CriticalDance Forum

Kirov 2006-2007 Season
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Author:  Buddy [ Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:14 am ]
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Hi Catherine,

I'm in a real hurry again, but will look at this very carefully when I get home.

Thank you so very much.

Author:  Cygne [ Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:43 am ]
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The first time I saw Zhanna was in the pas de trois in "Swan Lake," when
the Maryinsky toured the U.S. for the first time, (then) in 25 years.
It was 1986. Her cohorts in that pas de trois were Alexander Lunev and Irina Tchyistyakova. They were magnificent! Lunev was compared to
the late Yuri Soloviev, his technique, ballon, face and physique eerily resembled him. Zhanna also doubled as one of the Cygnets on that tour with Tatiana Ariskina, Natalya Pavlova and Tamara Mirzhoyan, three of the most technically perfect corps members the Maryinsky has ever had.

I agreee: Zhanna's also a great Raymonda, as well as Aurora. Among the Principals today, with Lopatkina and Pavlenko, Ayupova holds high the standard for the old guard that unfortunately is out of favor with the management and the Russian media. Zhanna was one of that lost generation of Vaganova Academy graduates of the mid-late 1980s: Larissa Lezhnina, Irina Schapsits and Elena Pankova. Each of them left the Kirov and found some success elsewhere. Elena landed for a while in Munich. Irina went freelance, and Lara has enjoyed the greatest success of the three, in Amsterdam as Principal Dancer with the Dutch National Ballet. Of that generation, only Zhanna and Yulia Makhalina remained in Petersburg. IMO Makhalina was inferior to Zhanna. Zhanna didn't have the support that Yulia received, but in spite of that, she still became a great ballerina. It turns out that Makhalina's advent was prophetic. What we see today in the Maryinsky is proof of that.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:36 am ]
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Buddy - you're more than welcome. I'm always happy to provide translations of Russian sites or programs if needed. Just let me know.

Cygne - thank you for the informative post! My experience and impressions are similar. I saw Ayupova first in 1991 in the Pas de Trois from Swan Lake, as an Odalisque in Corsaire, as the Doll in the Fairy Doll and I believe also in Paquita. She struck me even then when Makhalina was being featured in the "ballerina" roles and Ayupova given the secondary soloist ones (at least on that tour and on the tour the following year. These were the last years the Kirov performed in the War Memorial Opera House). Her delicate manner, doll-like face and -- as you said, old school style were at the time matched by her counterparts, Chistiakova, Lezhnina, and Pankova. Unfortunately (as you also note) in the current state of the company she is a lone star representing that genre, aside from perhaps Elvira Tarasova.

Pavlenko and Lopatkina still represent pure Russian technique, but I wouldn't consider them quite "old guard", simply due to the age difference. They don't embrace the extremes of the Somova Trend, but they are also a bit closer, in my opinion to what one might call a 21st century ballerina. They are maybe "old guard with a twist" in terms of the respect with which they dance the classics. There are also some modern roles, for example Forsythe, that both of them pull of exquisitely without approaching the Guillem-like gumby poses, but at the same time these are roles that I could not ever imagine Ayupova or Tarasova in, just due to a difference in their respective dancing styles. All three of them however -- Ayupova, Pavlenko and Lopatkina -- are of the highest caliber and among the best that the current roster has to offer in terms of bone fide Russian ballerinas. There are others on the roster whom I would not quite consider Russian standard, or even ballerinas, despite their titles.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:19 am ]
Post subject:  Dancers of the recent past

Chistiakova, Lezhnina, Pankova and Lunev! What memories their names conjure up, Gregory Chichirin was another wonderful classicist of that generation that I miss.

Nureyev chose Ayupova as his partner when he returned to dance at the Kirov and in an interview Makarova, after opining that the dancers she saw seemed to have ‘no inner life’, seemed to make an exception of Ayupova whom she liked ‘very much’.

Sorry that Irina Zhelonkina hasn’t got a mention, her performances are as rare as hens teeth, but if there were any justice in the world she would be the Kirov’s prima now: an astonishing artist.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:38 am ]
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Yes, Zhelonkina too! She is back now, has been back from maternity leave for what, a year now? but I haven't yet seen her on stage...

Cassandra, I think as pertains to the Kirov, your statement "if there were any justice.." could be finished in many ways!

Author:  Buddy [ Thu Jul 05, 2007 6:06 pm ]
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Hi Catherine,

I've been looking at the schedule for July and there are a few interesting things.

Svetlana Ivanova, who I've become a fan of since your very sympathetic interview and having viewed her twice since, is appearing both nights of the Balanchine program. Is this normal for her or is she getting a few more parts ?

Diana Vishneva will be performing in Romeo and Juliet and the Gala evening.

Yulia Bolshakova is back as Odette-Odile (Swan Lake) after being in the corps a lot.

Author:  Buddy [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 12:31 am ]
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Back to Zhanna Ayupova for a moment. If anyone wants to see what a lovely dancer she is I would suggest looking at "The Sacred Stage" documentary video about the Mariinsky Theater. She is shown in part of the Rose Adagio sequence (Sleeping Beauty) and in the extra feature part of the video she dances much of the dream sequence. We discussed this long ago, but if all of her dancing is as good as this, it would be great if they could somehow release a video of the entire performance. In any case it is to her credit that her performance is what they chose to include in this encompassing documentary and will be a future record of her wonderful talent.

Without getting into the six o'clock debate (high extensions) she does get up to about 160 at the end of the dream sequence. She goes on pointe and raises her leg sideways (second ?). She manages to maintain the verticality of the rest of her body, which one of our internet friends once told me is a very good quality.

Other times she barely lifts her legs at all and you may wonder if she can do it. After seeing the above you realize that she certainly can, but choses to do it very selectively. In her case it all seems to work very well along with her wonderful control and many other beautiful qualities.

Author:  sophia [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:11 am ]
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About the film you're talking about, The Sacred Stage, is it only available in Region 1?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:26 am ]
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Hi Sophia,

I'm not sure what you mean by Region 1. You can order "Sacred Stage" online via Amazon, probably from Amazon UK and/or Germany as well.

Buddy -- alas, if there was a complete recording of Ayupova in a principle role (full length ballet I mean), the world would be a better place! But there is not. Your comments pinpoint exactly why I revere her so: sense of style and discriminatory taste. She doesn't ahve to lift her leg past her ear to dance an effective role. In fact, I'd argue that her Aurora is more effective precisely because she does *not* do that...

I dont know that Sveta is being cast any differently, per se, but they are highlighting her name a bit more than usual, which is good. She'll be one of the girls in 4 T's tomorrow (I believe in the matinee). I'll keep you posted.

Author:  sophia [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:38 am ]
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Thank you Catherine.

Region 1 DVDs are supposed to be viewable only in US and Canada. But it's true they can also be played on compatible multi-region DVD players. If you live in Europe for instance, you have to check your own material before buying, that's all, it's just a little more complicated... :lol:

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 5:43 am ]
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Ah, okay :-). (kind of like PAL and VHS) I have a copy of Sacred Stage, and it works on my computer...but my computer tends to be able to handle both versions. I would think different versions are available for ordering, but would have to confirm that.

Below I'm posting an interview with Peter Quanz, the first Canadian to be invited by Gergiev to the Mariinsky. Tomorrow night his new ballet, "Suspended Aria" (Or "Aria Suspended") will premiere and I'll review that as well. He's a very talented artist with a clear sense of line and proportion, very strong in choreographing for the corps de ballet, and very fluid in the upper body movements he infuses his steps with.
MOre to come!

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 5:46 am ]
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Interview with Peter Quanz - A Canadian at the Mariinsky
By Catherine Pawlick

After viewing his local Shakespeare Theatre at the age of 9, Peter Quanz resolutely announced his intention to become a choreographer, and he hasn’t looked back since. In fact, recent successes have culminated in perhaps every choreographer’s dream: an invitation from Maestro Gergiev to create a ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre.

On July 7, Quanz’s “SuspenQd Aria” premiered during St. Petersburg’s “White Nights Festival”. I spoke to Quanz on the occasion of his premiere.

Q: What launched your choreographic career?

PQ: The great thing about the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School is that they always encouraged choreography. I created my first ballet at 16, and at graduation I received a grant which I used to go to Hamburg to see Neuemeier, Stuttgart, Dutch National and Netherlands Dance Theatre. All four companies have strong choreographic traditions, so I saw a wide repertoire very quickly. I returned to Stuttgart and created a ballet for the Noverre Evening -- the same evening that launched the careers of Forsythe, Kilijan and Neuemeier. The ballet was a success, and Reid (Andersen) created a position in the company for me, which was very generous of him and showed great foresight. I stayed there for nearly three years.

After that I worked in England with David Bintley and Monica Mason, and then created works in New York, including one for ABT called Kaleidescope in 2005. I created four big pieces in six months, in four different countries. One of them was a full-length ballet called "Charles Kreuzfahrt" set to an original Cole Porter Score for Germany’s Chemnitz Ballet company. Right now, I’m booked with various projects through 2010.

Q: How did the Mariinsky project come about?

PQ: Elena Tchernichova watched my work at ABT. She said she had not seen the company dance that well in some time, and if I could do that for ABT, they need me at the Mariinsky. She spoke with Maestro Gergiev, and he phoned me on March 20 of this year. It was a very fast project.

Q: Was the musical choice yours?

PQ: Maestro Gergiev asked that I use a Stravinsky score, and it had to be half an hour long for full orchestra. So I looked at the repertoire that fit those requirements. It was very important to me that the score be free of previous association with other ballets or with Balanchine. Stravinsky’s ‘Symphony in C’ caught my eye and I knew instantly that it was the one. It was the fastest musical decision I’ve ever made. Everything in this project has appeared at precisely the right time and has somehow worked. That doesn’t always happen.

Q: What in particular about the score intrigued you?

PQ: While Stravinsky was writing the first two movements of the score, his eldest daughter, wife, and mother died of tuberculosis. Three funerals within six months. He contracted tuberculosis himself, spent five months in a sanitarium and thought he would die. Writing this score helped him survive, it became his refuge. The first movement is heavy but has a light melody. The second movement he called an aria, and it’s so beautiful, so lyrical, it’s a song, his cry to escape his personal sorrows. So I took his word and used it as the title for the ballet.

Q: Can you explain the ballet’s characters?

PQ: Since Stravinsky had lost three relationships, I decided to use one ballerina and show three relationships with her, as though you’re looking at a sculpture from three different angles. We see the ballerina as a three-dimensional personality: a thinking, intelligent, emancipated woman. As Balanchine said, ‘Ballet is woman,’ and that’s especially true here in the Mariinsky.

Q: Tell us about your choreographic process.

PQ: Most of the choreography has been done here in the grand foyer of the Theatre itself, or up on the third floor by the studios. I work in the morning before going into the studio, because there’s nothing worse than facing 30 dancers with their hands on their hips and not having an idea. So I prepare very thoroughly. Of course these dancers expect to learn the entire coordination -- the arms, head and body -- at the same time. Whereas with American dancers I would first do the legs and then add the arms. You can work in pieces that way and therefore build a step more easily. Mariinsky dancers move with a more harmonic understanding, so it’s a tradeoff. If the actual creation is a little bit more distanced, the end result is more cohesive.

Q: How have the Mariinsky dancers assimilated your style?

PQ: All of the dancers here come from the same school, which can be a blessing. So when I ask for a glissade assemblé, I know they will all close their arms the same way. But if I don’t want their arms to close, it’s a revolution! So it has been a challenge to agree that the style should be different, to be comfortable within Stravinsky’s score and still have movement be possible at Gergiev’s tempo.

But now that we’ve come to the end of the project, the dancers do not want me to touch the same steps that they fought against just six weeks ago. Although it was difficult for them to understand my style at first, now they defend it tooth and nail.

Q: How has the rehearsal experience inside the Mariinsky been?

They have given me all the time I can handle. I’ve never rehearsed so much in my life. Sometimes I have ten hours a day with no break at all. I’ll be here at 7 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. I lost an inch and a half off my waist in a month. As Vasiev’s assistant says, I’ve been on ‘the Kirov Diet’.” I’ve learned a few Russian words but I haven’t had any time to see the city. And there hasn’t been time to learn much more than the phrase "eesho raz", asking the dancers to repeat something ‘one more time’.

Q: How would you categorize your style?

PQ: Many people say that my work reminds them of Balanchine. That’s an easy but simple comparison. I’m using great music, an abstract way of moving, and I’m very good with the corps de ballet, it’s one my strengths. Those are all things that I have in common with Balanchine. But my work is not as angular as Balanchine, there’s a lot more circular use of port de bras and the body, there’s a different musicality and fluidity in the movement.

[/b]Q: What’s the future of classical choreography. Is there one?[/b]

PQ: Today we talk so much about losing classical style, we need to stop trying to hold on to exactly what the language is, but understand that classicism is more importantly based on aesthetic principles, structure, and craftsmanship: how we pull design, music, and movement together. And within that you have your own individual language, but it’s the architecture that signifies classical work or the quality of the ballet. Balanchine died in 1983, and we haven’t had a major classical choreographer since then, but I don’t see that as a reason for the art form to stop producing. Now is the time to invest in technically strong dancers and create new works that expand their technique and personality, but with the point of view of 2007.

Q: How does it feel to work inside the Mariinsky?

I’m the first Canadian to ever make a new work for the Mariinsky Theatre, this is my first trip to Russia and it is a big responsibility, but it’s also a tremendous honor and one I will remember for the rest of my life. It has deeply influenced the artist I am and the artist that I will become. I’ve had a great time working here, it is very special to me.

Author:  Buddy [ Fri Jul 06, 2007 1:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

Catherine, thanks for the very interesting interview with Peter Quanz. He has some very interesting things to say. I am not familiar with his work but look forward to hearing your comments..

He uses the expression....."the ballerina....a thinking, intelligent, emancipated woman." I have read that this is a very important concept for him. Maybe, Catherine, you can explain how this shows through in his choreography.

Also of general interest he says,

"Of course these dancers [Kirov] expect to learn the entire coordination -the arms, head and body -- at the same time. Whereas with American dancers I would first do the legs and then add the arms. You can work in pieces that way and therefore build a step more easily. Mariinsky dancers move with a more harmonic understanding, so it’s a tradeoff. If the actual creation is a little bit more distanced, the end result is more cohesive."

I hope that Noah Gelber will surface again someday. I think that there is a lot of talent there as well.

Again regarding Zhanna Ayupova's Sleeping Beauty. Over a year ago I sent e-mails to the film maker and the distributer of the "Sacred Stage" video as well to someone at the Mariinsky and to you, Catherine, asking about the possiblility of releasing the full Sleeping Beauty performance. Only you responded, Catherine. Thank you. I am still hopeful that we might see it someday.

[spelling correction made later]

Author:  Buddy [ Sat Jul 07, 2007 12:57 am ]
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Just one more. I've been going back and forth between the Altynai Asylmuratova "Sleeping Beauty" video and the Zhanna Ayupova excerpts, in particular the dream sequence. Both dancers are absolutely beautiful in their own way. Altynai is perhaps distinct in her statuesque 'articulations' and Zhanna in her flowing manner and general loveliness. I ended by listening to the entr'acte violin music from the Altynai Asylmuratova video. Absolutely Wonderful !

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Jul 07, 2007 7:11 am ]
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Buddy, this afternoon I was talking with a Mariinsky dancer who is still with the company but was also around during Vinogradov's tenure. His opinion was that each ballerina "back then" had her own personality, her own style and way of dancing. The current crop, as he sees it, all dance well -- the technique is there -- but they're all the same and indistinguishable, one from the next. We discussed each of the current principals and seemed to agree that in some respects that style differentiation still holds true: in sweeping terms, Lopatkina is the technical perfectionist, Vishneva is the spicy soubrette, Pavlenko is the soulful lyricist, and so on.

But there is something about Altynai/Zhanna/Larissa/Elena (Pankova)/Elvira and the rest of that generation that truly sets them apart. I regret that I never had the opportunity to see Ayupova in some larger roles -- I did see her in that performance of Aurora (oddly, the same one they filmed for Sacred Stage) but I would have loved to have seen her as Odette or Juliet or Giselle as well. It would be incredible even to watch her on film in such roles, but alas, alas...

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