CriticalDance Forum

7th Annual International Ballet Festival Mariinsky April'07
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Author:  Buddy [ Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:35 pm ]
Post subject: 

A personally fascinating experience for me was the performance of "Diamonds". I was not at all familiar with the New York City Ballet style of dancing. To see a member of this company, Maria Kowroski, dance a lead with it's historic 'source' the Kirov-Mariinsky would be a treat for anyone. By 'source' I mean to say that George Balanchine apparently intended this ballet to be a tribute to the Mariinsky Ballet Company that he danced with and learned from as a young man.

To see the two different dancing styles together in an historic tribute of one company to the other was wonderful. I did indeed notice a difference in styles. The Kirov-Mariinsky dancers were much smoother and more lyrical. Maria Kowroski, if she is indeed typical of an NYCB dancer, was much more 'active' looking with very defined 'punctuated' moves. I thought both styles looked wonderful.

Maria Kowroski

I thought she danced beautifully ! I have since looked at a video of Suzanne Farrell dancing the same role. Maria Kowroski seems to have a slightly more 'punctuated' or articulated look to her moves. In any case I was delighted with the contrast of her style and that of the Kirov-Mariinsky dancers. I enjoyed one thing very much in her dancing. I would sometimes wonder if she was going to complete a rather complicated series of moves successfully. By the time the thought had occured to me she was already successfully two steps into her next sequence. This phenomen of fast recovery or 'being 'two steps ahead' of expectation is something that I have also sensed in my one viewing of my new NYCB video. It is a very impressive thing to see.

Svetlana Ivanova

Ever since reading Catherine's very sympathetic interview with this lady I have been hoping that something good would come her way. She was given the opening solo to perform twice in "The Awakening Of Flora" and I couldn't have been happier. I thought she danced with beautiful classical grace. I saw her dancing as being similar to that of Ekaterina Osmolkina and Ekaterina Petina--a linear, gentle, classically graceful look that I liked very much. I hope that Svetlana Ivanova will continue to get good dancing parts as I think that she really deserves them.

Author:  Buddy [ Mon Apr 30, 2007 9:22 am ]
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I hope to be able to mention a few more names, if I am able, because so many wonderfully talented artists did so well and seemed to give their all at this year's Festival.

Alina Somova

I personally like her, of course, as I see her as one more member of an extremely talented and commited family--the Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet Company. I was touched by her originally when she was interviewed with two other young Kirov-Mariinsky dancers in Los Angeles about two years ago. When asked about their off work plans in LA one dancer replied that she hoped to see as much of the city as possible, which seemed absolutely fine. Alina Somova, who at the time was the focus of a lot of discussion, stated that she really felt that she had to devote all her time in LA to practicing as her performance was new to her and was being watched very carefully. She went on to receive some very positive response from this tour, especially from the audiences.

In the case of Alina Somova, as with several other dancers, discussion sometimes seems to overshadow what is actually there.

In my mind Alina Somova is actually a very lovely, graceful dancer. The six o'clock (one leg straight up) is certainly open to valid discussion as is the entire issue of pushing one's body and mind to it's limits in any of the arts. I do want to say that at one of her performances you are not likely to fall asleep. I have seen her at least once somewhat 'take over the stage'. I viewed this as an honest effort, not only to show what she was capable of doing, but also to inject a perhaps very desirable 'spark' into the entire event.

As the Dryad Mistress and as a soloist in the final act of Don Quixote at this year's Festival, I thought that she did some beautiful graceful dancing in several sequences. Yes she did some six o'clocks and, yes, the audience generally loved them. Incidently this was the only instance of the use of six o'clocks that I noticed in the entire Festival.

I think that she is a very talented and sincere performer and I wish her much success in the future as I do all the wonderful dancers that we are so privileged to see at events such as this wonderful Festival.

[some typo error's' later corrected]

Author:  Buddy [ Mon Apr 30, 2007 1:00 pm ]
Post subject: 

The topic of men in ballet is a very interestiing one. I generally tend to focus on the women, which I guess is not that unusual in ballet. This could be because ballet is more oriented toward the graceful and beautiful than the bravura of some folk dance forms for example. A few male dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev with the incredible 'personality' of his dancing or Mikhail Baryshnikov with his amazing technical prowess took center stage. Only one male dancer, that I have ever seen, has entered the realm of dominating 'grace' and that was Fred Astaire. His dancing for me was at least equal in 'grace' to that of his female partners, while staying believably masculine.

If ballet is indeed dominated by women it is an interesting off topic question as to why other art forms such as painting, music and poetry have historically remained male dominated. My quick and very generalized opinion is that men may tend to abstract more, while women, who give birth and nuture life may be more reality oriented. Dance can be a fairly basic form of expression.

All that having been said, let's take a quick look at one of the very impressive male dancers at this year's Festival.

Leonid Sarafanov

For me his performance in Don Quixote was most noteworthy for his famous aerial and spinning abilities. In Romeo and Juliet he did some very commendable physical expression as Mercutio.

His elevation of jumps in Don Quixote was wonderful as usual. Interestingly in the segment of Le Corsaire performed at the Gala, the amazing Natalia Osipova did one jump that looked as high as one of his. His spins in Don Quixote were beautifully done. His most breathtaking moves for me were a series of aerial jump turns (I'm not sure what they are called) where one leg is extended out at a right angle. At about half rotation, if I remember correctly, the turn seemed to almost stop in mid-air. It was quite remarkable.

Another really removed observation since I am discussing men's aerial moves was the last night performance by the satyrs in The Awakening Of Flora. They did a sort of simple entrechat (passing the feet together in mid-air) while leaning at an angle. As the feet came together they seemed to almost 'freeze' at the top of the jump. I had never noticed this being done before. It was a quick moment in time, but I thought a very fine looking gesture.

An interesting comparison to make in the future will be between Leonid Sarafanov and the new Bolshoi aerial wonder, Ivan Vasiliev (not at the Festival). Ivan Vasiliev, who is about the same size but has a more muscualr build, is rock solid, a strong partner and has a vibrant personality, which will be an interesting contrast to the very graceful and refined Leonid Sarafanov.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue May 01, 2007 8:59 am ]
Post subject:  Alina Somova

Buddy, I think the reason why so many have a strong aversion to this dancer is because she takes ballet out of the artistic sphere and into the realms of gymnastics.

I personally detest the use of the six o’clock extension in classical works, for me ballet is about beauty of line, geometry almost, and only a very small margin of deviation from a choreographers original intentions should ever be allowed, otherwise the integrity of the steps is lost. By no means is Somova the only dancer guilty of this ugly movement, Zakharova has based her entire career on it and even dancers that are far superior to these two, Cojocaru for example, slam their feet against their ears at inappropriate moments. As a rule a thumb, I’ve noticed that the higher the leg goes; the more technical deficiencies can be spotted elsewhere.

The home audience is no doubt very partisan with its applause where the Kirov girls are concerned, but I’m afraid that this new departure to extreme technique will damage the company’s reputation irreparably before long.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue May 01, 2007 9:31 am ]
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Hi Cassandra,

I certainly appreciate your point of view. I think ultimately it is a matter of a balanced approach. Times change, ideas of what is beautiful can vary slightly. I personally love 'classical purity' in ballet and hope that changes to it's beautiful essence as we know it are always dealt with sensitively.

I do feel that dancers like Svetlana Zakharova and also Alina Somova have very beautiful dancing style with or without the six o'clocks and this is one of the things that I like very much about them.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue May 01, 2007 9:53 am ]
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When I saw Alina Somova in Chicago performing her Act II Odette, I thought that she used a fair amount of 'restraint' and showed some beautiful basic 'shape' and 'flow', as did Diana Vishneva at the time. I felt that Diana Vishneva was giving this very particular attention. I did notice her in the audience one night watching the other artists. I somehow feel that the issues that we discuss here are also considered by the dancers.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue May 01, 2007 1:47 pm ]
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Vladimir Ponomarev

A man on the Mariinsky stage that really fascinates me is Vladimir Ponomarev, the character actor-dancer. Marc Haegeman has described him as a man of a thousand faces. He has been an Honored Artist of Russia since 2002 according to Marc.

I have enjoyed many of his portrayals very much. Some of them I have considered to be among the finest theatrical displays that I have ever seen. This Festival I was able to see him portray Don Quixote and the Father in the Prodigal Son.

His portrayal of Don Quixote, for me, is a theatrical masterpiece. I have seen it performed twice before on stage and you can get some sense of it from the Kirov-Mariinsky "Don Quixote" video featuring Tatiana Terekhova--a video I would definitely recommend. I have said in another review that I could have spent the entire performance just watching him as he never stopped acting for a moment.

His Don Quixote was different this year from the video and the live performances that I have seen. In the past he has been a lanky,drifting, romantic aberation of a 'thousand' nuances. If that it is hard to understand you can image how hard it was for me to write it. 'Subtlety on top of subtlety with infinite depth' is the best I can do in describing his portrayal.

This year he became something new--a more star struct romantic, more expansive. He seemed more adrift in a state of reverie. It was not the same character that has fascinated me in the past, but still an equally compelling one. He can nuance his portrayal differently from one night to the next, but until now, in my viewing, his Don Quixote has remained the same. Try to focus on his face as carefully as possible if you have the video and hopefully it will give you a sense of the enthralling adventure that it has taken me on.

His rather brief appearance as the Father in the Prodigal Son I thought was monumental. It was meant to be. He is the symbolic rock around which all the action unfolds. He is ten feet tall. When at the end he picks up his ravaged and repentant son with One Arm and carries him forgivingly back toward their house, I could feel an intensity capable of moving mountains.

[typo correction's' made]

Author:  Buddy [ Tue May 01, 2007 9:39 pm ]
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Ulyana Lopatkina and Daria Pavlenko

In the performances that I saw both these women ventured into new waters. As I mentioned before I was not able to see Ulyana Lopatkina dance in La Bayadere, where she apparently did wonderfully.

Daria Pavlenko danced in William Forsythe's "In The Middle Somewhat Elevated", which I had seen her do about two years ago. She seemed much more confident this year, although as I often muse about with her there is a lovable charm to her less secure but heartfelt efforts as seen in the first performance.

Of the performances that I have seen, I feel that the strength of both these women is still in the area of the lyrical and classical. That doesn't mean that tomorrow they couldn't do a brilliant modern interpretation.

Daria Pavlenko has stated that she likes to try new things. In this festival she danced in two totally new productions by Alexei Miroshnichenko. I would say that she did very well.

Ulyana Lopatkina chose to venture into a tango interpretation and Forsythe's "In The Middle Somewhat Elevated". There were moments when her untouchable brilliance of line and motion and pose really shone through.

Some 'classical' dancers such as Diana Vishneva seem to thrive in new waters. I still feel that the strength of these two remarkable women at the moment is most visible in the lyrical and classical, where I have seen them perform at 100% +. I would still give both these wonderfully talented dancers an A+ for effort and hope that they continue to try for beautiful expression wherever they think that it might be found.

So many wonderful dancers and so many wonderful performances.

Both good times and wonder were to be enjoyed at this year's Festival.

Author:  Buddy [ Wed May 02, 2007 10:32 am ]
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The reason that I have come to love the ballet, or what I call lyrical dance, a broader category, is that it is simply one of the most wonderful looking displays of human physical beauty that I have ever seen. This is the reason that I have gone to Saint Petersburg, Russia for three years in a row to attend their wonderful dance festival.

I try to keep my visits to Saint Petersburg as dreamlike as possible.

I'd love to mention a few of the wonderful memories that I have of this visit.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, one of my most pleasant memories will be of the most lovely and friendly individuals, who were at the gala party. Most of them towards the end of the evening were the dancers themselves.

One thing that I realized was how young many of them are. It is easy to forget when you see them perform at such a high level of artistic development.

As I have also written, I was very kindly allowed to attend an hour of the Vaganova final exams. I didn't get to see much of the school itself climbing to what was maybe the fourth floor. It seemed like a bright, healthy, clean and comfortable environment. It also had a dreamlike aura to it. There were gentle lovely children everwhere.

I once wrote Altynai Asylmuratova a holiday greetings card, which some friends helped me translate into russian. I told her what a great artist I thought she was and what a wonderful tradition of artistry she was now going to help nurture at the Vaganova school. I never did receive a response, but with the huge amount of work that she must have I could understand this.

I also mentioned that I thought that she had a trust to not only help nuture some of the world's greatest artists, but to also be a guardian of their healthy development, both physically and mentally. I mentioned the idea of producing fine human beings as well as fine artists.

I will say once again that the Mariinsky dancers that I have met have been gracious and warm. Many of the individuals that have met on my visits to Saint Petersburg have also been very friendly and helpful.

The Festival itself is a wonderful event. Not only does it feature some of the best dancers in the world from the Mariinsky, but it also features stars and related dancing styles from the entire world. That the Mariinsky corps de ballet can do a different performance every night is wonderful, but then during their normal season they never repeat the same dance two nights in a row.

A few other fond memories that relate to this Festival visit will be of spending some lovely sunshiny afternoons in a nearby park watching and playing some games with an absolutely delightful group of little children. This always tends to keep my life and surroundings in perspective as well as making it all worth being a part of.

Walking home along the Neva River after the performances, where a large expanse of beautiful historic buildings are lit up on both sides, is a magnificent experience.

Getting together with some of our internet ballet forum friends after the performances to relax and discuss what we had seen was a real pleasure.

The delight of having been with so many heart warming individuals and having seen so much talent and beauty is what I will treasure from this visit.

Author:  Cygne [ Wed May 02, 2007 1:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alina Somova

Cassandra wrote,

Buddy, I think the reason why so many have a strong aversion to this dancer is because she takes ballet out of the artistic sphere and into the realms of gymnastics.

I personally detest the use of the six o’clock extension in classical works, for me ballet is about beauty of line, geometry almost, and only a very small margin of deviation from a choreographers original intentions should ever be allowed, otherwise the integrity of the steps is lost. By no means is Somova the only dancer guilty of this ugly movement, Zakharova has based her entire career on it and even dancers that are far superior to these two, Cojocaru for example, slam their feet against their ears at inappropriate moments. As a rule a thumb, I’ve noticed that the higher the leg goes; the more technical deficiencies can be spotted elsewhere.

The home audience is no doubt very partisan with its applause where the Kirov girls are concerned, but I’m afraid that this new departure to extreme technique will damage the company’s reputation irreparably before long.

IMO I think the pivotal question is what is now considered "traditional,
pure, academic classical ballet" in the Maryinsky? Apparently the new
vision is to promote and perpetuate that which jars the senses, the
aesthetics, and the original intent of the Maryinsky's classical repertory,
which is the foundation and raison d'etre of the company and the Vaganova Academy.

When a dancer is trained in the Vaganova Academy, passes the exams,
is accepted into the company, and then inexplicably throws all that
she (or he) learns out the window, in favor of their own
personal style, and worse, is encouraged to continue on that
path, that's a problem that needs to be addressed. Also, when
a dancer's personal style doesn't derive from the established canon of steps, nor how those steps ought to be correctly executed and danced in a performance, like it or not, there will be visual and artistic disonnance onstage with the ensemble. The Maryinsky Kirov Ballet of the most recent past i.e. pre 1994, had no such disonnance.

The heritage and tradition of a school of ballet is in jeopardy here.
I'll veer a little off topic for a moment. Sylvie Guillem, the prototype
of the "gymnast/dancer," is here in Los Angeles for three performances
this week. Her direct descendents are Zakharova and Somova. Guillem's
legacy is the six o'clock extension. At today's high prices, as heroic as the honest effort is, there's no substitute for superior artistry,
rank, company seniority, experience, nuance and properly rendered dancing which does not deviate from the choreographic and libretto intent. Consider this: What and where exactly will classical ballet norms be after Somova, Zakharova retire?

Author:  Laurence [ Wed May 02, 2007 11:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

i am not ok with your last sentences Zakharova is not a descendent from Guillem Her teacher is Semionova not Guillem and probably if Guillem would teach Zakharova six o'clock which is just a movement was not the important thing to be teach with Don't forget that acrobatie is at the beginning of every living art in Russie (danse theatre...)So she is simply a "new "russian ballerine...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu May 03, 2007 6:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Welcome, Laurence, to this discussion. I don't believe Cygne was implying that Guillem had taught Zakharova. She meant Zakharova is another who dances in her mold, a protegee of sorts (although no correlation in training/school/ancestry/culture), another who uses extremes of line to attract audience attention, another who exhibits flexibility arguably at times at the expense of artiscism, restraint and tradition, to put it one way.

I would argue that not all living arts in Russia stem from acrobatics and I think many of the teachers at the Vaganova School would agree. Yes the children there are trained in stretching and flexibility but that is part and parcel of a comprehensive theatre education. The entire premise of Russian classical ballet is not to emulate a circus -- that's what the circus is for. It's also not simply to act out characters on stage -- that's what dramatic theatre is for. And it's not simply to move pell-mell to music -- that's what other forms of dance are for.

I do agree with you that Zakharova is one of the "New Russian Ballerinas" along with Somova and, in her own way, Vishneva as well. The interesting question is whether this new breed conflicts with the classical traditions of the Mariinsky Theatre (and that of the Bolshoi as well). Whether the history and technique will be lost if this new style takes over the theatre -- that is a great worry in the minds of many. Is that something that the theatre itself wants? Does the audience support it? I can say for certain that the St. Petersburg locals do not appreciate Somova on this stage. I cannot comment about Zakharova. And Vishneva is rarely on the Mariinsky stage these days, but a discussion of her is a separate topic entirely.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu May 03, 2007 6:01 am ]
Post subject:  Artistic Influences

I think Cygne means Zakharova is an artistic descendent of Guillem's, not an academic descendent. Z's current teacher is currently Semenyaka, a dancer as different from her pupil as chalk is to cheese.

Unlike the Russian girls, Guillem does have a comprehensive technique; as French training hasn't yet been undermined by the new Maryinsky style of dance being limited movement punctuated by poses. Guillem was famously a gymnast in her youth and I for one appreciated her as a one off, radically different from her colleagues, but I very much deplore the fact that her acrobatic abilities have turned her into a role model.

Author:  KANTER [ Thu May 03, 2007 8:55 am ]
Post subject: 

What does surprise one about the current state of performance at the Maryinskii, is that Russians, in general, have a considerable degree of musical culture.

HOW do they tolerate watching the score being massacred, as one starlet after another comes out, and hits the SCREAM button at every opportunity to pick up the leg?

Try this for a cute exercise.

Take a ballet to a score that you know fairly well. Watch it in the theatre, or on film, in a current version. Mark out in your head, or on the score if you can read music well enough, where you think the musical accent should lie in certain variations. Or rather, where the composer wrote them in, and where our friend Petipa, or Perrot, or whomever, dutifuly followed suit.

Then look at the current tape, or DVD, or the stage. When the befuddled starlet picks the leg up, and Up, and Up, was there ever, in point of fact, supposed to be a musical accent there? Or is just the Heavy Metal way we hear music now? Whack! Whack ! Whack!

Then take a prehistoric tape from the 1950s for example. Look at precisely the same passages, and listen again to where the musical accents come. How does the dancer respond to those accents?

That is one aspect of the dumbing-down of dance.

We will now grossly over-simplify the score, and grossly over-simplify the steps as well, binning the details of the épaulement and port de bras, and binning the stuff that gets in the way of the hyper-extensions.

For an old hag like the writer of these lines, much of what one sees at the moment, is like a comic book, all scribbles and primary colours.

Author:  Buddy [ Thu May 03, 2007 6:08 pm ]
Post subject: 

I received this very nice message from Laurence which I would like to post. I have his permission to do so.

Thank you so much, Laurence. Bolshoe spassiba !

From: Laurence
To: Buddy
Posted: Wed May 02, 2007 10:11 pm
Subject: warm
thank you to say that it is full of happyness and probably they speak of you with same words when russian people give friendship he never forgets it year after year


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