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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 10:25 am 
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Hi Buddy,

It's funny you asked about comparisons with "The Overcoat". My short answer is yes, there are some wonderful similarities although it becomes difficult to pinpoint what, exactly, they are. Perhaps it is the overall feeling one gets from the ballet? For the drama and emotional emphasis in both cases share the theme of suffering on the part of the protagonist, but those are similarities in the literary works and not just due to the balletic incarnation of the libretto. So I would say just the general feeling of a "complete" ballet that has been well thought out, well prepared, well rehearsed, with a combination of sets, costumes and choreography that all work in harmony to create the whole -- that's what they have in common.

The military regiment (section III) of "The Meek One" offered a stunning portrayal of the Russian (not Soviet) army, down to the last detail of their costumes. Pandoursky had them hold their hands against their thighs but bent at the elbows. The effect was impressive and somehow better than the idea of the stiff/straight military arm. The coats (of the military and of the Ghosts of St. Petersburg), literally, reminded me of "Overcoat" -- the era for both Gogol's work and Dostoyevsky's is the same.

I seriously hope that the Kirov will perform "Meek One" more often as well -- they rarely take "new works" on tour, so the most we can hope for at this point is them adding it into the regular St. P repertoire rotation.

As for Golden Age, no, since the summertime I haven't read or heard more about it.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:05 am 
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Balanchine Mixed Program: ‘Apollo’, ‘Prodigal Son’, ‘La Valse’
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick
22 November 2006

Wednesday night’s triple bill Balanchine program at the Mariinsky brought with it both surprise debuts and one welcome return to the stage.

In her first appearance on the Mariinsky stage since dancing “Emeralds” last March, Zhanna Ayupova performed Terpsichore in “Apollo” alongside Evgenii Ivanchenko. The role is an unlikely but intriguing choice for a dancer raised in, and sadly, mostly ignored during, Oleg Vinogradov’s tenure in the theatre, for Ayupova’s nature and training hail from the heart of true Kirov style. She is one of few holdovers from what seems to be increasingly considered the Kirov’s peak years – as witnessed by their tours in the late 1990s to the United States – a time when the company was in stellar form, setting new world standards for classical technique with the likes of the young Assylmuratova, Terekhova and Tchenchikova onstage. For those who saw some of those earlier performances, the difference in form and technique are readily visible among the troupe’s current crop of dancers.

There are many things that Ayupova is not. She is not of the Somova, Guillem-like limbs that warp lines to the extreme at the expense of restrained, traditional classical technique. She is not a dramatic spitfire, and technical tricks (or dramatic ones) are not her forte. Her gifts lie in her understated reserve, her adherence to choreography, her immense physical control coupled with grace that emerges at once from her limbs and her doll-like visage. For Ayupova, technique is a reliable foundation and launching point into a role, but not a means to an end. It is not a matter of circus display as has become the case with the aforementioned dancer and others of that generation. She remains an example of old school Kirov style – restrained but never stiff, tasteful, refined, and elegant.

These are the traits she brought to the role of Terpsichore on Wednesday night. Those hoping for a Balanchinean interpretation would have been disappointed, but then, this is not New York City Ballet. Not to fret: the steps were faithful, Balanchine’s name was not defamed in this delivery. But the reading given by Ayupova was her own. As Terpsichore she was self-reliant, assured of her own gifts, presenting them to Apollo as a knowing muse would. Her temperament spoke reserve – at more than one point she lowered her eyes, but just as often they were lifted, her smile extending out to the audience. Technically Ayupova possesses a sensual articulation of the foot that some of the younger dancers do not. In a company where this pliancy occurs only sporadically, it is a particular pleasure to watch her in movement, knowing she comes from a generation that much closer to the core of Vaganova style.

Flanking Ayupova were Sophia Gumerova and Tatiana Tkachenko as Calliope and Polygymnia, respectively. There is an aristocratic essence to Gumerova’s legs that mesmerizes. From the knee down especially, her slim calves and unique arch of the foot almost distract from the rest of her dancing. As Calliope she was beautiful and accurate, her smile dazzling as she interwove steps around Apollo. Tkachenko, a veritable powerhouse of strength, delivered glorious sissones and strong jetes with mere glissades as preparation. A series of double pique turns ended in plie arabesque seamlessly. In her variation with the mask, she moved flirtatiously, adding a welcome dramatic dimension to the dance.

Ivanchenko was a solid Apollo who certainly fits the role physically. If a bit bland dramatically, his lovely limbs and accuracy somewhat compensated for his reserve. On the one hand, one admires his restraint and control. On the other, a bit of fire would be helpful in a role with such electric possibilities.

The second ballet of the evening, “Prodigal Son”, brought Andrei Batalov to the stage in the title role. Here is a dancer whose technique knows no bounds. Aided no doubt by his compactness, Batalov can pirouette until he runs out of “turn”, literally, and stop en releve, ready for the next challenge. As the Prodigal Son, Batalov expressed the impatience and curiosity of the immature young man intent on experiencing the world at any cost. If his fist-banging gestures were a bit soft, his allegro movements compensated for it in their authority. Alongside him Anton Lobukhin and Philippe Stepin were the Friends, somehow appearing as if they were Batalov’s own brothers, caught up mostly in various quarrels between themselves.

Yulia Makhalina reappeared as the Siren, unfortunately no more impressive than the last time I reviewed her in this role. Her extreme weight loss has left her without any sort of muscle tone in her legs, and the result is a knobby-kneed, weak look. Having seen her dance in the late 90’s at her peak, clearly something has been lost in the past decade. It appeared as if she had deliberately broken the shanks of her pointe shoes in order to manage to even stand en pointe. The entire line of her leg was thus marred, her feet appearing almost flexed while in theory pointed, the result most shocking. Whatever her dramatic abilities, she was disappointing in even this minor (technical) role.

Thankfully the evening rose to another welcome high with a couple of unannounced debuts appeared in the third ballet of the evening, "La Valse". Anastasia Kolegova, an adorable, amazingly flexible young blonde woman, recently joined the Kirov this season from Konstantin Tchatchkine’s troupe, appeared next to Andrei Ermakov in the leading roles.

Blessed with strongly arched feet, loose limbs and natural grace, Kolegova was the perfect princess in white for this mysterious ballroom role. Alongside her Ermakov appeared the ideal partner for the ball, tall, handsome, and ever attentive. Ermakov is a young dancer still in his first or second year with the company, and despite his evident star quality, at well over six feet tall, he has to date rarely been given leading roles. This evening was an exception and Ermakov rose to the challenge. Unfortunately this role is little but partner and mime for the man, and as such we didn’t get to experience Ermakov’s true dancing chops. He will be performing ‘Don Quixote’ at the Hermitage Theatre with Tatiana Tkachenko soon, and that will be a performance not to miss. Here at least his partnering strengths and some of his acting abilities were confirmed. The few opportunities he had to jump presented long, strong limbs and certain technique.

Other performances have brought more dramatic impact to this mysterious ballet. Pavlenko remains the queen of the role, as her ability to infuse meaning into the enigmatic dialogue of gesture reigns supreme. Likewise, Kondaurova’s stunning beauty and ability to project dramatically to the far reaches of the house also drew attention. Kolegova is no less beautiful than these two, and equally strong technically. Her challenge will be to find her own meaning and project it to the audience. As a newcomer she danced wonderfully. There is certainly time ahead to refine the details.

Mikhail Agrest conducted.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 10:04 pm 
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Hi Catherine.

I'm very glad to hear that you enjoyed Zhanna Ayupova's performance. I am just about to watch her dance the pas de trois on one of my Swan Lake videos ( Galina Mezentseva and Konstantin Zaklensky. I feel that Galina Mezentseva gives a beautiful final act performance on this video.).

Zhanna Ayupova dances so beautifully and is so loveable on the videos that I have. I really look forward to seeing her someday.

I would also very much like to see Yulia Makhalina. She does so nicely on her 1990's videos, that I would hope someday to experience some of that loveliness live.

I really appreciate your ability to recreate so many of the beautiful details for us. It should also be a pleasure to follow the careers of the new dancers that you mentioned--Anastasia Kolegova and Andrei Ermakov.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 6:53 am 
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Ayupova is truly like no other in the current roster at the Kirov, that is a fact. Her pas de trois is one that I think sets the standard for that variation, to this day.

Unfortunately, Buddy, I believe you would be disappointed to see Makhalina at this point. I had seen her ten years ago at her prime, but something is very wrong right now, and I feel almost embarrassed for her that she's on stage. I can't understand it. No major company would accept a dancer with such weak feet as hers are at present time. I'm not trying to insult her -- she used to be stronger. I'm not sure what happened in the last several years. It is impossible to ignore a dancer from the waist down on stage and I was just shocked by the state of her legs.


Last edited by Catherine Pawlick on Sat Nov 25, 2006 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 5:49 pm 
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Hi Catherine,

In regard to Yulia Makhalina, maybe you could arrange some special coaching. It would be wonderful to see one of her beautiful performances again.

Cheers !


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 7:39 am 
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I would never claim to be in a position to coach any Kirov dancers -- they have pedagogues who study the details of Vaganova technique for *years* for that purpose...


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 8:01 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Dear Catherine, methinks Buddy was pulling your leg...


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:17 am 
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Hi Stuart,

Methinks you are correct.

Best wishes.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 2:41 am 
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Ah - I'm very bad at catching such things in the online environment :roll: :wink:


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 2:42 am 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Mixed Program: ‘Chopiniana’, ‘Spectre de la Rose’, ‘The Dying Swan’, ‘Polovtsian Dances’
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick
24 November 2006

If a theme were to be designated for Friday night’s performance at the Mariinsky Theatre, judging from both casting and programming choices, “Old World Charm” would have been the reigning definition. The all-Fokine evening harked back to the traditions of the Mariinsky’s earliest years, bringing with it a warm allure and a glimpse into the mores of old school classicism.

“Chopiniana”, despite its deep historical significance, remains a timeless piece that appears fresh each time it is danced by the Kirov. As such it is one of the gems that the Kirov holds in its treasure chest of original classical works – it need not be dusted off, because the company manages to preserve it in glistening, pristine form each time it is presented. This performance featured both Zhanna Ayupova and Elvira Tarasova alongside Ruben Bobovnikov and Yulia Kasenkova in the leading roles. Ayupova danced the Prelude with utter precision and supreme grace. Her port de bras and epaulement brought a delicate touch of refinement to this ultimate legato variation, where each soutenue into fifth position en pointe was maintained with nary a wobble or bourree. Her Prelude was not marred by any excesses; an essay in efficiency, she danced the role as one imagines was originally (in 1906) intended. Tarasova danced the Mazurka with fluidity and lightness, captivating with her ballon and expressive eyes. Another proponent of unornamented Kirov style, she fulfilled the role with tasteful decorum. Bobovnikov, often cast as the Bronze Idol in “La Bayadere” and most recently as the Officer in Pandoursky’s successful premiere of “The Meek One”, is thus not the typical choice for a danseur noble role such as this. However he nonetheless impressed with strong batterie and smooth landings. Aside from a very brief entanglement of arms with Ayupova, his partnering was also flawless, especially during the series of smooth lifts in the 7th Waltz and the often awkward diagonale of cabrioles. Only Yulia Kasenkova, despite energetic jumps, disappointed with stiff, unfeminine hands which detracted from the feeling of the 11th Waltz.

Sophia Gumerova performed Mikhail Fokine’s short variation, “The Dying Swan”, in a manner which showed off her elegant limbs and beautiful legs. If one did not sense the pain in the swan’s struggle between Death creeping nearer, and Life, or the frantic feeling that strikes at the end, at least Gumerova’s limbs were a pleasant distraction.

The audience received a rare treat in the form of “Spectre de la Rose”, a ballet rarely performed even here, and almost never seen in major Western ballet companies. The line from Theophile Gautier’s famous poem, “I am the scent of the rose that you wore last night at the ball” became the inspiration for this ballet which Fokine created in 1911, as is well known, for both Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky. In the program notes, a quote from Mikhail Fokine himself clarifies the basis of the libretto:

“This ballet is not a technical display... The dance is always expressive. It is a new and beautiful theme of dance for the Girl. With closed eyes she searches for him, her Spectre. The Spectre is not a typical dancer in any way, simply fulfilling his variation for the public’s pleasure. No, he is a spirit, a dream. He is the scent of a rose, not a cavalier or a ballerina’s partner. The technique of the arms in this ballet completely differs from the strong, correct arm positions of old ballet. The arms (here) live, speak, sing, but they do not ‘fulfill positions’.”.

The young Maxim Eremeev, in just his second year with the company, debuted in the famous Nijinsky role, bringing ballon and a wonderful sense of those “living” arm movements to his interpretation. His arms curled and interwove themselves above his head, as if he was creating magic onstage. Graced with the deepest of plies and pliable, visibly-pleasing arched feet, he seems an obvious choice to portray this uncapturable creature of the air. Eremeev has incredible potential ahead of him career-wise. Surrounded by professionals such as Tarasova and the staff at the Mariinsky, the sky will certainly be his limit.

As the Girl, Elvira Tarasova appeared the spitting image of Karsavina in the famous white dress. Drunk with the sweet scent of her red-petalled flower, she perfectly expressed the essence of a girl caught up in fantasy. Guided by the Spectre she cannot see, it was as if Tarasova’s body was being pulled back to sleep while her spirit counteracted the impulse, sensing the Spectre in the room, and commanding her to dance. Then, once awake, she was suddenly infused with excitement and energy to see the incarnation of her dream near her.

“Polovtsian Dances” ended the evening in a fantastic frenzy of energized character dance among the corps de ballet. Mikhail Agrest conducted.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 12:45 am 
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Hi Catherine,

I so envy you being able to see all these wonderful performances. By the way I hope that you are enjoying your new apartment.

Your review of Chopiniana-Les Sylphides sent me to my video collection once again--my only way to try and keep up with you.

Instead of going to the Altnai Asylmuratova et al version, I went to the Margot Fonteyn-Rudolph Nureyev version ("An Evening With The Royal Ballet" DVD).

I had an idea where this might be leading and I might be going a bit off topic. I wanted to watch Margot Fonteyn's expression. Although I could have concentrated on comparing her expression (English(?)) with Rudolph Nureyev's (Russian(?)), I essentially got no further than her face.

Her face, carrying into to her total dance expression, to me was a summation of English romantic literature. She portrayed in a sense the English ideal--here being the ideal Greek goddess. She then interwove this into expressions of poetic wonderment. I found it to be beautifully powerful !

It is interesting to compare this reading with the more lyrical reading that I get from Altnai Asylmuratova and that you perhaps got from Zhanna Ayupova and Elvira Tarasova. It also focusses somewhat on Andre and jpc's ideas (Kirov-Mariinsky tour topic) concerning the creativity that the dancer assumes on her or his own.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:56 am 
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Alas, I have not seen that video -- you do mean Fonteyn in Les Sylphides, yes? (you mentioned Greek goddess and for a second I thought you were referring to Wednesday's Apollo) -- so I cannot comment or offer comparisons between the two. I can say that Russian expression tends to differ from English, but each dancer differs from the next as well, so I'm not sure we can even make comparisons based on school in terms of expression. I'll also add that expression is not just the face - whether there is a smile or frown or raised eyebrow - but its part of the entire upper body carriage, part of epaulement, part of the whole.

When you write you didn't get past Margot's face, is that bc it was more expressive/impressive than the rest, and thus so captivating, or what caught your attention, or ??

Also, I am trying to understand how the Greek ideal fits into Sylphides. I suppose you mean simply as a feminine ideal?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 8:21 pm 
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Hi Catherine,

I was referring to Margot Fonteyn's performance of Les Sylphides (Chopiniana) and how 'compelling' I found her facial expression, by itself, to be. Her face expressed what I see as a possible English 'ideal', the perfect and perfectly composed being (my example, a Greek goddess). Her face also expressed a childlike marveling at all the wondrous beauty surrounding her.

Her expressions for me touch at the soul of English romantic-poetic identity.

The only contrasting performance from Russia of Les Sylphides (Chopiniana) that I have seen features Altnai Asylmuratova on DVD. I consider both performances very fine. The choreography seems essentially the same in both, yet both seem so distinct in their subtle yet so meaningful choice of expression.

How well the acting can be done in ballet sometimes amazes me

[Last sentence changed several minutes after original posting.]


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:49 am 
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Hi Buddy,

Ah, OK, I understand what you mean now -- thanks for the clarification. What did you think of Altynai's expression and dancing in comparison?


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 4:41 pm 
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Hi again Catherine,

I would describe Margot Fonteyn's facial expressions in her performance of Les Sylphides (Chopiniana) as being 'deeply dramatic'--definitely 'subtle'--as Les Sylphides would seem to require, but still deeply dramatic.

I would describe Altnai Asylmuratova's facial expressions and total performing of Chopiniana to be more uniformly lyrical and dreamlike. I see her this way in most of her different roles and it is absolutely beautiful ! I have mentioned before my feeling that the Kirov-Mariinsky dancers seem to communicate or tell a story more through their dancing than through overt acting (mime) or use of facial expression. This would also be my feeling about Altnai Asylmuratova's performance. She was dancing with other extremely fine Kirov-Mariinsky dancers and for me she blended more into the total poetic flow.

Margot Fonteyn on the other hand made a highly personal dramatic statement, that stood apart from the other dancers. You certainly knew that Rudolph Nureyev was there !----but still Margot Fonteyn stands out in my memory.

I would also like to mention that some of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev's dancing together in this video is possibly the most beautiful 'synchronized' dancing that I have ever seen.

[one text error corrected later]


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