CriticalDance Forum

14th International "Stars of the White Nights" Fes
Page 4 of 5

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Jul 04, 2006 10:04 am ]
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Hi Catherine,

Something just occured to me.

Wouldn't the significant inclusion of Vladimir Ponomarev, the resident Mariinsky character actor and perhaps one the best pantomimist-non-verbal actors around, have been/be a very good idea?

Would you or anyone care to comment on this and on what you think about Vladimir Ponomarov in general?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:38 pm ]
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Vladimir Ponomarev and Elena Bazhenova danced the parents of Sofia and Alexander in both premieres. I wasn't able to comment on that in my review, as you can see, there is much information to cover. They are the resident ..what would you call them? pantomime dancers? They play the King/Queen in Beauty, Lord/Lady Capulet, and similar roles 99percent of the time.

To your question, I think they're fantastic in those roles and it is a shame that the company doesn't quite yet have many other options or replacements, should, for some reason, one of them not be able to dance/act/mime in a given production. In fact that last Romeo i reviewed was the first time I didnt see Ponamarev as a head of one of the warring families and his absence was felt. (The female roles are also filled by one or two other dancers intermittently, so that seems less of a problem). Ponomarev is one of the company's gems.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:39 pm ]
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‘Young Girl and the Hooligan’, ‘The Bedbug’, ‘Leningrad Symphony’
In Honor of Shostakovich’s 100th Birthday
White Nights Festival
Kirov Ballet
3 July 2006

St. Petersburg, Russia -- By Catherine Pawlick

Alongside the Mariinsky Opera’s “All Shostakovich Symphonies” which are being played throughout the course of this year’s White Night’s Festival, July 3 treated St. Petersburg audiences to an evening of all-Shostakovich ballets in honor of the year that marks the 100th birthday of the great composer.

The evening began with “The Young Girl and the Hooligan”, the enchanting ballet first performed this season just one month ago with the same cast. One could not imagine a more captivating ballet, for it rivets one from the first note until the final curtain. The characters are all well-defined both dramatically and choreographically; the score is sublime and here some of the world’s best dancers combine to create this tiny gem of a ballet so rarely performed.

The curtain opens to school girls dressed in white, with white bows in their braids, “walking” in place to school. Kerchiefed girls also prance by before we see the leading characters. The look is 1940-ish, with the men sporting worksuits with slouch-hats of the beret type, the white skirts knee length and crinolined. The genius of Boyarsky’s work is that no piece seems out of place or superfluous and small details add to the conglomerate.

In the role of the Girl, Daria Sukhoroukova once again epitomized controlled grace and innocent beauty. Her split jetes, led by a deliciously curved front foot, soared soundlessly across the stage, her thin frame almost sylphlike in its movements. Ilya Kuznetsov’s hard-edged, rough and tumble, unrefined street ways as the Hooligan formed a stark contrast to Sukhoroukova’s character from the start. His first solo, performed to an imposing musical section, complete with barrel turns and a cartwheel, seemed as if he was addressing the audience directly, “see what I can do? I’m a tough guy, and you’re not worth it.” When side by side on stage, the distinction between the two of them became even more emphatic. Her pretty visage and gentle movements suggested an untarnished elegance, whereas his attempts to frighten her only underlined the difference in their two worlds. In the third section pas de deux, his endeavors to express feeling and treat her gently finally succeed, but not before he goes overboard. He steals a kiss, is slapped in return, throws her to the ground, and comes crawling back with apologies. He finally tears open his shirt unprompted in a last ditch effort to win her back.

As the young God, Sergei Popov strode onstage suaver than the suavest, the picture of untouchable, chiseled male glamour in his black suit and white silk scarf. From her first slink onstage, Tatiana Tkachenko’s sultry cabaret look was 100% pure sex kitten. Their abusive interlude in the cabaret may be a slight foreshadowing of what is to come in the libretto: the young God tosses her to the floor, more concerned with his looks than how he treats women; but the Hooligan falls into the same pattern with his own girl. Given the pattern, it might be a commentary on male-female relationships at the end of the 1950s (this ballet was made in 1962).

Sukhoroukkova and Kuznetsov’s dance of union, the moment at which he finally expresses himself and wins her love, is a gratifying display of both choreography and drama, but almost too late. There is an element of the seventh sense connection here, for following the scene in which he is attacked, she crosses upstage behind him, searching, as if she suspects something is wrong. Downstage, he reaches in any direction, hoping for her, and yet they are only several meters apart. The tragic finale was as poignant as ever: Kuznetsov wins the kiss he has been wanting for the ballet’s entirety just moments before falling dead; but the look of sheer joy on his face in those fleeting seconds suggest that it was all worth it for him, despite the outcome.

The second ballet of the evening was an even more rarely performed satiric piece by the famed Leonid Jacobsen, entitled Klop in Russian, which translates to “bedbug”. The work depicts Russian poet Mayakovsky as he creates, controls and directs the characters within his poetry. Buffoonism and irony are plentiful here, as Andrei Ivanov (Presipkin) dances the role of a young Jewish sailor who dumps a young girl named Zoya (Ksenia Dubrovina) for a richer young fiancée, Elzevira Rennessaince (Yana Selina). Their wedding is a chaotic farce in which the couple is encouraged to constantly kiss, Russian-style. A typical wedding brawl ensues, and the relatives intervene even into the night of conjugal bliss. A giant red silk bed is rolled onstage and both Selina and Ivanov chase each other around it, before the entire cast peers in on them from behind the headboard.

Ivanov once again proved his inborn acting talents in this test of drama. Nikolai Naumov, as Mayakovsky, stood debonnaire and pensive, as he froze, separated, and danced with various characters before reanimating them from afar. Dubrovina excelled as Zoya, her doll-like stiffness adding an appropriate touch to her character.

For “Klop”, no ballet technique is allowed. Legs are turned in and bent, feet, if pointed, are sickled, and facial expressions are exaggerated in the onstage display. Movement is often done with chins jutting forward and rear ends jutting back, in a sort of squatting position. This ballet found deep audience appreciation during the curtain calls. It’s a tiny Mariinsky gem that could be shown more often.

The final ballet of the evening featured both Uliana Lopatkina’s and Igor Kolb’s debuts in “Leningrad Symphony”. Lopatkina’s Girl was filled with the perfect balance of sweetness and pride as she first joined Kolb’s Youth as one of many couples basking in the glow of togetherness. Her initial jumps were filled with lightness, echoing the tone of the ballet’s hope-filled beginning. But the look of anticipation and joys left her eyes as soon as the music changed to presage the onset of war. Her expressive solo following the entrance of the Germans revealed true anguish and frustration as she raced through various turns before collapsing onto the floor.

Kolb too presented the forward-looking Soviet Youth before the onset of war. He then flew across the stage in a series of high, powerful jumps, a bold representative of Soviet determination before defeating the last German standing. Lopatkina’s outstretched hands at the final curtain fully captured the strife of the Russian people and their despair at the great losses in the second World War, despite the final victory.

Pavel Bubelnikov conducted the first and last pieces dramatically and at times thunderously; Andrei Polyanichko conducted “Klop”.

Author:  jpc [ Wed Jul 05, 2006 11:28 am ]
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Catherine Pawlick wrote:
What “Golden Age”’s fate will be as far as the company repertoire is concerned will no doubt be determined shortly. In the meantime, the Mariinsky Theatre’s first, present day, full-length pantomime-drama “ballet” to Shostakovich’s classical score deserves at least one viewing.


I read for a second time your Golden Age review/essay, and find it very impressive for the depth of its criticisms and the care you invested in describing the details of the work. I really appreciate your work.

Your description of the Golden Age seems fascinating; yet the final judgement appears to be that this is not a ballet--because the principal means of expression is not classical dance, but pantomime, or acting without words.

So, even though it sounds fascinating, the conclusion seems to veer towards pessimism with respect to the work as a new offering of the Mariinsky Theatre.

The question I'm grappling with is: 'Does a ballet as a condition of its being a ballet have to feature technical virtuosity of the danse d'ecole to qualify as a ballet?'

When does walking stop being mime and become dance?

I'm curious about one 'point': Does Gelber have the female principals on pointe?

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:05 pm ]
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Catherine, I have not had a chance to read your most recent review. I will do so as soon as possible. jpc, I also wish to give your very interesting and relevant comments about "The Golden Age" a further consideration.

Catherine, in response to ...."Interested to hear what you think." regarding the discussion about the Mariinsky, I don't think that there is much that I can add at this time.

I could maybe convey some feelings about what I love and would hope for.

It is the ethereal perhaps 'Angel-like' essence of performances by such groups as the Mariinsky that I find so overwhelmingly enchanting----very dependent on the wonderful abilities of the many artists as well as the concept of the performances.

I tend to love a larger category of dance, that I refer to as "Lyrical Dance". For the moment 'classical ballet' is perhaps the most beautiful form of this art in appearance. It is this ethereal-lyrical quality of dance that I hope companies like the Mariinsky will keep alive and nurture.

It is also preserving these beautiful classics totally in state and/or perhaps refining and re-shaping them, while keeping their beautiful 'timeless' essence that I would wish for. Brand new directions can be pursued and developed, but I hope that this will be continued as well.

I again wish the Mariinsky and other similar performing groups much future success and look forward to much happiness and a feeling of enrichment from experiencing their wonderful artistry.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:10 am ]
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Ratmansky’s ‘Cinderella’
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
5 July 2006

St. Petersburg, Russia -- by Catherine Pawlick

People waited at least six months for this. Alexei Ratmansky’s “Cinderella”, the only work in the Kirov repertoire by the artistic director of the Kirov’s competing company, the Bolshoi, returned to the stage earlier this week after a long absence. This “Cinderella” is a spectacular, concise ballet, full of contemporary movement that aptly captures the magic and hope of the well-known fairytale. In short, it is genius. And, danced by Irina Golub and Igor Kolb, it made for an entrancing evening.

This version of “Cinderella” is far from the classical versions danced by the Royal Ballet, or any other leading classical ballet company. Ratmansky’s choreography is characterized by fresh modernity (the opening scene shows three male hairdressers in tight pants and short vests dancing around their seated clients), sleek pantomime (the dance instructors are paid for their time in clear and comical fashion), and innovative movement (the theme in Cinderella’s pas de deux is a backwards lift through double retire passé and ends in a plie ecarte devant, hardly feminine but certainly sweeping). The evening captivated the audience from start to finish.

Almost every element in Ratmansky’s production is unique. Instead of having four ballerinas depict the seasons, he uses four male bird-like characters, with faces painted to match their unitards – red, orange, green and blue. Cinderella’s lodgings are simply the empty stage encompassed by two sets of high iron scaffolding. A large iron circle symbolizes a clock, hung upstage, which turns horizontally to become a giant chandelier in the ballroom scene. And the ball itself is set in the 1920s: all the men wear tailed tuxedos, the women long dresses with gloves, and each has her own (often feathered) hat.

Costumes set the tone from the very start. Cinderella is in a high-waisted, knee-length dance dress, with a cropped long-sleeve sweater and matching slouchy legwarmers. Her stepsisters wear fluffy towels, and later gaudy mini-skirts with bright-colored tights. The short sister has a curly red wig, the tall sister a Betty Flintstone type ponytail, and the Stepmother a fluorescent orange bob.

It becomes challenging to describe Ratmansky’s choreography further, but he seems to mix mundane movements with explorations in balance and torque. He has Cinderella scrubbing the floor in normal, everyday gesture; likewise the Stepmother and her daughters constantly depict tantrums by stomping their feet. But the real dancing sections between the Prince and Cinderella are the core of his talent. Here one sees a mixture of Alonso King type movement, initiated from the center, and heavily based on the dancer’s points of balance. Port de bras is fluid--it follows and aids, rather than leading or decorating the movement.

Ratmansky’s trademark seem to be unexpected step combinations that do not necessarily always emphasize musical crescendos. He steps away from obvious choreographic tendencies and the results are refreshing. For example, most classical ballet viewers are used to seeing the fish dive on the crescendo, or the 32 fouettes in the most heated part of the score. Here, a simple jump or soutenue might replace that glorious lift, but the choreography doesn’t detract from the score. In fact, oddly, it highlights the musical peaks and valleys and allows the composer’s work its own equally significant place in the production.

For this performance, Irina Golub offered a fair representation of Cinderella, but character-wise this talented dancer can do better. Technically masterful, Golub’s emotions changed mercurially throughout the performance, lending an uneven tone to what should be a more constant characterization. One had the sense that she had watched and mimicked another dancer in the role, which at times worked in her favor. But due to the fluctuations in her character, it made for an irregular portrayal. For example, at the ball, she appeared ecstatic at having met her prince, but during their pas de deux she put her head in her hands in a move of disappointment, fear and sadness. Her Prince lifted her chin and the look on her face was not at first a merry one. One didn’t have the impression of a shy Cinderella, so the result was jagged – one moment she was happy, the next miserable. That same position of head hidden in hands happens several times in the ballet, making it a theme: the idea is that the heroine closes her eyes and opens them in the ballroom – she has been transported into her wildest dream. It would make sense then, during the grand pas de deux, to repeat the gesture of wonder and awe, rather than fear or misery. Likewise Golub’s collapse onto the stage after the ball was overacted; her body shook more than need be. These are small details that make a big difference and with a few slight changes, Golub’s Cinderella could be perfect.

Perfect, in fact, was her partner, Igor Kolb, as the Prince. Kolb’s gymnastic flexibility is evident in his every stance, from grand jetes that are lighter than soufflés, to a simple tendu that shows off his fine technique. Kolb also has an innate turning sense. He has perfected pirouettes in attitude down to a science. But more importantly was his friendly, demeanor. His was not the cold, unapproachable Prince. Indeed, Ratmansky’s character allows for an everyday guy looking for his dreamgirl. That the everyday guy is royalty with a fortune is simply superfluous detail (to everyone, that is, aside from the Stepfamily).

Deserving more than honorable mention are Islam Baimuradov and Ti En Ru as the dance instructors. Sleek, cool, and cutting-edge were their characters, and smoother yet the dance. Neither could be bothered with this task of teaching three ungraceful ladies, and their haughty, above board attitudes were nicely balanced with the skill in which they partnered each other.

Ekaterina Kondaurova debuted as Stepmother with a glamour that was perfectly disgusting for the role. In bright orange wig and matching boa, she weaseled her way through the ballroom scene like a snake after its pray, the Prince. Kondaurova aptly depicted the mother in competition with her own daughters, vain and self-absorbed.
As the shorter daughter, Elena Sheshina presented a comical, chubby Kubishka (Shorty) to Viktoria Tereshkina’s gangly, clumsy Xydishka (Twiggy). Such roles involve not only heavy acting but multiple attempts at awkward, off-balance dancing as part of their character portrayal. Both Tereshkina and Sheshina have mastered these.

Likewise, both Igor Petrov, as Cinderella’s alcohol-addicted father, and Elena Bazhenova as the baglady Fairy Godmother acted their roles with as much zealousness as could be. Petrov created a sorrowful character in the father who disappoints all expectations, and Bazhenova for her new-age, hip jumps and elderly hobble.

Among the four seasons, it was Sergei Popov as Winter who stood out for his grace and long lines, despite his less than flattering wig. Maxim Zuizin seemed to enjoy his dance sequences as Autumn, lending a happy lightness to his jump. The other seasons were danced by Anton Lukovkin (Spring) and Dmitrii Pikhachev (Summer).

Boris Gruzin conducted Prokofiev’s unforgettable score with feeling and intuition.

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:53 am ]
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Catherine, that's your second mention of the impossibly good-looking Sergei Popov in under a week!

I first spotted him in Baden Baden in the corps de ballet about 18 months ago and like everyone else was very struck by his looks, "Check out the Kirov's next Apollo", I commented to a friend. He laughed and replied he hoped his dancing could match his looks. Seriously though, I'm pleased to hear he is not just getting featured roles but impressing in them too and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in Lady and the Hooligan later this month. If his technique is up to it, he's going to make the handsomest of princes.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jul 11, 2006 11:00 am ]
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Popov will fare fine in the Hooligan as long as he doesn't actually play the Hooligan. I've seen Kuznetsov in the role twice, and I cannot imagine anyone doing it as well. He has that sluggish, big bad boy look and feel and is a consummate actor.

Popov tends to be more stately --hence Paris in R&J, and refined, posey, partnering sequences in other ballets. He is a "looker" but I'm not convinced, yet, about his long term prospects. Popov also has one (considerable) problem: his feet. His feet barely continue the straight line down from his leg -- they aren't flexible in the least. For a male, even of his height and good (facial) looks, that is a huge drawback in the art of ballet. I guarantee you'll love him in the Hooligan in the role he usually plays. He is also debuting alongside Daria Sukhoroukova's Juliet in R&J next week... I can't quite imagine him in that emotive of a role but we shall see.

Coming shortly, my much delayed review of the Fountain of Bachchisarai from last Friday.

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:21 am ]
Post subject:  The Lady and the Hooligan

I've seen Kuznetsov in the role twice, and I cannot imagine anyone doing it as well. He has that sluggish, big bad boy look and feel and is a consummate actor.

I saw Valery Panov, the role's creator, as the Hooligan back in the seventies and he'll be a tough act to follow; but I can't imagine a more suitable dancer than Kuznetsov as the Hooligan today, his outsize personality would seem just what the role needs. Unfortunately its now very unlikely we will get to see him in London as the second cast performance of the Triple Bill has know been cancelled (see my post on the 'Kirov in London' thread).

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:23 am ]
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Cassandra, you saw Panov?! I'm quite jealous, how exciting! I bow to you and would be very interested to hear how Kuznetsov compares to him.

Disturbing though, to hear about the cancellation. That makes me wonder what else might be cancelled... hmm...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:26 am ]
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Kirov Ballet - 'The Fountain of Bachchisarai'
by Catherine Pawlick

July 7, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

The eastern tale of unrequited love, female slavery, and Tatar barbarism highlighted in Alexander Pushkin’s poem, the “Fountain of Bachchisarai,” is unique material that finds relevance even in modern times. The ballet by the same name, set to music by Boris Asafiev and with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov, is the first Soviet ballet based on a Pushkin poem, but one of many productions in the USSR of the 1930’s based on great writers of the epoch, such as Balzac and Shakespeare. (Theatrical productions based on works by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Flaubert were also common in those years).

While presented as a ballet on the Mariinsky stage, the program notes define the “Fountain of Bachchisarai” as a choreographic drama, which, along with works such as Vainonen’s “The Flames of Paris”, or Zakharov’s “Wasted Illusions” defined the boundaries of a new genre at the height of the Soviet empire. Namely, a genre based on a lyrical-heroic theme, with a strong personality conflict in the middle of the libretto and priority given to female dancing. “Fountain of Bachchisarai” retains all of these elements while calling forth simultaneously the theme of the unattainable, and the inevitability of Fate. Placed as it is w/in the context of Soviet history, it also underlines the strong place of women in Soviet society, given the focus on the harem, the prominence of female dancing interludes (although arguably most ballets fall into this category) and in particular the strong personality of the second heroine, Zarema.

“Fountain” is at core a tragedy, for the barbarian’s attempts to conquer a peaceful people and take what is not rightfully his result in the loss of both the new acquisitions and the old ones. He is left without the one thing he wanted most: the love of the fair captive, Maria. He also can no longer return to his wife, Zarema, who has been killed by his own men and without any protests on his own part, as punishment for murdering Maria.

(For synopsis of the libretto, please refer to a prior review: ... 41031.html)

In this performance, Maxim Chashegorov achieved new heights in both dramatic delivery and technical aptitude as Vatslav, Maria’s fiance. Unfortunately his dancing (both solo and with Maria) is relegated only to the first act, but nonetheless it was a treat to watch. Chashegorov’s grand allegro has gained in precision, and now also boasts a light, soaring quality. He has the ability to take off with little apparent effort, float in the air and land soundlessly. He has also acquired the endearing Russian habit of bravura expressions which only emphasize his talents.

His Maria, danced by Veronika Ivanova, hailed back to the Kirov of yesteryear. While not versed in the 200 degree extensions that are de rigeur now throughout the company, Ivanova had a pleasantly restrained arabesque that was never higher or lower than 90 degrees. Her strict Vaganova style port de bras was accurate without being overdone or messy, and compensated for a slightly stiff back. It should be noted here that the couple’s choreography is strictly classical and hints at parts of the classical version of “Cinderella”. There are several significant overhead lifts and plenty of sweeping sequences in their garden love pas de deux.
Ivanova presented a refined Maria, polite in demeanour and cool in expression that aptly fit the role of Princess, and any shortcomings were easily overlooked for her refreshingly traditional representation of the character.

As Zarema, the wife of Kahn Girei, Tatiana Tkachenko’s enraged, jealous persona was a frightening departure from her more usual pleasant characters, but represented the facets of strength within her own personality. As Zarema she offered a genuine sense of angst and frustration at the unfortunate turn of events. Her dance of desperation in front of the Kahn was an essay in emotional expression through movement: every arm gesture depicted her resolution for revenge, and strong footwork supported her character’s unchallenged personality.

The ballet’s third act has an expansive sequence in which the Tatar male corps de ballet dances together, where costumes and choreography combine to reveal the raw barbarism of a predatory tribe intent on conquest at any price. The Kirov corps here seemed to enjoy themselves immensely and did a fine job transmitting the idea of the power of the group.

The intriguing score was conducted by Boris Gruzin.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Jul 20, 2006 1:27 pm ]
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‘Chopiniana’, ‘Scheherezade’, ‘Firebird’
Kirov Ballet
17 July 2006
Mariinsky Theatre

St. Petersburg, Russia --By Catherine Pawlick

Few ballerinas can claim a wide range of dramatic ability, a fact that lends credence to the system of type casting. Especially in Soviet times, dancers were often pegged as danseur noble, soubrette, lyrical ballerina, or otherwise, quite early on in their careers, and often unable to extract themselves from these narrow slots, despite personal preferences or hidden talents. Historically, ballerinas also tend towards certain strengths: the classical technician may have trouble in dramatic roles such as Juliet or Giselle; the long-legged, adagio dancer who excels as Odette may have trouble as Odile; and the spicy, energetic, petit allegro ballerina who shines as Kitri may not be able to pull off more somber roles credibly.

It was with great fascination, then, that I watched yet another aspect of Daria Pavlenko’s persona reveal itself in her debut as Zobeide in “Scheherezade” this month. With successful portrayals of Odette/Odile and Giselle alongside a host of other roles already in tow, Pavlenko proved that she can dance the sultry sex symbol just as convincingly as the innocent, pure swan, or peasant girl.

As Zobeide, we saw a side of Pavlenko that isn’t usually revealed onstage. Here was a woman in every sense of the word emitting a deep-seated self-confidence in her feminine charm. Her lush movements attracted the Slave just as her eyes teased, tempting him with her exotic wiles. The image was one of a high-maintenance queen, dripping in jewels and coy to the advances of her lover, whose attentions she already knew were ensured. From the moment that the Shaxriar, played nobly by Soslan Kulaiev, announced his departure, Pavlenko’s Zobeide was thinking fast. Her plan of a secret tryst with the Slave was evident in her eyes as she used the hand mirror as a distraction, the arrangement brewing in her head as she admired her own beauty. Likewise, her dance with Kolb was marked with a sly allure, an uncharacteristic spark. As his partner in crime she was persuasive. Even Pavlenko’s final moments on stage were well portrayed. Her quickly changing emotions – immediate rage over the death of the Slave and, seconds later, desperation as she begged the Shaxriar to spare her – were never less than compelling.

Igor Petrov, as the Eunuch, mimed a hilariously weak attendant to the harem, unable to resist the temptation of jewels that surround him at every turn. Kulaiev as Shaxriar was a cold and unforgiving warrior, stern in both gesture and stance, who lent an element of the serious to this stormy tale.

As the Slave, Kolb was every bit the attentive, entranced lover. From his initial, panther-like entrance, his extreme flexibility challenged even Farukh Ruzimatov’s signature stamp on the role. He was submissive to Pavlenko’s Zobeide, but never lost an opportunity to display his own desire. Their pas de deux was marked by a fiery heat that keeps “Scheherezade” as fresh and applicable in 2006 as it was when Rimsky Korsakov first wrote the score in 1888. His musical expressions of the secrets of the Far East, and of alternatively calm and stormy romantic passions found vehicles in the Pavlenko-Kolb partnership. Future performances by this pair may not perfect the already perfected, but will certainly serve to keep the ballet as bright and energetic as it was this evening. Part magnetism, part chemistry, and simply part talent, this performance was nothing short of star quality.

Two other programs flanked “Scheherezade”. “Chopiniana” opened the evening, with Evgeny Ivanchenko’s Youth dancing with Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, Daria Vasnetsova, and Yana Selina.

Ivanchenko’s first cabriole landings tended on the stiff side, but then became more fluid as he moved through his variation. Ivanchenko has, through repeat performances, perfected the partnering aspects of this role and Ostreikovskaya was the lucky recipient of his attentiveness this time. Her split jete variation showed an endless stamina and she appeared weightless in the lifts. This reviewer isn’t aware if she has danced “Giselle” at any point in her career, but if not, this pas de deux suggested that she would be an excellent candidate for the role.

In the Prelude, Daria Vasnetsova’s rendition was smooth legato coupled with a fresh facial expression. Hers was not the blank stare often found in the doll-like, more impersonal interpretations for this variation, but nonetheless still not quite up to the mark that Pavlenko left on the role in her 2003 USA tour. (Recent depictions of this variation, this performance included, reflect the choreographic alteration from a coup de pied before the sauté assemble in fifth position to a simple step, step, which allows the back leg to drag. One wonders why the altered movement, as it alters the line of the dance, as well as the line itself.)

Yana Selina sparkled in the Eleventh waltz, with flirtatious eyes (appropriate, or otherwise) reminiscent of her White Cat in “The Sleeping Beauty”.

The close of the “Les Saisons Russes” program featured Maya Dumchenko alongside Sergei Popov in Fokine’s “The Firebird.” Dumchenko’s light, staccato jumps, quick smile and flighty arms depicted the energetic, magical bird so well so as to suggest this is one of Dumchenko’s better roles. Her port de bras offered plenty of imagery for a bird in flight, and her legwork was pristine as usual. Popov was a regal prince as Ivan Tsarevich, pleased at his initial success at capturing the bird, and putting special emphasis on the frozen figures in the stone wall. As the beautiful Tsarevna, Viktoria Kutepova epitomized the role of the ideal Russian fiancée, her elegant face, light step and beautiful smile creating plenty of reasons for the Tsarevich to desire her.

Both “Chopiniana” and “Firebird” were expertly danced, but the highlight of the evening without contest was the opportunity to watch a young ballerina hone her art in “Scheherezade”. From Pavlenko, I am sure there are only more treasures in store for us. One hopes she will have many more opportunities to display them for the world stage.

Boris Gruzin conducted the evening.

Author:  coda [ Thu Jul 20, 2006 5:31 pm ]
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Thank you, Catherine Pawlick, for your always generous reviews.
I am so glad to hear that Pavlenko has appeared in a new role, which must suit her very well. I can vividly see her in this ballet.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Jul 22, 2006 4:13 am ]
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Yes, Pavlenko's talents really are 360 degrees, and her well is far from dry.


A bit of a delay in getting this out, but here it is...

‘Romeo and Juliet’
Kirov Ballet
20 July 2006
Mariinsky Theatre

St. Petersburg, Russia --By Catherine Pawlick

In the second debut this week (the first being Daria Pavlenko’s Zobeide in “Scheherezade” see review (URL here)), Daria Sukhoroukova and Sergei Popov joined forces to debut in the leading roles of Leonid Lavrovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” on Thursday night. The sense of expressive, clean emotion that both dancers brought to their respective roles lent the performance a sense of freshness not always found in the classics, and made for an intriguing evening.

As Juliet, Sukhoroukova was a genuine, nervous young girl caught between her parents’ designs and her own heart. Graced with an impossibly lithe figure, the slimmest arms in the entire company, and incredibly flexible legs that end in beautifully arched feet, Sukhoroukova at first amply depicted the rapture and pure emotion of untarnished, new love, and just as clearly showed us the impulsive reactiveness of a young girl who has lost everything that gives her life meaning at the ballet’s end. Her partnership with Popov was appropriate in three respects. The two share the same generation of Vaganova training, his height complements hers, and they simultaneously dove into brand new roles, making for a fairly weighted level of dramatism.

In her initial dance with Paris at the ball, Sukhoroukova reacted politely and shyly to his courtship behavior. She was pleased to receive so much attention at once, but her heart wasn’t stolen until the moment her eyes locked with Romeo’s during her variation at the ball.

For his handsomer than thou princely looks – curly blonde locks, a long if lanky frame, and expressive face – Popov is an obvious choice for the role of Romeo. Surprisingly, despite his lack of articulation in the metatarsal, he managed to portray the hero in vibrant tones from his first entrance. If one awaited a duller Romeo, one would have been surprised, for Popov’s version was unexpectedly refined. His only challenge seemed to be in the strength required for some of the most challenging lifts in the Kirov’s repertoire. (It must be noted, Sukhoroukova is as weightless as a ballerina can be). Popov completed all of the lifts, but with time and strength the initially visible tremor will make way to absolutely seamless handling.

The lovers’ death scene was not drenched in a sense of panic, but rather rational thought. It was as if Sukhoroukova thought, “the poison is gone, what else can I use? Oh, here we go, a knife.” One hadn’t the sense of a teenager driven by hormones-in-overdrive so much as a young adult solving a problem with the only means she saw possible (albeit in 15th century terms). Popov’s approach to Romeo was similar. One had the sense he was in love, and did the best he could with the circumstances given him.

The casting for this performance offered more points of interest. Alongside Dmitrii Pikhachev’s expert Tybalt was Islam Baimuradov as Benvolio. One doesn’t often see two of the company’s dramatic authorities together in the same performance, so this was indeed a treat. Unfortunately, the restrictions of Benvolio in the libretto meant that Baimuradov could not quite dig his acting chops in as far as he himself has done in the role of Tybalt, but nonetheless his characterization made for a stronger trio on the Montague side. Pikhachev as Tybalt was his usual despicable self. As mentioned in other reviews, a Kirov performance of “Romeo” is worth seeing simply for Pikhachev (or Baimuradov) as Tybalt.

More than one eyebrow was raised when Yana Selina, as Juliet’s best friend, displayed 180 degree penchees en pointe in her pas de deux with Troubador Maxim Zuizin. Her back was upright throughout, and the rest of her dance controlled and graceful.

As Mercutio, one anticipated fireworks from Andrei Mercuriev but oddly his interpretation was watered-down. He was serious in his initial entrance, before persuading Romeo and Benvolio to join him at the ball, but jolly as could be during his variation at the ball. Mercutio’s death sequence is arguably one of the longest onstage death scenes in musical terms, and as such poses obvious challenges to the dancer. Up until that point, at least in this performance, one didn’t have the chance to form the requisite emotional attachment to the character which makes his death all the more impactful. On the one hand the effect disappointed, but on the other it made Popov’s Romeo appear even more vengeful in his own attack on Tybalt.

Also noteworthy was Tatiana Goriunova as Juliet’s Nurse and Sergei Salikov as Paris. As the Nurse, Goriunova painted a pleasing picture of the lovable, tumbly, maternal caretaker, filling her scenes with a sense of gaiety and humor. Salikov could not have been more narcissistic, or more offended when Juliet finally resisted his advances.

The performance -- replete with some difficulty coming from an odd-sounding horn instrument-- was conducted by Pavel Bubelnikov.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Jul 25, 2006 8:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Catherine. Thank you for your ongoing and excellent reviews. I am very glad to hear that Daria Pavlenko is doing so well. As I mentioned earlier I was amazed by her two Washington DC performances of Giselle. Audience response was extremely favorable as well.

Diana Vishneva by the way made huge waves in New York City with her performances. Audiences and dance commentators seem generally very impressed with her. Some are almost over the top in their praise of her. I saw her Giselle with Vladimir Malakhov and thought it was a masterpiece.

I would like to ask you about Zhanna Ayupova. I have a feeling that she may make some more waves herself. I certainly hope so. I only have been exposed to her through videos. I have about six with her in them and I am very moved. Two qualities that I have noticed so far are her ability to hold beautiful and gripping poses at the end of a series of moves and her beautiful physical and 'emotional' flow. Does she appear to be getting much attention at the moment?

The talent out there seems incredible right now. Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Alina Cojocaru, Daria Pavlenko, Zvetlana Zakharova, Zvetlana Lunkina, Maria Alexandrova, Natalia Osipova... I hope that Zhanna Ayupova can join the ranks again as soon as possible.

Do you think that the Mariinsky dancers will be slowing down in St. Petersburg for the next year or so? Do you see any chance of any Mariinksy festivals in the next year?

Best wishes, Buddy

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