CriticalDance Forum

Kirov at City Center, New York, April 2008
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Author:  sophia [ Sat Apr 12, 2008 3:00 am ]
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Frankly, I can't understand where the problem is with Macauley's Kirov reviews. Apart from my/our own tastes, why a critic should transform into a so-called "balletomaniac", enjoying everything he sees on stage? He likes polemic and asking questions to a performance, it's not new... We're all free to disagree with his feelings or judgements, but at least he really knows ballet world and ballet history and tries to think about choreography, style and more generally the way ballet is performed, apart from very secondary quarrels about dancer A or dancer B (unlike most comments on boards). Personally, that's what I ask a critical review. Not something we should believe in as if it was a universal truth, but a thoughtful point of view - partial as any - which can also lead us to question our own prejudices. Macauley's reviews can obviously be discussed, that's why they are interesting, though sometimes irritating. And honestly who could blame such a witty guy, as wit makes him belong to the Gautier tradition of dance criticism?

As far as I am concerned, I would love to see all those Kirov programs in NY and all those marvellous dancers (especially when at the same time, you're attending an unexciting POB triple bill), but well..., it's my problem and just a balletomane appreciation.

LMCtech wrote:
I could not agree more that the state of dance criticism is dismal right now, and it seems not just in America.

What about in non-English speaking countries? Is it the same there?

I think french dance criticism - if these words have a meaning -, is apalling... :roll: If all of you experienced it, then you would probably praise and call Alastair a genius! :lol:

Author:  Buddy [ Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:13 pm ]
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I think that the audience response will tell the story. First of all the auditorium seemed to be full each of the ten nights of performances that I was so fortunate to be able to attend.

The audience response has been extremely enthusiastic !

This is what I am sure these remarkably talented and heartwarming individuals----The Kirov Dancers----will take home as a gesture of Thanks and as a dominant memory from their magnificent performances in New York City.

Author:  Buddy [ Sat Apr 12, 2008 10:29 pm ]
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Walking down the memory lane of what I have seen in New York, it is the overall high quality of everyone's performances that still seems so outstanding.

Once again the dancing of the women's corps de ballet comes to mind. Such a uniformity of beauty. Yana Selina, like starlight emerging from the darkness, leading the corps de ballet Shades in their La Bayadere entrance is perhaps the most entrancing memory.

The magnificent performances of Ulyana Lopatkina and Diana Vishneva could define summits of the Art----an excellence of performing carried to the highest levels of development and expression.

Viktoria Tereshkina was another one of my favorites. She exhibited such a feeling of warmth and radiance along with her beautifully refined dancing and virtuosity.

Ekaterina Kondaurova is another lady that I loved. She was the ipidimy of Statuesque Beauty in motion.

Ekaterina Osmolkina, being more prominently evident, and Svetlana Ivanova were two more ladies that I loved. Their airy gracefulness was an absolute vision of enchantment.

Alina Somova was the wonderfully unpredictable presence. She is so hard to define at the moment because she is often so different. I find it fascinating. She varies from statuesque dancing goddess, comparable to Ekaterina Kondaurova, to consummate show-woman and everything in between. I sense a total sincerity in what she is doing. In a way it is a delight to have such an unpredictable and undefinable presence at the Kirov. Why wish her to be something other than what she is ?

Leonid Sarafanov deserves a complete volume phrasebook-praisebook of his own.

The wonderful memories don't stop here by any means.

Author:  ksneds [ Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:45 am ]
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OK. I officially no longer can stand Mr. Macaulay. His tirade about "Etudes" seems more an excuse to complain about something rather than an educated, measured review. I simply adore "Etudes", and it's my impression that in both France and Denmark (and often elsewhere), it's pretty much considered a masterpiece. Wonder how he'll review it when ABT performs it later this year...

I simply can't see how the ballet is not serious (or ludicrous, the utterly undescriptive adjective he uses) about ballet technique. To see the dancers lined up at the barre, only their legs lit, going through the basic tendus, is distilling ballet technique down to its essence.

Again, he point seems more about ripping apart something (or perhaps ripping apart the Kirov) than actually really reviewing it. Does he have any clue about the history? About why Czerny's music was chosen? (I think Riisager did a fine job - it's wonderful music and goes perfectly with the choreography).

It's not Petipa, but what it is, and I think is beautifully, is a series of "ballet etudes" that illustrate the path from the basic positions to the most complicated and technical of steps. And Landers highlights steps by using lighting, music and choreography to create memorable images. Often the dance may seem simple, but Landers is a master at making the most difficult things look very simple.

As to the so-called horrid face-down positions - my memory is that they're essentially very similar to the 'face down' positions of the swan corps in "Swan Lake". Hardly vulgar, and more a chance for the corps to rest and the soloists to show off the precision of their jumping than anything so visual appalling as Mr. Macaulay would have us believe. The section is supposed to emulate gypsy/folk music (it's in part a Mazurka).

Oh, and FYI Mr. Macaulay, in the jetes across the diagonal, it's not collisions that are a problem. I've seen many rehearsals of the ballet, and the real challenge is for the dancers to keep a straight line, and exit the stage at just the right point, and also to time the last jete. At the angle they are travelling, they have stop ASAP off the stage or they'll hit something, but yet, the shouldn't be seen slowing down on stage.

That said, I would think City Center to be bad stage for "Etudes" - it's small with very narrow wings. Etudes needs a large stage and space for the dancers to be able to slow up in the wings.


Author:  NataliaN [ Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:09 am ]
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Saturday, April 12, matinee

The matinee bill of Chopiniana, Spectre, Dying Swan & Etudes was quite good, if on a slightly lower level than the other Kirov-CityCenter shows I've seen so far.


The Big News: Olesya Novikova DID dance Etudes, despite a very respected press member's word last Wednesday that Novikova was apparently out for the rest of the run. [The Kirov is notorious for misinformation, alas.] I have no idea if the original news was due to injury but she was 90% OK yesterday...but had some off-point moments and tentativeness. However, she was fine overall -- great turns, for example. Sarafanov was impressive, as was THE star of the ballet, Vladimir Schklyarov, just arrived to NYC for the tail-end of the run. Tall, handsome, great leaper and turner, CHARISMATIC -- Schklyarov has it all and NYC embraces him! The corps danced splendidly...esp. the demi-solo men in grey.


Elegant Anton Korsakov subbed for Sarafanov in Spectre and danced with great ballon and romanticism. Nadezhda Gonchar was the Young Girl.


Danil' Konsuntsev excellent of line, elevation, and care for the ballerinas. The three lady soloists were nice -- capable of the steps but somewhat lacking in poetry. Daria Vasnetsova (Mazurka & pdd) disappointed; she went through the motions and does not have the elegant extensions and line required for this role...she is a bit too Somova-ish in trying to hyper-extend. Yulia Bolshakova (Prelude) was almost unrecognizable due to her recent physical changes & danced 'by rote' - as if her coach were standing in the wings pulling strings. Nadezhda Gonchar alone (1st solo) possessed the perfume of this ballet but even she did not reach 'Ayupova level' in poetry. The corps was fine but, again, not quite what the Kirov-Mariinsky has performed even in the recent past, e.g., London Tour ca 2001. Shame.

Dying Swan

THE A-#1 ballerina of this tour, Tsarina Diana Vishneva, was gorgeous in Dying Swan...more real (spontaneous-seeming artistry) & less 'calculated' than Lopatkina, although the latter possesses the most naturally divine line. But Vishneva brings out the pathos in the role; her arms truly weep. An interpretation for the ages, IMO. Whereas Lopatkina poses beautifully, Vishneva DANCES and INTERPRETS. The curtain calls -- lasting twice as long as the ballet, it seemed -- were half the fun. NYC adores its Tsarina Diana...and rightly so! :)

Now back to reality (and work) for the week...until one more fling in NYC with the Kirov next Sunday...the finale of this most successful tour. I'll depend on these web fora for news about the Forsythes and initial Balanchines.

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:45 am ]
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Many posts back on this thread I asked for our American contributors to post some links to the press reviews and I’ve read them all avidly. As a veteran Kirov watcher I doubt that I would have agreed with everything the NY critics wrote had I been there myself, but I wasn’t there and only have other people’s impressions to rely on. That for me is the value of reviews, to be able to get an impression of a performance that interests you that you can’t get to see yourself.

On 29th July last year I wrote the following about Alistair Macauley:

Some of us still remember the unparalleled maliciousness of Macaulay's Ritz reviews, written at a time when he was a permanent fixture at the opera house stage door, full of malevolence towards dancers he and his pals decided they didn't like.

There are a lot of ballet critics out there that basically fake it, Macaulay simply does it better than most.

I still stand by what I wrote back then and nothing I have read from him since has made me change my opinion. Most irritating to me is the way in which he ‘wastes’ valuable space by prefacing so many of his pieces with a pointless historical introduction about the ballet he’s reviewing, endlessly regurgitating the kind of information that can be read in a programme anyway. Could it be that this habit of his is to disguise the fact that he is unable to write interestingly about what he is actually watching in the number of words required of him to fill the space that the New York Times allocates? I suspect it is.

It is a huge bonus if a reviewer possesses some knowledge about the art of ballet, but knowledge that comes from watching performances, not from reading a book. I can forgive a lot on the whole but the one thing I cannot get to grips with is the idea of a reviewer with virtually no enthusiasm for the art form at all: and I detect very, very little enthusiasm from Alistair Macauley.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Apr 15, 2008 1:09 am ]
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Cassandra, I hear you and agree with what you just wrote. I am by no means a NY Times critic (yet :wink: ) but I also am bothered by extensive summaries in dance reviews of information otherwise to be found in programs. Most if not all classical ballets are already known by frequent ballet-goers. For the newbies, there are the program synopses. I think the exception is a rarely seen ballet with an interesting history --for example Mayakovsky's Bed Bug shown here a year or two ago, which I had not heard of before and had never seen, and which is never danced in the United States. That sort of ballet I think would deserve and do well with a summary. But the classics or mainstream Balanchine? Not necessary, in my opinion.

I guess it's a common (?? apparently?) practice among some journalists/writers to "fill in" what they don't know with historical recaps and so on. But we all see the filler for what it is. The sad thing is: why? and, at the New York Times, of all places? It's one of the country's "top" :roll: papers. A very SAD state of affairs in American journalism really.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Apr 15, 2008 1:14 am ]
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NataliaN, thanks so much for sharing your impressions! I am happy Shklyarov made it over at long last, very good. Novikova really excels in Etudes (and Ballet Imperial), so I am glad you /all got to see her. Sorry though, to hear Chopiniana disappointed. That ballet depends so much on the nuances and the dancers... it's very easy for it to be "off". Vasnetsova has been improving here (more tame as in her Act III Swan solo). She *does* have elegant extensions (she has amazing extensions in fact) so I wonder if she was having an off night? I wish i could have seen Bolshakova back on stage. I am curious if your perception of the rote dancing matches what I saw in her previous delivery or not. It has been some time since I've seen her on stage here in any solo role.

I guess only five more days until your next "Fix" :-)

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:56 am ]
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I actually quite like Macaulay when he started out at the NY Times because he was a much needed breath of fresh air. He wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers, many of which really needed to be ruffled after so many years of Kisselgoff's overly kind handling of NYCB's faults.

But he seems to have gone over the deep end with reviews that seem to have less to do with fair and interesting commentary and more to do with personal, and often seemingly uninformed biases.

That said, I don't think it's wrong to include some background in a review if there is space. Remember that the many people who read the reviews may not have ever seen the ballet in question or at least been to a recent performance and so would not have the program notes. Thus, especially when there's a pertinent history (such as that of Etudes, and why the use of the particular music and the multiple versions; or the history of Chopiniana/Les Sylphides), it's good to have a brief background.

But background should not come at the cost of a decent review. My pet peeve is reviews - like some of Macaulay's - that barely mention any dancers. Sets, costumes and choreography are important, but when it comes down to it, the dancers make or break the performance. Especially in terms of reps like the Kirov or NYCB or ABT where, a few new ballets aside, most of the ballets are well known or at least well documented. So it's not really the details of the choreography that's of current import, but how the ballet is being interpreted and performed.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the Kirov for the first time on Thursday, even if I will probably be a bit jet lagged.


Author:  NataliaN [ Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:47 am ]
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Catherine Pawlick wrote:
.....Bolshakova back on stage. I am curious if your perception of the rote dancing matches what I saw in her previous delivery or not. .....

Catherine, the image that is forever in my mind from this past Saturday is of Bolshakova dancing the Prelude and slightly bobbing her head to mark the time, like a student or young corps girl often does. She had slight hesitations just before going on-pointe for arabesques and in one instance not hitting her balance-pointe and trying again. One could almost see her (hear her) count "...i raz...dva..." during that sequence of arabesques in the Prelude Solo, whist looking at the audience-right front wing...I could picture in my mind her coach Terekhova standing there. There's a real air of sad dependency. She does not hide it too well at this early stage in her career.

I also had this feeling of "schoolgirl tentativeness" whenever watching Sarah Lamb (Royal Ballet; Boston earlier) in her earlier career -- as if she could not break away from beloved teacher Mme Legat. Lamb has shown greater confidence in the last year or two, though. I no longer get that feeling from her.

Only FOUR days and counting for the start of my "final fix"! I have Saturday and Sunday matinees in NYC (and might buy a last-minute ticket for the Sat evening performance if I'm crazy enough). :P

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:01 am ]
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But background should not come at the cost of a decent review. My pet peeve is reviews - like some of Macaulay's - that barely mention any dancers. Sets, costumes and choreography are important, but when it comes down to it, the dancers make or break the performance. Especially in terms of reps like the Kirov or NYCB or ABT where, a few new ballets aside, most of the ballets are well known or at least well documented. So it's not really the details of the choreography that's of current import, but how the ballet is being interpreted and performed.

That was my point too.

NN, that sounds rather extreme. Ive *never* seen any Kirov girl do what you just described on the stage here....!!'?! I am shocked and, well, just...shocked!

Author:  NataliaN [ Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:05 am ]
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Catherine Pawlick wrote:
NN, that sounds rather extreme. Ive *never* seen any Kirov girl do what you just described on the stage here....!!'?! I am shocked and, well, just...shocked!

It was pretty bad and I was seated way up in Rear Mezzanine. However, I'm surprised that you haven't noticed this slight head-bobbing (slightly robotic quality) from the corps ladies at the Mariinsky. For ex, they do it during the coda of Swan Lake scene 2...and almost all corps segments in waltz time. In a group, it comes across as 'charmingly uniform' if a bit robotic. In a soloist, it is dreadful, IMO. We see the slight head bobbing in most films of Vaganova Academy girls in class when concentrating hard to count-out their exercises.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:30 pm ]
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Nope, in four years here, have never once seen it. The only bobbing heads I have seen is when they do ballone devant with the opposing arm as leg coming front-- but the head is supposed to bob in that step :-).

Author:  Buddy [ Fri Apr 18, 2008 1:59 pm ]
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So the Kirov dancers are getting ready to return home to Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Lucky, Lucky Saint Petersburg !

Catherine----Lucky, Lucky You !

I enjoyed all that I saw the first ten days immensely. I even liked the smaller stage. There was such an Intimate feel to these performances. Something prompted these dancers to do as well as I've ever seen them do. Perhaps the intimacy was part of it.

The highlight performances that I saw were from Raymonda, Paquita, The Kingdom Of The Shades (La Bayadere), Chopiniana-Les Sylphides, La Spectre De La Rose, The Dying Swan, Le Jardin Anime and Pas De Deux (Le Corsaire), Diana And Acteon and Don Quixote.

Their performances of two of their most Dreamlike ballets,

The Kingdom Of The Shades And Chopiniana-Les Sylphides

set the Overall Atmosphere and Aura for me. Most everything for me seemed to revolve around the Dreamstate that these two ballets created.

As I have probably said before,

This Was Possibly The Most Uniformly Well Performed Kirov Series By All The Dancers That I Have Seen !

[spelling correction made]

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:26 am ]
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Thanks for your impressions Buddy.

I could do with a little Jardin Anime right about now. It has been a while since I've seen that... it is just so lovely to watch.

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