Nikolai Tsiskaridze Benefit Performance – The Phantom of Romanticism
St. Petersburg, Russia
March 22, 2006 – by Catherine Pawlick
The first of three benefit performances performed by male principal dancers took place Thursday night as Nikolai Tsiskaridze, on brief loan from the Bolshoi, danced a unique program.
Tsiskaridze’s following is a phenomenon unto itself. Atypical for male dancers, he cannot be relegated to a certain dancing type. He is blessed with loose ligaments, long legs (he is at least six feet tall), and as such fits the bill for a legato-based danseur noble. But his feet have arches that many ballerinas would kill for, and his deep plie suggests a light jump, and by deduction then a facility for petit allegro, thus perhaps placing him more in the character category (the Jester, Mercutio – roles demanding speed and excellence in jumps and turns). But above those beautiful legs comes a surprise: his port de bras is not restricted to pure academism, nor is it overly masculine and rarely is it powerful. Rather it appears to belong to the era of romantic classicism, where softly folded elbows, lightly curved wrists and fluidity complemented the idealistic renderings of ballets such as Chopiniana or Spectre de La Rose. In fact, when watching Tsiskardize, this last ballet is what most frequently comes to mind: Tsiskaridze as the phantom of romanticism, the fleeting spectre of grace and lightness.
Not all of the program alluded to these traits, however, instead emphasizing his Georgian roots, placing him in fiery red for both “Rubies” and “Carmen”, and in somber, deep green for Forsythe’s pulsing “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”. Only the solo of “Narcisse”, choreographed by Kasian Goleizovski in 1960, truly captured the natural traits of Tsiskaridze, a charming short piece in which the character plays with various pools of light on the floor of the stage, and for which his shadow is projected behind him onto the back scrim, the scenographic “lake” into which he falls and dies. In this charming (despite the ending) piece, Tsiskaridze exuded innocent, childlike bewilderment, speaking in gesture to the images around him, a silly smile strewn across his face. His softness and beautiful lines matched the ballet’s subject and music by Nikolai Cherepnin perfectly. It is an ideal vehicle for Tsiskaridze’s talents and was a gift to the audience in every respect.
Tsiskaridze’s form and personality seemed ill-matched for the other three ballets, but he was still intriguing to watch. During “Rubies” one is often reminded of Diana Vishneva’s command of the soloist role and her electric partnership with Andrian Fadeev in the ballet. That interaction was several degrees cooler between Tsiskaridze and Olesya Novikova, but Novikova nonetheless managed to fulfill the playful, spicy qualities of the ballet with both energy and virtuosity. The difficulty lay in the mismatch of Tsiskaridze with this ballet. Despite his Tblisi beginnings, his innate sensuality and softness dilute the powerful edginess of ‘Rubies’, creating a different effect. If one expected aggressive passion, it wasn’t found here, but playfulness was at the ready.
Roland Petit’s “Carmen” solo set to Bizet’s famous music was a curious endeavor. For the ballet, Tsiskaridze dances in black pants as a toreador/bull, and then in red pants with a fan-daggar as Carmen herself, through to the death scene. Without more information on the idea behind this choreography, I was left perplexed as to why a man was dancing both roles. For a moment it seemed as if Tsiskaridze could have donned the red skirt and pointe shoes and no one would have been the wiser for it, so believable was his Carmen.
For the final ballet, Tsiskaridze fulfilled Forsythe’s “In the Middle” with verve if not aggression, next to Ekaterina Kondaurova and Ekaterina Petina’s elastic extensions. Although he has no trouble with the complex partnering or step combinations in Forsythe’s choreography, Tsiskaridze’s old-world nature seemed out of place in this electronic whirlwind. I prefer to picture him in fields of narcissus on a spring day, or flying through the air as a phantom of romanticism, for that is where his talent lies.