CriticalDance Forum

Kirov 2006-2007 Season
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Sep 13, 2006 6:45 am ]
Post subject:  Kirov 2006-2007 Season

13 September, 2006

Tonight the Kirov opens their ballet season with "Swan Lake" featuring Viktoria Tereshkina. I will post a review accordingly.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Sep 16, 2006 9:18 am ]
Post subject: 

Season Opening: 'Swan Lake'
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick

13 September 2006

The Mariinsky Theatre opened its 226th season in traditional Russian fashion. “Swan Lake” graced the stage after the company's month-long vacation, a break which resulted in the troupe's high-energy as well as several new faces in the corps de ballet, fresh from the Vaganova Academy. Two expert interpreters led the way as Viktoria Tereshkina (Odette/Odile) joined Andrian Fadeev (Prince Siegfried) in a terpsichorean ode to utter classicism.

This performance could be perceived as a test run for the company's approaching North American tour which begins in October and covers Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and two Canadian cities before heading to Japan by mid-November. Just as last year's U.S. tour stops focused on “The Sleeping Beauty”, this year “Swan Lake” will be performed in each of these locations. Not surprising then to see refreshed costumes for the production in each of the three acts. The men attending the Prince's birthday celebration in Act I now have new doublets in richer hues of dark mauve or beige velvet and odd hats of gold; the women have more simplified headdresses – headbands with flowers by their ears, a la Giselle – and pink or blue underskirts (to match the men) with long white overlays trimmed in gold. The Act III national dances also boasted new garments, here also heavily gilded with gold and in richer colors, but generally maintaining the previous designs. The six princesses had new snow white gowns, but unfortunately their overlarge headdresses, which replaced smaller Juliet-type caps, diverted from the dance. These were, however, minor distractions given the main attraction of the evening: the Swan Queen and her retinue of lithe, white swans.

The trend, at least for opening night at the Mariinsky, and even with the garment revisions, could be deemed conservatism and tasteful restraint. Who, then, better to dance the challenging dual role of Swan Queen and Evil Sorceress than Viktoria Tereshkina. Known for her power as Myrtha in “Giselle”, her razor sharp precision as one of the gemstones in “The Sleeping Beauty”, and her virtuosity in “Etudes”, Tereshkina's talent lies in her refined technique. The tenets of Vaganova training seem embedded in each cell of her body, providing her with the strength to carry out virtually any role effortlessly, exactingly, excitingly.

Tereshkina is also a naturally gifted turner – something not readily visible in certain roles. This means that when 32 fouettes approached during the Black Swan coda, she made every second turn an a la seconde releve with both arms in allonge for the first 16 counts. Impressive, but not surprising, for such is her aptitude. The audience went wild for this feat on Wednesday night, as if it was an unexpected gift.

Given her capacity for bravura and powerful steps, one might expect to be disappointed by Tereshkina's Odette. One might expect a weaker interpretation of the fluttering, vulnerable, innocent swan, and a stronger, even overpowering Odile. Such expectations were happily felled in this performance, which presented one of the Kirov's most well-rounded dramatical technicians. For indeed, to be effective, drama itself demands a well-developed strategy. Tereshkina's balanced approach lent credence to her maturity as an artist and her heretofore deserved and well-earned praises.

Tereshkina's technique is miraculously contained within the parapets of the classical paradigm, and yet, for its traditionalism, never approaches boring or stale. Her limbs are essays in streamlined efficiency – neither hyperextended nor overmuscled, they repeatedly place themselves into beautifully artistic lines. Her port de bras too is breath-infused: wilted elbows or stiff fingers aren't to be found here. Absent too are some of the more common unsavory habits. No faulty arabesques were displayed, no limbs flailed, no mixed emotional delivery was given, no lopsided interpretation encompassed Tereshkina's portrayal.

In sum, her dancing is genius, and Tereshkina's lyrical talents give her an added advantage over the growing popularity of gymnast-ballerinas. Tereshkina is an artist. Her every movement speaks the word, and this performance defined it.

As Tereshkina's Prince Siegfried, Andrian Fadeev once again did justice to the role. His poised manner met the requirements of royal blood from his first entrance. Clearly despondent throughout the first Act, his soul then seemed to come alive upon encountering Tereshkina's Odette. Later, as he soared effortlessly though the Act III variation, his charming, boyish grin greeted the audience time and again as an introduction to each virtuosic jump. He appeared a child at play in the choreography, the stage his playground in which to romp.

Also with revised costumes, the Act I Pas de Trois was a well-rehearsed presentation of three of the company's finest dancers. Ekaterina Osmolkina and Irina Golub matched each other's staying power and height of leg in the repeat pique arabesques. This lent a symmetry that is often lacking to this section of dance. Vasily Scherbakov, a seemingly untamed Nijinsky in his airy faille assembles, brought excellence to the variation, if some of the supported turns in partnering were slightly awry. Altogether the trio offered a brief but exemplary model of refined technique that was taken even further, as previously noted, by the evening's hero and heroine.

As Rothbart, Ilya Kuznetsov attacked his own steps with hungry gusto, consuming the stage and revelling in his sinister role. The swan corps itself was a pristine reminder of what this company does best: uniform adherence to historical classicism.

Pavel Bubelnikov conducted.

Author:  Fairwind [ Sat Sep 16, 2006 9:34 am ]
Post subject: 

You are bating me to another performance of SL in L.A.! :P Tereshkina sounds like a beautiful Odette/Odile in the grand Russian tradition. So far I have a yearning to go to four of the four performances that will be done here at Orange County. Decisions, decisions. And you also reminded me of the fact that no matter who is dancing the principal roles, the corps of swans is a major highlight of the evening.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Sep 17, 2006 2:21 am ]
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Hi Fairwind,

That is so true - rest assured that if for any reason one of the leading dancers was not to your preferences (hard to imagine, but it can happen), the swan corps IS a reason to attend.

I don't know if Tereshkina will be dancing O/O on tour, but she and Uliana would be my first choices to see (esp if you've not seen them before in the role). How exciting to have the tour approaching out there, although I can imagine the strain it must put on one's pocket book!

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Sep 21, 2006 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  Cinderella

Alexei Ratmansky’s “Cinderella”
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
20 September 2006

by Catherine Pawlick

From the very first notes of Prokofiev’s brilliantly beautiful score for the ballet ‘Cinderella’, Wednesday night’s full house at the Mariinsky sat in rapt attention awaiting what would prove to be one of the most luscious presentations yet. Evgenia Obraztsova’s debut in the title role quickly earmarked her as mistress of the dance, placing her in favor among the terpsichorean gods and hopefully among lesser mortals in ballet circles as well.

While it isn't clear if the company plans to tour this ballet in the future, one thing is certain: If you have the chance to see Obraztsova as Cinderella, make it a priority to do so. Her joyous smile brought vivacity and freshness to the role, and her own beauty is an apt match for the lovely cinder-girl whose gloomy life turns magically into a fairytale. Here the combination of her technique and refined dramatic ability surpassed even her contemporaries in fluidity, expression and lyricism.

Having seen Diana Vishneva, Natalia Sologub and Irina Golub also perform this role, Obraztsova’s interpretation seems to be closest to what Ratmansky had in mind. Neither stilted in her dramatic delivery (one was always clear how her Cinderella felt, and why), nor allowing the constraints of classicism to give way to flyaway limbs or inexact movements (one had the impression of classical technique ever-present, but never reconstructed), Obraztsova’s high level of proprioception seemed apparent throughout the evening. It is as if, gifted with complete mastery of Russian Vaganova technique, she can then effortlessly branch into modern choreography without losing her classical roots. She takes the dance one step further, infusing movement with the apparent warmth housed in her soul. Obraztsova has a sense of grace that not every ballerina can claim.

Her acting abilities have already been noted – she starred in the film “Russian Dolls” last year – but Obraztsova’s emotional delivery is only an additional, welcome component to her own tasteful adherence to all the tenets of Vaganova training.

One particular gesture in the ballet serves as a theme throughout. When Ratmansky’s Cinderella first appears in the ballroom, she is alone on an empty stage, in a beautiful white gown, her hands covering her eyes. Slowly she uncovers her eyes and peers out. Whereas others have done so in fear, or used later instances of the gesture to mimic tears, here that was not the case. This gesture, done by Obraztsova, registered all of the disbelief of a young girl realizing she has been transported into her wildest dream. The smile that quickly followed underscored that point. Later, in her pas de deux with the Prince, this gesture repeats itself where it emphasizes Cinderella’s incredulity, as if to say “this dream cannot be real, I cannot believe my good luck.” The Prince however, gently removes her hands from her face in a reassuring gesture.

And so a word about the Prince is due. Igor Kolb seems made for Ratmansky’s Prince in the same way Obraztsova fits his Cinderella so well. Kolb managed to create the illusion of Obraztsova’s weightlessness in the multiple overhead lifts, which was no doubt aided by her compact frame. The pair’s chemistry was also fitting – from his first glimpse of her, Kolb never took his gaze off of this unknown beauty at the ball, giving one the distinct impression that he was truly smitten. Kolb’s sleek jetes and smooth pirouettes were physical manifestations of his character. His hip, spiked hairdo and all-white tuxedo hinted at the guy who simply has got it all. This was a prince of the 21st century, and as Kolb’s Prince grabbed Obraztsova’s hand, whisking her offstage, one had the impression he was probably taking her to listen to his latest new age CD in a chic pad somewhere in the most happening section of the city.

Perhaps no one else on the current Kirov roster can do this role as much justice as Kolb can. His easy ability to appear completely entranced with Cinderella lends a coherence to the entire ballet that would be missing otherwise. His confident, modern stride as the Prince was also a nice counterpoint to Obraztsova’s shy, innocent Cinderella.

Clever details in Ratmansky’s composition continue to reveal themselves upon repeat viewings of the production. Cinderella’s “dream” in Act I was enhanced by red light illuminating the backdrop which more clearly separated her reality (regular lighting downstage) from the fantasy in her mind being acted out upstage (the red light). When the four seasons are presented to Cinderella by her Fairy Godmother, one is usually too distracted by their dancing to notice what else goes on. But at this point, at stage left, the season’s helpers urge the Fairy Godmother to open her bag of tricks, and inside are Cinderella’s glass slippers and evening gown. From the broadway-esque pre-curtain beginning (three tall men, the hairdressers, display their sleek moves, clothed completely in black) to the avant-garde steps in the ballroom scene (hands are used repeatedly in brushing or waving movements, with plenty sharp turns of head and sudden plies) all combine in a thoroughly modern approach towards 21st century full-length ballets. Ratmansky’s praises have already been sung, but they are earned anew each time this production is performed.

Other dancers also impressed. Konstantine Zverev made his debut alongside Ti En Ru as the dance teacher, replacing Islam Baimuradov who usually dances this role. Zverev managed to offer a taste of the aloof elitism of the sleek instructor, and offered adequate disgust at the stepsisters’ lack of dancing talent.

Easily noticeable for his command of anything allegro-related, Andrei Ivanov stood out as Spring, the first of the seasons. Maxim Zuizin as Autumn and Anton Pimenov as Summer each brought spark to their roles. Ivan Sitnikov was Winter, always lingering behind, or being slowly pulled forward. An apt metaphor for the coldest of Russian seasons.

As the stepsisters, Viktoria Tereshkina and Elena Sheshina were essays in opposition – Tereshkina, long and thin, Sheshina, short and round. Both were hilarious in their sincere hopes of gaining the Prince’s hand (and money) in marriage. Irma Nioradze danced the role of Stepmother with equal humor. All three ladies proved their acting abilities this evening.

While atypical of the Kirov’s repertoire, Ratmansky’s ‘Cinderella’ is a must see, whether on Russian or American stages. This evening’s cast was ideal in all respects. Valery Obsyanikov conducted.

Author:  NataliaN [ Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:54 am ]
Post subject: 

Catherine, in fact this production toured to Washington, DC's Kennedy Center in January 2005. The night that I attended, it was not particularly well received --- polite applause but no bravos or standing ovations. Maybe that's why the company is a bit leary of doing further touring of this work?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Sep 22, 2006 12:51 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi NatalieN,

Are you serious? I say that meaning, serious about the DC performances (I'm sure you are) and serious about the audience reaction (I'm disappointed that I"m sure you are!) THat is really too bad. And I'm sure your right, that it does influence their decision of "to tour or not to tour" the production. Personally, I absolutely adore this production. It takes some getting used to -- it is far from classical. But the movement/choreography is so unique, and for its genre I think it does a fantastic job of bringing across the story of Cinderella -- it doesnt swerve into classicism too much or drama too much -- it's well balanced. I am sure New York would have had a different reaction -- DC audiences tend to be more conservative IMHO.

Then again, there have been fantastic performances.. I just came from Pavlenko's Giselle. The sixth (? If i'm counting right) that she's done in her career. She was fantastic IMHO. It was a full house. But for whateeeever reason: no standing ovation. (There were bravos though and thousands of photographs taken). But only one "blue" curtain call. No unison applause. This never ceases to puzzle me here. I know the locals aren't as fond of her as say, Lopatkina, who they come out in droves for and give 10-15 minute curtain calls *as a rule*. But in my opinion Pavlenko has great talent. My point is, audience reaction doesnt always, necessarily, reflect the caliber of dancer or production.

Thinking aloud, if I was in DC (or elsewhere in the US) and looking forward to the Kirov coming, given what I know about Washington Ballet's annual rep, I would want to see the Kirov in something purely classical. I'd want to see what you can't see a US troupe do. So the audience disappointment could lie in that...they're expecting Swan Lake and getting something so totally, well, almost opposite.

Author:  dancemelody [ Sat Sep 23, 2006 12:56 am ]
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I just came from Pavlenko's Giselle. She was fantastic IMHO

Yesss, Im completely agree with you. She's brilliant.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Sep 24, 2006 11:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Been having some issues posting on this thread. Hopefully this will land in the appropriate spot.


Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
22 September 2006

by Catherine Pawlick

For the sixth time in her career, Daria Pavlenko greeted the audience in the title role of “Giselle” on the Mariinsky stage Friday night. Her performance was another high-quality example of this Kirov principal’s capabilities as a true ballerina.

There is an indefinable quality in Pavlenko’s dancing that cannot be described as other than stemming from her heart, for it is her heart that she puts forward when she steps onstage, and the results are palpable. Pavlenko’s approach is not one of razor-sharp precision, or coldly calculated steps and gestures. She moves towards the dance from an emotional position, and the result is more understandable, more human, and more beautiful for her approach.

From Pavlenko’s first entrance it was tempting to mistake her for the young Ekaterina Maximova. Her eyes, lit with eager anticipation, searched the stage for he who had knocked at her door as she quickly skimmed through the initial ballone circle. Her curled smile was a bright illustration of innocence and curiosity, a young girl, full of life, whose heart is about to be broken by a (depending on one’s interpretation) cold-hearted brute.

For his part, Vladimir Schklyarov fit the role of that brute in every way. As the Albrecht you love to hate, his insincerity and deception was clear from the start. Just moments after their meeting, he lifts Giselle’s head and swears eternal love, hinting at the disjointedness in his ‘game’. Blessed with the looks of a Prince, this meant Schklyarov’s acting was commendable, while unfortunately his partnering work was, at points, sadly lacking. At the end of Act I, when Giselle is to sit on Albrecht’s knee following their dance, Pavlenko waited for Schklyarov to position himself and help her. Something went wrong and instead of meeting his knee, Pavlenko met the floor, unable to recover before the next bar of music began. Since Schlyarov has two free arms at this point, it is unclear what happened or why he wasn’t supporting her. Schklyarov repeated the blunder in the moments before the final curtain, when, at the end of Act II, Albrecht is lying on the floor and, according to the choreography, should raise his arm to hold Giselle at the waist while she balances in arabesque in front of him. His arm was lifted, but there was no support offered: Pavlenko tried three times to lift her leg into arabesque and finally continued on, bouree-ing offstage. How disappointing that Pavlenko must be submitted to these gaffes, moreso that neither was a technically difficult choreographic moment. They simply required attention and placement.

Dmitri Piikhachov, appearing even more handsome than usual, offered yet another repeat performance of his high-quality acting as Hans. Each time he fulfills this role, one wants him to win inside the fated love-triangle. In the moments before he reveals Albrecht’s true identity, he asks Giselle twice “do you love him” – impactful for the emotion he infuses into the moment and the mime.

Elvira Tarasova, in a rare treat, appeared as Myrtha in Act II. Warmer in character than many interpreters of the role, she was nonetheless calculating in each step and gesture. Tarasova has a Bournonville-esque pas de couru jete: with a still torso and smooth arms, she can execute nearly any manner of jump freely. Her command of the stage and of her entourage of wilis was regal in every sense of the word.

More, however, must be said about Pavlenko. It was with complete joy that she took every opportunity to dance. In Act I, Queen Bathilde’s request for her to do so was met with excitement brimming from every cell of her body. In her variation, she garnered applause for her hops en pointe. And during the mad scene, one had the distinct impression that she had already departed for the Next World. While Pavlenko seems too human to follow the route of Olga Spessistseva, her passion for the art of ballet in an odd way makes this role – at least in the first Act -- even more fitting for her. Given the relative dearth of her appearances on stage until recently, it makes perfect sense that one would see her bursting with energy and joy at the chance, yet again, to dance.

In Act II several details underlined Pavlenko’s virtuosic interpretation. Following the interlude where the rosemary branch breaks, Myrtha’s own power pulled Pavlenko’s Giselle away from Albrecht, to center stage. The Pavlenko/Tarasova pair tended to step in tandem – Myrtha backwards as Giselle went forwards – both after the initial entrance and during the pas de deux, which lent a greater coherency to Giselle’s existence in this other world. At the beginning of Act II, Pavlenko’s port de bras mimicked the motion of tears, underlining not only her character’s emotional state, but the humanistic side of her spectre, an approach that not all ballerinas take.

In the peasant pas de deux, Elena Sheshina and Philippe Stepin offered a smooth delivery even if several of their bows afterwards seemed superfluous. As Moyna and Zulma, the endlessly slim legs and long arms of both Daria Vaznetsova and Daria Sukhorukova did justice to their short variations.

With any luck, the Pavlenko-Schklyarov pair will have additional opportunities to display their talents, or perfect specific choreographic moments, as the case may be. Regardless, this performance enraptured the heart of at least one spectator in the audience.

Valeriy Obyasnikov conducted.

Author:  NataliaN [ Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:19 pm ]
Post subject: 

Catherine - Alas, I'm serious about the reaction to 'Cinderella' at the KC. I was at opening night performance, with Sologub, who was fantastic. I heard that Vishneva, on the following night, received heartier applause than did Sologub but, then again, it was obvious that the applause was for the performer & not so much the ballet. The intermission-talk at the opening was that it was 'silly, broad comedy,' with the sisters & stepmother. Some felt that the set was too simple & cheap-looking. Many compared it to Ashton's beloved version, which wasn't fair; it's hard to top the Ashton. Many walked out at each intermission, so there were quite a few empty seats by Act III.

That year ('05) the Kirov returned for a 2nd stint, with a string of 'Corsaires,' which were far better received by the audience.

This year ('06), the Forsythes were weakly received but the two (or three) 'Giselles' by Pavlenko drove the audience wild.

I wonder how the Bolshoi's own new 'Cinderella' (by Posokhov) will play in DC, next year?

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Sep 25, 2006 12:38 am ]
Post subject: 

Oh mann. Well, if they're comparing it to Ashton, I agree, it will be downhill from there bc they're *expecting* something classical. (In my experience if you expect classical and get modern, inevitably disappointment reigns). The two shouldn't really be compared, the genres are just so different. I grew up with SFB's version of Cinderella (by M. Smuin) which was classical and beautiful. But I'd never compare it to Ratmansky's -- apples and oranges really, although logically, the production/score are of the same name so it makes sense that this is the natural (??) reaction. Plus, if they're expecting *Kirov Classical* and the result is contemporary movement, well, it's understandable...

I had heard as much about the Forsythe this past spring but am still so thrilled that Pavlenko got the kudos that are her (long over-) due in DC.

Unfortunately I haven't seen Possokhov's Cinderella but would love to. I am very curious what it looks like. My guess is that the audience reaction would be similar.. if its not classical they may not go for it, given that this is the Bolshoi. But who knows?

Author:  NataliaN [ Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:12 am ]
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Catherine, I saw the Possokhov 'Cinders' at the Bolshoi & loved it, with Schipulina in the lead. The 'production values' (sets/costumes) are a bit more 'complete' (cohesive?) than the Ratmansky, so perhaps it will be more to the liking of DC audiences?

Don't forget, the Kenn.Cen. subscription audience is comprised, in great part, by diplomatic corps types and aging subscribers who still remember Margot-and-Rudi as the non-plus-ultra. They expect their tutus and tiaras, along with the rest. I used to expect it, too, but (I hope) have matured well beyond that. I adored the Forsythes in St. Petersburg & London, for example...but agree that the program somehow fell flat in DC.

Author:  ripowam [ Mon Sep 25, 2006 5:57 pm ]
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Pavlenko has always been successful at the Kennedy Center, beginning in 2002 as the Lilac Fairy and the Diamonds ballerina.

DC audience response to that 2005 Cinderella run became warmer as the week went by, as I recall.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:43 am ]
Post subject: 


Can you tell us a bit about Possokhov's Cinderella? Namely, is it as avant garde in the choreography as Ratmansky's (or moreso?) Or does it have a stronger classical tendency? The reviews I read online didn't go into detail in that respect, and photos make it appear (Pointe shoes + broomstick) rather classical. But I can't imagine it being along the lines of Ashton.

Author:  NataliaN [ Thu Sep 28, 2006 6:11 am ]
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Catherine, the Posokhov does have stronger, traditional classical dancing, e.g., the four Season Fairies are beautiful young women, on point (special delights - Osipova as Autumn & Kobakhidze as Winter). The overall concept -- Man in the Moon/Storyteller sends his assistant to Earth to be Cinderella -- is more clever & 'glamorous' than the Kirov's El-Cheapo loft apartment (or whatever that is). The Bolshoi sets/costumes/props are stunning, magical, colorful, more 'luxe' in the Posokhov, e.g., carriage pulled by sexy 'ponies' (leggy corps girls); a 'real' fireplace in the house; a tea-service & clocks that come to life; spellbinding staircase in ballroom, etc, etc. The Ratmansky's mild homosexual elements -- turn-offs for some -- aren't found in the Posokhov. Overall, the Posokhov/Bolshoi version is more appropriate & satisfying for an opera house with conservative public. Think 'Disney' in the best sense of the word. I bet that it will be a huge hit with DC audiences, if not with critics. Just my guess. It received huge applause at the 'New Bolshoi' theater when I attended.

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