CriticalDance Forum

Kirov 2006-2007 Season
Page 7 of 10

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Feb 18, 2007 3:50 am ]
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Hi Buddy,

Thanks so much for your comments and for your readership! I'm happy to answer your questions, especially because, having met Svetlana, I have nothing but good things to say about her.

I'll go about answering your question in this manner. The reason I chose to interview her is precisely because she is not one of the "up and comer" stars whose name you see on various posters or forums advertising the Kirov. I think the world has plenty of exposure to Vishneva and Somova. But who are the rest of the dancers who make up this 200-person troupe? What are their stories? I wanted to go "inside" so to speak (as much as I hate that cliche) and see what else I could find out. Svetlana Ivanova is a prime example of a talented young woman who is (and will likely remain) in the corps/soloist level. I hope, i dearly hope I am wrong about this but that is my best guess.

You'll note in her interview she commented on how she danced Masha in the Vaganova performance. Typically the best female student of that graduating year is given this role. That alone tells you where Svetlana was placed among her peers at the time she entered the Mariinsky Theatre.

You are correct that you saw her in the pas de quatre (four small swans) in Swan Lake. She often dances that role here as well. She is extremely petite with a very slight frame. If you had to guess her age, you would probably guess 20, based on her looks. She is very beautiful as well.

You asked about the likelihood of seeing more of her. Unfortunately, I think the honest answer to that is no, for the plain reason that she is no longer 18 years old. She is a coryphee but has already been dancing more than 10 years. She danced the soloist of "Young Lady and the Hooligan" last year, but I believe had done it many times before that. She has danced solo roles in the past, but seems to do so less often now. She also commented in the interview that she has to be content with the corps work for now. I think that explains better than anything I could say, the outlook from inside the Mariinsky. As you know, each year the new crop of 18 year olds enters the theatre, and the administration "decides" who to promote...this is based on my observations, but they are unlikely to promote someone who is near 30, when they can take a newcomer and turn him or her into a "star", despite the fact that the older dancer has more life experience and can arguably offer more emotional depth to a role that requires it. I don't necessarily agree with this promotion policy -- in the West, a ballerina (to say nothing of a "normal" female) around age 30 could still be considered in her prime. Sveta was in the corps at the Mariinsky but when she went to Neumeier's troupe, she was a principal dancer. That speaks not only to her talents but the overall level of talent within the MT -- I maintain that most corps members could obtain principal positions in many American (Western? European?) companies -- technically they are that advanced.

I think also - and at this I'm only guessing - that once you leave the MT, you do not/can not return and become a star. I think there's a level of betrayal felt towards those who do what she did. Sort of "why would you leave us? We gave you everything and you left. Why should we allow you back here and, if we do, why should we give you more?" So her story further fascinates me because she left and returned to the company. I don't know of other dancers who have done that at the Mariinsky (although perhaps some do exist, who knows). So on the one hand, they allowed Ivanova to return and continue to cast her. On the other hand, she hasn't been promoted. There are thousands of possible reasons why - injuries, timing, age, preferences of the administration. So it is a guessing came in some cases.

I believe when Sveta commented on the technique of the West, she was speaking also about footwork. Obviously the schools are very different, but she spoke to me at length about the difference between Western footwork (very articulate) and Russian (not very articulate). The issue of soul, I believe, is highly individual. There are those in this troupe who dance with blank faces but have legs behind their ears; there are those in American troupes with horrible technique and limited flexibility but who can emote, and based on that, American audiences fall in love with them. It cuts both ways. It's rare to find a performer who is very strong in both areas.

You mentioned the certain je ne sais quoi you see in Russians. Maybe part of that is the upper body/back/port de bras you see from the Mariinsky dancers (or other Vaganova-trained dancers). That difference is very visible between Americans and Russians although most audience members may not be able to pinpoint it as such.

So...those are my thoughts. I have many on the subject! Feel free to ask me more questions.

Oh - and I agree. I hope Daria Pavlenko's luck (and performing frequency) continues!

Author:  Buddy [ Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:05 am ]
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Thanks Catherine for answering many of my questions.

Svetlana Ivanova seems to be happy with the career decisions that she has made, even if 'stardom' isn't happening at the moment. She is still an important member of an incredibly fine dance company. She seems comfortable with her friends, her surroundings and her ideas for the future when she will be dancing less frequently.

She wants to have a family and to teach. In her teaching she seems to want to explore technical ideas related to physically beneficial body placement, etc., which she learned from her coach in Hamburg, Christiane Marshan. "So I plan to become a coach and I would like to continue what Christiane taught me." This could be a very rewarding pursuit.

Adding some more about 'that certain quality' in dancers from Russia, I agree with much of what you have said. I would also like to express again my feeling that many dancers from Russia, that I have observed, seem to really be into their character portrayals, almost living them while on stage. Their 'aura' may well be the result of the 'attitude towards their art' that they develope and are taught in their many years of very specialized training.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Feb 19, 2007 8:15 am ]
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Absolutely - they take great pride in their work. And from the talented ones (which is many if not all of them), I think you find that aura (as you call it) because literally centuries of great artists before them have gone through the same system, the same teachers, and so all of this information --what works, what doesn't, how to approach the role, etc -- has been distilled down into the Vaganova Academy and the pedagogs at the theatre. This is one thing that no American company or dancer has as a resource, and it makes (as you've seen) a huge difference in the output.

Author:  ripowam [ Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:50 pm ]
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I believe that a major reason for why Svetlana Ivanova is not cast in solo roles is that she was an adored protege of the late Inna Zubkovskya, an indomitable woman who did not hesitate to clash with the Kirov ballet administration over any issue she found objectionable. After her death in 2001, Ivanova no longer had a mentor in the company.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:13 am ]
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Hi Ripowam,

Thanks for that insight. It certainly gels with what Ivanova said about her mentor. The internal politics of this company never cease to amaze me.

Author:  ripowam [ Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:00 am ]
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I remember talking to Zubkovskaya during the Kirov's 1999 season in New York, when Ivanova danced Florince in the Kirov's reconstructed Sleeping Beauty; Zubkovskaya was very proud of Ivanova.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:39 pm ]
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Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised and see more of Svetlana Ivanova in future performances.

Thank you again Catherine for interviewing folks who are not in the immediate spotlight such as Svetlana Ivanova. The unnamed corps de ballet members ect. are so important that it would be good to hear more about them and to give them some more recognition.

Have you ever thought of talking to Vladimir Ponomarev, the amazing character actor-dancer? I have never read anything about him except for a few post comments. I sometimes wonder if Farouk Ruzimatov might want to give this a try someday.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:10 am ]
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Hi Buddy,

That is a fabulous idea, and I will see what I can do! I had no idea truly how long Ponomarev has been doing what he does until I saw a telecast of Kolpakova's Sleeping Beauty (which I have seen before, many times, from videos in the US) on TV here recently. He was the King, as always! So it didn't really register until I saw that. Your suggestion is a good one!

As for Farukh, who knows? I think he will be one of those who stays onstage 'til the very end, but which path he will take, or if he'll go the character/acting route, I don't know. It will be interesting to watch. Now he is much more into the flamenco...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Feb 24, 2007 4:55 am ]
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Just a note to say I will be posting a review of last night's "Theme and Variations" within the next couple of days. The short version is that it was quite underrehearsed, but details in the review.

To those interested, the preliminary casting for the Pas de Quatre to be performed next Friday night, March 2, lists Sofia Gumerova, Elvira Tarasova, Tatiana Tkachenko and Daria Pavlenko (in that order).

I'll also be posting a review of Feb. 25th's "New Names" program, which will be the third time that Dmitrievksy/Miroschnichenko/Gelber's three works have been shown here; and this will be just before they take the program to Moscow for the Golden Mask awards on March 4 and 5.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Feb 24, 2007 7:28 am ]
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Balanchine Program: ‘Four Temperaments’, ‘La Valse’, ‘Theme and Variations’
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
23 February 2007
By Catherine Pawlick

On the heels of the Raymonda triptych reviewed in our March magazine
(click here to read the review: [note to readers--link will be active only after next magazine is published]
the Mariinsky Ballet brought a second ballet back to the stage after a long absence. This time the Theme was Balanchine’s – “Theme and Variations”, that is – on a program following “Four Temperaments” and “La Valse”. While the first two ballets were rather standard Mariinsky renditions of these neoclassical works, “Theme” left much to be desired in terms of organization and cleanliness.

The evening began with “Four Temperaments”. A stark, abstract ballet, this explores the four basic temperaments inherent in man. These four moods – melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic and choleric -- are sometimes connected with their elementary counterparts (earth, water, fire and air).

The curtain opened to Alina Somova and Sergei Popov clothed in Balanchine’s signature sparse black and white leotard uniforms. Unfortunately, Somova’s gynecological extensions in her initial movements with Sergei Popov distracted rather impressed. Thankfully, the entrance of Ekaterina Kondaurova with Maxim Chashegorov in the Theme brought with it a more settling, refined sense of placement and timing. Ever the ideal partner, Chashegorov was brilliant alongside Kondaurova, whose lines are beautiful to behold but never overdone. Olesya Novikova and Alexei Nedvega danced brightly in their duet, seeming to enjoy the dance.

The first variation, Melancholic, began in slow sadness as danced by Anton Korsakov. Korsakov infused a great deal of attention to both the steps and the character of the role, not overlooking its emotive side.

Ekaterina Osmolkina and Alexander Sergeev danced Sanguinic with expansive, bright gestures. Both emitted an air of freedom within the dance as they explored Balanchine’s playground of choreography.

Anton Pimonov was a fitting casting choice for Phlegmatic, a variation begun in solitude by a lone man. His one-legged balance in the attitude devant pose never wavered, and his intense focus on the movement matched the music’s mood. Pimonov’s talents are rarely spotlighted within the Mariinsky. This was one of those infrequent moments that will hopefully lead to more solo work in the coming years.

Ekaterina Petina’s fiery entrance led off the final variation, Choleric, with sharp gesture and high energy. The company ended the ballet in streamlined synchronicity as the curtain fell to the last notes of Paul Hindemit’s score.

The second ballet of the evening was Balanchine’s “La Valse”. Set to Ravel’s haunting music, it was danced brilliantly by Daria Pavlenko alongside Sergei Popov.

It can finally be said that Pavlenko has claimed this role as her own. No other Mariinsky ballerina infuses it with just the right balance of mystery, beauty, tragedy and humanity. While Lopatkina’s interpretation is more distanced, Pavlenko’s added warmth here serves to bring the role into closer relief for the audience. She embodies the enigma of both the ballerina and the ballet as a whole, offering clues to the riddle, but never giving it away. More than one spectator shifted to the edge of his seat as the finale neared, curious, no doubt, at the ballet’s message. This genius creation, and Pavlenko’s genius interpretation, when combined are simply spellbinding.

The final ballet of the evening of course, was the long awaited return to the stage of Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations”. Echoing the promenade from “Diamonds” here, and the corps patterns of “Ballet Imperial” there, “Theme and Variations” is an abstract presentation of the music decorated with tiaras and tutus. Its choreography, while highly musical as all of Balanchine is, presents complex patterns and challenging step combinations.

In a personal interpretation that, while precise and technically clean appeared nonetheless softer and less Balanchinean, Uliana Lopatkina danced the lead with Mikhail Lobukhin as her partner.

The pair is an odd one at best: while Lobukhin can fulfill the solo work for this role, he is too short for a ballerina of Lopatkina’s height en pointe. Likewise, she seemed to tower over him in the partnering sections, weakening the sense of powerful dancing that that the role should emit. Both dancers of course have their strengths, but when paired together, those strengths are weakened.

The sense of authority that the lead couple must hold in order to carry the ballet forward was unfortunately met on an even lower level by the ensemble work. Balanchine’s lines and choreographic patterns here were diluted, not by the technical level of the dancers – the Mariinsky are, after all, among the best – but due to the sheer lack of rehearsal time for the ballet. “Theme” rehearsals seem to have begun no more than several weeks before the performance, if that. And for a ballet this challenging -- the non-intuitive step patterns, the demand for split-second timing throughout, even in the corps de ballet -- time is required to polish and refine. In tonight’s performance the timing was also off. Synchronicity among demi soloist groups was transformed into cannons or worse, resulting in a hazy effect. However, it must be stated that the dancers are not to blame. They do the best with the rehearsal time they’re given and their schedules are grueling as it is. Although current and past practice show no indication of change, one nevertheless hopes that ample preparation time will be given to any new ballets that the company intends to premiere in upcoming festivals.

Mikhail Agrest conducted.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:24 am ]
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“New Names” – “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”, “On the Side of Swann”, “The Overcoat” after Gogol
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick
25 February 2007

In what could be considered a test run before greeting Moscow audiences this weekend, the “New Names” program of short works by budding young choreographers was performed for the third time ever this week in St. Petersburg. The program, which premiered on the Mariinsky stage just a year ago, offers a look at the bright works of Nikita Dmitrievsky, Alexei Miroshnichenko, and Noah Gelber. Gelber's work has been nominated for a Golden Mask award in three categories -- best choreographer, best ballet production, and best actor in a leading role. While we won’t know the judges’ decision until April 14, Sunday night’s performance was full of promise, with talent appearing in numerous places.

The first piece, “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”, set to the music of Strauss, is Dmitrievsky’s summary of Molière’s farcical play in dancing terms. The result has some comedic moments, but is unfortunately weighted by a complex storyline and incomplete character development. Although under an hour in length, based simply on costumes and steps it is difficult to follow the libretto and understand the social interaction between the dancers. Were one to view this ballet without recognizing any of the names on the playbill, it would be virtually impossible to follow, for so much depends on the ability to determine who is who onstage. To his credit Dmitrievsky has incorporated a few stellar sections, including a gymnastic interplay between the four waiters with one-handed cartwheels and various flips and tosses; as well as a “pas de trois” of three men in which Mikhail Lobukhin mimics a swan while wearing jeans and a T-shirt. The rest of the dancing is interesting for its musicality, and Dmitrievsky has made clever use of lighting and timing. The subject of “Gentilhomme” is simply too complex to be compressed into a one-act ballet. With more time, or a simplified libretto, it could be fleshed out more completely.

The second piece, Alexei Miroshnichenko’s “On the Side of a Swan”, is a brief but genius concoction set to a score created by Leonid Desyatnikov. Employing a play on words that uses the title of Marcel Proust’s novel “Swann’s Way”, and the musical theme of Saint-Saen’s “The Dying Swan”, this ballet shows two “birds” pecking, primping, jumping and interacting with grotesque gesture that quickly shifts into classical lines and back again. Olesya Novikova and Alexander Sergeev, dressed in black leotards, and black tights, stand in front of a large black and white bar code on a screen upstage. Accompanied by live pianists Polina Osetinskaya and Alexei Goribol, both Sergeev and Novikova seemed completely engaged in their roles, infusing the choreography with impulse, energy and meaning. Novikova, in a chin-length black wig, presented an image of avant-garde chic as she shifted between lyrical, soft swan arms, and turned-in feet, her chin jutting forward purposely. Sergeev, his hair slicked to a “V” on his forehead, at one point lifted her and carried her across the stage as if she were a life-sized doll. The possible interpretations of this ballet are numerous. One of its pleasures is that, like Proust, it keeps the audience thinking.

The program’s final piece, “The Overcoat”, was without a doubt the crème de la crème of the evening. Having already received strong accolades from numerous local Russian papers at its premiere, “The Overcoat” is an example of what results when talent is combined with intense study and proper interpretation of a classical Russian novel. Noah Gelber based his choreography on the personality traits of each character in the ballet – the Tailor moves in zig-zag fashion, threading an invisible needle through his own clothing and back again; the Girl’s steps include more sensual, circular movements; and Akaki’s steps are often criss-crossed, riddled with ticks and gestures signifying his uncertainty or hesitation. As at the initial premiere, Andrei Ivanov proved an expert in expressing the emotional range of the ballet’s protagonist, from the nervous ticks in his initial entrance, to joy at the sight of his new overcoat, to white-faced disbelief at the sight of the gigantic overcoat in his feverish, symbolic death scene, and finally to confident revenge in the epilogue. Ivanov has been nominated for a Golden Mask award in the category fo best actor for his performance in this role as Akaki.

As the bearers of the war letter and the invitation to the ball, respectively, Grigori Popov and Anton Pimonov displayed dazzling execution of complex step patterns, quick turns and jumps. Islam Baimuradov was brilliant as the drunken tailor, his stumbling patterns leading the viewer to share in Akaki’s doubtfulness at the prospect of entrusting his favorite coat to the intoxicated man.

It isn’t often that the Mariinsky commissions ballets, and even less frequent that they engage young choreographers to create contemporary works. This performance proved that it behooves them to do more of the same. The “New Names” program is traveling to Moscow on March 4 and 5 for part of the Golden Mask Festival. One hopes that the dancers and choreographers who have been nominated for individual Golden Mask awards will be recognized when the results are announced on April 14.

Pavel Smelkov conducted all three ballets.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Mar 12, 2007 8:59 am ]
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Seasonal Offerings: “Pas de Quatre” and “Giselle”
2 and 9 March, 2007
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick

The shift ever closer to springtime in St. Petersburg was aided with a handful of unique balletic offerings on the Mariinsky stage in early March. The long-awaited “Pas de Quatre” was danced by four of the Kirov’s leading ladies and, just one week later, Uliana Lopatkina graced audiences with her second ever performance of “Giselle”.

The mixed bill on March 2 began with “Apollo” before shifting into Fokine’s signature “The Dying Swan”. In the first ballet, Daria Pavlenko’s energetic Terpsichore proved consistent with past renditions of the role. Her flirtatious eyes and long, sensuous limbs were every young god’s dream. Alongside her, Evgeny Ivanchenko’s even-keeled Apollo yielded technical accuracy, though in him one could not sense the true power of the young god. As the Swan, Irma Nioradze’s dance reflected significant work on the port de bras of the strained bird, drawing applause for her short but effective performance. Victoria Kutepova then appeared in “Le Spectre de la Rose” with Anton Korsakov. A strange casting decision, she danced with shoulders raised, her gestures and port de bras overdone.

The long-awaited “Pas de Quatre”, first danced in 1845 by the four leading ballerinas at the time, appeared fourth on the bill and to fresh eyes was an essay in stylized romanticism. Daria Pavlenko clearly depicted Marie Taglioni’s respected position as the eldest of the four ballerinas through her erect carriage. She took every opportunity to guide the other three women on and off of the dancing space with regal nods. Appropriately echoing Taglioni’s Sylph, in her variation Pavlenko danced with both lyricism and ceremony. Finishing in a slow kneel that seemed to catch most of the audience off guard, Pavlenko then lifted her eyes with a smile as if to signal completion.

Alexandra Iosifidi, in Lucille Grahn’s variation, towered among the other three, executing the entrechat quatre sequence reminiscent of Giselle in Act II. While accurate, her upper body seemed stiff in the tour jetés, and her arms equally rigid. Elvira Tarasova performed Carlotta Grisi’s variation with aplomb. Her saut de basques were academically perfect, her brisés crisp and light, and her boureés glacially smooth. She was truly a pleasure to behold. Anastasia Kolegova danced the third variation, that of Fanny Cerito, with smooth grace. Her small apple-cheeked face recalled a cherubim and the effect was one of sweetness and youth.

A second offering of arguably equal grandeur came in the form of Uliana Lopatkina’s appearance in “Giselle” on March 9. Lopatkina has danced the role only once prior to this performance, nearly a decade ago. She addressed this return to the ballet with the same perfectionist approach she gives to each of her roles – no detail left unconsidered, no step left unrehearsed.

In Act I, as Giselle, Lopatkina emerged from her cottage a wide-eyed, innocent peasant girl, shy and naïve. In a genius interpretation of Adolphe Adam’s score, she accented the down beat in the series of high ballonés in her initial circle around the stage, stepping forward with each count and thus accommodating her longer limbs. Rather than diminishing the effects of buoyancy and youth, this musical interpretation only served to uncover more color in the musical score and to underline her own multi-layered talents.

Throughout this act, Lopatkina issued every curtsy deeply, to the knee. At Albrecht’s initial entreaties, she seemed to infuse the daisy sequence with the powers of divine prophesy: she was so disappointed at the odd number of petals that one almost expected the curtain to come down immediately. However, Igor Kolb, as a cunning, slick Albrecht, was quick to prove her wrong. Then as Hilarion, danced by Dmitry Pikhachev, interrupted their romp, Lopatkina’s Giselle reduced everything to its simplest terms. “He loves me, what more do you need to know?” she gestured, completely clueless as to the evil ways of deceitful men.

Lopatkina’s persona as the inexperienced and unworldly peasant girl was underlined by her gestures. When she searched for Albrecht to show him to the Duke and his daughter Bathilde, she kneeled in humble embarrassment at her suitor’s absence. In deference to them or, alternatively, to her mother, her head would drop forward, shoulders hunched in docile submission. Through these small details Giselle’s character became her own.

And the dance itself was no less genius. During her variation, Lopatkina sustained the piqué arabesque before lowering into penché plié, rolling through each centimeter of her shoe in an articulation of the foot that is not typically Russian, but was characteristically professional. Her first pirouette was a smooth, unblemished triple, and she completed the manège of turns immaculately.

Valeria Martinouk and Grigori Popov led the Peasant Pas de Deux, their entrance performed in perfect synchronicity. Popov offered powerful cabrioles; and if a few of the partnered turns were unsteady, his own tours were sharp. Martinouk was all smiles in her variation, soaring in across the stage in jetés and whipping off turns effortlessly.

Lopatkina’s mad scene was an interesting interpretation of this famous sequence. The first half of her mime, after falling at her mother’s feet, seemed to be simple recollections of the day’s earlier events: meeting Albrecht, the daisy petal count, encountering Bathilde. Her hair was not disheveled and her gestures, if weak, were nonetheless still clear. It wasn’t until after she dragged the sword around the floor and ran towards her cottage that the real “madness” set it. From there she seemed to see the wilis in front of her, and began racing around the stage, groping madly for something in the air, but it wasn’t clear just what. After she ran towards her mother for the final hug, and then towards Albrecht, one could hear her bones hit the stage floor as she flopped lifeless at his feet. The effect was so realistic, it was chilling.

In Act II, Alexandra Iosifidi appeared as Myrtha, cold, majestic, and unforgiving. This role suits her stature, and provided numerous opportunities to display darting, steely jumps. As Myrtha’s new servant, Lopatkina’s Giselle arose from the grave vertically, then obediently stepping in sway to Myrtha’s commands. Here Lopatkina’s costume could not have gone unnoticed. Sewn especially for her, the upper layer of tulle on her skirt was a gauzy, impossibly light layer of some silk-like fabric, so fragile that the slightest rush of air would send it billowing around her. No doubt this was another personal touch that lent an additional feeling of weightlessness to her character. The material draped around her shoulders was of the same fabric, and the effect was one of a frail, waiflike spirit.

At Myrtha’s first command, Lopatkina continued her theme of low pliés – lower than any other ballerina -- sinking deeply before she began the mad spiral of hops in attitude. In the last diagonal of her variation her jetés also ended in deep plies, only without a bounce – and strangely, this version worked well musically.

In her adagio, danced around the kneeling, grieving Albrecht, Lopatkina left her leg in ecarté as she rolled down into plié, her diaphanous skirt trailing behind her like remnants of her own mist. And yet it was with touching warmth that she begged the wilis for respite, asking them to spare Albrecht. At several points she appeared almost human, reaching for him longingly or pleading with her spiritual sisters.

Igor Kolb was an excellent Albrecht, tireless in his unending dance in the second Act. Despite Albrecht’s perhaps despicable character, Kolb’s grand allegro variations nonetheless impressed. Of note was his choice to do the steps on both diagonals landing on the left leg – the first diagonal croisé, and the second effacé.

Daria Vasnetsova and Victoria Kutepova danced Moyna and Zulma in opposing fashion. Whereas Vasnetsova, lithe and majestic, danced with control and clarity, Kutepova’s flowing port de bras recalled more swan than wili. The corps de ballet, as a whole however, was breathtaking in form and unison.

It was a delight to be able to watch the most Russian of Russian ballerinas perform this role for only the second time. Between the “Pas de Quatre” and this performance of “Giselle”, it is clear that Mariinsky Ballet has plenty of hidden delights that should be revealed much more frequently. Boris Gruzin conducted.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Apr 28, 2007 7:45 am ]
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Artistic Soiree Dedicated to Gennady Silutsky
Kirov Ballet
27 April 2007
By Catherine Pawlick

Gennady Silutsky, born December 23, 1937, graduated from the Vaganova Academy in 1956, joined the Kirov Ballet and during his long tenure there danced numerous roles with the company, from Desire and Siegfried, to Crassus from “Spartacus”, Van Lichen in “The Red Flower”, the Brahmin in “La Bayadere”, Girei in “The Fountain of Bachchisarai”, Abderakhman in “Raymonda” and many others. He danced with some of the greatest ballerinas of the era, including Irina Kolpakova and Natalia Makarova, and after completing his dancing career, returned to the Vaganova Academy where he continues to teach while still coaching full-time within the Theatre.

With glossy booklets for sale in the foyers that covered his life in the theatre, and glass displays containing old programs, photographs of Silutsky and his Desire costume in the grand hall, the Mariinsky Theatre paid complete tribute to this great artist and man on Friday night with an evening of ballets featuring his students, past and present.

The evening began with a “master class” led by Silutsky onstage. He opened the program with a brief speech. “A tradition stands before you,” he began, to great applause. Explaining that while it is traditional to never applaud during the Vaganova state exams, “your applause is needed, not just tonight, but every night,” he said.

The master class was indeed an exam of sorts, as 6 boys performed pre-determined combinations at three barres set on the stage. A pianist was situated downstage left to accompany them. It was a treat to see – the nature of the combinations, their musicality, timing, and level of difficulty – and to hear Silutsky’s sparse comments to the boys, as he shouted “all together!” or “precise!” or “powerful!”, encouraging the boys to do their best. By the time the group moved in to the center, the combinations grew more challenging and included some of the most difficult petit and grand allegro I have ever seen, but the boys performed all of it –for the most part – with ease. In the center, one of Silutsky’s 2004 graduates, Alexander Sergeev, joined the group for an adagio. His crisp line, highly arched back during arabesque, more emotive nature, musicality and clean delivery stood out from the rest, immediately drawing into bas-relief the path that these boys will hopefully follow in the coming years when they join the company. At intervals Silutsky commented on the proceedings, at one point stating “On the one hand (what you are seeing) is upbringing; on the other it is great art.” When the combinations were finished, a large basket of flowers was delivered to Silutsky’s feet onstage and the audience gave him several curtain calls as he bowed with the boys.

After a brief intermission, Silutsky reappeared dressed in a suit and tie sitting in the Tsar’s box to the left of the stage to watch Parts II and III of the evening. Part II was “Scheherezade”, performed by Yulia Makhalina and Igor Kolb. Makhalina seemed more present in the role than she has previously, and Kolb emitted a true panther-like passion as he slithered at her feet. Alla Sisoeva, Elena Bazhenova and Viktoria Kutepova danced the three odalisques with sultry abandon. At the final curtain, after many of the dancers had received large bouquets of flowers on stage, each walked over and passed (or threw) their bouquets to Silutsky’s box, bowing in reverence as if to underline the point that this evening was for him.

Part III was a series of divertissements that began with Olesya Novikova and Leonid Sarafanov in the Grand Pas from “Don Quixote”. As one of his first performances as a principal dancer with the company, Sarafanov danced adequately, but had a bit of trouble in the overhead lift that shifts into a fish dive. Novikova’s timing was excellent, but she imported a limp-elbowed port de bras that seemed more appropriate for “Giselle”, and one wondered if this was a statement about personal style or something that had been overlooked during rehearsals. Underlining his strengths in solo work, Sarafanov’s coda was stunning however, and Novikova completed the 32 fouettes with only a slight stumble at the end.

Jerome Robbins’ “In the Night” was danced by Ekaterina Kondaurova and Sergei Popov. Popov, another one of Silutsky’s students, was an apt partner for Kondaurova in most sections of the brief dance, and the final lift, which is akin to the shoulder kneel performed in “Raymonda”, although slow, was steady. Popov and Kondaurova also gave their flowers to Silutsky.

Echoing Sunday night’s gala, Viktoria Tereshkina repeated her virtuosity in “Grand Pas Classique” with equal precision and verve, this time with Danila Korsuntsev at her side. Korsuntsev proved a superb partner for Tereshkina’s innate technical prowess, although his solo work seemed dulled by a knee injury that he seemed to be favoring during the solo. Considering the circumstances, he too deserves praise for the output.

Igor Kolb also repeated his gala performance of “The Swan”. Viewed from the orchestra, this time the piece revealed several new aspects. At the recorded laughter, Kolb recoiled and ran in fear. His initial emotions – from drunken glee to complete horror – were easily readable from the house. And the movements seemed to be part of his character: thumbs up, wrists curling, legs parallel, brisk movements that ranged from expansive to introverted. His acting efforts brought wild applause from the audience, and he bowed to Silutsky in thanks.

As the highlight of Part III, the pas de deux from “Talisman” was also repeated, this time with Alexander Sergeev in the male role alongside Ekaterina Osmolkina. Sergeev’s youthful look, clean lines and attentive partnering drew high marks. He did not carry the sloppy pirate look that can often accompany this piece, and his jumps were airborne and clean. His tour-jetes end in a crisp split high above the stage – a feat that not all of the company’s men can perform. Osmolkina was feather light and girlish in her variation. This Petipa snippet was as refreshing to the eyes as it was to the heart. If nothing else, it is clear in Alexander Sergeev that Silutsky has created a fine young dancer of the highest caliber whose short tenure in the theatre has already brought him leading roles.

With the exception of Igor Zelensky’s appearance in the Corsaire pas de deux, the final two pieces were less engaging. The audience seemed to enjoy Leonid Sarafanov dressed in only a loin cloth as he performed tribal movements in “Goodbye to the Jungle”, but this reviewer would have preferred a more classical work. Zelensky was welcomed onto the stage with warm applause and repeat curtain calls – which he deserved for a tight solo and reliable double work. Unfortunately Alina Somova was his partner and, with the departure of the many touring visitors who were in town for the recent Festival, the Petersburg audience was less than impressed with Somova’s fanfare. Appearing coltish, with bent wrists, hyper-extended elbows, raised shoulders and inappropriate epaulement, Somova moved through both the pas de deux and the variation. Sadly, at each reverence, the audience finished applauding before she finished bowing. The sensation was one of artificial creation: audience reaction seems to have no effect on the dancers or the casting in this case, which is supremely frustrating.

Thus, after four hours of dance dedicated to Silutsky, one emerged with a true sense of the evolution inside the Mariinsky Theatre, the tradition that perpetuates itself via great men such as Silutsky.

As with tradition, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so Silutsky himself is more than a single human being. He is dancer, teacher, coach; he is part of the Mariinsky tradition. That the Mariinsky Theatre is custody to such troves of talent and knowledge is what sets it apart from other ballet institutions, making it both invaluable and irreplaceable. May the love, talent and knowledge that Silutsky has shared with so many continue to serve him well in his career, and may he find reward in the great gifts he has given to us all.

Author:  Buddy [ Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:52 pm ]
Post subject: 

Catherine Pawlick wrote:
Artistic Soiree Dedicated to Gennady Silutsky
Kirov Ballet
27 April 2007
By Catherine Pawlick

As with tradition, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so Silutsky himself is more than a single human being. He is dancer, teacher, coach; he is part of the Mariinsky tradition. That the Mariinsky Theatre is custody to such troves of talent and knowledge is what sets it apart from other ballet institutions, making it both invaluable and irreplaceable. May the love, talent and knowledge that Silutsky has shared with so many continue to serve him well in his career, and may he find reward in the great gifts he has given to us all.

Thank you, Catherine, for another very fine review. It looks like you saw somewhat of a continuation of the Festival among other things. Sounds great.

In discussing what is special about the Mariinsky could I offer my continued feeling that Mariinsky dancers seem to 'Live Their Dancing'.

Author:  vrsfanatic [ Sun Apr 29, 2007 9:00 pm ]
Post subject: 

...Alla Sizova, Elena Bazhenova and Viktoria Kutepova danced the three odalisques...

Curious question... Alla Sisova, Elena Bazhenova are names of dancers/teachers from the past. Do you know if there is any relationship?

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