CriticalDance Forum

Kirov in London 2009
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Author:  NataliaN [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Cassandra wrote:
.....The author of this piece, Peter Aspden, appears to be a staff journalist covering a variety of subjects including:...... This entire article has the whiff of a piece of damage limitation; could it be commissioned by the Kirov management I wonder?

Exactly my first thought, Cassandra. Perhaps this Peter Aspen is someone who met Somova at the local bar, wearing her gold lame outfit with Chanel bag?

Author:  Cygne [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

NataliaN wrote:
Cassandra wrote:
.....The author of this piece, Peter Aspden, appears to be a staff journalist covering a variety of subjects including:...... This entire article has the whiff of a piece of damage limitation; could it be commissioned by the Kirov management I wonder?

Exactly my first thought, Cassandra. Perhaps this Peter Aspen is someone who met Somova at the local bar, wearing her gold lame outfit with Chanel bag?

IMO this "Peter Aspden" is a nom de plume. "Mr. Aspden" sounds like a garden variety stock broker or financial advisor from the City, who attended his first ballet ever. That's how unprofessional and unknowledgeable his "Somova Apologia" is. I can guess who this person is, but I'll keep that to myself. However, I will say this: Anyone who posts others' reviews (be it witnessed by the laity or by another professional dance journalist ) from the dance fora, and presents it as his own online, or in legitimate print media is a plagiarist. This would not be so if he cited sources, and expressed his own thoughts and ideas. "Mr. Aspden" doesn't do this. The Financial Times is among the most reputable publications in the world. Clement Crisp has weighed in on Somova. When Crisp weighs in on a dancer's abilities or, in her case apparent lack thereof, that settles the matter in London. Crisp, and all the critics from all the major London papers - from the Times, to "What's On Stage" have condemned Somova.

There are no excuses for Somova, neither for herself, or more importantly, her handlers. Moreover, Fateev is not absolved from his responsibility in this matter. If he, as Deputy Director of the Ballet is not responsible for casting - then who or what "Entity" is responsible? Is the Maryinsky Ballet "lead" by a lame duck, a mere figure head who exists only to rubber stamp "Their" bad policies? And why do "They" persist with Somova, and not cease and desist in the wake of her consistently bad publicity?

The awesome responsibility of leading this great company has never changed, but the priorities most certainly have. The opening night sets the tone for a season. The media appears en masse for the opening night. Opening night reports will either encourage or discourage attendance - not just those who conscientiously avoid her, or subscribers, but those who might have considered attending subsequent performances when her superiors would be center stage. Casting Somova first, and giving her her "debut" as "Juliet," wasted the London media's and the audiences' precious time - (and for the audience their hard earned money). "They" contrived this Covent Garden engagement to be her "Galina Ulanova Season," and it has blown up in "Their" faces. She ends the season this weekend, and until then, is in every program. As a result the real ballerinas are being systematically robbed of their deserved showcase, exposure, promotions and press because of Somova. Finally, none of the "reasons" that "Peter" gave will do damage control for the company at the box office, the company's reputation in London, or for Somova's faux and manufactured "career." London's knowledgeable balletomanes and connoiseurs worldwide aren't fools and they aren't blind. The only thing readers can take away from "Peter's" tome, is that whenever an audience sees Somova break into a fixed "smile" at an inappropriate time during a performance, they'll know that Zenit St. Petersburg scored a goal.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:29 pm ]
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Cassandra, deep thanks for sharing this last errant review. I am clueless as to why the Financial Times would use a first-time viewer as a ballet critic for the Kirov or even for the Royal Ballet, especially when there are so many qualified dance writers out there. So the idea that this is a politically motivated article gains ground when approached in that way, but I don’t know the inside of the London press world, and my guess is that it isn’t political as much as an awful oversight on the part of editorial management. Be that as it may, the review is now in print. What do we do?

Some of the debate is inevitably arcane. A clip of her dancing on YouTube brings ferocious recrimination: “Her front foot was sickled in? sous-sous at 1:48!!! Ahhh!” There is nothing wrong with this. Pedantry and fastidiousness are the concomitants of specialist knowledge. It is both a boon and a curse. I would hate my enjoyment of Monday’s performance to have been blemished by noticing a sickled front foot in sous-sous, but I am sure I miss many subtle marvels of the art form too.

Mr. Peter Aspden is probably not aware that ballet is neither a sport nor a movie. Vaganova dancers train 8 hours per day, six days per week, for 9 years in order to gain a very specific technique. There is a right and wrong way to execute each step. The dancers’ professional responsibility is to execute according to the technique. It is their duty not just do perform a double pirouette or a sous-sous en pointe, but to do it correctly. If dance reviewers submitted articles without paragraphs and punctuation, they’d be reprimanded and in an extreme case probably fired. With practical understanding left for issues of human error (which is an exception to the overall level of professionalism and not the rule), this is what ballet critics and reviewers are responsible for evaluating in their writing.

Ballet is not a sport – it is not about getting to the goal with your leg up in some form or other.

Likewise, ballet is not a movie. It is not enough if we feel that Juliet is Juliet. She has to be dancing the steps correctly AND delivering an adequate believable emotional representation of her role. If one or the other elements is missing, this is no longer an art. Period. And then the question is why is such a dancer still on stage? With leeway given for the rare off-night or the injured dancer, to have a performer repeatedly dancing under par – with technical mistakes and emotional immaturity or lack of dramatism in the roles – points to a level of unprofessionalism that should not be tolerated on stage longer term.

But then, I believe at least 7 of the London reviewers already concluded as much. Mr. Aspden seems to simply want to address the lowest common denominator. In that he has succeeded.

p.s. Amended to add, I have witnessed repeatedly that only first-time ballet-goers (usually tourists) are ever impressed by Somova. The reaction is “those legs!” And because they haven’t a clue about dramatism or technique, they “enjoy her”. But that reaction is simply the circus effect, and again, bears no relationship to a centuries-old classical form of Art.

Author:  Cygne [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Catherine, Cassandra and NataliaN for all your insights! The Financial Times' bio on Peter Aspden states the following:

Peter Aspden is the Financial Times’ arts writer, having previously been its arts editor for five years. He joined the paper in 1994, as deputy books and arts editor and a general feature writer on Weekend FT. He has written on numerous subjects, including travel, religion, politics, history, most art forms and sport: he covered the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, and the World Cup in France in 1998.

He was born in London in 1958, but spent much of his childhood in Greece, where his mother was born. He was educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, before going into journalism. He joined the Times Higher Education Supplement in 1985, where he went on to become deputy editor.

He has been writing a weekly column on contemporary culture since January 2004; it appears in the Life & Arts section every Saturday. - -

1. I stand corrected re my suspicions on the true idenity of this journalist.
However, my criticism of the person to whom I referred still applies, (and he knows who he is).

2. I was correct in my suspicion that Mr. Apsden was no relevant journalistic authority, nor expert re classical ballet, dance in general, Russian classical ballet in particular, or the Maryinsky Ballet specifically.

I'm not a journalist, nor authority, nor do I purport to be such. I am a staunch balletomane who loves this company and it's tradition. I've watched and followed it closely for over 25 years - before Aspden became a journalist. He, however, is paid to at least know his subject and research it before he writes about it. That's not the case here, as evidenced by his ham-fisted, thrown together article.

Catherine, I'd also like to add to your points that classical ballet doesn't fall under the category of "contemporary culture," as in "Britain's Got Talent," "How do you solve a problem like Maria," "So You Think You Can Dance" "Jon & Kate" reality t.v., or gossip/entertainment "news" shows. That's how Aspden approached the subjects of the Maryinsky Ballet and Alina Somova.

3. I'm astonished that the Financial Times allowed this "weekend" columnist and former Arts editor to publish such trivial nonsense - espeically in the wake of Crisp's astute and perceptive critique of the main subject - namely, Somova's tragi-comical opening night "Juliet."

4. I now wholeheartedly co-sign the belief that this was a damage control "review" designed to counter-punch the other London critics - (including Crisp), for Somova's sake.

The London critics and the London audience don't need to be lectured on what is "star" quality, what constitutes it or who has it. Nor should they be reprimanded or scolded for telling the truth, or voting with their feet. Was it "commissioned" or not? Draw your own conclusions. Whatever the truth is, it's an extremely weak counter-punch; and what's more it's the only one out there. Aspden's article doesn't change facts.

Author:  Tahor [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:19 pm ]
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Swan Lake
The Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
7th August 2009

The Mariinsky Ballet gave London ballet lovers another opportunity to experience déjà vu last week with the return of its classic production of Лебединое Озеро – the poetic masterpiece of the art of academic dance, and a gem from St Petersburg’s rich cultural heritage. One is always left wondering if Lev Ivanov might have had an inkling he was onto a winner.

The Mariinsky Ballet carries a huge weight on its mighty shoulders – the responsibility for nuturing and sustaining one of human kind’s most gigantic artistic achievements. It’s helped in this task by the sincerity, grandeur, and inner mystery of Konstantin Mikhailovich Sergeyev’s production of the ballet – since its premiere on 8th March 1950 a near perfect channel for Petipa and Ivanov’s romantic visions. The production works on so many levels, beautifully and symbiotically harmonising all its contrasting elements. Yes it’s a shame the lakeside mime is ommited, but a great Ballerina can tell the story through the choreographic undulations Sergeyev instead provides.

On opening night at Covent Garden the tried and tested formula of Uliana Lopatkina in the leading role of Odette / Odile was flown out once again. Things did not start well. Maestro Gruzin (in a momentary and most untypical lapse) gave us an Act 1 prelude at funereal pace – so much so that at one point the orchestra ground to a halt. Fearing for the Maestro I nearly called for paramedics to rush to the pit. Luckily he recovered and we were treated to a splendid Act 1.

What a pleasure to sample such fine dancers as the glorious Yana Selina (one of the true gems of the Kirov) and Maxim Zuzin in the pas de trois – joined by Valeria Martinyuk who whipped through her variation admirably (all be it that she threw a bit of a wobbler during the closing diagonal of the first section). The girls always get the attention in Swan Lake but the boys of the Mariinsky corps display their stylistic elegance and refined schooling in this opening act and deserve special mention and heaps of praise – artists such as Sergei Popov, Alexei Nedviga and Dmitri Vedneyev have served their company and their art well for many such tours to London. Andrei Ivanov’s Jester did the trick too.

But what of our Prince and the object of his desires and tragic betrayal. Daniil Korsuntsev provides us with a beautifully danced Siegfried – all soft landings and beautiful lines, and a perfectly schooled example of how this choreography should be danced, particularly the ease of his combinations with the girls during Act 1. This Prince does not deliver high drama – our view into his emotional world is extremely limited. For me its far too dramatically understated, but that’s as its always been with Korsuntsev in this role. His Siegfried has never developed dramatically because it has always lacked any emotional involvement with the journey Siegfried must undertake. Very well danced by a very fine dancer, but ultimately unfullfilling.

Much the same might be said regards Uliana Lopatkina’s Odette / Odile as seen at this performance. Despite being “bandy-legged and quite fat” as a child, Uliana has graced us with many outstanding performances and remains a Ballerina of unique beauty and grace – and more to the point right now, a dancer who understands how not to offend eyes that discern good taste and classical aesthetics. For that we must be grateful. She danced the role of Odette exquisitely, in her now typically slow and langorous manner with long flowing limbs and protracted phrasing – but does it still mean anything for either her or the viewer?

This is now a swan that has assumed its natural state, at peace with itself. The transformation is complete and the state of being content – when Siegfried shows up this swan is not really interested in the deal he has to offer. These wings do not beat with the urgency of desperation, of yearning, of escape, and without this the ballet becomes meaningless. She can still do it – a heart stopping glance to Rothbart full of pain and longing came as she exited the lakeside immediately before the entrance of the swan corps - but it seems now, in this role, she does not want to do it. Familiarity has bred contempt. This great Ballerina still has so much to give, but this is now most likely in other roles and repertoire.

Given the emotional restraint of our Odette / Odile and Siegfried – only Ilya Kuznetsov’s fine Rothbart was truly involving with flashing eyes and fiery temperament – this performance did not hurtle its audience towards catastrophic doom and back again as joy envelops the defeat of Rothbart. There were however many pleasures to be enjoyed along the way – not least the brilliance of the Mariinsky character dancing. Bravos for the dynamism of Islom Baimuradov’s sparkling Spanish dance, and the cool softness of Alexei Nedviga’s beautifully danced Neapolitan boy.

The orchestra, unusually, did not help matters on this occasion – sounding rather “tinny” and worn out, but not, as some critics are incorrectly stating tired from the Ring Cycle as that was played by largely different musicians. Apparantly Maestro Gruzin had a rather flustered evening including a row with a clarinet player during the second interval. Sounds like the pit, if not the stage, was full of drama this summer night at Covent Garden.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:25 am ]
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Many thanks for that super review Tahor. I agree the orchestra has been uncharacteristically off form so far and there were some very odd sounds coming from the woodwind on Saturday afternoon too.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:05 am ]
Post subject:  Review of Tereshkina's Juliet

Over the weekend yet another review of Romeo & Juliet appeared but this critic was lucky enough to see Tereshkina in the leading role, so a far more positive appraisal. Not much enthusiasm for the production over all though. ... let-review

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:15 am ]
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The Swan Lake reviews from the press are much of a muchness with respectful but rather boring comments about the leading dancer. I imagine Tahor’s view of the ballet, posted above, is more accurate as unlike the critics he goes to almost everything and is able to compare Lopatkina’s present form in the ballet with the performances of her colleagues. A pity that Kondaurova’s matinee didn’t get a mention in the papers. Unlike the opening night R & J disaster, her London debut in Swan Lake was a total triumph.

The Guardian ... ake-review

The Evening Standard ... d=23730243

The Financial Times ... abdc0.html

The Telegraph ... eview.html

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:09 am ]
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What did you mean by "boring" Cassandra? I was not at these performances, but each of those reviews is a positive reflection on Lopatkina's professionalism and floating grace as Odette/Odile. I'm pleased to see them.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:09 am ]
Post subject:  Balanchine Triple Bill

First review of this programme from the Evening Standard: ... d=23731942

I went to last night's performance and will be back for tonight's second cast. Will report back fully.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:28 am ]
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Frater doesn't name the corps men:
yet all had a panache you’d be pushed to find in more senior European dancers.
but I am guessing they included one or more of the following: Alexei Nedvega, Fyodor Murashov, Anton Pimonov, Grigory Popov, Kirill Safin.

For me that one phrase of hers still summarizes this company in general, global terms, Somova or not, off-nights for Lopatkina or not.

Cassandra, eagerly awaiting your feedback and views on the Balanchine programs!

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:10 am ]
Post subject:  Homage to Balanchine

Homage to Balanchine
Kirov Ballet
Royal Opera House
12th & 13th August

Serenade 1st Night

The Kirov has been dancing Serenade for some years now and the overall level of execution is very high, in fact I would rather watch this company in it than other I think, not least because it is about the only troupe where the girls don’t indulge in trailing their hair across the stage, the most pointless and distracting practice in ballet I can think of. With hair securely pinned, Victoria Tereshkina was swept across the stage on the swell of Tchaikovsky’s music as if in a romantic dream, with the music coursing through her perfect limbs and turning a ballet into a poem about the nature of art itself: a revelation.

The two other girls were new names to me but I liked Ekaterina Ivannikova a lot; rather more curvy in her figure than most Kirov girls, she is an eye-catching dancer of quality and I particularly approved of the softness of her shoes, quite a contrast to the often thunderous noise her colleagues make. The other new girl was tall Yuliana Chereshkevich who somehow couldn’t match the soulfulness the other two had, but nevertheless coped well.

Serenade 2nd Night

Kondaurova took over the central role and matched the glories of Tereshkina the night before, but she had an advantage that Tershkina lacked: she had Daniil Korsuntsev as her partner. Korsuntsev is that great rarity in the world of ballet today as he is a true danseur noble. Neither a great actor nor a technical dazzler he is the cavalier par excellence, a rock solid, self effacing presence combined with the physique of a Greek God. Were I a Kirov ballerina, Korsuntsev would be my partner of choice.

Ivannikova was as charming as the night before and the third girl, Daria Vasnetsova, caught the mood of the piece very well, but it was the perfect double work of Kondaurova and Korsuntsev that sticks in my mind.

Rubies 1st Night

Although I always find Rubies less than totally satisfying when wrenched from its original setting, it does provide a good contrast with the other two ballets on the programme. With Jewels now a regular treat for London audiences and danced rather well by the RB the Kirov had a fair bit of winning over to do, with in particular a stellar performance by Alexandra Ansenelli just a few months ago still fresh in a lot of people’s minds. Irina Golub, not steeped in Balanchine tradition like Ansenelli, was all the same a very good ruby with a sense of fun and a winning smile. Her male ruby was Vladimir Shklyarov who suffered both a clumsy trip early on and comparisons with the London ruby-boy, Carlos Acosta, sadly on this occasion he was found seriously wanting. Big ruby was Ekaterina Kondaurova dancing with a mesmerising blend of fire and ice, dominating the stage as if by ownership and laying claim to being one of the finest exponents of this work in its history

Rubies 2nd Night

This was quite a turn up as Denis Matvienko’s astonishing take on his role totally stole the show, would Balanchine have approved? I’m not sure – but the audience did, and it was the first time I’ve seen this passage of choreography, extrovert though it is, being interrupted by spontaneous applause. Yes, he over-egged the pudding in an audacious manner, but I have to admit I loved it. Golub also seemed to be enjoying the jollity and seemed better matched with Matvienko than Shklyarov the evening before. Yuliana Chereshkevich was the big ruby but didn’t have the insolent élan the role requires. Both nights the small accompanying corps was excellent.

Synphony in C 1st Night

Symphony in C started on a high with Tereshkina in tip-top form, well matched by the ever-impressive Denis Matvienko and showing us just how exciting the opening of this work can be in the hands of two dance perfectionists. All went well with the slow second movement too as Lopatkina unfolded her long limbs into ever more lovely shapes whilst ably supported by handsome Daniil Korsuntsev, then it went pear shaped with the next two soloists Elena Evseeva and Evgenia Obraztsova together with their uninspiring cavaliers, Stepin and Timofeyev performing in a manner that I can only call perfunctory.

The finale had some uneven dancing from the male soloists in particular and even with Tereshkina and Lopatkina returning to the stage the work failed to hit the high note of exhilaration usually felt at this work’s conclusion, due to perhaps a slower tempo than is ideal.

Symphony in C 2nd Night

This was much more like it! Although the first movement featured Somova, she wasn’t that bad all things considered, rather as if someone had tipped her off about the British dislike of hyper-extensions. She forgot herself just once with the leg forced back in what resembled a dislocation, but that was all. Considering the spine tingling dancing of Tereshkina the night before, anyone would have had difficulty following that particular act.

Kondaurova was beautiful in the second movement and if she made a little less impact than Lopatkina the previous night, it was probably because Lopatkina had the advantage of Korsuntsev as her partner; also she danced to a slightly faster tempo.

Evseeva again danced the third movement but this time with Vladimir Shklyarov as her partner and quite frankly I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Perhaps making up for Wednesday’s mishap in Rubies, he gave it his all, dancing with a speed and clarity of execution that lifted the work to a higher plane: Bravo!

Obraztsova was paired with an exceptionally tall dancer who was new to me, Kyril Saffin, and unfortunately he bore an uncanny resemblance to Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Bruno’ character: Only with difficulty I did manage to successfully overcome my giggles though. Obraztsova herself was marginally better than the night before but I don’t think she has the attack this work needs; her lovely soft at the edges style simply doesn’t match Balanchine’s sharp precision. Taken all round, this was an exciting performance and a personal triumph for Vladimir Shklyarov.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:34 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Cassandra. What a difference a partner can make. I am wondering, who partnered Kondaurova in the second movement (second night) -- was it Ivanchenko then?

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:35 am ]
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Yes, it was Ivanchenko.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:00 am ]
Post subject:  Triple Bill Reviews

The reviews of the Homage to Balanchine programme appeared over several days but I think I’ve managed to get the main ones together.

The Financial Times ... ck_check=1

The Guardian ... ine-review

The Independent ... 73376.html

The Independent on Sunday ... 72699.html

The Observer considers Swan Lake and the Balanchine Triple Bill together ... ake-review

The Times ... 795076.ece

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