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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:26 am 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
"La Sylphide"
Mariinsky Theater
St. Petersburg, Russia
30 March 2008

by Catherine Pawlick

As pedagogs and dancers board planes for the three-week, long anticipated New York City Center stop, this morning's performance of "La Sylphide" demonstrated that the Big Apple is in for a treat indeed.

The talented young Grigory Popov paired with veteran Elena Sheshina for a matinee that charmed adults and children alike. Just 24 years of age, Popov is typically cast as the Jester in "Swan Lake" (he just carried all six festival performances here in Petersburg) or the Golden Idol in "La Bayadere", but today had a chance to shine in the limelight in this leading role. And shine he did. Pulling off the extended petit allegro sections with aplomb, Popov seems made for a role such as James, which combines the need for authoritative acting with polished technique. From his initial awakening, Popov's James was completely overtaken by his dreamworld. The vision of the airborne Sylph, danced with sprightly finesse by Sheshina, seemed to infiltrate all of his senses. Popov depicted all of James' emotions with mastery, revealing the character's disbelief, confusion and attraction to both the Sylph and (whether truthfully or otherwise) to his fiancee. James, similar to Popov's own self-description, is a romantic at heart, chasing after a beautiful phantasm. Sadly, that creature of the air, for all her lively flirtatiousness, means only self-destruction for James, whose unhappy interactions with the witch kill both the object of his affection and him.

Sheshina, likewise, moved as if she had been raised dancing the challenging Bournonville choreography. From a flutter of bourrees to any number of light-footed petit allegro jumps (en pointe), Sheshina was a pleasure to behold.

As Effi, Polina Rassadina brought an expressiveness and lighthearted feminism to her role of the stilted fiancee, intuitively sensing James' emotional withdrawl in favor of some other being. Evgenia Emelianova, not often cast in leading roles, brought justice to her part as Nancy, Effi's friend, with a beautiful smile and well-articulated legwork. The two Youths were danced by resident (twin) brothers Egor and Kirill Safin, a tall, lanky pair who excelled in their jumps and epaulement. Yulia Slivkina debuted in this performance as Madge, the horrible witch. From her accusing fingers to bone-shuddering laugh, she made the role her own. Tatiana Gorionova lent a sense of matronly consideration to her role as Anna, James' mother.

The four Sylphides each brought individual gifts to their dancing sections. Anastasia Petushkova's variation was carefully excecuted. Maria Adzhamova danced with particular lightness alongside both Elena Vaskiovitch and Evgenia Emelianova, who danced double duty appaering in this role as well.

New to my eyes was conductor Alexei Repnikov, who led the orchestra flawlessly, in beautiful unison.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 11:29 am 
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"Giselle"
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick
4 April 2008

The festival is over. The tourists have gone. The souvenir and program stands, once teeming with buyers, are left mostly empty at intermission, for the locals are already intimately familiar with their wares. But on Friday night the Mariinsky Theatre filled to the brim with diehard Russian balletomanes for a very special performance.

It would be hard to pinpoint a singular reason for the crowd. Evgenia Obratsova as Giselle would be reason enough. But Alexander Sergeev’s debut as Albrecht sealed the terpsichorean covenant and made the performance that much more spectacular.

Sergeev’s promise has been notable since his graduation performance in 2004. A student of the renowned Gennady Silutsky, Sergeev possesses one of the finest arabesque lines in the company, long, sinewy muscles, flexibility, strength, and balance. In his Second Act variation, he finished his cabriole sissones in a high arabesque; his tour jetes always reach a straight 180-degree line while still in the air. He managed four perfectly placed pirouettes before continuing to turn in attitude derriere, and throughout the evening provided flawless partnering support for Obratsova. But technique is something most Kirov soloists have in spades over their international counterparts. Sergeev offered something more.

It was clear from the start that this budding artist had thought through the libretto, and defined his own portrayal of Count Albrecht’s character. Tiny nuances gave the storyline added coherency, and those nuances were many. His initial entrance was accompanied by a noble demeanor. It was clear that his aide, danced by Fedor Lopukhov, only annoyed the count, judging from Sergeev’s dismissive gestures. Likewise, an unexpected passionate embrace of Giselle in the First Act pas de deux demonstrated Albrecht’s recklessness; a snap of the fingers showing his puerile side when he is caught in his web of lies. Sergeev’s Albrecht was the unevolved impulsive kind – not ill-intentioned, simply too impetuous to have thought through his plan and considered the possible repercussions. This overall good intent became clear during the Second Act, when his character’s palpable grief intertwined with surprise at the fleeting nature of Giselle’s ghostly embodiment. And finally, Sergeev’s attempt to hold onto Giselle’s hand as she disappears down into her grave, and the sobs he portrayed lying on her gravestone at curtain showed his character’s sincere care for the girl he betrayed. It is already clear that Sergeev will be a future star inside this company.

Evgenia Obratsova, stunning to behold offstage as well as on, danced a spectacularly happy and innocent peasant girl. As Giselle, she embodied youth, beauty and blind trust, and her interpretation of every scene was entirely her own. Particularly surprising was Obratsova’s mad scene. While a consummate actress, I had not expected such a dramatic shift from lovestruck youth to her character’s psychological distraction, but Obrastsova performed the transition masterfully. Perhaps more than any other ballerina on the current Mariinsky roster, however, Obrastsova’s honed technique provides unfaltering performances that leave no doubt as to her strength and stamina, and in the process open up room for refined character development. Her Second Act adagio, from the initial developpe a la seconde to the promenade in arabesque, were completed without a single wobble. Each pirouette was smooth. Her petit allegro, likewise, was short and crisp. In a word, she is faultless, and this role becomes her.

As Myrtha, Alexandra Iosifidi danced a cool Queen of the Wilis, only her rather flat fingers distracting from otherwise standard Vaganova lines. Viktoria Kutepova – her hair now black from its usual blonde shade – joined Yulia Kasenkova as the two wilis. Both danced adequately but did not offer the sparks that the leading couple provided.

Of note, there was oddly no Peasant Pas de Deux danced in the First Act. As Vladimir Schklyarov looked on from the company box, one presumes that the New York tour has removed any possible contenders for the male role, thereby resulting in the removal of the entire pas de deux from this particular performance.

Conductor Mikhail Agrest led a beautiful orchestral accompaniment for this milestone performance.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:31 am 
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I'm copying here the information that just appeared on the Mariinsky website (and for some still only in the Russian version), implying quite a lot of promotions :

Principals
Viktoria Tereshkina
Evgeny Ivanchenko

First Soloists
Olesya Novikova
Yevgenia Obraztsova
Alina Somova
Irina Golub
Vladimir Shklyarov
Nikita Scheglov

Second Soloists
Yulia Bolchakova
Maxim Zyuzin
Anton Pimonov
Alexander Sergeyev

Coryphees
Ekaterina Ivannikova
Daria Vasnetsova
Anna Lavrinenko
Anastasia Petushkova
Maria Shirinkina
Diana Smirnova
Andrei Ermakov
Alexeï Nedviga
Alexeï Timofeyev
Grigory Popov
Filipp Stepin


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 Post subject: some retirements; some omissions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:27 pm 
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While congratulating all of the newly-promoted, very deserving dancers, I could not help but notice who is no longer on the roster (retired), as well as who was NOT promoted among the more active & praised dancers.

RETIREMENTS

Principal Ballerina ZHANNA AYUPOVA

First Soloist VERONIKA IVANOVA

Character Principal GALINA RAKHMANOVA (I will definitely miss her fire & passion on that stage!)

ODD OMISSIONS (to me)

Ilya Kuznetsov still a First Soloist and not Principal, after all of these years as the backbone of the demi-caractere male soloists, who also straddles the romantic-lead repertoire. What the ??????

Tatyana Tkachenko and Vasily Scherbakov still 2nd soloists?

And the (to me) biggest injustice of them all: YANA SELINA still a choryphee after all of these years of consistently dancing the cleanest, most sparkling variations in the classical rep, as well as dancing featured roles in modern ballets? My, oh my....


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:55 am 
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Thanks Azulynn and Natalia, for adding those posts. Ayupova's ultimate retirement from the stage is a sad moment indeed. In the past four years here I saw her dance only a handful of times (the Emeralds appearance, and several Apollos). With her I fear the loss of the Old School era -- very few of her kind still answer to that grace and purity of style.

I had already noticed that Galina Raxmahnova has been coaching extensively but no longer dancing -- this was mostly apparent during the festival but even as of last fall -- I miss her in the Spanish dance of "Swan Lake" and will miss her in Don Q as well.

Veronika Ivanova is now teaching at the Vaganova School, along with (I believe, at least part time as he still performs) her husband Nikita Sheglov.

NN, agreed regarding Selina. That's inexplicable to me. Ditto for all the other dancers you listed.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 3:49 am 
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I enjoyed a lovely performance last night by Irina Zhelonkina in a return to her role in La Sylphide, alongside Ruben Bobovnikov. I will write more later but it was a very cozy, intimate performance, the hall wasn't quite full but they nonetheless showered adoring applause on these two very traditional dancers.

I wanted to simply draw attention to some highlights coming here in May. It seems this two-month period is a La Sylphide Fest, as Tarasova and Batalov will dance it twice in May (and Zhelonkina reappears on the 21st of this month). Grigory Popov will appear in the Young Girl and the Hooligan twice in May as well -- a special treat as I've never seen him in this role but I imagine it will be just up his alley. There is an opera and ballet mixed gala evening on May 27th, and another gala concert on May 30th. I"ll be attending a press conference about the White Nights later today and will report back on any news garnered.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:13 am 
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In terms of productions, the main news is that Ratmansky will create the ballet The Fairy's Kiss for the White Nights this year, and his Pierrot Lunaire from Vishneva's Beauty in Motion tour will also be performed (but not in the month of May according to the current schedule, which means... June or July sometime).

Gergiev's comments about the artistic director I put in the appropriate thread.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:16 pm 
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Catherine, thanks for the update. Is this a different "Fairy's Kiss" from the one that Ratmansky created for the troupe in 1998? I could swear that I saw a "Fairy's Kiss" by Ratmansky at the Mariinsky around that time, starring Lopatkina as the Fairy and Ayupova as the Young Bride.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:59 am 
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Yes, it is the same. Forgive me for the choice of verb. It is "returning" to this stage, according to the press release, the same one as before.

(oooh i would have loved to have seen it back then with those dancers!)


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2008 6:56 am 
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A Second Sylphide
“La Sylphide”
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
16 April 2008
By Catherine Pawlick

Twelve days ago I wrote of a spectacular performance of “La Sylphide” (insert the URL for the other review of mine that is also being published (of April 4 Sylphide) and delete this text!). As the Kirov Ballet wraps up its New York City Center stay this week, local Petersburgians were treated to a second Sylphide of note.

Irina Zhelonkina returned to the stage to dance the leading role in this ballet on Wednesday night, alongside Ruben Bobovnikov’s James. While I would never have presumed the Kirov to excel at Bournonville ballets, the precision and cleanliness with which this troupe executes any choreography immediately lifts the quality of the performance, no matter who the choreographer is. This performance was no exception, with the additional gift of Zhelonkina’s traditional, Old School style dancing a perfectly fitting approach for this tragic ballet.

Although Zhelonkina has been back from maternity leave for well over two years now, she has not danced frequently this season until now. This month she dances “La Sylphide” twice, and one can only hope this is forebears more appearances as summer begins. With delicate pearl earrings framing her porcelain complexion, Zhelonkina danced a happy, mischievous Sylph, intent on playing with James and capturing his heart. The manner in which she stole his ring, batting her eyelashes with a coy grin, epitomized the Sylph’s playfulness. Likewise, as she pointed to the birds in the forest (in Act Two), full of fascination for the creatures of the wood, one could only fall in love with this fleeting, innocent being. If not quite the expert in petit allegro that Elena Sheshina is, Zhelonkina’s longer lines and mastery of the Romantic port de bras made her delightful to watch.

Ruben Bobovnikov, in like fashion, portrayed the dreamer James with a clear sense of mime. When the witch Madge appeared, Effi quelled his insistence on the witch’s immediate departure only with difficulty, when his final nod emitted a sense of surrender. Bobovnikov’s petit allegro jumps, if not quite as airborne as Grigory Popov’s, were nonetheless impressive for their crisp form and ballon.

Polina Rassadina again danced the role of Effi with high energy and bright facial expressions. Sergei Salikov, the peasant intent on capturing her heart, would stop at no bounds to get an extra second of her attention. The four sylphides were incorrectly listed in the program: Anastasia Petushkova did not dance, and Elena Vaskiokovitch did. The others – Maria Adjamova, Viktoria Kutepova and Elizaveta Maltseva danced adequately. Adjamova perhaps the most sylph-like of all of them. Kutepova’s attempts to avoid the initial developpe devant by quickly lowering her leg, and her high arabesque arms, distracted from the sense of line and tempo in her dance.

Islam Baimuradov danced a skeletal Madge with great evil; although this was his debut in the role, one had the sense of the veteran performer that he is. Evgenia Emelianova also reappeared as Nancy, dancing with pliant movement and easy smiles.

Alexei Repnikov conducted, and the audience gave the dancers a warm reception with plenty of curtain calls. While the frontrunners of the Kirov display their wares in the Big Apple, there is still plenty of reason to watch the rest of the company on its home turf.


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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 2:10 pm 
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A belated "Thanks", Catherine, for several more very fine reviews.

About two weeks ago at the Kirov in New York City discussion I wrote this.

"Someday someone should take a giant list of all the names of the 'Current' "female corps de ballet" and place it high above Hermitage Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia for at least a month. It should be an annual event. At least one full page this year in the New York Times would have been just fine as well. ( PS--A "Smiley" icon with a great big Smile is also intended )"

So here's a step in the right direction.

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/ballet/soloist/kopsballet


Now all we have to do is find the best place here to put it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Hemi ... terior.jpg


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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 3:00 pm 
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Buddy , a lot of the ladies and a couple of the guys who were 'corps de ballet' during the City Center tour (two weeks ago) have just been promoted to Choryphee status:

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/ballet/soloist/korif

This includes the top female graduates of the 2006 class, Maria Chugai, Anastasia Petushkova & Elizaveta Cheprasova, as well as top grads of 2005, Ekat. Ivannikova, Anna Lavrichenko & Daria Vasnetsova.

They weren't quite as generous with the gents -- no '06 grads but two from '05 got the nod: Fillip Stepin and Andrei Yermakov

The BEST thing about these dancers having made Choryphee...We now can see photos of each, in their respective bios (hyperlinks on the names).


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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 3:43 pm 
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Thanks for the added information, Natalia. I actually was directed to this list from some of your recent comments on the internet. Thanks for that as well.

I am just more impressed all the time with what a wonderful group of performers the women's corps de ballet is and really hope that they are appreciated as "Individuals" who deserve "Individual" recognition even though they merge their identities to become this most enthralling group of artists.

I, like you, hope that Yana Selina and Svetlana Ivanova get the added 'official' recognition that they really seem to deserve. In any case, whatever any of the fine Kirov's dancers' official titles might be, their wonderful talent is still obvious to all of us.


PS--I've been watching a lot of Kirov performance DVD's recently and along with choosing them for the stars like Natalia Makarova and Altnai Asylmuratova I've also started to give the corps de ballet its own star identity. Thus when choosing a DVD I sometimes think....Natalia Makarova or Altnai Asylmuratova or Women's Corps De Ballet....


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PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 8:17 am 
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16th Annual White Nights Festival
as part of the 225th Anniversary of the Mariinsky Theatre
By Catherine Pawlick
13 May 2008

This year’s Annual White Nights Festival, the 16th to date, will offer 79 performances by the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet in less than three months. The festival opened on May 12 with a reprisal of this March’s much discussed premiere, “The Glass Heart” and was followed by an even more exciting program on May 13th.

Sandwiched in between a polite rendition of “Carnaval” – another premiere that audiences enjoyed this March – and Balanchine’s “La Valse”, featuring members of the reserve troupe in the limelight, Konstantine Boyarsky’s genius “Young Girl and the Hooligan” easily stole the show on this second night of the summer celebration.

Set to music by Shostakovich, the ballet tells the story of a Hooligan – a young, rough-and-tumble, unrefined street urchin whose poor social skills isolate him from the girl of his dreams – and that very girl, the picture of innocence and beauty who jumps at the slightest noise and is fearfully afraid of the Hooligan’s aggressive demeanor. In the course of the ballet, he wins her over, and their moment of revelation is revealed in a joyous pas de deux that displays the understanding that finally they speak the same language. That joy is short-lived, however, as the sleek, scarf-wearing, magazine-cover God stabs the Hooligan in a street brawl.

The genius of this ballet comes in its essay of contrast. The Hooligan’s rawness is contrasted visually and choreographically with the refined nature of the girl. His open-legged saunter, hands stuffed in his pockets, a 1920s style worker’s cap pulled down over one eye, and the repeated gesture of him spitting a cigarette out of his mouth, all draw the picture of a turn of the century gang member, which is exactly what he is. She, on the other hand, in a pristine pale blue pinafore with white sleeves, her ponytail tied back in a white ribbon, is the essence of unattainable female beauty. As she tiptoes in point shoes or slowly shakes her head, we see her world has nothing in common with his. The ballet shows how their paths cross, and ultimately end, but the moment of connection is the peak of the story, both in dancing and in dramatic terms. And here it is the dancers who carry the responsibility for the effectiveness of the libretto.

Twenty four year-old Grigory Popov, and a new addition to the company this month, Elena Evseeva, did more than justice to the two leading roles. Popov is known for his airborne nature as the Golden Idol, the Rose in “Spectre”, or the Jester in “Swan Lake”. He recently danced a stunning James in “La Sylphide”, and is finally receiving long overdue recognition. “Hooligan” gave him a chance to shine once more, both in the revoltades and fast, slick jumps over the bench on stage left, and for the smooth overhead lifts he managed with Evseeva. More than the pyrotechnics, however, Popov brought an extraordinary depth to the character of the Hooligan. From the smile of glee when he finally kisses the Girl, to the look of pain on his face at the moment the dagger hits him, Popov proved in this debut once again not only his flexibility as an actor, but the range of his talents.

Elena Evseeva is a bright spot in the often questionable ranks of the female corps. A recent import from the Mikhailovsky Theatre, and a 2001 graduate of the Vaganova Academy, her talents are clearly already being rewarded with the opportunity of this immediate solo debut. With thin, slim arms and legs, a light jump, and pale strawberry colored hair, Evseeva fit the image of the Girl no less perfectly than Svetlana Ivanova has done in the past. She gave a polished performance far beyond her years and seems capable of much more.

As the God, Sergey Popov portrayed the heartless killer with adequate aloofness. As his Girlfriend, Alla Sisoeva, brought a sultry and sexy nature to her role. Had this been the only program of the evening, I would have gone home quite content. It was in any case the indubitable highlight of the evening.

“Carnaval” was delightful to watch once more, especially with Philip Stepin in his own debut as Harlequin next to Evgenia Obratsova’s charming, coquettish Columbine. Evgenia Dolmatova as Ciarina brought brightness to her dance with Sergey Salikov, who again danced as Esubius. Unfortunately Yulia Kasenkova’s butterfly was far from light and flighty – one longed for Yana Selina to replace her. As Pierrot, Anatoli Marchenko gave a personalized performance that differed from Islam Baimuradov’s but was commendable for a first run.

In “La Valse”, Tatiana Serova danced with Sergei Popov, who reappeared here as her suitor. After the intense sparks of “Hooligan”, and despite the wondrous whirlwind of Ravel, “Valse” felt diluted somehow, as if the summer rains had dampened the mood, the approach, and the dancers’ energy levels. Alexandra Iosifidi, Alla Sisoeva and Lidia Karpukhina (another new addition to the company, a smaller blonde with a tan tint to her skin), danced the three soloist girls in the introduction. Both Elena Evseeva and Karen Ioannisyan debuted in two of the soloist roles. Evseeva was easy to spot after her appearance earlier in the evening, but her delivery in Valse at moments revealed her inexperience with the Balanchine mode of movement. This underlined both how well rehearsed was her appearance in “Hooligan”, and the challenge for Vaganova-trained dancers to adapt to Balanchine.

It was hard to follow Serova in the ballet. She delivered the choreography but didn’t go much beyond that. Having seen Pavlenko’s sublime interpretation of this role – the ballerina infuses it with great magic and mystery – I wanted once again to return to relive the excitement of “Hooligan” instead.

Mikhail Tatarnikov conducted pristinely.


Last edited by Catherine Pawlick on Thu May 15, 2008 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 10:21 am 
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Thanks so much for this review, Catherine. So at least now I know the answer to "Where in the world is Evgenia Obraztsova?" :)

I'm a bit miffed about one thing that you mention. Are you sure that the Elena Evseeva who you saw is not the same Elena Evseeva who is a principal across town at the Maly-Mussorgsky Theater? That Evseeva is also a very-pale blonde classicist...famous for her Aurora...and a huge favorite of Japanese audiences while on tour. I'm pretty sure that Evseeva graduated ca 2002 - perhaps a classmate of Obraztsova.

If I find a photo of the Maly ballerina, I'll post it so that you may compare. If it's the same ballerina, then we should ask ourselves: "Is there a Mariinsky/Maly exchange program going on?" First Kolegova, now Evseeva (perhaps), on the rosters of the two companies, 'principal' with one troupe and 'corps' with the other? Life in Russia can be a puzzlement at times!

Edited to add

p.s. - No photos found yet, but plenty of internet clips of Evseeva. Here is a video that is sufficiently zoomed-in to see her face. Pls delete the link if it's a no-no. We can always direct readers to go to YouTube and type-in the words "Evseeva" and "ballet."
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fusea ... D=29229399


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