CriticalDance Forum

Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season
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Author:  Buddy [ Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Very nice review, Catherine. Thank you.

Glad to hear that you are settled back into Saint Petersburg, hopefully to enjoy many more wonderful Kirov-Mariinsky performances.

Also good to hear Svetlana Ivanova's name again.

Author:  julius [ Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Cassandra wrote:
Sorry Buddy, but life is too short to waste a moment of it watching video clips of Alina Somova.

Having recently retired from work I have plenty of time to watch video clips and those I have watched of Alina Somova simply distresses me that taste at the Kirov has sunk so low.

I can also say that Ulyana Lopatkina has almost the same effect upon my sensibilities whether seeing her on stage or on video.

You cannot take away from these two dances their physical/technical achievements, because they are real, however their manner of dancing is somewhat distant from the Vaganova pupils I first saw in 1961 and long way from the aesthetics of historic academic classical ballet.

Elsewhere I read of a comparison to Anna Pavlova. Having been involved in research on that dancers life for more than 30 years and having met and interviewed ten of the former members of her company and watched all of the extant films, I can only emphatically contradict what seems a naive comparison when Buddy says, "The Expressive Soul of Anna Pavlova and the Ethereal Grace of Ulyana Lopatkina."

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Mar 31, 2010 2:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Hi, julius.

I do have to say that some of the videos that I have seen on the internet of Alina Somova have little resemblance to the very high quality work that I have seen her do live. Yet I can't deny that these video images exist. I hope that I (and we all) continue to get to see the same high quality that I know she is capable of because I have seen it.

My Anna Pavlova comparison was a strong one, but once again it is something that I have seen Alina Somova do.Her expression can be magnificent! I have to say that I can only base this comparison on the Anna Pavlova video of her "Swan" performance. It is only a one minute tape, but I have watched it over and over. I am enchanted by it. Based on that viewing I made my comparison and my statement.

I will again say that I think that Alina Somova is capable of greatness (or is great already), based on actual performances that I have seen. She has danced as gracefully as any ballerina that I have seen.

Perhaps you could tell us something about your Anna Pavlova research. It sounds fascinating.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

First of all Julius, a big welcome to this forum; the views of long standing connoisseurs are doubly welcome here.

In general I agree with your view that the company is currently in decline. My own Kirov memories don’t go back so far as 1961, but on my first visit to what was then Leningrad I had the good fortune to see such dancers as Kolpakova, Kurgapkina, Osipenko and Baryshnikov and the style those dancers possessed was in the main totally different from what the company displays today.

Agrippina Vaganova always stressed legato dancing over allegro, the only weakness of her method in my view as both should be equal, but the lyricism that developed out of that school was once very beautiful but today that lyricism often comes across more as lethargy and the principles of dance aesthetics cast aside in favour ugly hyper extensions. Irina Kolpakova and Alla Osipenko were two of Vaganova’s last pupils and although these ladies still work as teachers/coaches, it is very telling that neither works at the Kirov. Also telling is the fact that dancers from the Vaganova school such as Elena Glurjidze and Irina Kolesnikova were rejected by the Kirov Ballet but have forged careers and established followings amongst ballet goers far beyond what their former classmates are likely to achieve.

Lopatkina seems to have become something of a sacred cow of late and it is refreshing to hear someone daring to criticize her. Her otherworldliness that suits Swan Lake and parts of Bayadere is rightly admired by many, myself included, but she is a dancer that has never developed as an artist and she has such a narrow repertoire that I feel distinctly uncomfortable with her status as the current prima, as she lacks the versatility that distinguishes the true ballerina. Somova is simply a pretty face promoted far beyond her very limited abilities and on the occasions I have watched her I have actually felt acutely embarrassed for her. If I pitied her at the beginning of her career, I now feel nothing but anger that she is continuously foisted onto audiences and promoted as some sort of star: she is very clearly nothing of the sort and never will be. In London last summer Somova was given the accolade of both opening and closing night performances with the critics wiping the floor with her and the audience sitting on their hands at her curtain calls. The Kirov management should learn from this, but they won’t because that would mean a complete overhaul of their current system and admitting their mistakes. Makhar Vaziev, the former director, whom I once interviewed for CriticalDance was passionate about promoting young dancers and I believe his intentions were mainly laudable, but the path to hell is said to be paved with good intentions and Somova illustrates the paucity of his taste. It is a sign of the Kirov times that the company no longer actually has a director, just an acting director in the person of Yuri Fateev, largely referred to as Gergiev’s glove puppet, a person of no discernable taste who has the brass neck to promote Somova over and above her more talented colleagues, sadly I can’t see the situation changing any time soon.

Author:  jpc [ Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

julius wrote:
Having been involved in research on that dancers life for more than 30 years and having met and interviewed ten of the former members of her company and watched all of the extant films, I can only emphatically contradict what seems a naive comparison when Buddy says, "The Expressive Soul of Anna Pavlova and the Ethereal Grace of Ulyana Lopatkina."

Have we heard of your research in the published world?

Author:  Cygne [ Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Welcome to CD Julius!

Author:  julius [ Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Cygne wrote:
Welcome to CD Julius!

Thank You,

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Apr 05, 2010 1:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Yes, welcome Julius. Do share, if you like, some of your published works. I'd be interested to hear the scope of them as well.

As you know, I agree with Cassandra's views regarding Somova and the directorship issues, so I won't repeat what I have already posted on this forum. However I must come to the defense of Uliana Lopatkina for several reasons. I agree her range is limited, but I would argue most ballerinas have limited ranges. You would not have seen Kurgapkina cast as the ultimate second Act Giselle; nor will you see Lopatkina as Kitri. They both have distinct talents and qualities and when cast in roles that utilize those traits, they appear at the top of their game.

What Cassandra alluded to in Vaganova's style -- the emphasis on legato dancing -- is embraced almost solely by Lopatkina at present in the company. Whether you like her style or her dancing, she is unarguably the strongest legato dancer in the troupe, and as such I would argue she carries the reigns of at least that aspect of the Vaganova traditions forward. There is a vast difference between her work in legato roles and that of other ballerinas in the same roles. Allegro, particularly batterie, has never been her strength. But I would be hard pressed to find someone with the musicality and phrasing abilities she has in legato roles. I think overall in ballet today, legato is not given its due, and that's antoher reason I feel most strongly about this. Everyone wants to see the fast turns and high jumps; but how equally difficult is it to deliver seamless movement, on the music, that melds into the next phrase? I've seen plenty of dancers who are technically efficient fail miserably in this respect. Anyway, just my point of view.

Julius, in your own research have you encountered what I have regarding Pavlova: namely that at the time she was not known for her technique, and in fact there are numerous published comparisons (in Russian) pointing out other dancers who were physically stronger or more technically accomplished than she was? Vaganova herself was said to have been the better dancer of the two, in fact.

Author:  bcx [ Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

"I must come to the defense of Uliana Lopatkina ..."

You did it eloquently. Thank you, Catherine.

I appreciate the perspective of those who have known the Mariinsky for decades. For those of us who are newer to the company and can only compare it to its contemporary peers, I find your most recent reviews reflective of my experience.

In the current issue of “Ballet Review,” Clement Crisp, who has followed the Mariinsky for many years, had this to say about Uliana Lopatkina’s performance in Swan Lake in London this summer: "We saw a ballerina in whose interpretation of the Swan Princess and her evil double was the force of the Maryinsky tradition, grandly understood, which gave the role dignity, inevitability. Her Odette is the incarnation of grief revealed in long, eloquent phrasing. Her Odile is hallucinatory--like Siegfried, we may sense that this is Odette still—and the dancing makes us believe without overzealous bravura.”

Of Evgenia Obraztsova, who made her London debut in Sleeping Beauty on August 17, Crisp writes: “Her feet sparkle in small steps, and she charms the choreography—as she charms us—with that stylistic clarity, that inevitability of phrasing and pose, which are the product of St Petersburg’s long and golden traditions.” Of course I fear that we may be near the end of these glorious traditions—some clearly believe it has already happened; but I hope the company will thrive in spite of the obstacles we can all see ahead of it.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Bcx, thank you for your support. I happen to also be a great admirer of Mr. Crisp's eloquent writing and I completely agree with those quotations on Lopatkina and Obratsova.

I also share your hopes for the future of the Mariinsky Ballet. They have more than a few challenges at present, and I hope and pray they'll live through them without losing these wonderful traditions in the process.

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

What do you all see as their greatest challenges. As an outside observer, who sees the company rarely, I would like to here your insight.

Author:  Cygne [ Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

LMCtech wrote:
What do you all see as their greatest challenges. As an outside observer, who sees the company rarely, I would like to here your insight.

Hi LMCtech :D ! I've been following the Mariinsky/Kirov (live and canned), for over 25 years. First, I totally concur with Catherine, Cassandra, Julius and bcx's posts. That said, I want to see meaningful and effective management change. There needs to be a major change at the top of the ballet company's org chart. This company needs an Artistic Director with a discernable vision for the future which also honors the glory of the past. This person would also actively seek out, encourage and cultivate new choreographers, from within the ranks and from the outside. I've posted about this before. I would like to see a reversal and de-emphasis of the gimmick, the flash-dance, the cirque de soleil exhibitionism that has been in vogue at the Mariinsky for the last 16 years, and which has been falsely advertised as true Petersburg/Vaganova technique and artistry.

I'd like to see the men who are waiting in the wings be thoroughly nurtured and developped as successors to Kolb, Korsuntsev, etc. The soloist ranks have been top heavy since the Vaziev regime, and they continue to be so under Fateev. It's crazy that Fateev would hire Xander Parish, (with respect to Xander), from the Royal Ballet and not un-earth and cultivate the rough diamonds in his own mine. Under Vaziev and Fateev I've watched natural homegrown danseur noble material such as Dmitri Semionov and others leave for greener pastures elsewhere. I've watched Natalya Sologub, and from the 80s and early 90s, Elena Pankova and Lara Lezhnina do likewise. IMO the company was divested of it's true "leaders" from that generation. We see the results today. Who knows what might have been? With respect, had they promoted in their home company as they should have, and been showcased abroad, things might be very different now. People like Somova, Volochkova, Vishneva and Zakharova (when she was still an MT member), might not have "happened."

Over the years there have been many regrettable and ill-conceived policies. In spite of this fact, there are still those who are the exemplars and strive to uphold the Petersburg/Vaganova banner. These examples are Lopatkina, Pavlenko, Kondaurova, Tereshkina, Obrastzova and the forgotten Osmolkina, Ivanova, Zhelonkina and Dumchenko, to name a few still languishing in the soloist ranks. And what of the men? Alexander Sergeev, (Pavlenko's husband), and Vladimir Shklyarov are two of the too few Vaganova trained men on their way to the top. Both of these men should get there - if they aren't obstructed.

There are many who should have gone forward, but have been shelved, overlooked and neglected. Many of these people have forged careers in other companies. It's astonishing that since Vinogradov departed the leadership and vision has been ecclectic, and
I'm being diplomatic when I say this. IMO the Mariinsky's primary raison d' etre is the guardianship of Petipa's classics. It was inevitable that they would add modern works to the repertory: Diverse programs, marketability and box office receipts are everything. Has the relentless pursuit of these three things damaged the company? I don't know; time will tell.

I will say that if we have a company and tradition, (for example like the Royal Danish Ballet), that has a specialty, it's the management's duty to put its' best feet forward in that repertory at all times, and to be good stewards of that heritage and maintain it. It's frustrating when the management refuses to cast individuals correctly. It's exasperating when they cast individuals incorrectly. It's irritating and aggravating when the management insists on promoting and rewarding mediocrity and incompetence of the sort, that would've never seen the light of day during the Soviet era or here in the West. Somova has been a huge blip on their radar screen, however time heals all wounds. The one constant that remains is the glorious corps de ballet. We look to each commencement for the future of the company. If the Vaganova Academy stays true to its' ideals, the company will survive the blip and what I see as an over-long managerial crisis.

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

So why are these people getting to be AD? Is it a political thing?

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

LMCtech wrote:
So why are these people getting to be AD? Is it a political thing?

Yes, undoubtedly. Gergiev is lord of all he surveys at the Kirov, and opera takes precedence over the ballet, even though he accepts that ballet is a nice little earner. What Gergiev wants is a 'yes-man', someone who won't have any original ideas and will defer to his lord and master on every occasion and he has found the ideal yes-man in the shape of Yuri Fateev. Therefore the scene is set for decline and stagnation for the foreseeable future.

Cygne, excellent post.

Author:  bcx [ Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet, 2009-2010 Season

Thanks, Cygne, for your insightful post and for what I take as underlying hopefulness, in spite of everything that has happened.

Cassandra, I hope you are not being true to your classical name (making prophecy no one believes until it’s too late). The only reason the situation doesn’t seem completely hopeless and depressing is that this is happening in Russia, with its long history of dealing with self-serving powers. The Mariinsky should have died many times already.

On a slightly off-topic note, I've been enjoying clips from Yuri Burlaka's reconstruction of the Grand Pas classique from "Paquita" for the Bolshoi (including a variation originally made for Anna Pavlova): ... re=related

A friend of mine, a dance critic, told me he’d much prefer to see Mariinsky dancers in this production. Why isn’t the Mariinsky reconstructing its own incomparable history? (I suppose Cygne and Cassandra have already answered the question, unfortunately).

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