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Kirov in the USA, 2005 - The Sleeping Beauty
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Author:  Toba Singer [ Thu Oct 20, 2005 4:05 am ]
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“The Sleeping Beauty,” Kirov Ballet with the Orchestra of the Maryinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg, October 15, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA

What if the Lilac Fairy had said to the press, “The ballet 'The Sleeping Beauty’ is not dead. It is merely asleep”? What critic or audience member would then propose that the plot of this story ballet is thin and sleep inducing? The real story, in the Kirov lexicon, is more dialectical than you might think: When pricked by a spindle, Princess Aurora falls into a 100-year snooze, and that is the very moment when the entire production wakes up to its potential and goes for broke.

The three hour and forty minute ballet opened with a dirge-like overture by the Orchestra of the Maryinksy Theatre. At the top of the show, it promised very little, and midway through the Prologue, for the first time in my life, I was wishing for taped music instead of live. That, too, changed after Aurora went under.

The curtain rises on a palace gate that opens onto a tableau vivant that prepares us for the pomp and circumstance surrounding the christening of Princess Aurora, danced by the sparkling Diana Vishneva. Sets and costumes are mostly blue and gold, and tend to match the chandeliers. The King, Aurora’s father, bears an uncanny resemblance to Puss and Boots, but this is not the time to indulge one’s magical thinking: Here comes the corps de ballet, all in lilac, looking band-box clean, followed dialectically by their leader, the Lilac Fairy (Uliana Lopatkina). Her magnetism lifts the production values a notch or three. (It must be said that the pre-performance bottleneck on the Bay Bridge, owing to construction, was now being bested by what?---a tutu jam?—on the too-small stage at Zellerbach. The bridge construction jackhammers even found their echo in the klopping of pointe shoes, never louder on that stage than tonight—“The klops heard ‘round the Bay,” one might say. We know the size of the Zellerbach stage and about the shoes of certain companies, and should be able to set both aside, but when the two merge into one, it really does begin to eat wormholes into how the performance reads.) More dissonance attended the ballonés. The upper bodies of the dancers were exquisite. Arms describe a rondure relieved ever so faintly by something heavenly. Unfortunately, the lower halves of the bodies—the legs doing the traveling—were in several instances, off-balance, causing the ballonés to pause under, rather than at the top, of their arcs, and look like throwaways, not ballonés. This reviewer is careening between loving it and not.

The rest of the fairies are fine in their roles, the Carefree Fairy having the best comic opportunity, which she uses to full advantage. Lopatkina is always lifted, and so her ciseaux are picture-perfect. The lilac fairies-in-training are zesty, clean and youthful. Carabosse (Igor Petrov) arrives in a gold leaf ratmobile that picks up the motif of the palace gate, though it, too, looks a bit cramped. She is dressed, predictably, in black, and looking more like Merlin than his female soul mate. The orchestra is playing the abracadabra music. Could this Carabosse be The Bad Fairy, boys and girls? Exit fairies, exit Carabosse. Aurora’s Sweet Sixteen Party is over, and lamentably, for her, it will be Sweet One Hundred and Sixteen before she is kissed.

By Act II, the audience is biting its tongue to keep from singing the Disney words to the Tchaikovsky waltz, while those my age, who took their ballet training wearing cotton leotards, are prompted by the music to recover memories of their very first balancés...Meanwhile, the dancers, dressed like aristocrats, themselves balancé throughout a bosky forest, where Carabosse and her co-conspirators are hiding. The San Francisco Ballet students enter. The older ones have successfully intertwined themselves into the cast of the Garland Dance. The Lilac Fairy arrives full of “take charge” energy and attack. Pretty soon, the L. fairy is looking triumphant and Carabosse has defeat written all over him. In the meantime, Prince Desiré, whom Igor Zelensky renders very much a credit to his social class, arrives looking for a sleeping beauty on whose lips to plant a kiss, but she’s not asleep yet. Once he finds her, what a kiss it shall be! It will awaken not only the entire cast, but the orchestra (and the audience) as well!

A refreshed Vishneva meets her suitors and dances possibly the most anxiety free Rose Adagio in the history of Ballet. It helps that her suitors circle her, rather than stand eight paces away, while she, poised in attitude on three toes, wonders which one will redress some ancient backstage offense by biding his sweet time before taking her hand. But this version is so rapid-fire that one is tempted to think it is the Reader’s Digest-underwritten Rose Adagio. If you’ve never seen the longer, more psychotic version, there's still enough time to decide that it’s quite lovely.

Aurora’s variation and the slow-paced violin solo that accompanies her can be heartrending. Not this time. It’s completely schmaltz-free, and perhaps that’s not bad either because the violinist is punctilious. It just takes a little attitude adjustment. I just wish the dancing were more fluid. It tends to be clean, but balky, and since Vishneva is capable of tremendous fluidity, one has to wonder whether this is simply an affectation of the Kirov? After all, the corps and coryphées do posé arabesque by stepping onto pointe, (klomp), jerking their backs into hyperextension so that their hips jut out, thus snapping, rather than floating their extensions. Whatever—abracadabra—the balkiness is gone! Vishneva is radiant, with hands that could launch a thousand ships, her extensions trend toward 180, even if held ever so briefly, and her manege of piqués is a whirl of spun sugar. Desiré also delivers a breathtaking manege, and clearly, they deserve to spend the rest of their lives together, going around in circles.

The wedding features some curious choices, but among the better ones is the Bluebird Variation, danced with great heroics by the very tall Maxim Chaschegorov, in a costume that looks a tad spare and shop-worn. The White Cat brings back Yana Selina in another comic role.

Diaghilev’s first version was not well-received. It could be that much of this is derivative of that version, and more recent versions that I have seen (San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet) reflect more of what Ninette de Valois had in mind when she revived Sleeping Beauty as “The Sleeping Princess,” with Margot Fonteyn in the Aurora role. Almost nobody else in this cast, except Zelenksy, takes double tours from fifth, or any other identifiable position, and so his look clean and very Erik Bruhn-like. By this time, the entire production has awoken to its royal “We,” as if a multitude of mirrors has suddenly dropped down from above to reflect a faceted image of the more recent versions, and the possibilities they have brought to life. The orchestra has taken its cue from this collective revelation, and suddenly all balkiness is shaken off like a bad dream, and Vishneva’s pas de chats are as creamy as buttah.

The audience rises to its feet in approbation, while I am left wondering, “Is it an artistically sound proposition that watching a fairy tale danced for nearly four hours should makes me feel like I’ve spent that time reading “War and Peace”?”

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Oct 20, 2005 3:52 pm ]
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Thanks a lot Toba and very interesting.about the length. As far as I remember, the Kirov is touring the "short" "Sleeping Beauty" this season, not the recreation of the circa 1900 production. When I saw this latter version in London, I have to say that, while interesting to gain an impression of ballet from 100 years, once will probably be enough for me.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Fri Oct 21, 2005 11:28 am ]
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Yes, Stuart. I agree. I used the word "derivative" advisedly, and clearly, it is a very different incarnation from that of the Diaghilev version that bombed.

Author:  fedora [ Sat Oct 22, 2005 8:37 am ]
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I've seen 3 Auroras in Detroit: Somova, Osmolkina and Novikova, and 3 Desires: Fadeev, Shklyarov and Srafanov. They were all magnificent, but the biggest star is Kirov corps. Sheer enchantment - haven't seen anything like that {:open mouth:} Hope to tell you all about it real soon :-)

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Oct 24, 2005 8:43 pm ]
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Hi fedora - looking forward to hearing your comments.

Author:  fedora [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 6:30 am ]
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Hi Stuart
I am unpacking my suitcase with that elusive casting information as we speak :-) Alas, even the printed as appose to verbal version, came to be the comedy of errors… For example we could read that Anton Korsakov was scheduled to dance both the Blue Bird and Prince Desire in a single performance.

Rushing ahead of myself, I totally agree with art076 who wrote:
No, but really - I thought she was wonderful as Aurora. Bright eyed and dramatically present throughout, and the acting scenes were acted better than the other two Auroras we have seen so far. A really remarkable debut.

In fact I must make an effort to write about the other two. Not that they weren’t good. They were very very good. It’s just that Aurora - Alina Somova overshadowed the rest with her winning stage presence and radiant personality. Will continue with that thought shortly. Stay tuned!

Cheers :-)

Author:  NataliaN [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:27 am ]
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I attended the last three performances of the Kirov's 'Sleeping Beauty' in Detroit, this past weekend. I was very impressed with the general high standard of the company, even follwing nearly three weeks of constant performances of this difficult classic. Kudos to them!

I was particularly impressed with the restrained, elegant classicism of Ekaterina Osmolkina on Saturday afternoon. She, among the three Auroras, possesses the 'to the manor born' grace that does justice to the role. Her partner was the tall newcomer Vladimir Shklyarov.

Almost as impressive as Osmolkina was the glamorous raven-haired Olesya Novikova, on Sunday aftrnoon. She is perhaps the strongest technician among the three Auroras on view, yet I give the #1 prize to Osmolkina due to her more elegant, traditional style.

As for Alina Somova -- the least said the better about this aberration of classicism. [She would be great in Forsythe, I suspect.] At least she did not fall, thanks to the steady partnering of THE finest of Desires on view, Andrian Fadeev. Fadeev alone stuck to the steps of the Prince's tricky Act II solo, during the end of the Hunting Scene. Konstantin Sergeev must be rolling in his grave by the changes made to this solo by the other princes, Schklyarov and Korsakov!

Last but not least -- Olga Esina's Lilac Fairy. This beautiful tall blonde lady was worth the price of admission! She managed to one-up the other Lilac of the weekend, Amosova.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:27 am ]
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Hi NatalieN and welcome to CriticalDance. Many thanks for your comments on the Kirov performances - hope we hear from you regularly in the months to come.

Author:  fedora [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:35 am ]
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Are you the “moderator” on ballet alert (ballet talk) who wages an "all-out war" against high extensions wherever she can? :roll:
… Speaking about aberration, I find your comments about some Kirov dancers both tasteless and disrespectful to the artists. But yes, you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, when expressed in a manner which is in accordance with the established traditions and rules of this board :-)

- negative reviews have their place, but if you comment on a dance you didn't care for, it is helpful to say exactly what you disliked about it, and why. Remember that when you write it may be your credibility that suffers rather than that of the artist. For your first few reviews, we recommend that you stick to performances that you enjoyed.

- while passion is fine in a positive sense it needs to be treated with care when applied to negative criticism. In addition, moderate language and a constructive attitude will enhance your credibility. Mark Morris has said that he would rather read constructive criticism than bland appreciation.

- the artist may read the report, and you should be happy to defend your words in person to the individual concerned. Imagine yourself in that position and if it would cause you undue embarrassment than don't write it.

- a particular performance by a dancer or a company may have been disappointing, but avoid generalisations such as "X is a sloppy dancer", unless you have seen them several times and you are sure of your ground. If other people have expressed a view, you can mention that by reference, but it is not appropriate to try and pass that view off as your own.

- from time to time many of us make quiet remarks in private about performances to close friends, but these are often unsuitable for publication on a website or elsewhere.

- humour is great, but a cheap laugh at the expense of an artist is not acceptable here.

Some examples from CriticalDance (subsequently removed) and elsewhere that breach our courtesy rule.

On artists:

"Y shouldn't have been given the role as he is moose ugly."

"X wasn't promoted on merit, but because of [this, that or whatever]."

"Some (and I emphasize some) ballet dancers ARE overbred show dogs."

Author:  fedora [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 10:11 am ]
Post subject:  And Finally ... THE Cast!!!

Now that I have more or less full cast info in my hands, I’d like to tell you first about the performance that has made the most impression on me. Sorry about the reverse order :P

Ardani Artists and the Detroit Opera House present

The Kirov Ballet with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg
In The Sleeping Beauty
Saturday. October 22, 2005

Ballet In Three Acts With Prologue and Apotheosis
Music by Peter Tchaikovky
Choreography by Constantine Sergeev after Marius Petipa

AURORA and DESIRE. Alina Somova and Andrian Fadeev.

You probably remember the beginning of the 1-st act? Princess Aurora is coming down the Palace stairway to take part in the celebration of her 16th Birthday. This episode is usually accompanied by loud applause to some well-known ballerina. Not this time, as the ballerina was 19-year old starry-eyed newcomer, Alina Somova, who made her debut as Aurora only on this US tour. Halfway through the famous Rose Adagio, which is one of the greatest achievements not just in ballet, but in art as a whole, I was afraid to breath, so not to miss the slightest movement. By the end of the adagio the audience was cheering their heart out and the star was born.

What was it that makes her stand out? Beauty that is extraordinary? Facial expressions that are vivid? Joie de vivre? Her technique? Her extensions? Yes, all of it probably comes into play. But I believe that first and foremost it is utter belief in what she is doing on stage. She radiates joy that is being passed to the audience and literally lights up the stage.

Technically, Somova is not stronger than other Kirov Auroras. There’s much that she needs to work on, like her footwork, the coordination, and especially her pirouettes. But even technically she can be very exciting: her grand jete is extraordinarily long and high, her back-bands are fluid and her developpe is musical. Yes, she practices high extensions. But never were they performed for their own sake. In Act 1 they helped her express Aurora's youthful energy, playful carelessness and joy of life. In the Dream Scene of the 2nd act, they were no more! Everything was carefully and effortlessly moderated to fit the music and the dreamy mood of the forest scenes, the scenes where Prince Desire sees the vision of Aurora.

I believe that partnership accounts for 50% of a ballerina’s success and Somova was very lucky to have young, but already experienced Andrian Fadeev for her debut. Andrian was fantastic in his variations and very skillful as a partner. Technically there is nothing that he cannot do. Clearly as the more experienced and technically polished of the two, it was he who carried heavier weight of helping her to complete the difficult pdd movements. But he looked so happy doing this! It was very touching indeed :-) But that was not his partnering skills alone that made this duet such a success! There was that constant interaction between the two. The way they were looking at each other, touching and helping each other made me believe that they were absolutely, totally, head-over-hills in love.

Andre Yew writes:
Saying that last night's pairing of Alina Somova and Andrian Fadeev was probably the most balanced couple of the series so far would be strong praise already, but it's made more remarkable by the fact that last night was Somova's debut as Aurora. Somova is a coltish, long-limbed Aurora, unlike the more compact dancers that usually dance the role, and fairly burst out in her Act 1 intro full of nervous energy before settling down and showing us remarkably composed dancing in Act 2. Her partner Fadeev was the most believable and sympathetic prince we've seen so far, and shared great chemistry with Somova. Indeed, they brought out the dramatic aspects of their roles the most, making one believe that the stage was more than just a space for them to dance on, and that they were real people. A particular highlight for me was her awakening scene, where both seemed to be filled with wonder and a bit of anxiety: how could you feel anything but those feelings if you've just been awakened from a 100-year sleep by a complete stranger kissing you?

I don’t want to repeat Andre. I merely want to point out how extremely well Somova and Fadeev are paired. They could easily pass for a brother and a sister: both blond, handsome, expressive and talented, of course. In the Wedding scene of the the last act, we saw a different side of Alina. She was not a playful 16-year old adolescent girl, but a Princess. Her bearing became more restrained; her movements softer and face lit not only with love and joy, but also with pride, as if she suddenly became aware of her high status in life and her mission. More than probable, that was not the result of the plan. I rather am inclined to believe that this unexpected character development was on some subconscious level and in response to the music. But what does it matter why?

Of course there was a standing ovation at the end and I couldn’t stop smiling for hours. What happened then? Did Aurora and Desire live happily ever after? Most definitely and “... with a couple of kids running in the yard. ...” :-)


Andrian Fadeyev. Principal Dancer
Andrian was born in St Petersburg, Russia.
He graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 1995 (class of Prof. Vladilen Semenov).
Le Jeune Homme et la Mort

Alina Somova. Coryphee.
Alina was born in St Petersburg, Russia.
She graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2003 (class of Safronova).
Les Etudes
Variation from Don Quixote


Saturday. October 22, 2005

Alina Somova

Andrian Fadeev

Olga Esina

Ksenia Ostreykovskaya

Vasily Scherbakov

Alexander Kurkov, Maxim Chashegorov, Dmitry Semionov, Vladimir Shkliarov

Vladimir Ponomarev

Elena Bazhenova

Ksenia Ostreykovskaya

Yulia Kasenkova

Ksenia Osteykovskaya

Yana Serebriakova

Yana Selina

Viktoria Tereshnkina

Tatiana Tkachenko

Yulia Kasenkova

Yuana Selina

Anton Lukovkin

Yevgenia Obraztsova (?)

Director of the Ballet: Makhar Vaziev
Conductor: Alexander Polianichko
Violin solo: Yuri Zagorodnyuk

Author:  NataliaN [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:35 pm ]
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Fedora/Octavia - Obraztsova did not appear in Detroit. The role of Red Riding Hood was danced by Elena Yushkovskaya (Vasyukovich).

Author:  fedora [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:46 pm ]
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Thank you, NataliaN. I thought she looked different. I liked Elena Yushkovskaya (Vasyukovich) though. I thought she was extremely believable in showing her fright. And there was sincere laughter in the audience.

Author:  fedora [ Tue Oct 25, 2005 1:05 pm ]
Post subject:  The Color Lilac

The Kirov Ballet with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg
The Sleeping Beauty


The three Lilac Fairies that I saw are Uliana Lopatkina, Elena Vostrotina and Olga Esina. Each one is unique. But all three are utterly beautiful, the way that only Kirov dancers can be. But only one of them transformed the Dream scenes of Act 2 into the masterpiece where music, choreography and movement were one. This is the scene where Prince Desire sees the vision of Aurora and the Lilac Fairy guides him through the forest to the sleeping kingdom of 100 years ago.

Uliana Lopatkina. Never have I seen such an ensemble of principle characters working in complete unison not of movements alone but of mood and thought. Where the Lilac Fairy passage ends, Prince Desire (Fadeev) picks up; where his passage ends, the vision of Aurora carries on. There wasn’t a split of a second hesitation as all three were operated by some invisible force, as the three shared a single mind. It was Uliana who set up the tone. And Uliana listened only to music. Her Lilac Fairy was not of this world, but of the Elements: wind, sun, forest, who only on rare occasions peeked into the world of humans to help their dreams come true.

Elena Vostrotina. This tour has brought her debut as a Lilac Fairy. Elena represents what has become a “new” Kirov ballerina: tall, slim with incredibly long arms and legs, capable of extremely high extensions. I believe her debut was a success as she was “on” that night. And not just technically. She created an interesting character on stage, which was all her own. Uliana’s Fairy was Fairy, the Spirit. Elena was Fairy, the Queen, formidable, but just in exercising her authority.
And yes, there were high extensions that suited her character marvelously :-)

Olga Esina. Olga is another newcomer whose beauty attracts immediate attention. Her technique was clean, face expressive and movements fluid. I do believe, however, that the role of Aurora would suite her temperament better.


Uliana Lopatkina.
Uliana was born in Kerch (Ukraine).
She graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy (class of Professor Natalya Dudinskaya).
Considered by many the best Nikya and Odette-Odile ever.
La Valse
Fountain Of Bakchesarai

Elena Vostrotina.
Elena graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2003.

Olga Esina.
Olga graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2004.
The Lilac Fairy

Author:  salzberg [ Wed Oct 26, 2005 5:01 am ]
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NataliaN wrote:
Fadeev alone stuck to the steps of the Prince's tricky Act II solo, during the end of the Hunting Scene. Konstantin Sergeev must be rolling in his grave by the changes made to this solo by the other princes,

Welcome to Criticaldance, NataliaN.

I'm inferring from the above that you value highly the adherence to tradition. What bothered you most about the changes in choreography?

Author:  NataliaN [ Wed Oct 26, 2005 8:39 am ]
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Salzberg, Korsakov and Schklyarov both simplified the choreography, substituting simpler jumps. For example, the middle sequence of the prince's first solo in the forest, while surrended by his hunting pals, calls for two consecutive turning jumps with the back leg in attitude (seen often in Bournonville choreography, by the way; I don't know the correct term for that jump). Only Fadeev performed those jumps; I mean, only he even attempted to perform those jumps. Again, in the Act III pdd with Aurora, only Fadeev chose to perform the choreography as intended.

At age 19, Schlkyarov is too young to be pegged with a reputation for watering down choreography but I have now followed Korsakov for so long that I can tell that this is becoming a nasty (lazy?) habit with him. Even back home in St. Petersburg, Korsakov is notorious for substituting his own steps to everything. [His solo in the Swan lake Act I pas de trois is 100% his own; no recognizable enchainements on view!]

We can't bash only the Desires. Every single Bluebird on view in Detroit watered-down his steps in the Bluebird pdd, although Vasily Scherbakov, on Saturday night, came closest to honoring Petipa's steps. Scherbakov alone performed double-assemble in his entrance jumps. Scherbakov alone continued to dance at the end of the adagio, performing the correct final pose with his Florine.

I could go on & on. There were problems with many female soloist too(esp. Somova's substitution of numerous steps to suit her limited talent in the classics). Either the Kirov's coaches no longer care to teach the right steps or dancers (esp. male soloists) are becoming super-sloppy in general.

I used to think that touring Russian troupes had so little respect for American "bumpkin" audiences that they danced in a more lackadaisical manner, especially while on tour outside New York City and far from the eyes of The Critics. I am now convinced that that is not the case. These dancers want to impress all audiences; it's not a matter of caring less for Americans (or foreigners) than for home audiences. They dance the same way back home! [I spend much of the year in St.P, my husband's home town. We have a home there.]

Back to Detroit. In addition to dancing the correct steps, Fadeev was clean & pure in his execution with, for example, clean fifth position upon landing his tours at the start of his Grand PDD solo. Those clean landings garnered him applause in the middle of that solo, by the way, from some audience members sitting below me, in orchestra level. I applaud Fadeev -- a true professional. I suspect that Lopatkina, who I did not see in Detroit because she left after the opening night, also honors the choreography and does not substitute steps.

I hope that this explains my concerns. Thanks for asking & caring!

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