CriticalDance Forum

Kirov 2005-2006 Season
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Author:  Andre Yew [ Mon Feb 20, 2006 11:45 am ]
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I hope the rumors (are we allowed to print rumors that are on the printed page?) about Scherbakov aren't true: he had the finest Bluebird in the Kirov's many-day Sleeping Beauty engagment in Los Angeles last fall, and I would have loved to see him in many other roles.


Author:  ripowam [ Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:08 pm ]
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Scherbakov danced Albrecht at the Kirov on Feb. 3 opposite Irina Golub's debut Giselle. I heard from several people that it was a big success. Did you go, Catherine?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Feb 21, 2006 4:12 am ]
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Hi Ripowam,

No -- I had wanted to see Golub's debut also, but wasn't able to attend that performance. I did however see Bolshakova's debut in Giselle Sunday night -- quite a few collapses in the first act, not sure what to relegate it all to. I'll provide a formal review a bit later.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Feb 27, 2006 10:25 am ]
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for the record, this is a rough draft but it gets the general idea across:

Disappointing Debut
Yulia Bolshakova’s ‘Giselle’ leaves room for development
by Catherine Pawlick

February 19, 2006 -- St. Petersburg, Russia

A young dancer’s debut in a staple role of the classical repertoire is often the indicator of a ballerina’s blossoming career, the promise of a sparkling future, the intimation of her name joining other great names in dance history. As such it is laden with high pressure and even higher expectations. On February 19, St. Petersburg ballet adorers filled the Mariinsky Theatre to every possible corner in order to get a glimpse of Yulia Bolshakova in yet another debut.

Bolshakova, now in only her second season with the Kirov and still listed as a member of the corps de ballet, has nonetheless already debuted in quite a few soloist roles. Her Odette/Odile confirmed her elevated position in June of 2005, and in October of last year she danced Princess Florina in California during her first tour with the company. It was with great interest then, that audience members awaited the rise of the curtain on Sunday night.

To the assuring mastery of Boris Gruzin’s attentive baton, Bolshakova’s entrance augured well for the rest of the evening. For Giselle’s first appearance on stage Bolshakova emerged, radiant, naive and hopeful. A smile wide on her face, her acting was fresh even in its rawness as she mimed the sequence ‘who knocked at my door?’ with a smile. Her youth became more apparent as the role developed: when Evgeny Ivanchenko suddenly appeared as Albrecht, she was shy and determined to return home to her mother. Bolshakova’s Giselle underlined the character’s lack of dating experience, and her fear (in this case warranted) of the unknown.

Ivanchenko as Albrecht was clearly the older, more experienced type, set on achieving his goal at all costs. This was the Albrecht we love to hate, in it for the love of the game, rather than the Albrecht truly enraptured by the peasant girl. This first scene between them revealed the innocence of Bolshakova’s Giselle in her quickly trusting attitude. Albrecht’s vow of love was not enough to make her believe, but the proof of his word as truth based on the daisy petal count just moments later was a recipe for instant and, it must be stated, blind trust. Whereas other interpretations suggest Giselle perhaps as equally besotted with her prince-in-disguise, Bolshakova’s character reinforced the old adage: she appeared more smitten with his love for her than with the man himself. The flower interlude underscored this point. After seeking reassurance that her mother’s premonition of her own early death was incorrect, Bolshakova’s Giselle relaxed at Ivanchenko’s false reassurances, which were delivered, of course, with a smile.

Everything, then, went smoothly and according to plan, until Giselle’s first variation. It was unclear if soft shoes, painful feet, fatigue, or lack of strength was to blame, but Bolshakova could not manage the hops en pointe, one of the signature steps in this famous role. After the first two hops she came off of pointe awkwardly, and performed something like a pas de bourree, pique arabesque. (The impression was that she had prepared other steps, should this section not go so well). She attempted the hops a second time and again fell, and then finished the sequence in soutenue. In the final manege of pique turns she slipped, falling completely to her derriere where she remained for the last eight (at least) counts of the music, getting up to her knee for the final pose. The question of injury arose, undoubtedly, in more than one mind, but the look on her face portrayed only horrific embarrassment and shame. Luckily, when she reappeared on stage for the remainder of this Act she was composed, as a true professional should be.

Following the lovers’ light romp around the stage, Hans (Hilarion), danced estimably by the talented Dmitri Pikhachev, intercepted the couple for the first time, enraged to see Giselle with another and determined to find proof of Albrecht’s dishonesty. To this interruption Bolshakova gave a guilty look and evaded him, hoping to avoid conflict at all cost. Pikhachev’s acting talents make any trip to the theater worthwhile. Were no performance to be given, he would still capture an audience of any size with his ability to accurately depict both villan and victim, depending on the roles he dances. (Perhaps Pikhachev’s most poignant moment was following Giselle’s death, when Albrecht takes his sword in panic, and rushes towards Hans. Pikhachev here falls to his knees, arms and head thrown back, his chest thrust out towards the sword, ready to die, confident of his own innocence. It is a dramatic moment that makes clear that the blame lies entirely on Albrecht’s shoulders.)

Pikhachev’s second, more violent interception of the lovers at the end of the First Act caused Giselle more alarm. Bolshakova looked at him with fear, stepped back and confirmed her ties to Albrecht. But when Hans brought out the cape and sword, Bolshakova looked at them in disbelief, and then immediately seemed uninterested in the details, burying her head in her mother’s shoulder. This moment was awkward dramatically, and made the link to the mad scene weaker. She emerged again to intercede when Albrecht kissed Queen Bathilde’s hand, and the rest of the drama continued.

Despite that minor acting bubble, Bolshakova’s mad scene is the stuff that ballerinas are made of. Her black hair completely free, she reached into the air at imaginary objects, racing around the stage, her eyes looking into another dimension, already parted from the mortal world. Her final dash to Albrecht was barely finished before she fell lifeless to the floor. From several moments in this scene, one had the impression that a few years from now, without the nerves and pressures of opening night, a truly stellar Giselle will be given us by Bolshakova.

Mention, even if brief, should be given to those who danced the Peasant pas de deux in the First Act. Philippe Stepin, a recent Vaganova graduate, partnered veteran Yulia Kasenkova in a rather wobbly rendition of this section. This is the first time since last June that I recall seeing Stepin on the Mariinsky stage, and despite the passage of time, he seemed unprepared for the challenge. Stepin clearly has the aptitude to perform two double tours in a row and finish in fifth position plie, but each of his came off as wobbly. Likewise, with his arms straight as arrows in the faille assembles, the image of an airplane came to mind, and then the casting choices became questionable. Kasenkova was only slightly more successful than Bolshakova. While her variation was reliable, it was marred by rather stiff fingers. And the pirouettes during the finale (which finish with the girl hooking her arm through her partner’s elbow as a means of stopping the turn) appeared as if she was grasping for dear life. This is partly an issue of old choreography that is difficult to successfully execute. But following Bolshakova’s two flounderings, nerves were not prepared for the additional instabilities.

It came as a bit of a relief when the curtain opened on the Second Act, a proverbial fresh start with a change of scenery (no pun intended). With diamond-cutting precision and as cool as ice, Viktoria Kutepova danced Myrtha. She fits much better in classical roles than in the pulsing, buzzing extremes of extension of Forsythe’s choreography which we saw her in just one week ago.

Ksenia Ostreikovskaya danced Zulma – graceful, cool, streamlined, she matched Kutepova’s excellence in adhering to the classical paradigm. Kasenkova reappeared as Moyna, dancing heavily in contrast to Ostreikovskaya’s lightness, her staccato movements seeming out of place in the lyrical choreography.

In Act II, Bolshakova fit the image of ethereal being, sylph. As with her graduation performance as Nikiya, she excels in otherworldly roles where her long lines and slightly elusive nature are best utilized. With the exception of the partnered hops in arabesque – in one of which she, or Ivanchenko, or both, faltered – Bolshakova delivered a performance marked by smoothness and even some moments of high virtuosity. Notable were her feet as she ran downstage to Myrtha, a blur of many miniscule steps that gave the impression she was in fact just skimming the ground. Even better was the slow, seamless 6 o’clock penche at the beginning of the adagio with Albrecht. Nary a wobble on her standing leg, nary a pause in the leg that lifted. This one moment had “Kirov” inscribed on her, and, dare one say, nearly compensated for her earlier missteps.

Ivanchenko drew applause for his brise manege, and for a crystal clear quadruple pirouette, ending slowly but in time with the music. Whatever one’s preferences for the character of Albrecht, he was a steady partner for Bolshakova throughout, and she is lucky to have a veteran performer on which to rely for a debut.

Boris Gruzin conducted conscientiously throughout, and his kind efforts to aid the dancers with supportive, synchronistic timing should be appreciated.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Feb 27, 2006 10:29 am ]
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and last night's performance:

Fokine Mixed Program - "Chopiniana", "Scheherezade" and "Firebird"
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia

February 26, 2006 – by Catherine Pawlick

From the classical “Chopiniana” through the smouldering energy of “Scheherezade” and culminating in the idyllic fairytale “Firebird”, Fokine’s Mixed Program at the Kirov is an array of dancing delights. Sunday night’s performance offered treats of virtuosity from well-known stars and from the corps de ballet, acting as a strong reminder, following some recently questionable performances, of the company’s ability to excel in pure classicism, Fokine-style.

In “Chopiniana”, Yana Selina danced the 11th waltz with Anton Korsakov. Selina expressed ebullience through a constant smile and playful eyes. If one were to take a snapshot sample of her technique at its best, the flutter of her feet in tiny steps before she bursts into a grand jete would be the chosen segment. Likewise, for this ballet she mastered the old-fashioned port de bras, bringing us back 150 years to the authentic time period in which the ballet was first danced. Korsakov, unfortunately, could not match her in recreating the past. He looked misplaced in the piece, using force where softness is more appropriate. While his technical prowess is appreciated, his visible preparations informed us of the large jetes to come, jetes which were thrown carelessly into the air, immediately detracting from the manner and mood of the ballet.

However, where Korsakov subtracted, Ksenis Ostreikovskaya in the Mazurka added back in the drops of “traditional” that had been wrung from the ballet. In the Mazurka she offered light, romantic port de bras and airy jumps. Of the three she most epitomized the image of a romantic era ballerina, a sylph floating through space and, in our case, time.

Daria Vasnetsova was blessed with the opportunity to debut in the Prelude. She met the challenge with grace and poise, accurately emulating the romantic image to the best of her ability. Vasnetsova has strongly arched feet, more stable than those of her contemporary, Bolshakova, which were beautiful to withhold beneath the layers of white tulle on her skirt. Although her epaulement had been much rehearsed, and this showed favorably, with time and repeated performances it will become even more second nature to her. Although not as impressive in other performances, based solely on this one Vasnetsova can be a refreshing young dancer who appears, in any case, to have possibility at her door.

Hardly a more exciting onstage pair can be found than Uliana Lopatkina and Farukh Ruzimatov as Zobeida and Her Slave, respectively, in “Scheherezade”. Despite the lack of pointe shoes and tutus, Lopatkina was a passionate, harem-confined, brightly bejeweled princess, intent at a secret meeting with her lover despite the costs. Ruzimatov never does less than sizzle as the Slave, and while the choreography isn’t overly demanding, the acting here is. This time, covered in gold body glitter, he slithered around Lopatkina like a hungry animal waiting for his prey, but equally like a tiger (often on the floor, at her feet) obeying his trainer. When Lopatkina handed him the goblet from which to drink, he reacted as he has done in performances with Makhalina – drinking hastily from the cup and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes on her the entire time. Then Lopatkina too drank from the chalice, handing it, empty, to the Undying Kashei (one of the harem’s aids), with a look of victory and satisfaction on her face. Lopatkina’s Zobeida is not smouldering – her love is cleaner, but no less strong, and her attraction to the Slave unquestionable. In the final scene, when the Shakhrir, played by Vladimir Ponomarev, happens upon the lovers, Lopatkina’s action with him was more crystal clear than other interpretations: she reaches for him twice, and each time he recoils from her touch. She then folds to his feet when he lifts her up and embraces her in forgiveness. The applause and curtain calls (a good ten minutes into the usual intermission time) following the ballet acknowledged the dancers’ unsurpassed performance.

Two small girls seated next to me with their mother were a quick reminder that “Firebird” is appropriate for spectators of all ages. Uncannily Disney for a 1910 Russian production (fog, smoke, lightening, green wigs, mossy creatures and scary skeletons all abound here), “Firebird” can be, as one of the girls stated aloud, “scary”. But it can also be beautiful. Dmitrii Semionov, an underused dancer of the princely fashion, danced Tsarevich Ivan next to Irma Nioradze’s flittering, fluttering Firebird. Nioradze appeared stronger than the several performances I saw her in last year, with an expressive face and sprightly jumps. Semionov is tall, lithe, and demure, a polite Tsarevich with respect for both the bird and for his Beloved Beauty Tsarevna, danced by Ksenia Dubrovina.

Unfortunately the style of this ballet deems it historically necessary to clod all feet --save for the Firebird’s-- in soft ballet slippers. The Firebird is the only character in pointe shoes in the entire ballet, and with legs and feet as beautiful and uniform as the Kirov’s, it seems as if talent and line here are not used to their maximum potential. Perhaps just hours after being inoculated into Chopiniana’s classicism, the withdrawal period is more lengthy than usual, but this passing thought quickly points again to the services the Kirov does to the ballet world. By preserving the past, they enrich their present and underline their unique place in dance history as the only company that can truly claim to be the home to Fokine productions.

Valeri Obsyanikov conducted.

Author:  fedora [ Sun Mar 05, 2006 8:11 am ]
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Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:02 am ]
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As it happens, I haven’t found a single negative remark about her interpretation of Aurora. So much for St. Petersburg-ers "not liking" Somova

Strange that, I've yet to find a ballet goer that doesn't regard her with horror.

Author:  fedora [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:43 am ]
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Author:  Cygne [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:14 am ]
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Cassandra wrote:
As it happens, I haven’t found a single negative remark about her interpretation of Aurora. So much for St. Petersburg-ers "not liking" Somova

Strange that, I've yet to find a ballet goer that doesn't regard her with horror.


Author:  Guest [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:47 am ]
Post subject:  Responst to Cassandra and Cigne!

Ok, Cassandra and Cigne, if you don’t care to hear the truth, not from me, but from the ballet goers in St. Petersburg who generally know what they are talking about, it’s OK. After all, everyone is entitled to one’s own opinion. Something else bothers me…

Ballet goers are divided into different age groups, preference for certain dancing techniques and schools, preferences for certain styles and just personal likes and dislikes. It’s perfectly all right to have them. But it is also important to respect the artists, because they give us thousands times more that what we ever would be able to give back to them. No matter how knowledgeable a ballet critic, or how good of a ballet photographer one is – he is just not equal to an artist of the great theatre.

On very rare occasion I would visit ballet-alert and I get very upset how disrespectful tone those people allow themselves towards dancers as well as alternate opinions. That is true “horror” to me, Cassandra and Cigne. Not a young and promising dancer who just happens to have a very distinctive style and is adored by many. I really hope that Critical Dance can set a better example of respect, tolerance and appreciation for the art for which come here at the first place! And also for different opinions, no matter what county or the age group! At least, let’s just try :-)


Author:  Cygne [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Responst to Cassandra and Cigne!

Anonymous wrote:
After all, everyone is entitled to one’s own opinion. ***

Thank you for making our point.

Author:  fedora [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:25 pm ]
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Author:  ripowam [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:37 pm ]
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I didn't see Samova's performance, and I haven't yet talked to anyone who has. But I have to reluctantly say that comments on the Russian boards carry no credence for me because those boards are so thoroughly inundated with Kirov administration shills and plants. You can hear it in the language -- it's just too Soviet to be normal.

I really have to take issue with "Guest"s comments that performers are somehow superior to critics or photographers -- that's idolatry.

I saw Samova in Swan Lake in St. P recently -- didn't stay to the end because the performance was not good -- but she received extremely tepid applause all through the first two of the three acts.

Let's put it this way: not everyone adores her.

Author:  fedora [ Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:04 pm ]
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Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Mar 07, 2006 5:36 am ]
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....I have to reluctantly say that comments on the Russian boards carry no credence for me because those boards are so thoroughly inundated with Kirov administration shills and plants. You can hear it in the language -- it's just too Soviet to be normal.

My Russian isn't good enough to pick up on these nuances Ripowam, but I'm sure you are correct. Strange things happen in Russia these days and the new Russia is every bit as bad as the old, with Mafia godfathers wielding as much power as any communist tyrant, don’t think this lawlessness doesn’t influence or impinge on the world of ballet: it does. Just ponder the fate of Dmitry Bryantsev.

In the bad old Soviet days, the Kirov was not a happy company: Although the Bolshoi had its problems and even its defections, none of their losses were as great as those of the Kirov: Nureyev, Makarova and Baryshnikov were hardly small fry and the hounding of Valery Panov and his wife, the hunting "accident" (more likely suicide, or even murder) of Yuri Soloviev, the promotion of mediocre dancers with high ranking Party apparatchiks as lovers at the expense of the truly talented were all low points in the company's long history.

But have things improved today? No. In the recent past we've actually had a Kirov director hauled into custody over embezzlement and who had forged links with the sinister Moonie cult. Dancers routinely leave the company for careers elsewhere and I'm told that some graduates have even declined joining the company at all. Then there is current Kirov casting, a hot topic on this board and frankly inexplicable to most. I was given an explanation of this by a Kirov principle less circumspect than his colleagues, and was shocked to the core by what he told me.

Most important of all is the deliberate obliteration of the old Kirov style. In just a few years it has degenerated into not much more than a series of poses punctuated with hyperextensions and dropped-crotch jetés and frankly what I see can barely be called dancing any more. The company still has some wonderful dancers but they are either forced into the new acrobatics e.g. Tereshkina or only allowed to dance at provincial matinees i.e. Zhelonkina.

A couple of months ago there was a lengthy plea in Russian on this board for Mikhail Baryshnikov to go and rescue the company from its present state. I very much doubt it is something that Baryshnikov would care to do but the urgency of that posters appeal probably has more to do with the thoughts of concerned Russians than the formulaic postings on their chat boards,

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