CriticalDance Forum

2008 June - Vaganova Graduation Performances
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Jun 21, 2008 9:38 am ]
Post subject:  2008 June - Vaganova Graduation Performances

On the mornings of June 21 and 22, as well as the evening of June 24, this year's Vaganova graduates -- the first group to be held an additional year in the school given the shift to unite curriculums with other Western ballet schools by adding an additional year of study -- performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in celebration of the end of their studies.

Employment offers from St. Petersburg theatres have already been made. This means that by curtain time, each student already knows from which possible employment venues they may choose. Competition is additionally intense this year as word has it that the Mikhailovsky Theatre has been vigorously recruiting from the crop of graduates... and in fact even from pre-existing dancers from such theatres as Eifman, among others, as early as March of this year. This has created additional tension in the ballet world in St. P of late.

However tension wasn't visible in the graduates' performances on Saturday morning.

Several dancers caught my eye, and they weren't necessarily those who were featured most prominently. Daria Elmakova, a beautiful dark haired brunette with exquisite grace, appeared in three or four pieces: first, "Classical Symphony", the opening piece that (unless this is only a recent practice) at least in the past 4 yrs has always opened the Graduation Performances. Elmakova's feature performance however was a Japanese style short work entitled "Sakura" which she choreographed herself, replete with two fans, and a sleek hairdo that had everything but chopsticks. She danced en pointe and, in my opinion, has that undefinable something that makes you want to watch her. She also appeared in the corps of the Jardin Anime from "Le Corsaire", which was the closing piece of the morning.

The one couple whose prominent placement I agreed with was Yulia Chereshkevitch and Sergey Umanets in the Grand Pas from The Sleeping Beauty, the third piece on the bill. Both tall, lean, young and handsome blondes, they matched both each other and the choreographic-emotive mood of the well-known piece.

The second work was "Spanish Dance" done to red mood lighting. Here Olga Belik displayed an uber flexible back and fluid Latino arm movements. Always a clue that the Academy seems to see a dancer as more of a character type than a representative of the classical mode.

I could almost see Pierre Lacotte rehearsing "Markitanka" as I watched the performance. The plethora of plie a la St. Leon is nothing if not challenging. And hidden in the corps of four girls was another gem who, again, in my opinion, stood out much more than the female lead. The hidden gem was Olga Minina, an adorable, petite redhead with a winning smile. Although her arms as an Odalisque in the final piece (the Third Act of Le Corsaire) were not quite evolved, she drew attention for her poise and beautiful carriage. I can imagine her having a long, solid career at the Mariinsky if she does not get buried in the corps -- and I hope she doesn't. Yulia Tikka and Oleg Demchenko were the leads in this piece.

Part II began with the pas from "La Sylphide". Viktoria Krasnokutskaya, a slight, spindly blonde, danced alongside Ilya Petrov here. Elmakova's "Sakuro" followed. Then came "Scheherezade" -- and sparks began to fly. Alexander Abdukarimov -- who in fact was fair-haired despite the roots his name suggests -- danced a most passionate Slave to Nina Osmanova's slinky presentation of the heroine.

As Diana and Acteon, Ruriko Adzumi and Masakhiro Nakaya appeared together, both interns in the International Division and both from Japan.
They would have a hard time competing with the fireworks of Osmolkina and Lobukhin by the Strelka and in the gala concert in early June, but judging sheerly by the audience response this couple will find favor whereever they end up. He in particular has a high, soaring jump.

The "Krakovyak" dance from the opera "Ivan Susanin" was led by Lilia Lishuk and Alexei Kuzmin. Four demi-soloist couples and at least 8 corps couples provided the background dancing. Everyone was done out in gorgeous fur-trimmed Hungarian costumes, the glorious white fabrics punctuated by rhinestone decorations. Visually this piece was highly engaging and the dancers had all mastered the Eastern European flavor that it requires.

Part III was the Jardin Anime from "Le Corsaire" as already mentioned. Here a bit of shuffling took place casting-wise. Anastasia Nikitina was billed as Medora, but Valeria Ivanova entered first, and was listed last, and she also performed Medora's variation. However only Nikitina performed the pas de trois with Ali and Conrad, danced by Rayan Obrazbaev (an intern in the graduating class) and Vadim Belyaev, respectively. Gulnara was danced by Ksenia Romashova.

Valeria Ivanova was a relaxed brunette who brought assurance and poise to her role as Medora in the entrance and variation sequences. Ksenia Romashova, also a brunette, moved with looseness as Gulnara and was also lovely to watch. The three Odalisques were danced by Olga Minina alongside Margarita Frolova (whose face somewhat resembles Tkachenko's in a way), and Zlata Yalinich, a big-boned blonde who performed the turning variation once danced by steel-limbed Irina Chistiakova, back in the day. I remember Yalinich from a modern solo she performed a year ago, if I'm not mistaken, in the graduation performance.

Pavel Bubelnikov, in a rare feat, conducted clearly and consistently for the performance.

Author:  Sacto7654 [ Sat Jun 21, 2008 8:36 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for the great reports! 8) Your reports on this forum and the online magazine makes me feel like "you are there" in terms of news and performance reviews from the Vaganova Academy and the Mariinsky Theatre.

(By the way, I have tickets for the October 15, 2008 Kirov/Mariinsky ballet performances at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA. :D )

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 22, 2008 7:52 am ]
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Sacto, thanks, that is really nice to hear. I often feel like I"m working in the dark when I post and post and no one comments, so it means a lot to hear someone is listening (or reading, as it were!) Even though I know in this case, we cannot really discuss it, as I"m the only American I know who has attended and seen these performances -- most of the readership is in the West (Europe or USA) but still, it makes a big difference to hear from the readers!

You will not be disappointed on October 15. I dont know offhand what the program is, but the Kirov never fails!

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 22, 2008 8:47 am ]
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This morning's performance was nearly a replica of yesterday, only with slightly different casting and a slightly altered program.

Elmakova was not featured, although she again appeared as one of the Big Girls in purple in "Classical Symphony" (the first piece), and as one of 4 soloist couples in the "Krakovyak" section from Ïvan Susanin.

In "Classical Symphony" a new girl stood out -- her name is Kristina Shapran, and she is only in the first course (6th year). The spitting image of Lucia LaCarra, Shapran is blessed with an equally cute doll face, short brown bangs, and long slim limbs. Her flexibility and technique are already polished, her grace and control are sublime. If I didn't know better I would presume she was already in the graduating class -- I can't imagine what else she could have to work on in the coming years, she was nearly perfect and even managed to play with the timing of music and steps more than I"ve seen on this stage in the past 4 yrs.

The second piece was the pas de deux from the ballet "Ruchei" (“The Stream”) set to music by Delibes and choreographed by Desnitsky after Konstantin Sergeev. Here Boryana Petrova of Bulgaria upstaged just about every performer so far (aside from Shapran, Elmakova and Minina, that is :-)). A tiny, compact girl dressed in a white and silver tutu replete with tiara, Petrova did not appear on yesterday’s bill, and this prominent casting was indeed worthwhile. Petrova danced with nice presentation, exuding mature ballerina poise beyond her years and she delivered her variation flawlessly. Her partner was Dmitry Timofeev.

The stellar piece "Coincidental Encounters" (or “Chance Encounters”) by D. Kardoza was danced beautifully again today by Svetlana Siplatova and Alexei Kuzmin. They attest to the ability of Vaganova trained graduates to perform modern dance in bare feet on a level much higher than one often sees even in the States.

The pas de deux from a rarely performed ballet called “Futile Precaution” to the music of Gergel with choreography by Ivanov and Petipa was performed by Yulia Tikka, who led the “Markitanka” yesterday. After seeing her in both roles, Tikka seems the model of an Amour or Cupid-type girl, tiny and fitting for cute roles such as Copellia. Indeed the costume in this piece was a tutu with criss-cross corset décor in blue. Vasily Tkachenko was her partner, and offered extremely smooth tours, a soaring double cabriole in arabesque, and fantastic presentation. His maturity and polish will take him far. He is one of four or five top men in this year's graduating class.

Part One finished again today with the “Markitanka” pas de six. This time Viktoria Krasnokutskaya danced the lead alongside Ilya Petrov. The four soloist females were a different set, including Oksana Marchuk, Ksenia Romashova, Alisa Sodoleva, and Valeria Zapasnikova.

In Part Two, Olga Minuna was listed for the pas de deux from “La Sylphide”, but strangely, in her place appeared the (Tatiana) Tkachenko look-alike, Margarita Frolova. While Frolova did not disappoint, a member of the Vaganova staff had alerted me yesterday to Minuna’s billing in this piece, so I was sorry not to have seen her. I do hope she will be featured more prominently in the Tuesday evening performance. She only appeared again in this performance as an Odalisque in “Corsaire”.

Frolova’s partner in the Sylphide pas, Kirill Leontiev, took my breath away. A tall, gorgeous blonde with a beautiful arabesque line, clearly arched feet and no dearth of ballon, he delivered crystal clear petit allegro with calm, and is also at the top of the current crop of men from the Vaganova School.

Alexander Abukarimov, however, is also among those top five or so Vaganova males. He followed “Sylphide” in a piece choreographed by D. Pimonov (the brother of Anton Pimonov, for those who know the name), called “Postindustrial Faun” set to the music of Peter Gabriel. Dressed as a faun or satyr with a curly wig, a black T-shirt and 80s-style paint-tinted black pants, Abukarimov had a chance to showcase his physical prowess in this nonstop variation. He won two curtain calls for his efforts, and concluded the second one by doing a backflip into the wing.

The pas from Talisman was performed next by Anastasia Nikitina with Masakhiro Nakaya. The couple drew applause for their pyrotechnics, but Nikitina's visibily borderline anorexic look did nothing for me.

In the “Krakovyak”, although Nina Osmaova was listed as one of the soloists, in fact Daria Elmakova danced in her place. Olga Minina danced here also, leading me to believe that Margarita Frolova was listed in her stead (the programs for today were clearly not updated when the final casting decisions were made). The other two girls were Olga Belik and Viktoria Brileva. The four men were Alexander Ivlev, Sergey Strelkov, Mikhail Degtyarev and Aslan Karginov.

In Part Three, Yulia Chereshkevich appeared as Medora in the pas de trios with Masakhiro Nakaya as Ali and Alexei Kuzmin as Conrad; Lilia Lishuk danced Medora’s variation and Nadezhda Batoeva (with one year left of her studies) performed Gulnara’s variation. Minina, Elmakova and
Romashova danced the Odalisques.

The final performance will be this Tuesday night, June 24.

Author:  Sacto7654 [ Sun Jun 22, 2008 10:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Catherine Pawlick wrote:
You will not be disappointed on October 15. I dont know offhand what the program is, but the Kirov never fails!

Here's what you wrote about the lineup for the October 15, 2008 performance on this forum:

October 15, 2008, 8:00PM, Raymonda-Shades-Paquita

I'm definitely looking forward to this because it's the first time I've seen Ulyana Lopatkina live (I have her performance from Swan Lake on the 2007 Decca DVD release--she has a very distinct style playing Odette-Odile).

Author:  vrsfanatic [ Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Thank you

Catherine your detailed posts are greatly appreciated and so beautifully colorful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. :D I look forward to the day that these young dancers you have mentioned may be seen by those not in St. Petersburg. Please know there are many who read your comments with great joy.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jun 24, 2008 2:34 am ]
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Thanks VRS! It is nice to hear :-). I'll be attending tonight and will post about it as well.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:43 am ]
Post subject: 

Catherine, there is so much wonderful performing in the dance world these days that it is hard to keep up with it all. I have just had a chance to take a look at your reviews of the Vaganova performances and this just adds to the excitement. I will certainly try to keep track of the dancers that you have highlighted such as Daria Elmakova, Olga Minina, Kristina Shapran, Boryana Petrova, Kirill Leontiev and others.

It doesn't seem so long ago that Yulia Bolshakova and Daria Vasnetsova were brand new faces and now they are becoming 'regulars'. In NYC this April more new new names gained attention; Valeria Martynyuk, Maria Shirinkina, Elizabeta Cheprasova.

It is wonderful to have reports such as yours to be a guide to the future. I can remember a few years ago when our friend jpc did a comprehensive report, elsewhere on the internet, of the Moscow Ballet Competition. He mentioned names like Natalia Osipova (Bolshoi), Ekaterina Krysanova (Bolshoi), Anastasia and Denis Matvienko (Mikhailovsky), and Evgenia Obraztsova (Mariinsky). These were new names for me, but now they are some of my favorite performers. It is great to be able to go back to reports like yours and jpc's and be able to say, "I knew them when...."

I hope that in the years to come that we will be reading your wonderful comments and that you will refer us back to your original posts about these Once Unknown and Now Famous Artists.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:56 am ]
Post subject: 

I attended the final Vaganova graduation performance last night. The program remained the same for the most part. Part One began again with Classical Symphony, and again I enjoyed Kristina Shapran's professionaliism alongside Viktor Lebedev. LEbedev's tours a la seconde ended in a quadruple pirouette -- and he could have probably kept going if the music had not impeded him :-).

THe pas from "La Sylphide" came next in a repeat from Saturday -- again Krasnokutskaya and Petrov. And then "Coincidental Encounter", again with the lovely Svetlana Siplatova and Alexei Kuzmin. They truly are very strong performers.

Yulie Chereshkevich danced the pas from "Sleeping Beauty" with Sergey Umanetz, who sadly fell on his very last pirouette. That blunder disturbed his nerves so much that he couldn't quite partner her properly in the final pirouettes. I knew he was going over and over the faux pas in his head, and it was a shame. Chereshkevich has amazingly archy feet but of note -- she stands on straight toes in them. This is a rare occurrence among ballet dancers these days, requires amazing strength in the metatarsal. As a result it often looks as if she is sitting back in her shoe, especially in promenades> but when she fully points her foot, it is astounding.

Yulia Tikka led the Markitanka with Oleg Demchenko. The four girls were not as listed (Olga Minina did not appear), so I won't bother copying what the program noted, as I"m not sure it is accurate.

Chereshkevtich reappeared in the "Pavlova and Cecchetti" pas with Viktor Baranov in Part Two. She was beautiful in this engaging little chamber piece. Then Alexander Abukarimov repeated his "Postindustrial Faun" to great applause.

The surprising treat of the evening, for me, was Elmakova again in "Scheherezade" alongside Denis Sapron. Irina Sitnikova has much to be proud of in Daria -- her transfer from classical dancing to the sensual, erotic evocations of "Scheherazade" was seamless -- you'd never know she was only 17 yrs old! Both dancers did supreme justice to their roles. They could easily be slotted into a company performance -- you'd never guess their ages. I wonder if the same can be said for any American 17 year-old student/graduates. I, at least, have never seen any.

The pas from Diana and Acteon was repeated by Ruriko Adzumi and Masakhiro Nakaya. Then came the "Krakovyak" from "Ivan Susanin". Olga Belik led the dance alongside Alexei Kuzmin; both of them have one year left of the Academy. Here the program was incorrect again, because Elmakova was one of the four soloists but was not listed. Who she replaced from the listed dancers, I cannot say. But the list includes Olga Gromova, Daria Barinova and LIlia Lishuk.

In the final piece, the Jardin Anime, Krasnokutskaya danced Gulnara's variation. She was lovely but I felt the evening was a bit of Krasnokutskaya overkill, given the other talent around. Svetlana Siplatova danced Medora's variation beautifully, proving her ability to transition seamlessly from modern (Kardoza's "Encounters") to classical. Siplatova is another favorite in pointe shoes. She danced with utter control, moving through the darting jetes slowly like syrup. Few her age would adopt that route to the choreography. And in the ballone releves again, supreme controle. She's one to watch.

As the Odalisques, Nadezhda Batoeva danced Pankova's variation. She's a brunette with tapered legs. Tatiana Tiliguzova, the slimmest of the three, danced Ayupova's variation (I say this based on the popular video with Altynai and Farukh). I have seen TIliguzova before inside the theatre and wonder if she isn't interning or taking classes with the company already. And finally Yulia Stepanova, a fairly tall, large girl, performed the turning variation with solid double pirouettes. All three Odalisques have one year left of school at the Academy.

The grand pas was danced again by Anastasia Nikitina. She danced perfectly but as I've noted, something about her seems overdone for my taste. Technically however she is faultless. Of note, Kirill Leontiev danced Conrad and Tatiana Tkachenko's younger brother, Vasily Tkachenko, danced Ali. This young man has more talent than he knows what to do with. He seems as if he is soaring in circles during the tours a la seconde, and his split jete manege is also impressive. He seemed to struggle with controlling all of his power, but he too is a talent to keep one's eye on. He also has one year left before graduation.

Pavel Bubelnikov again did wonders tonight as conductor, which was crucial as the house was absolutely full.

Author:  vrsfanatic [ Wed Jun 25, 2008 4:51 am ]
Post subject: 

Thank you again Catherine. Sorry to have missed it again and so sorry it is over, but that is always the cycle! I will be very interested to one day see Tkachenko's "little" brother. He must be 8 or nine years younger since she graduated in 2000.

Author:  NataliaN [ Wed Jun 25, 2008 5:57 am ]
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Catherine - WOW!!! Thank you so much for this fabulously-detailed report of the graduation performances. A couple of quick thoughts.

Krasnokutskaya - she won a top award at the last Vaganova Prix that was held in St. P., about two years ago. Not the ideal 'ballerina look,' in the face, if I recall, but a hot-shot type. I am not surprised that she has been featured prominently here.

Elmakova - I've seen her & she is exquisite! I would have pegged her as the star of this class. Vanity Fair's US edition featured her prominently in the fashion-photo spread a year ago.

Author:  Cygne [ Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:33 am ]
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Thanks Catherine for the wonderful reports! Elmakova sounds amazing!

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:39 am ]
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You guys are really sweet.

Yes, NN, you remember correctly. Krasnokutskaya has a rather "flat" face. I don't know how else to describe it, but not the typical high cheekbones/sculpted face look of most Russians here. She is very expressive in the face however -- they all are. But she and Nikitina were a bit extreme in that regard. I wanted them to both relax more (like Elmakova and Minina!) I am disappointed that all of Elmakova's billing was somewhat secondary to the other girls in her class. She is no less -- and I would argue much more -- intriguing to watch. But she only did the Japanese solo she choreographed herself, and Scheherezade pas, while they were dancing the grand pas from Corsaire, La Sylphide or Sleeping Beauty. In this theatre, that means something reflects how she's viewed among her peers from a management standpoint. I just pray she will not get buried in the corps! One of my favorite current corps girls has a somewhat similar look - dark hair, round face, tall and slender. Her name is Lubov, and she has been buried in the corps although she performed a solo that Vikulev had created for her (Valkyries?) during her graduation 2 or 3 yrs ago... very talented girl who isn't being cultivated as she could be. Just my opinion.

Author:  jpc [ Sat Jun 28, 2008 5:45 am ]
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I want to add my deep appreciation for your thoughtful, unique reports of the Vaganova school graduation performances.

I've been out-of-town and have just read them, and will likely re-read them!
Many thanks!

Author:  Grlnyellowshoes [ Wed Oct 06, 2010 2:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2008 June - Vaganova Graduation Performances

I know this is belated, I just happened across this and wanted to say thank you and how great it is to read about the 2008 Graduating class! This was the year that my class graduated. I had googled one of the girls names when I happened acrossed this forum posting.

So many talented girls (and boys) came from that class. Fantastic review!

Thank you again <3


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