a classical or other role.

Lopatkina’s Odette exuded a palpable love, visible in her eyes and facial expressions, to the point that mine were not the only tears in the audience at the final curtain. Her Odette is soft, slow, feminine and controlled; she never falters or wavers. She is the calmly self-assured swan-woman, innocent, but full of love and beauty.

Her Odile was mastery itself, a well thought-out psychological approach to the seductress’ role. Where many ballerinas will simply play the seductress, Lopatkina plays with Siegfried’s memory. Her Odile has all of the requisite sharp turns of head and wrist, the quick accents implying wicked deception, but sprinkled throughout is also Odette’s softness and femininity, the very things that Seigfried supposedly loves. This is a minor detail, and completely dependent on the ballerina’s mannerisms, but one that holds the entire plot together, and indeed, one that usually is left out of most “Swan Lake”s. For it was with this softness that she portrayed the image of Odette, with these echoes of the Swan Queen’s femininity that she “captured” Siegfried, locking him into her evil web of deception.

This is what sets apart the amateurs from the professionals, and Lopatkina has secured herself a place in the latter category already for many years. However, she does much more than simply dance perfectly. Every gesture, every glance, every sustained balance – no matter what color her tutu -- is imbibed with meaning. Her musicality is also highly developed. All dancers know the ballet’s score backwards and forwards – some can stay with the music, some cannot. Lopatkina actually uses her musicality to provide a deeper, more consistent and more believable interpretation of the role. She dances within the music’s limits, but times her steps so as to stretch them here, speed them up there, and she never takes tempos to either extreme (as many often do, to cover a weakness in jumping or in adagio work).

Over the past six months, Danila Kuznetsov has shown continued maturation both physically and emotionally as Prince Seigfried. His leg muscles appear stronger and leaner than they were just one year ago when the company visited San Francisco, and the physical change proffers related emotional development. Just as his grand jetes now soar and his jumps appear more sure, where he once was more closed off and unreadable emotionally, he now relates directly to his Odette/Odile through understandable facial expression and gesture. While he does not hold the innate magnetism of a Baryshnikov, he has all of the bearings of a nobleman, and his generous height compliments Lopatkina nicely.

The Pas de Trois was danced in traditional Kirov style but at a level unseen all summer by Irina Zhelonkina, Irina Golub and Anton Korsakov. Golub’s sparkling eyes and wide smile drew audience members in – she too has the gift of strong musicality along the lines of Lopatkina, neither rushing to finish nor behind the music. She floated through her variation, and the final manege of double step-up turns were perfectly placed. Zhelonkina’s ballon and entrechat six were strong, soundless and light. Korsakov technically can never disappoint, whether dancing alone or supporting a partner, but he seemed almost too at ease in his self-tailored variation, in which he had altered the first diagonale’s choreography to a downstage-bound faille, triple cabriole en avant. The rest of the variation’s choreography was the same but also done to the left rather than the right.

The Jester, again danced by the compact but lofty Andrei Ivanov drew applause for his consistent finishes, speedy turns and cheery demeanor. The dances in the second act were not as remarkable as before, but conductor Mikhail Agrest is to be commended for his understanding of ballet dancers, to say nothing of Tchaikovsky’s famous score. In sum, performances like these are why the audience keeps returning night after night. Opening night showed that the Kirov Ballet continues to uphold its reputation and traditions. This season should be a good one.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Oct 11, 2004 10:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia
Don Quixote – Lighthearted Humor
10 October 2004
By Catherine Pawlick

As most balletomanes are aware, American ballet companies schedule their performances differently than the Russians do, using a block system of performances – one month’s worth of "Giselle", for example, followed by a week or two of a mixed program. In Russia that's not the case. The entire repertoire of the company is performed each season. The Mariinsky's October playbill serves as an example of this. Before the month is over, Swan Lake, Giselle, the Forsythe mixed program, Manon, La Sylphide, the all-Fokine program, and the Fountain of Bachchisarai will all be performed here. Tonight, however, was Don Quixote, the four-act comedic ballet based on Cervantes' play, first performed here in 1869.

The Kirov's version opens onto a very colorful town square, the Spanish villagers cavorting about. Tonight's cast featured Farukh Ruzimatov in a rare appearance on this stage as Basil, alongside Ekaterina Osmolkina as Kitri. In the land where both sexes flirt mercilessly with each other and jealousy goes hand-in-hand with love, Ruzimatov and Osmolkina led believable renditions of the century-old Spanish characters, even, reliable, and solid.

If Mr. Ruzimatov is no longer the same electric feline he was in so many "Le Corsaire" performances in San Francisco 14 years ago, the 40-something principal dancer still retains the fire and technique that brought him fast fame. He managed one of the two single-handed overhead lifts in Act One; his retiré passés remain over-crossed someplace between knee and hip, and his emotive talent comes through effortlessly. He drew laughs for his "suicide scene", and seems made for roles that require some characterization, in this case sleek and seductive or jealous or brooding or plotting -- or just dancing with flair, a sultry Spanish barber in love. His technique for the most part remains as it was: Indeed he was brought onstage for a second bow following the coda section of his variation during the Wedding scene.

Ruzimatov's Basil was your typical Spanish flirt, his attention turned to nearby ladies from time to time; but, when it came down to it he was ever-faithful to his Kitri, danced smoothly by the bare-legged but pointe shoe-shod Ekaterina Osmolkina. Osmolkina sports 190 degree turnout and beautifully arched feet, with extensions, especially devante, that seem to gravitate towards the ceiling. She is a compact dancer, light in step and in demeanor. Her Kitri was not as sassy or cunning as some – rather she seemed sure of Basil's affection, cool and self-confident, playing with him only as the music or choreography demanded.

Other highlights of the evening appeared during the second act. Alexander Efremov fulfilled the role of the head of the gypsy camp with vigor and, along with Polina Rassadina and Islam Baimuradov, provided some entertaining, earthily ethnic dancing. The production featured two live animals as well: the white horse on which Don Quixote rode, and the grey donkey, presumably belonging to his sidekick. The title role of the dreamer was mimed effectively by Vladimir Ponamarev, and Vladimir Ivantsov was the jolliest of Sancho Pansas.

In the dream sequence, the Queen of the Dryads was danced by the lovely Ekaterina Kondayurova, gracious, smooth and noble, her Italian fouettes solid despite her somewhat nervous appearance. The charming, petite and wide-smiled Evgenia Obratsova danced the role of Amour, leggy, lean and perky.

During the final act, Osmolkina finished 32 perfect fouetteés, pulling into a triple pirouette – as conductor Algirdas Paulavichoos paused to accommodate her timing – and finishing spot on. She and Ruzimatov hit simultaneous attitude balances just before the conclusion of the pas de deux, emphasizing their mutual musicality. It is no wonder that the Kirov has the resources to provide a one-night spectacle on the scale of "Don Quixote" but it is amazing that the production remains fresh, energized and pleasing to watch.

<small>[ 11 October 2004, 12:59 PM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Yevgenia [ Wed Oct 13, 2004 8:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Thank you for your poetic review of the Kirov's "Don Quixote," Catherine. Alas, it does not reflect the truth, although I sincerely wished that it were so because it breaks my heart to attend horrible performances at the Mariinsky Theater like the one last Sunday. Or perhaps you did not attend the same performance of Don Quixote that I did, in which Yekaterina Osmolkina fell twice, once a huge crash? It's good to be poetic but it's also good to be accurate.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Yes you are right. She did slip once, during the introduction, flat onto her rear end. But she picked herself up, all smiles, immediately, and thankfully (!) no injuries, and she kept going. But i was so impressed with the dancing that by the time i was writing the review, I had forgotten that! I enjoyed the performance enough that (as my review apparently proves) it's hard to even remember that she fell.

I did not think the performance was horrible at all, and a dancer slipping due to a flower or something on the stage or just slippery surfaces doesnt mean they're less professional or inept. But that is just my opinion.

*edited to add that a stray flower was i believe the reason for that slip.

<small>[ 18 October 2004, 04:11 AM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia
Fokine Program – A Pleasant Escape
13 October 2004
By Catherine Pawlick

When not accustomed to it, a sudden shift from orchestra level viewing to the third (of four) balcony can change one’s perspective of a ballet. It was from such a vantage point that this reviewer watched Wednesday night’s all-Fokine program, the first of the fall 2004 season at the Mariinsky Theatre. But while the view was different, it didn’t alter one’s impression of the dancing, which was in fact an improvement from some of the performances of the same program seen last fall in the States.

For those who saw it on tour, or those who didn’t, the bill remains the same: the classical “Chopiniana”, followed by the tempestuous “Scheherezade” and closing with the fairy-tale like “Firebird.” Tonight’s casting included some new and some more seasoned names from the company roster.

The red-haired Yanna Selina, clearly considered an up-and-comer by the company administration, led the eleventh waltz in “Chopiniana.” Selina is increasingly given soloist roles (she danced one of Kitri’s friends on Sunday night), and for good reason. The long-necked, perfect-postured dancer with beautifully arched feet has a remarkable amount of strength and control. Her releve attitude turns in the ballet involved no forward shift in the torso in preparation, which is commonly used simply to gain momentum from a static position. Selina’s turns however resulted in a plie-releve-glide combination, causing one to ponder where she get such strength.

Irina Zhelonkina partnered with the eternally princely Evgeni Ivanchenko in the Mazurka. There were few problems for the two of them, but that seems mostly due to Ivanchenko. He makes partners look good, not simply because his own good looks, pretty pretty feet and long lines compliment nearly any ballerina – but because his lifts are weightless and his attention always directed at his partner.

Zhelonkina managed a perfect arabesque balance towards the beginning of the ballet, and despite overly soft (and consequently unflattering) shoes, appeared consistent and light.

The prelude was danced slightly unevenly by Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, a lovely blonde new to this role. While there were promising elements -- her epaulement was romantic enough – there were some stilted moments as well. She didn’t take advantage of the ultra-slow tempo to pause (or nearly stop) in some of the poses. This was not a Pavlenko Prelude although one wanted it to be. With a few more performances however, Ostreikovskaya may have it mastered.

The line patterns in “Chopiniana” are a salve for both eye and brain, especially when seen from above. Those who aren’t as keen on seeing dancers’ feet or faces up close would do well to watch the structure of the choreography from on high, for it is one of the charms of this ballet that is somewhat lost from orchestra view.

The seven-minute overture to “Scheherezade” was balanced by fives minutes of group and then solo curtain calls for Yulia Makhalina and partner Farukh Ruzimatov following the conclusion of the ballet. The sultry sultan’s enclaves featured the requisite bejeweled young maidens and turbaned masters of the house. Makhalina is of course the beautiful princess, mostly cold to Ruzimatov’s advances. Ruzimatov, in turn is the smoldering slave, passoniately urgent in his love for her. When she hands him a cup from which to drink, he nearly inhales its contents, as if it is his life source and as if, somehow, it is part of her. He kisses her pant legs, her clothing, her skin – anything he can. More of his feline nature actually reappeared in this ballet, prompting one to think in fact nothing has been lost with his continued years on stage. (Following his excellent Basil on Sunday night, one was nonetheless slightly tempted to think otherwise). Tonight he was once again the arched-back middle eastern lover, all fiery, slithery desire, his attitude turns creating two circles at once, that of the turn, and that of the line between his back and his foot. He is stunning in this role, as witnessed by the audience’s ongoing applause.

Likewise Makhalina sparkled more in this role than she had in, for example, the pas de deux excerpt from “Manon” this summer. Her developpe to the side went past her ear and it was reassuring to see that at least in some roles she can still shine.

Still more “names” appeared during the evening. Irma Nioriadze pleased the audience greatly in the title role of “The Firebird”. Her flashy, flighty, hopeful, energetic firebird was everything that an aviary creature should be. She too eclipsed the mediocre performance she gave during the summer, and in this ballet seemed to become the feisty airborne creature. Her quick flits of wrist, head and hand were not only musical but believable.

Nioradze danced against Andrei Yakovlev’s young Tsarevitch, and the pair don’t quite fit each other. Yakovlev’s slightly portly physique, short neck and overdone acting don’t make for a believable Ivan Tsarevitch. One would hope to see Victor Baranov in the role (he danced it during last year’s tour). Ivanchenko or even Danila Korsuntsev would be other great choices for the role, and it isn’t clear why Yakovlev is repeatedly cast.

The Tsarina princess was danced by Anastasia Vasiletz. Innocent, polite and feminine in manner, she connoted most of what the role requires, but there was a certain je ne sais quoi missing. Perhaps due to her Tsarevitch, or perhaps due to the limits of the role itself, (little dancing really involved, but much mime). It is difficult to say.

However, hope springs eternal and hope appears last, and so it is in this ballet too. The end of the “Firebird” shows the 12 guards waking up at the castle gate, the spell broken, and their 12 respective maidens join them to live happily ever after, led by the Tsar and Tsarina as the model couple. If only life were a bit more like ballet …

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Oct 24, 2004 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
24 October 2004
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
By Catherine Pawlick

Sunday night’s performance of “Manon” didn’t carry the fireworks that came in the same ballet at the close of last season – at least not in the same places -- but it did offer an even, faithful performance by those cast in leading roles.

The playbill listed Irma Nioradze in the title role, and Ilya Kuznetsov as her lover, De Grieux. One would have expected a full house based solely on Nioradze’s appearance, but the house was in fact almost half-empty, perhaps due to a slight decline in tourism as the weather in St. Petersburg becomes more autumnal.

Unfortunately, despite a consistent, efficient performance, Nioradze did not display the passion usually connoted by the character “Manon”. Rather, her Manon was cooler, more mature and demure, accepting the riches that came her way without any persuasive rationale (that is, without the effervescence that should accompany a lust for material wealth), and only really falling for De Grieux when he appeared and begged her to join him. Partly this may be due to physical differences: Her back is not as supple as other backs, making for an arabesque tipped rather forward at the torso and several awkward partnering moments through no fault of Kuznetsov. Nioradze’s mannerisms were more refined. She was the aged Manon, perhaps a bit tired of her life of men, brothels and jewels. That was fine for the last act, but one saw traces of it in the first as well, all the while hoping she would look De Grieux in the eye, hoping there would be some evidence of internal fire. Instead, hers was more a Manon of the moment – when De Grieux was nearby, she was interested. When fur coats and diamonds were nearby, she was again interested. But the longing for her lover wasn’t felt as palpably as in the last performance of the ballet in August. And her love for material wealth also seemed a bit more secondary. It was in fact difficult to pinpoint where the passion was, and that seems because it simply wasn’t there, at least not to the same degree ...

Which brings us to the other characters. Maxim Hrebtov danced a clever Lescaut, but the show-stopper of the evening was again Natalia Sologub as Lescaut’s Lover. The role of Lescaut’s Lover is choreographically prominent in this ballet – she is the first leading female character to appear on stage, and she dances extensively in the second act. Sologub not only danced, she acted – with her eyes, her face, her gestures. She exuded a sensuality and playfulness that epitomizes the precocite of the era, captivating the audience with every tilt of head or extension of leg. That she transitions so effortlessly between the title role (in August) and as Lescaut’s Lover, and that she was able to outdance Nioradze, at least in this ballet during this one performance, further attests to her artistic and technical abilities.

The other pleasure was Ilya Kuznetsov. He danced against Sologub’s “Manon” wonderfully in August. But during this performance he appeared to come more into his own both technically and artistically. His exquisite feet are a gratifying addition to the role of De Grieux – and his powerful legs seemed more streamlined than before. Although he doesn’t look the part of the academic student due to his height and build, his love for Manon was visible in every movement, and in his facial expressions as well. Likewise his angst in Act Two when she is passed from suitor to suitor, or his despair upon her death – evident and tangible. He does well in dramatic roles that also offer technical challenges like this one.

Andrei Ivanov was a lustful, stern Port Guard, taking advantage of Manon and getting his due (death) from Kuznetsov’s enraged hands. Mikhail Agrest, as always, conducted beautifully.

<small>[ 20 November 2004, 12:53 AM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Kevin Ng [ Sun Oct 24, 2004 5:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Glad to hear Ilya Kuznetsov dancing again Des Grieux, one of his best roles. I remember how good Natalia Sologub was as Lescaut's mistress. I adore Sologub in her every role that I've seen.

The St. Petersburg Times reported last week that the Kirov's Balanchine programme in April won the Golden Sofit award for the best ballet production.

<small>[ 27 October 2004, 10:02 PM: Message edited by: Kevin Ng ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Oct 27, 2004 10:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Sologub is out of this world. I really dont know why she is not already a principal. She is incredible in anything I see her dance.... Tonight was Giselle and she was fantastic again.

I agree too -- Kuznetsov does a strong De Grieux, and it seems to get better and better...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Oct 27, 2004 10:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia
“Giselle”: Fated Love
27 October 2004
By Catherine Pawlick

It would be inaccurate to claim that great casting can make or break a ballet performance – so many other elements are necessary components in the mix. But a well-matched Romeo and Juliet, Basil and Kitri, Cinderella and her Prince can certainly tip a performance towards the high end of the scale, when both leading dancers exude professionalism and virtuosity in their own rights. That was the case Wednesday night at the Kirov’s first “Giselle” of the season at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Natalia Sologub, already noted by this reviewer as a ballerina, confirmed her stature as such in tonight’s performance. Her footwork and articulation are remarkable – she walks through her metatarsals and did more than one step-up turn from half pointe, and she managed more than one silent, floating balance in the second act. Her entrechat quatre/retire passé sauté series (also in Act Two) looked as if she were suspended on a cord from the ceiling, due in part to her mastery of the Wilis’ weightless arms. In sum, her technique is so certain and already so polished that she can focus on the dramatic aspects of the role. And that’s just what she does. She adopts her character’s persona, whether it be a flirtatiously seductive Manon (as in August) or in this case Giselle, innocent, shy, a bit nervous, but cheerful in life and in love. She jumped at Albrecht’s first approaches, as flighty as a young doe, but soon trusting and exuberant in her newfound amour.

If Sologub is the ballerina’s ballerina, then Evgeni Ivanchenko is by far the Prince’s prince. His stature and physicality contribute to this, but the part that cannot be imitated -- the noble bearing, the aristocratic gesture, the princely walk – these too are his. As Albrecht he tended towards the more forgivable side of the scale – there are the Albrecht’s you love to hate, and those you love to forgive. He was the latter, simple due to the credibility of his mannerism.

Together the pair made quite the couple. One got the sense that they were in fact in love with each other, separated by social status, and then by the division of heaven and earth. The feeling, ever so slight, of a fated love, carried for the most part by Giselle’s compassion for her betrayer, but supported also by Ivanchenko’s strong acting abilities, came across from both dancers.

The two held one’s attention thoroughly but a few other dancers must also be noted. Myrtha was danced smoothly and serenely by Ekaterina Kondayurova. Credit goes to Yana Serebriankova for her seamless balances as Moina; Zulma was danced by Tatiana Serova. And Alexander Polyanichko conducted.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Oct 27, 2004 11:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Thanks as always for the reviews Catherine. Solegub is indeed special.

Thanks Kevin for that link; I have had trouble accessing the St P. Times for the past couple of days, when I have had time to check this fine online newspaper.

<small>[ 27 October 2004, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  ripowam [ Wed Oct 27, 2004 2:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Catherine, what difference does it really make whether Sologub at twenty-six or twenty-seven is a principal or still a first soloist? She only dances principal and "elite" solo roles, and she is given the entire spectrum of the repertory to frolic in. I can easily think of a half dozen Kirov dancers just as talented as she -- I loved her recent Giselle and Lescaut's Mistress performances -- who are totally neglected by the administration.

<small>[ 27 October 2004, 04:44 PM: Message edited by: ripowam ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

hi ripowam,

Well to me, the difference is simple lack of recognition of her talent on the part of the administration. As you note, if she is dancing those roles, why *not* promote her officially?
I believe also that there is a difference in salary. Why should she receive less for the same roles that Lopatkina or Vishneva dance? That's my argument...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia
“La Sylphide”
29 October 2004
By Catherine Pawlick

At first glance it is a typically balletic theme: the Scottish peasant James leaves his home and fiancée to chase an airborne sylph. In the process, he unintentionally kills her, and loses his own life. The fundamental premise of the contradiction between spiritual ideals and grounded, human existence is timeless, and the Kirov’s production of “La Sylphide” upholds that tradition.

As the program notes: “First performed on March 12, 1832 on the stage of the Grand Opera de Paris, ‘La Sylphide’ marks the beginning of a glittering era in the art of ballet -- the epoch of romanticism.” That era upheld the main theme of romanticism, the discord between dreams and real life, which is the central focus in this ballet.

On Friday night, the cast featured the young and effervescent Evgenia Obratsova as the charming, fleeting Sylphide. Her weightless jetes, beautiful lines, and ear-to-ear grin kept James, danced by Vladimir Shklyapov, in her chase. Obratsova is the image of a baby ballerina, and definitely one to keep an eye on as she continues to mature in more dramatic roles. Here she fit right in, as the ever-ebullient, evasive spirit of the air, the fair-haired image of unattainable feminine ideals and unreachable beauty. Even her soft slow death evoked a being who bears no anger, only love or despair.

Shklyapov, for his part, offered crystal clear beats a la Bournonville in all of the petite allegro sequences. His James was bright-eyed and youthful, enchanted with the ephemeral sylph, and torn – but not too much so – between his fiancée at home and the promise of mystery at his window. Indeed, he found the decision to leave home and humanity for the promise of the unattainable an easy one, as he raced out the door.

The lead Sylphide in the forest scene was danced by Yulia Bolshakova, easily recognizable for her slight frame, wide eyes, and mature carriage. Bolshakova danced Nikita in the Shades Scene from “La Bayadere” during the Vaganova School’s Graduation Performance on June 17. She was joined by fellow newcomers Maria Lebedeva, Olga Esina and Irinia Idina.

It was easy to see why Bolshakova was the top of her class during the graduation performance, and no surprise she is already dancing soloist roles on the Kirov stage. Bolshakova’s ethereal qualities are expert. Her features suggest elements of both Olga Chenchikova and Altynai Assylmuratova – her neck is long, her back straight, her sternum held high. She has long limbs and beautiful feet, but strength as well. She is another baby ballerina on the horizon.

Alexander Polyanichko conducted.

<small>[ 02 November 2004, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia
“The Fountain of Bachchisarai”
31 October 2004
By Catherine Pawlick

Based on the libretto by Nikolai Volkov after Alexander Pushkin’s poem, the four-act “Fountain of Bachchisarai” is one of the ballets rarely (if ever) performed in the West. A Soviet ballet, according to program notes its main theme centers around “the regeneration (if not brightening) of the human soul through high feelings of love.” There were challenges in dividing up the events of Pushkin’s poem for the ballet, and still maintaining the spirit of his work. According to Volkov, the libretto was created after locating the Polish act of the poem, which was necessary for the starting point of the actions, for its dramatic justification. Maria, Girei and Zarem, the three main characters uphold the story line, which culminates in a tragical collision at the end of the ballet.

A brief synopsis for those unfamiliar with the libretto: Maria, the fair daughter of Grand Duke Adam, the Polish magnate, is celebrating her birthday at the family palace. Her fiancé is there, and they are happy together. The aristocratic guests dance, and later a group of Tatars storm the palace, killing everyone, including Maria’s father and fiancé. She is taken hostage back to the harem of Khan Girei in Bachchizarai. At the harem, it becomes clear that Girei has fallen out of love with his wife Zarem, and in love with Maria. Maria, alone, shy, and distraught, resists his advances. The jealous wife visits Maria and kills her. The Khan Girei appears and slits his wife’s throat. The ballet ends as it begins with the Khan Girei alone, mourning the memory of Maria.

Tonight’s performance featured the return of Maya Dumchenko to the stage, in her first post-maternity leave performance. Dumchenko is a fair-haired beauty, long of arm, thin of frame, ever graceful and pleasing to watch. Her Maria was innocent, gentle, the epitomy of a princess. Her wide smile evoked the joy of her birthday celebration in the first act; likewise her bowed head and pleading glances transmitted the sorrow she felt while being held captive in the harem. Her fiancée was the quite youthful Maksim Chashegorov, a dark haired, slim young dancer. He partnered with enthusiasm if not always with strength, and if his lines were not as complete as some of the more polished dancers in the troupe, his dramatic abilities were stronger than some.

Khan Girei was danced by Alexander Kurkov. The role is more dramatic than classical, and involves more pantomime than actual dancing. Nevertheless, with the help of costume, he managed to present a tormented Khan, harsh and unfeeling towards his wife, but pained by his unrequited love for Maria.

Other dancers of note were Ivan Popov and Anna Sisoeva in their very lively presentation of the Krakovic dance, and the two young sword-wavers, Alexander Sergeev and Aleksei Timofeev. Valeri Obsyanikov conducted.

<small>[ 02 November 2004, 12:10 PM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  ripowam [ Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet: 2004-2005 Season

If they promote Sologub they will have to promote Dumchenko and Gumerova, who dance just as many principal roles.

Fountain wasn't Dumchenko's return to the Mariinsky stage, she danced Serenade and a variation in Paquita over the summer.

What did you think of Serova as Zarema?

<small>[ 01 November 2004, 02:53 PM: Message edited by: ripowam ]</small>

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