CriticalDance Forum

VI International Ballet Festival
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Nov 10, 2005 2:59 am ]
Post subject:  VI International Ballet Festival

This is a placeholder for the VI International Ballet Festival at the Mariinsky, the last that will be held in the theatre itself before it is closed for renovations.

The festival will take place in March 2006. Exact dates and repertoire TBD.

Pierre Lacotte's deferred "Ondine" will be performed either during the Festival or closer to the summer. The ballet was begun by him two years ago and this January he resumed choreography for the piece.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Mar 01, 2006 1:25 pm ]
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I'm moving this thread up, as the Festival is, at long last, quickly approaching! In just over two weeks it will open with Ondine, for which Vishneva and Obratsova have the title roles in the premieres. The rest of the Festival also has lots of treats in store -- take a look at the casting!

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Mar 14, 2006 4:55 am ]
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For the opening of the Sixth International Ballet Festival, the Mariinsky Theatre is presenting well-known dance historian and reconstruction expert Pierre Lacotte's adapatation of "Ondine", based on the 19th century story "The Naiad and the Fisherman" to the original score by Cesar Pugni (in contrast to Ashton's version set to Hans Werner Henze's score).

For those interested in background on the ballet, I will provide what I know below.

The first performance of this Ondine took place June 22, 1843 at the Queen’s Theatre in London, in which Fanny Cerrito and Jules Perrot danced the leading roles.

Perrot later set the ballet in St. Petersburg and invited Carlotta Grisi to dance the role of Ondine, which she did for the St. P premiere in 1851.

In 1874 Petipa rechoreographed the ballet, reworking it again in 1892. In 1903 Alexander Shiryaev set a new version which lasted two years and was danced by Pavlova, Karsavina and Fokine. In 1921 Shiryaev revived the ballet for the Leningrad Choreographic Institute. In 1984 a suite from the ballet was performed in honor of Peter Gusev's 80th birthday.


As for casting, Diana Vishneva had been hoping to dance the premiere but has been out sick for several weeks. The latest word is that Evgenia Obratsova will dance the premiere, but even that is of course also subject to change.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Mar 17, 2006 2:45 pm ]
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For a Russian news clip of the premiere of "Ondine": ... sp?id=1955

It shows several scenes from the performance, and Vasiev explaining that due to her illness Vishneva missed two weeks and therefore could not dance the premiere, but that Lacotte attests to Obratsova's suitability for the leading role.

Jeanina was danced by Yana Serebriakova on the 16th and by Ekaterina Osmolkina on the 17th. Sarafanov danced Matteo, and Obratsova Ondine both nights. I will provide a review in the next day or two.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:32 am ]
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Premiere: “Ondine” – Pierre Lacotte’s revival
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia

March 16-17, 2006 -- By Catherine Pawlick

Today, during the average ballet dancer’s lifetime, the chances that he or she will learn a completely new, full-length classical ballet are slim at best. The foundations of the classical repertoire are shared by all major companies, and new works are neoclassical or modern in nature, with a “new version” of a well-known classic – Swan Lake or Nutcracker-- here or there. It was more than a gift to the dancers of the Mariinsky Theatre, then, that Pierre Lacotte gave when he reconstructed the historical ballet “Ondine”, set to music by Cesar Pugni, a ballet that almost belongs to the Kirov by birthright.

Although its first performance took place in London at the Queen’s Theatre in 1843, Jules Perrot brought the production to St. Petersburg in 1851 when Carlotta Grisi danced the role of Ondine. In 1874 Petipa completely rechoreographed the ballet, and in 1903 Alexander Shiryaev, ballet master and pedagogue, set a new version which lasted two years. That version was danced by Pavlova, Karsavina, Ksessinska and Fokine. In 1921 Shiryaev revived the ballet for the Leningrad Choreographic Institute (now the Vaganova Academy), and in 1984 a suite from the ballet using Perrot’s original choreography was performed in honor of Peter Gusev’s 80th birthday. Despite these various restagings and revivals over the years, the ballet fell into neglect, never returning to the Maryinsky repertoire – until now.

This project has spanned four years, included a long interruption and several visits by Lacotte to St. Petersburg. Its culmination took place on March 16 and 17 to a theatre packed with balletomanes, journalists, and those curious to see the historical revival for themselves.

Ondine, it should be explained, is not a mermaid but a naiad, a water nymph, and the libretto stems from the 19th century story entitled “The Naiad and the Fisherman”. Ondine’s costume, a 19th century white romantic tutu with triangular pieces of fabric trimming the top of the skirt and the shoulders, lends a floating, airy effect, and, along with opalescent accents, and a diamond-studded silver crown that circles her head, suggests a water sprite. That is exactly what Evgenia Obratsova’s characterization epitomizes: a mischievous aquarian nymph, emotional, and intent on achieving her goal – the love of Matteo – at any cost.

A summary of Act One is as follows: The curtain opens to a bright, seaside Sicilian fishing village, the townspeople looking over the day’s fresh catch. Matteo is preparing for his wedding to Jeanina. When his father asks him to cast his own net, he uncovers a naiad – Ondine – who tries to overcome him with her charms. He resists her and returns home. As Ondine is invisible to humans, she follows Matteo home and plays games with his mother and fiancé. Here moments of clever humour appear, reminiscent of Coppelia or La Fille Mal Gardee – Ondine dumps towels from the cupboard, breaks the string with which Jeanina is weaving, in general wreaks havoc and enjoys the fun. Worn out, Matteo bids good night to Jeanina and sees Ondine in his dreams. Ondine returns underwater and begs the Queen of the Sea to allow her to assume human form so that she may be with the man she loves. The Queen hesitates but finally agrees, gives her a rose and explains that she must marry Matteo before the rose dies.

Lacotte’s step combinations for “Ondine” are unique, and he carries forward the classical ballet lexicon in this production admirably with his choreography. Ballones abound, as do chaine turns with the arms in fifth en avant, and a proliferation of fast, petit allegro, especially for the men: brises, jetes and tours are plentiful. Also to Lacotte’s credit is his ability to choreograph for the corps de ballet and en masse. In most sequences, even when soloists are dancing, the corps continues to move in the background, raising the level of staging complexity from what it is in a ballet such as the second act of ‘Giselle’, for example, where, for the most part, the soloists and corps de ballet alternate movement during musical sequences. When Ondine begs the Queen of the Sea to become a human female, the corps de ballet of naiads mimics her pleas with various degradations of pleading or poses in tears. In the village scenes, there are copious variations of village people, groups of two, four or eight, each in a different costume and dancing different steps across the stage. All the young men in the ballet are clothed in smart, knee-length black pants, cumberbuns, white shirts and various colored vests. The women wear colorful, 19th century knee-length romantic tutus which change for the famous Tarantella in the Second Act.

For both performances Anton Pimenov and Mikhail Krebtov danced Matteo’s friends, good-natured buddies who advise him not to follow his apparent pipedream of some naiad he thinks he has seen on land. Their acting efforts impressed, and their trio work was pleasant to watch as well. It is rare to see groups of men given jumping sequences to dance in unison, and here there was a plethora of those which Pimenov, Krebtov and Sarafanov carried out beautifully.

As Jeanina, Yana Serebriakova danced expertly the first night, ebullient and technically quite impressive. It made one wonder why, aside from her appearances in Forsythe’s “Approximate Sonata”, she is so infrequently given solo opportunities. This was a favorable casting decision on the part of Lacotte. When Ondine begins to appear everywhere, distracting Matteo from his fiancé, Serebriakova was intent to distract him right back, using smiles and charm to get her way. In contrast, Ekaterina Osmolkina’s rendition on March 17 had traces of Gamzatti in it. She was more quickly angered, and her dance-of-distraction seemed more of a reprieve than any attempt to seduce. As always Osmolkina was technically faultless, but different from Serebriakova enough in temperament and timing to make her performance unique.

A better audience favorite could not have been chosen than Leonid Sarafanov as Matteo. The Romeo-like, dreamy poet characterization somehow fit, and he turned it into a man chasing impossible dreams that somehow vanish into thin air before they ever truly materialize. Sarafanov’s technical achievements in solo work are irreproachable, and here his love of attention seemed well-placed given the plethora of solo opportunities at his feet. The most notable sequence in this ballet is perhaps an unforgiving section in Matteo’s variation. He dances: entrechat six, tour en l’air, pirouette ending in developpe a la seconde en releve, repeated four or five times. Endless groupings of brise voles and jete battus showed off the dancer’s speedy, clean footwork. Surprisingly, and perhaps due to her smaller size, his partnering work with Obratsova was also without visible fault. To his credit, several of her long, slow lifts appeared as if she truly was a weightless, invisible phantom of the sea.

Following the much-discussed issue of who would dance the premiere, Diana Vishneva’s two-week illness, and a bad strain of the flu that hit the company in early March, the choice was made that Evgenia Obratsova would dance the role of Ondine, and that decision, it turned out, was no mistake. Obratsova’s contagious, wide-smile, and seemingly effortless mastery Lacotte’s choreographic technique were a perfect match for the role of the lively water sprite. Blessed with a compactness that allows for easier, faster execution, Obratsova doesn’t have to contend with the challenges that taller ballerinas do. Her uber arched feet allow for beautiful lines, and her port de bras has a lightness about it that is almost unmatched in the company ranks. As Ondine she was delightful in every respect, delivering two flawless performances in a row. Her recent role in the film “Russian Dolls”, her competition win and increasing press about the young ballerina are all well founded, and prove that despite Vishneva’s absence for the premiere, Obratsova’s lure is strong and her talent commendable.

The only regret is that other young ballerinas did not have the opportunity to try on the title role for size. Olesya Novikova, one of the unchallenged beauties of the company, danced one of the two water naiad demi soloist roles. Her long neck and arms lithe and fluid, she too seemed an obvious choice for the role of Ondine, and it is a shame that she was not displayed as such at least one of the opening nights. Nadezhda Gonchar danced the other water naiad with strong jumps and attack. Viktoria Tereshkina brought some of her signature strength and Myrtha-like sternness to the role of Queen of the Sea, impressive in her jumps and turns, her mime sequences filled with conviction.

The production's singular drawback, if indeed there is one, is the almost over-plentitude of solo dancing. It sounds strange to say that there can be too much dancing in a ballet, and the counterargument is that not enough dancing would provide a similar imbalance -- most likely "too much mime". But here, in addition to Matteo, Jeanina and Ondine's solos, (in both acts, several times), and aside from the Queen of the Sea and her two leading naiads, we still have the duet of Matteo's friends, a separate duet/trio danced by Jeanina's friends, and the ensemble work in the village, underwater, during the Tarantella, and so on. "Ondine" cannot be faulted for lack of dancing, but some may feel that the various combinations approach dance overload if one is not prepared for it.

“Ondine” brings a charming, if tragic story to the Maryinsky Theatre, a ballet filled with technical and dramatic challenges and room to develop and grow into them. Pierre Lacotte is to be commended for his production, and one hopes that this time it will remain in the company repertoire for years to come.

Mikhail Sinkevich conducted both premieres.

Author:  fedora [ Sun Mar 19, 2006 9:02 am ]
Post subject:  Thank you!

Catherine, thank you so much :-)

I totally share your view on Lacotte's choreography. Petipa or not, maestro Lacotte is big in his own right, as he happens to be today's foremost expert on ancient choreography in general and of Petipa in specific. And each new ballet of his becomes the living proof of it. Also Maestro Lacotte is a master of petit pas technique, which has to be cherished as perhaps the greatest achievement of French ballet school as appose to Franco-Russian school.

Some marvelous pictures from the premier of Ondine to compliment your story here :-D


Author:  KANTER [ Sun Mar 19, 2006 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Oh really?

Well, ah'dunno.

Go tell that to the Danes.

Another detail:

not sure what you mean by "Franco-Russian school".

The danse terre-à-terre is where all of Europe was at in the 18th Century.

Then, the steps of great elevation were developed in France in the first half of the 19th Century. Big jumps, to put it bluntly.

A technical breakthrough.

So, what we now call the "French school", is what was taught at the Paris Opera at that time - the school of Gardel, Vestris and so forth. Where the danse terre-à-terre was not swept aside, but became an integral part of a new dance, that incorporates the idea of FLIGHT.

I'd be happier with Father Lacotte, had he included épaulement - THE fundamental feature of the French school - into his mind-set.

Which brings us back to the Danes...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Mar 19, 2006 2:50 pm ]
Post subject: 

Actually the Ondine premieres showed plenty of epaulement, especially in the corps de ballet. Obratsova has mastered it, but the corps looked excellent too. That snapshot pose (a la Chopiniana, but the arms in demi seconde and head tilted under instead of exposing the neck) was used many times throughout the piece.

Author:  fedora [ Sun Mar 19, 2006 5:07 pm ]
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:13 am ]
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Esteemed critic Clement Crisp has posted his reviews of the first three Festival performances. As always, his work is just as exquisite as the Kirov dancers'! ... e2340.html

Author:  KANTER [ Tue Mar 21, 2006 6:36 am ]
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Dear Mr. Fedora,

Would suggest you read Gennadi Albert's biography of Professor A. Pushkin to get the low-down on what happened in Russia between the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th Century.

The book is brilliant, it refers to many professors we know too little of, such as Mikhail Obukhov and Boris Shavrov, it discusses the controversy between Legat and Fokine in great detail, and at the end, there are classes of Pushkin noted down by his students.

Albert explains the process rather better than I could in a few lines here. There's also a summary of the book on the "Vestris" Website.

The main thing is not to get bogged down in terminology, and look for the content of what people are actually doing.

I mean, we can use the word "Russian school", or "French school", or whatever, all we like, but at this particular point in time, there seems to be just one bland and monotonous school worldwide - what Leo Kersley calls "Legs Up Dance".

Can Can, anyone?

Author:  fedora [ Tue Mar 21, 2006 7:45 am ]
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

An SB review will come later. In the meantime here is last night's review and check back tomorrow for tonight's!


“New Names” – “Petty Bourgeois”, “Du Cote du Chez Swan”, and Gogol’s “The Overcoat”
Sixth International Mariinsky Festival
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
March 21, 2006 -- By Catherine Pawlick

As if to herald in the long overdue spring thaw in one of St. Petersburg’s longest and coldest winters in years, a much-anticipated evening of three new works greeted the Mariinsky Theatre on March 21.

This theatre, home to the greatest names in classical ballet, the likes of Petipa, Fokine and Nijinsky, still so steeped in historical tradition, seems an unobvious choice as a creative cauldron for innovation. But since January these three new dishes have been simmering, and a sumptuous repast was served to the public on Tuesday night as the premieres of “Petty Bourgeois”, “La Cote du Chez Swan” and “The Overcoat” greeted the audience of balletomanes and critics, many of whom flew in just for this Sixth Annual International Mariinsky Festival.

The air was abuzz with excitement as the curtain opened on the first piece, Nikita Dmitrievski’s “Petty Bourgeois”. Based on the play by Moliere and set to music by Richard Strauss, Dmitrievski’s creation offered a fresh, modern take on the French playwright’s story of comedic intrigue.

Costumes were clever – the Marquise Jourdaine, Valeria Martiniouk, wore a pink satin low cut corset and knee length satin skirt, with long black gloves, her hair pulled into carefully arranged flat curls atop her head. Her husband, danced by Mikhail Lobukhin, wore striped pants and a beret. Alexander Sergeev was the cutting edge of cool as Covell, Cleonta’s servant, appearing more like a slick homosexual gangster magician, dressed in a beret and short gloves. Nicole, the stereotypical French maid, danced by Evgenia Obratsova, wore high black stockings and a short red satin tutu, her hair a blonde curly wig a la Marilyn Monroe with a pout, and long white puff feather in hand, to match. Four male students looked fresh out of a 1950’s cartoon with hair slicked into wild styles, plain blue t-shirts and black aprons over black pants. They provided a corps de ballet of sorts along with the four female cabaret dancers, in miniscule baby blue tutus and bare legs accented by garter belts.

And for a bit of shock effect, Ekaterina Kondaurova emerged from the wings as the Marquise Dorimaine in a tight black leather dominatrix suit, accented by red tights and a perfectly coiffed French twist with chopsticks. She danced with Islam Baimuradov, the Count Dorant who was dressed more like a 90’s rock band leader, head in an orange wool ski cap and casual pants and t-shirt.

Ample use of lighting between four black panels upstage provided four well-lit “doorways” that the dancers used, in addition to the wings, for entrances and exits. The beginning of the ballet showed Obratsova, the French maid, simply walking across a smoke-filled stage, as if in a night club. The orchestra members hooted and hollered as she waved her fluffy feather in their direction, sighed, and continued offstage. Simple, but oh so effective.

Although the intrigues were difficult to follow without reference to the program, the general idea of pairs coupling off, jealousies, and love affairs was clear. Dmitrievski used the theme of Moliere almost, one could say, as a stepping stone to exhibit his production talents. It would not be surprising to find this ballet coming from Michael Smuin, as both choreographers have an innate sense for theatricality and drama. Dmitrievski’s choreography is modern in nature, punctuated only rarely by classical ballet steps or positions. Plenty of swivels done with hips and arms fill the music, as does ample use of on-the-floor activity. Men run and slide on their chests downstage, or are dragged offstage in the same manner. Women are carted from wing to wing on skateboards, their arms moving fluidly during the flight. Other highlights included: an acrobatic “fight” between the male students; a pas de trois between three men in which Lubokhin decided to dance like a swan; a separate moment in which, seeing the Marquise (Kondaurova), he extends his arm to and from his heart in time with the drum beat in a cartoon moment, and Kondaurova’s own exasperation at Baimuradov’s pursuit of her. Dmitrievski’s dancing language is unique, clever and never dull. This ballet is a delightful evening opener and one I hope to see on the Mariinsky stage again more than once.

It is impossible to laud one of this evening’s ballets at the expense of the others, as each was uniquely entertaining. The second work, Alexei Miroshnichenko’s “Du Cote du Chez Swan” was thought-provoking and avant-garde in both theme and meaning. As Miroshnichenko explained to me in a February interview, the ballet uses word play and the theme of Proust’s novel as a launching point. He explained that composer Leonid Desyatnikov took Proust’s title, “Du Cote du Chez Swann” and Saint-Saens’ theme of “The Dying Swan” to create his own musical score, in which Saint Saens’ theme is clearly audible, but other musical variations are added around it. The word play centers on the exclusion of the additional ‘n’ in the title: not the side of Swann the character in the novel, but of a swan, the bird that, in this case, has just died. As Miroshnichenko pointed out in the program notes as well, “The Dying Swan” points to the death of the swan, but we are not privy to its life. Desyatnikov wanted to look inside and see what happened beforehand. Miroshnichenko thus decided to begin the ballet at the swan’s death, and rewind in time, reflecting Proust’s own unique space/time continuum in which there are no beginnings and endings, everything simply exists.

For his ballet Miroshnichenko clothed the dancers in simple black leotards and tights, attaching luggage tags to their left ankles. The backdrop was an over-large serial number, black stripes and numbers on a white background, similar to the ankle tags. Olesya Novikova and Alexander Sergeev danced the avian creatures, fulfilling Miroshnichenko’s choreographic and musical challenges with dexterity. Novikova sported a chin-length black wig which only amplified her long neck and deliciously slim limbs, thus adding additional shock effect in this most classical of ballet houses. Sergeev’s hair was slicked into a beak-like point on his forehead, and he partnered Novikova with equal attentiveness and agility. When the score returned periodically to Saint-Saens’ theme, Novikova would suddenly assume swan-like poses and steps, supremely classical in nature. Moments later, as the score began is theme, she and Sergeev would walk as young birds do, with wide-eyed wonder, their positions becoming more grotesque with bent elbows, turned-in feet and chins jutting out. During the quicker partnering sections there was a similarity to Forsythean combinations, but Miroshnichenko’s talents for a unique creation are nonetheless undisputable. The ballet is an essay in contrast – classical and modern, refined and grotesque, graceful and clumsy, black and white, life and death, and as such provides plenty of room for contemplation, even long after the curtain has closed.

The final ballet of the evening, Noah Gelber’s interpretation of Nikolai Gogol’s Petersburgian “The Overcoat” was a much awaited, and much publicized ballet. Having followed the work’s creation from the start (see my interview with Gelber in our March issue of Ballet-Dance Magazine online), the outcome was not a surprise, but the lighting design and sets were not seen until the week of the premiere, and they added significantly to the overall production which is very much a dramatic representation of the famous novel.

Gelber’s choreography is a complex mix of modern movements, influenced by his many years in the creative studios of the Frankfurt Ballet where his choreographic juices were first given reign to run free at great length. For the ballet, Gelber followed Gogol’s storyline closely, using various step-themes for each of his characters. Akaki, the story’s protagonist performed by Andrei Ivanov, dances with endless ticks, scratches and twitches until he decides to follow the tailor’s suggestion to actually purchase a new overcoat. At that point he dances fluidly, excitedly awaiting his new garment. Ivanov’s built-in classical technique offered a strong basis on which to create the character and the outcome was successful: one believed in the poor man’s attachment to his decaying piece of coat, and Ivanov’s capacity for expressive acting came through in this role.

The wardrobe attendant, danced by Yana Selina, was given mostly circular step combinations; the tailor, expertly dance-acted by Islam Baimuradov, sewed his way through thin air in a series of zig-zag, crossed steps, reminiscent of the character’s profession as well as his inebriated state. As the deliverer of the military letter, Grigori Popov performed a virtuosic variation that Ivanov then mimicked while reading the letter. The bearer of the invitation to the ball, Anton Pimenov, danced a quick variation with surprise jumps and temps de fleches. Fedor Murashov and Alexei Nedvega were the other two bureaucrats, while Soslan Kulaev and Maxim Chashegorov danced double duty as the two thieves and the invisible partners for Selina during Akaki’s dream sequence.
Maxim Krebtov was a stately Police Commissioner, demonstrating his bureaucratic, cold-hearted power in a complex arm gesture language that got the refusal across.

Costumes for all were created in adherence to historical Russian fashions at the time of the novel: overcoats, top hats, vests and brocade jackets with tails lent an interesting level of authenticity to the production that contrasted nicely to the modern choreography.

For the ballet, pieces from old Shostakovich scores were obtained with permission from the Shostakovich Foundation, and the Mariinsky Orchestra played them under Valeri Obsyanikov’s undyingly attentive baton.

The only disappointment in this premiere was the failure at two points of the curtain managers to adhere to plans. Before the Epilogue, Akaki dies, and what must be the world’s largest overcoat appears onstage. Akaki walks onto it, and then through the torn fabric in the back of the coat, as it continues to raise. Unfortunately the torn fabric was invisible due to darkness, and the full height of the coat was obstructed by an early curtain. At one other scene change the curtain was lowered prematurely while Akaki was still dancing. Given limited stage rehearsal time prior to the premiere, these issues are explainable and can easily be smoothed out in future performances.

It will be interesting to see what Petersburg critics and balletomanes think of these three new ballets. To Western eyes at least, they were spectacular proof that creativity can thrive within the boundaries of the world’s most classical ballet theatre. Repeat performances have been promised for this summer’s White Nights Festival. Hopefully then more spectators will be able to partake of this dance bounty, and decide for themselves.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:34 am ]
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Following (and retroactively) is my Sleeping Beauty review. While Cojocaru was light and warm as Aurora, and while I had heard much ado about this ballerina, I was disappointed in her feet, which interrupted the line of the leg, and for me, diminish the level of professionalism of an international star. Visitors from other forums may disagree with me, but these were my impressions.


Sixth International Mariinsky Festival
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
“Sleeping Beauty”
March 19, 2006 – by Catherine Pawlick

On the fourth evening of the Sixth International Maryinsky Festival, the much discussed Kirov reconstruction of “Sleeping Beauty” greeted the audience along with guest artist Alina Cojocaru from the Royal Ballet. Brightly colored costumes and ‘authentic’ choreography from the original 1890 production kicked off the more than four hour marathon that the full house sat through patiently, no doubt many of them curious to experience this Royal Aurora.

Cojocaru has also been much discussed in recent years. She joined the Royal Ballet School in 1997 on a Prix de Lausanne scholarship, returned to Kiev to complete the last year of her training and then joined the Royal Ballet in 1999 where, after just one season, she was promoted to First Soloist, and two years later to Principal. She is blessed with an extremely tiny, compact frame and doll-like face, which fit well in the characterization of Aurora. However, her feet are surprisingly unimpressive, at times even distracting from her lines. It is clear that Cojocaru’s success is based on her expressiveness and light port de bras. In this performance, as Aurora, she was the ever-gracious, young beauty coming of age and managed the famous sequence of attitude balances quite well. Her enveloppes a la seconde displayed flexibility and more elegantly pointed feet, leading one to believe that her shoes --overly soft, wide and boxy, allowing her to sink into the floor during adagio sequences – were to blame. But a professional dancer of this caliber is already well aware of such nuances. My attentions were drawn elsewhere.

Unfortunately, despite its authenticity, the choreography in this production is much diluted from the well-loved Sergeev version. Despite this fact, moments of glory appeared here and there. The most impressive of them was Daria Pavlenko in a long awaited return to the stage. (She was billed to dance in ‘The Nutcracker’ in early March, but I have yet to see proof that she in fact danced that morning). After at least a five month absence from the St. Petersburg stage, she danced and mimed the role of the Lilac Fairy, emitting benevolent warmth to the very reaches of the house. Here one wished for a short moment that the Sergeev version could have reproduced itself, simply so as to indulge in Pavlenko performing that version of the Lilac Fairy variation. The First Act variation in the reconstruction gives her a series of pique attitudes to perform, and that is about the extent of her solo dancing. The rest is mime, but it almost didn’t matter, she was so welcoming and so beautiful, truly a rare jewel that we see much too infrequently.

If the Lilac Fairy suffers from lack of movement in this production, Prince Desire is hardly worse off. Only his variation in the last Act gives him a chance to move, and with Andrian Fadeev in the role, one is always left wanting more. Fadeev was an elegant Desire, noble in gesture, reliable as always in his partnering, with accolade-worthy split second timing. His double cabrioles in the above mentioned variation were clean and high. Although somewhat regularly billed, as with Pavlenko, it is a pity he doesn’t dance even more frequently, as this minimal glimpse of his talents was not enough to quench one's thirst.

Honorable mention goes to each of the fairies in the First Act (Nadezhda Gonchar, Yana Selina, Yulia Kasenkova and Ekaterina Petina), although it was Olesya Novikova’s bright dancing in the temps de fleche solo (she was the third fairy) who drew one’s attention for her exactitude, clarity, and ravishing long lines.

The Third Act’s Jewels pas de quatre was also praiseworthy, with razor sharp Viktoria Tereshkina leading the group as the Diamond fairy. She attacked the variation with power and precision, a Balanchine ballerina in her abandon, but Petersburgian in style. She was flanked by Yana Serebriakova as the Sapphire Fairy, Ekaterina Osmolkina as Gold (the program incorrectly listed Yulia Kasenkova as Gold) and Ksenia Dubrovina as Silver, all of which danced faultlessly.

Yana Selina and Anton Lukovkin danced the White Cat and Puss in Boots with adorable charm, both equally relishing the playfulness of their feline roles.

Ksenia Ostreikovskaya danced Princess Florine to Maxim Eremeev’s Bluebird. Having not seen Eremeev in this role previously, I was impressed with his ballon in the faille assemble manege. With some facial expression added to the mix his would be an incomparable Bluebird. Ostreikovskaya, as always, danced with a purity of style and line, a refinement that continues to set her apart.

One interesting inclusion in the restored version of this ballet is the short pas de deux between Cinderella and Prince Fortune. Although these characters still enter during the wedding scene in the Sergeev version, they do not dance. Here they dance, or rather, promenade several times around the stage in a mazurka of sorts, without lifts or complex choreography of any nature. After seeing it once, one realizes why this section was removed from the Sergeev version, but it nonetheless fills in a logical gap in the libretto and is so brief, it does not detract from the rest of the dancing.

To her credit in the final Act, and despite the foot issue, Cojocaru’s faultlessly performed variation drew incessant applause from the audience. It became apparent that either she anticipated the conductor’s timing, or Mr. Gruzin, the conductor for the evening, had an innate sense for her own musicality. In either case the results impressed, and as the curtain came to a close, the panorama of cherubs in the sky with Aurora and Desire happily united below them led one to believe that fairy tales do come true.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:53 am ]
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As an update on the Festival plans, four more nights remain. Tonight will be the Benefit Performance of Igor Zelensky, in which he will dance Diamonds with Pavlenko; Friday night will be Ruzimatov's Benefit.

On Saturday Lopatkina will dance her signature Swan Lake with Jose Martinez, and Sunday is the close of the Festival with the International Stars Gala concert, featuring Lucia Lacarra with Cyril Pierre in the White Act (I will provide a full report for all those who know her from SFB days!), the return of Cojocaru with Kobberg in the pas de deux from Manon, and other guest artists.

I will provide reviews of each performance, so stay tuned! ;-)

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