CriticalDance Forum

Kirov 2005-2006 Season
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Mar 09, 2006 5:28 am ]
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Kirov Ballet – “Le Corsaire”
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia

March 7, 2006 -- By Catherine Pawlick

Wednesday night’s dazzling performance of “Le Corsaire” by the Kirov harked back to its awe-inspiring US performances of the same ballet in the late 1990s, when stars Farukh Ruzimatov and Altynai Assylmuratova drew repeated curtain calls for one of the most exciting productions shown on American stages by the company. Serving as a reminder of the talent and skill that can emerge from the core of the Kirov when the circumstances are right, Uliana Lopatkina joined Dmitri Semionov, Nadezhda Gonchar and Leonid Sarafanov in a two-plus hour bravura display of exceptional polish and superlative artistry.

Despite the audience’s initial coolness, perhaps due to the long pauses during the first two scene changes, (during the second of which the stagehands could be seen rolling on the podium for the slave trade bazaar before the curtain came completely down), by the final act warm, almost frenetic cheers arose from the house attesting to the artists’ job well done.

Nadezhda Gonchar danced her first Gulnara with poise and aplomb, her initial entrance performed at a very fast tempo with Anton Korsakov’s comic Lankedem reliably supporting her in the series of lifts. She reminded one of Irina Chistiakova at first, but then first-time jitters overtook her strength and poise so that, by fouette time, she reverted to demi-pointe for some of the turns. Nonetheless, to appear alongside Lopatkina after her own recent maternity leave demands great courage, and her overall performance showed a dancer strong in technique with the promise of possibility at her feet.

As Lankedem, Korsakov was surprisingly entertaining in the role. Unaccustomed to his acting abilities, his talent in the comic sections and his miming sequences was remarkable. His initial double-passe/assemble jumps in the third scene were void of the grand plie landings that others before him have done, and initial jumps appeared more weighted down than airborne. But his manege of revoltades drew warm applause from the audience. He danced a solid performance, partnered reliably and his surprisingly expressive acting was a refreshing addition to the ballet.

Many argue that Dmitrii Semionov fits the danseur noble mold better than the bravura type, but as Conrad he proved that both his technique and persona can fit into the latter. Tall in stature, and long of line but well-muscled, Semionov has strong, powerful jumps that he delivers with panache. One hopes that his success in this role, and partnering ballerina Lopatkina, will win over the administration into granting him more principle roles in the months to come.

Sergei Kononenko also debuted as Birbanto in this performance. Well-acted and believably sinister, Kononenko displayed his strengths at character-type roles, and hopefully will do more of them in the future.

Queen of them all, Lopatkina set the tone for the rest of her performance, as is typical, from the very first entrance. Her pleading eyes expressed fear and innocence at being captured; she danced exquisitely, crowning off the famous pas de deux with 32 perfect fouettes finishing on time with the music. As is also typical, her characterization was well-contemplated. In the romantic, seaside pas de deux with Conrad, just after being “purchased”, she did not evade his kisses, but rather played the role of equal-in-romance, happy to be alone with her new beau, and never coy…until the flowers are delivered from Lankedem that is. Not recognizing him, and after bequeathing them to Conrad, she looked searchingly as if to ask “Just who was that who brought me the flowers?” Other Medoras have been more flirtatious, and less inquisitive as to the source of the poisoned petals, but Lopatkina’s interpretation was characterized by innocence and sincerity, to say nothing of the beauty of her long lines and pristine technique.

Leonid Sarafanov danced Ali in a display of pyrotechnics that has yet to be equaled this year on this stage. If the stage was a stove, Sarafanov lit it on fire. For his often evident self-absorption, it is nonetheless difficult not to appreciate his technical prowess. He looks at the audience from under his brow as if to say “if you thought that was impressive, watch this.” Lightweight, with minimal musculature in his upper body, his frame is not given to extended partnering overtures for obvious reasons – the requisite physical strength is just not present—but that same thin frame no doubt contributes to his ability to remain airborne and, when turning, well-centered. Some of the feats he performed this evening defy description but an attempt follows: He punctuated the a la seconde turns during the famous pas de trois with turns in low arabesque plie (all en releve), alternating between the two positions before pulling into retire passe and pausing, still en releve. His manege during the coda featured a variation on a Ruzimatov jump that gave the impression he would fall from the air, but before doing so Sarafanov would flip, still airborne, and then land fine. Not one step sequence or diagonale was faulty, all finished musically, each one outdoing the rest. Preferences aside, Sarafanov is a grand allegro technician who loves to fly.

The Odalisque Trio deserves mention for accuracy. Here, among Yana Selina and Yulia Kasenkova, it was, surprisingly, Daria Vasnetsova who was most dazzling. Her bright smile, flirtatious eyes and refined delivery were startling in the brise variation. She even managed to relate to Seid Pasha, seated downstage, at the completion of each sequence. Selina danced the emboite variation cleanly, but did not draw one’s attention to the same extent. Kasenkova unfortunately appeared misplaced in the trio, her arms marring the classical positions, her lines not as sleek as the others’.

The Living Garden of Act III was a vision of fairytale pinkness, where the corps de ballet proved that uniform lines and choreographic symmetry can be just as pleasing as individual bravura feats. Here Gonchar reappeared, more gracious and self-assured than in her initial entrances, a thankful second chance to reclaim the performance for her own. Lopatkina’s refinement in her Third Act variation – highlighted by an ellonge from attitude devant all en pointe – underlined her undoubted stature as a Kirov leading lady.

Appreciation goes to Mikhail Agrest, the conductor, for waiting through the pre-performance and post-intermission pauses and his ever-attentive fulfillment of various timing requests on the behalf of the dancers.

Author:  fedora [ Fri Mar 17, 2006 1:14 pm ]
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Mar 17, 2006 2:15 pm ]
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Привет Федора
Hi Fedora,

Yes, I attended last night's and tonight's performances and will provide a review within the next day or so. I will be attending the bulk of the Festival performances, so check back here for my reports, if you're interested!

Two brief words now about Ondine: It was enjoyable, unique... somewhat of a surprise, because, how often does a reviewer have the chance to review a *new* (to our eyes) full length classical ballet that isnt simply a revision of an old classic? Maybe once in a life time... the same goes for the dancers...

Again, more to come!

Author:  fedora [ Sat Mar 18, 2006 7:08 am ]
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Mar 18, 2006 12:27 pm ]
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Actually, I speak fluent Russian, but I'd had the keyboard flipped into Cyrillic when I began that post, then remembered our own rule about English only in the forum!

I've posted the Ondine review in the thread on the International Festival. So look for it, along with other reviews to come, there.

Author:  fedora [ Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:44 am ]
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Author:  ripowam [ Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:27 pm ]
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What would Lopatkina dance at Kennedy Center? Myrtha? She's danced Giselle perhaps once a very long time ago. She doesn't dance in the Forsythe, either.

Author:  fedora [ Fri Mar 24, 2006 2:37 pm ]
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Author:  NataliaN [ Fri Mar 24, 2006 3:13 pm ]
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Lopatkina danced the lead in Giselle a couple of times, soon after her graduation in summer 1991. A book produced by the 'infamous' Ted Turner, for the 1994 Goodwill Games, has some lovely colour photos of Lopatkina wearing the Act I peasant costume as she prepares the role with her teacher Dudinskaya. In the mid-90s, Lopatkina was more often than not cast as Myrtha. She was extraordinary, yet so different, in the two roles.

Lopatkina dances the final pdd of 'In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated..." on gala occasions, although I've never seen her dance the complete Guillem role. Pavlenko does dance the Forsythes, so there is a good likelihood that DC will see her Myrtha in 'Giselle,' as well as her Forsythes.

Fedora, you may get your wish. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the ballerina is 'relearning' Giselle -- as well as Myrtha -- for the Kennedy Center season. The KennCen has some say-so in the level of the ballerinas, especially after the 2005 'Corsaires' didn't include any of the recognizable female names (recognizable to the average DC ballet-goer, that is....Vishneva or Lopatkina are 'it' for Joe & Jane Public...maybe-maybe Pavlenko and Ayupova). I don't think that the Kennedy Center management would accept a roster of only 'unknown' Giselles (Bolshakova, Golub, Novikova, maybe Obraztsova, maybe Dumchenko, who is not a novice but is unknown to DC fans) this summer. The KennCen will demand either Lopatkina and/or Vishneva...and Lopatkina seems more amenable, nowadays, to agreeing to do such things for tours.

This wouldn't be the first time that Lopatkina reaches into the past to revive a chestnut from her early repertoire, for the purpose of a tour. She resumed dancing Lilac Fairy/Soviet version for the Autumn 2005 US tour. How local balletomanes would 'kill' to see Lopatkina as the Lilac Fairy; they so envy the fact that she has performed the Sergeyev Lilac, recently, only in the US!

Maybe Americans will luck-out a second time, getting to experience Lopatkina's Giselle, while Petersburgers do without?

p.s. For the past year or so, Lopatkina has been on a 'kick' of reviving her old roles, to expand her repertoire beyond Odette/Odile, Dying Swan, Scheherazade & La Valse. She recently surprised everyone by dancing her first Medora (Corsaire) in ages. She has resumed dancing many other 'old roles,' such as Mekhmene-Banu (Legend of Love), Symph in C pt 2, Raymonda Act III, Paquita Grand Pas, etc.

Author:  Andre Yew [ Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:39 pm ]
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Diana Vishneva will not be dancing with the Kirov in DC, because she will be dancing with ABT during that week. Ironically, I believe she's doing a Giselle with ABT.

I can't imagine Lopatkina as Giselle, but I'm looking forward to being proven very wrong! :D

edit: But to see her in the 2nd movement of Symphony in C would be amazing! Her Diamonds was incredible.


Author:  fedora [ Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:49 pm ]
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I can't imagine Lopatkina as Giselle, but I'm looking forward to being proven very wrong

Neither do I, Andre ... neither do I :-) Nevertheless that's what they say in St. Petersburg: "To see Lopatkina's Giselle and die" !

Hope nobody plans to die on this board :D

Author:  fedora [ Sat Mar 25, 2006 6:25 am ]
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Apr 06, 2006 9:39 am ]
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A review of the Jewels triptych will come, but just two words that cannot wait.

Ayupova's return to the stage has finally come. She danced the lead in "Emeralds" both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and will do the same tomorrow night. Amidst all of the discussion on this forum about company practices, the acrobatic aesthetic, etc, she was a shining reminder that the classical Kirov, while difficult to find, still exists. *sigh*

Author:  Azulynn [ Tue Apr 11, 2006 2:28 pm ]
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News from the Kirov website : Daria Pavlenko is scheduled to dance Giselle on April 26th. :D
This is amazing as it seemed to me she had not danced the role for a long time... Well, I'm very glad Daria is back in shape and I suppose there's a good chance she'll dance Giselle in DC as well ! ;)

Apart from that, Sofia Gumerova and Andrei Merkuriev are on the schedule for a Sleeping Beauty, and Ulyana Lopatkina will dance Nikiya at the end of the month.

[edit] BTW, Catherine, I'm dying to hear what you thought about Jewels - I'm so sorry Daria Pavlenko wasn't filmed in Emeralds... Have you also attended the "Don Quixote" performance that got filmed ?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:04 am ]
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hi Azulynn,

I'm glad they finally updated the web site!! Yes I can't wait for Daria's return to "Giselle"! This is HUGE, fantastic news. I will be there, front and center! :-)

I'm sorry -- I wrote the review of Jewels, our editors have it, but I forgot to post it here! A mere oversight. I'll post it below though, the unedited version.

I didn't attend Don Q, so this only encompasses the Jewels performances.

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