CriticalDance Forum

Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)
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Author:  Cygne [ Tue Apr 27, 2010 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Raymonda runs more along a gradient: the gaiety of the girl, the curiosity of the young woman, and the mystery of the bride--another facet in another light, but always human and always about the Woman. So, very little room for extreme shapes and characterizations, or ogling at one's foot next to the ear.
Hi Madigan. I agree: Raymonda is a role for a prima ballerina's prima ballerina. You simply can't cast "hey you, bun-head" in this role. This ballet was the valedictory of Marius Petipa, the last testament of his genius. IMO, I think he poured the remains of himself into the steps for "Raymonda." He put the period on the end of the sentence of his life's work with this ballet.
. . . (In contrast, Swan Lake has gone through some kind of casting inflation in the Russian troupes: even young second soloists could be dancing O/O.)
"Some kind of casting inflation?" :D Well, if we're talking about the Mariinsky, that's putting it mildly. Like Raymonda, O/O is just one of the classical roles that separate the merely good ballerinas and "wanna-bes," from the great ones. At the Mariinsky, some O/O casting (and most other casting) decisions devolve into try out/political decisions in favor of the management's personal favorites. Unfortunately, for prospective O/Os, physique - meaning height, limb length and one's professional and/or personal association(s) - not technique, artistry, authority or native talent determines who dances the Swan Queen. To put this in perspective, if Altynai Asylmuratova or Gabriella Komleva were starting out, they wouldn't get O/O - not in today's Mariinsky. By the same token, if height was one of the criteria for O/O during the Soviet era, (which it wasn't), the late great Maximova, (deceased now one year to the day), wouldn't have ever danced O/O at the Bolshoi - but she did.

In spite of the current aesthetic, the Mariinsky's creme de la creme, regardless of their physiques continue to toil, persevere and rise to the top. Katya Kondaurova is getting her due. She made a successful debut as Medora this past Fall. She created a featured role in a brand new ballet this past Friday night during the Festival. Also, in addition to being an excellent O/O in regular rotation, she will be making two milestone debuts next week: Anna Karenina on May 1, and Nikiya on May 8. Obrastzova is also doing very well. In addition to increased guest appearances abroad, she danced Kitty in the Mariinsky's first cast of "A.K," and was also the first performer of the Ballerina in the revival of "Petrouchka" during the recent Maslenitsa Festival. She made her debut as Tsar Maiden in "LHH" last October, and she's also the company's latest recipient of Russia's "Ballet Magazine" Spirit of Dance "Star" Award . Katya Osmolkina finally made her debut as O/O in January 2009 - ten years after she joined the company. Principal, Dasha Pavlenko is at least Lopatkina's equal in terms of breadth and scope of her interpretation, and Tereshkina's technical equal - especially as Odile. Tereshkina continues to excel, having won the Ms. Virtuosa award in St. Petersburg on April 2. In contrast, Daria Vaznestzova made her O/O debut at the MT about a little over a year ago and hasn't returned to the Lake yet; but neither has Osmolkina, for that matter. Vaznestzova has also made her debut this year as Medora, but Osmolkina hasn't made her debut as Medora yet and she's an excellent Gulnara. I might understand the reason for Vaznestzova not coming back to O/O, but Osmolkina? No.

Re "Raymonda:"
It also would be tailor-made for Olga Chenchikova,
Chenchikova was one of the best Raymondas in the Mariinsky. She, along with Komleva, Mezentseva, Terekhova and Kunakova were among the best Raymondas of their generation. However IMO, the purest, most academically flawless, peerless, delicate and serene Raymonda I ever saw was Irina Kolpakova.
. . . but her former pupil, Somova has yet to take on the role despite the fast rise.
Now, the $100 Trillion question is 'Why?' If she has the great abilities that Fateev believes (and his predecessor believed) she has, what are they waiting for? Who are they waiting on? Her? Somova has been Terekhova's pupil since Fall 2008, and she's been a pro for 7 years come this June. She'll be starting her 8th season this Fall, and her second season as a Principal. Vaziev gave her pride of place and preferential treatment for five straight years. With warp speed, Fateev promoted her to Principal - just after Vaziev departed for La Scala in 2008. Between them, they gave her countless opening nights. They've force fed the world with her, keeping her in heavy rotation both at home and abroad. She continues to have the shortest study list of roles for any female Principal or soloist - not just in this company, but in any major company anywhere in the world. And yet, even after all the warnings, omens and evidence to the contrary, she was elected to accomplish what was the crowning achievement of her career: A Covent Garden debut and opening night as Juliet. Her 2009 Covent Garden summer season included an also ran O/O, an engagement closing Aurora, and everything else in between - all without one ovation, let alone six. Yet and still, all of these ridiculous management decisions, cynical maneuvers, contrivances and p.r. contortions haven't changed the international consensus. Noted and esteemed dance critics' collective opinion on Somova hasn't dissuaded Fateev or the management. Even the Moscow Times, no less, has questioned Somova's Golden Mask win over Osipova and the other nominees.* And mind you, the critic's askance appraisal wasn't sour grapes in favor of the hometown ballerina.

Alas, I believe that a Somova Raymonda is inevitable. I also submit that the technical, academic and artistic demands of this role are light years beyond her, over her head, and that Raymonda is as out of her league as the rest of Petipa's canon. This fact hasn't stopped the managers before, and it won't stop them as long as they're running the company. However, there are certain variables in play that may slow down the inevitable. First and foremost is the fact that the national icon, Lopatkina reigns as Mariinsky Raymonda #1. After Uliana there's Tereshkina, who is a close second, and (gasp), I consider Pavlenko to be in this triune frame too, (even though the odds are she may not ever dance either role again). Of Somova's generation, Olesya Novikova has made a successful Mariinsky debut as Raymonda, as has Tatiana Tkachenko. Yevgenia Obrastzova has already guested and succeeded as Raymonda, but she hasn't yet been granted a debut in her home theatre. Obrasztova made her successful Raymonda debut two years ago and repeated three times with the Bashkir Theatre Ballet during their Bangkok engagement. Kondaurova is another future Raymonda to watch out for. These four ladies, superior dancers all, are Somova's subordinates on the company org chart.

I think Somova can handle the first two acts, but the last two might become more problematic.
Please see paragraphs above.
The mature Raymonda is quite a different species from the mature Aurora: just compare the music of the clapping variation to that of Aurora's violin solo. For Raymonda, much, much more had happened between sweet sixteen and the nuptials, more than a long slumber. It might also explain why Lopatkina was willing to dance Raymonda but not Aurora.
True. Lopatkina also went on record that she believed she was too tall for the role. There've been great tall Auroras in the past, namely Cynthia Gregory and Martine Van Hamel. In her day, Plisetskaya (miscast), was also a 'tallish' Princess Aurora; but she was a superior and flamboyant Raymonda, as this role was more her temperament. However, both Uliana (and Maya) excelled as Lilac.
One cannot get away with a perennial grin in the role.
In theory, that's true. But footlight flirting and limb flailing go a long way in today's Mariinsky.

*Most honorable mention: Victoria Tereshkina, Ratmansky's choice as the creator and opening night ballerina of the Tsar Maiden role in his ballet "Little Humpbacked Horse."

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Back to some more 'personal perceptions' of the Festival performances for a moment.

Viktoria Tereshkina

" "Zabod" Bolero " (Yuri Smekalov) Friday, April 23

She enters the stage and mounts to the top of a modernist staircase, where she sits down facing the audience.

Seven men enter and start to dance as a group in a compelling 'primitive, ancient egyptian' manner. Their group and solo dancing continues for a long time.

She sits perfectly still at the top of the stairs. Her mounting of the stairs and still, silhouette-like presence are a masterful statement of femininity. As the men dance energetically, her contrasting feminine quietness manages to dominate the stage.

She descends the stairs in an equally gentle, feminine manner and dances with the group of men.

Then she once again mounts the stairs and disappears on the other side.

The wonder of this performance is how her sole female presence with an absolute minimum of activity, in contrast to the men's dynamic activity, is able to establish itself as the ultimate impression.

[date of performance corrected]

Author:  bcx [ Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

"In spite of the current aesthetic, the Mariinsky's creme de la creme, regardless of their physiques continue to toil, persevere and rise to the top . . ."

Cygne, thanks for this wonderfully detailed review of the Mariinsky's creme de la creme today. Reading Tim Scholl's hundred-year history of Sleeping Beauty in St Petersburg (thanks for the reference) I realize that management incompetence is part of the tradition, too.

Thanks, Madigan, brilliant provocateur of this conversation.

Author:  Buddy [ Thu Apr 29, 2010 5:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

I also thank you all for your sincere thoughts and comments.

A couple of impressions remain strongly in my mind from the several performances that I was fortunate enough to see.

The first is of Alina Somova, who showed without a doubt in her "Sleeping Beauty" performance what a 'Basically' beautiful, lyrical and gracefully refined talent she really is.

The second is of the depth of wonderful talent there is at the Mariinsky. Whether the dancers are in are their most comfortable element (beautiful, refined and lyrical dancing, which is what I feel ballet is essentially about) or in less familiar territory (more modern animated, interpretive material, etc.), the magnificent quality of their artistry is without question.

From the artists that I have already mentioned, to the others that performed, to the many exceptional ones that did not appear, the brilliance and soul of the company is remarkable.

In "Sleeping Beauty", for instance, there were well known regulars, emerging stars and some relatively new names (for me anyway). I did sense, all to benefit of the company, that in this "Sleeping Beauty" emerging talent was being given more of a chance to take the spotlight and even extend these dancers' range of possibilities. For example Daria Vasnetsova was the Lilac Fairy. She did beautifully with a strong sense of maturing artistry. Oksana Skorik (an unknown to me) danced Princess Florine. Dancing the Diamond Fairy(?) (Act III) was Elena Androsova and among the first Act Fairies was Yulia Kasenkova (both names not familiar to me). They all did very well. There were other unfamiliar names doing the story book characters that also did just fine.

Among the other Fairies were the often present Yana Selina, Irina Gonchar and Valeria Martynyuk.

Yana Selina, as usual, showed what a high quality standard setter she is. In contrast the emerging Maria Sherinkina, lovably childlike and totally dedicated, showed what a delicately refined and impressive technically maturing talent she is.

There is so much more that can be said about even these few performances.

The remarkable sense of artistry and poetry to be found here shines as brightly as a heart could hope for.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Apr 29, 2010 7:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

bcx, I'm currently reading Agrippina Vaganova's biography and discovered her career took considerable time to take off because her physical appearance didn't match the aesthetic of the time. Some things never change.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Kevin Ng reviews the closing gala performance in the St. Petersburg Times.

St. Petersburg Times

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Cassandra, it's very true: she was criticized for her large facial features and largeness in general (not fat -- but not small boned). However, routinely her jump was compared to and called to be "better than Pavlova's" by many critics of the time. That she "beat her legs like a man" was also noted. She did not receive the status of ballerina until shortly before her retirement at age 36. And had to give herself her own farewell gala. But what a name she made for herself in pedagogy!

Author:  Buddy [ Sat May 01, 2010 5:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Could I please offer a few more comments.

There are two more artists that I would like to mention, Igor Zelensky and Helene Bouchet (Hamburg Ballet). I thought that they both did an excellent job in interpreting and performing some of the more modern, 'Western-style' material at the Gala.

Igor Zelensky danced "Immortal Beloved" by Edwaard Liang with his Novosibirsk Ballet. Igor Zelensky has apparently spent a lot of time dancing with Western companies, including George Balanchine's New York City Ballet and it shows.

I would describe "Immortial Beloved" as being very similar in feeling to a more relaxed version of Twyla Tharp's "In The Upper Room." Even the music is by Phillip Glass. Igor Zelensky's understanding and interpretation of this work was exemplary and could well serve as another very useful model for companies that are not as familiar with this sort of material.

Helene Bouchet danced the main female role in George Balanchine's "Rubies" and once again gave a very understanding and finely danced performance. Hers' was not a New York City, Broadway-like interpretation, but it was totally convincing. Like the Paris Opera Ballet in their video performance of "Rubies" hers' is not a New York City Ballet style version. For me the POB translates "Rubies" somewhat more in feel to the manner of a Paris spectacle and it works very well. Helene Bouchet also does her own take in a charmingly teasing manner that seems to transcend strict cultural differences.

I also had the pleasure of being introduced by Kevin Ng to Bertrand Normand, the maker of the film documentary "Ballerina," during an intermission of Alina Somova and David Hallberg's "Sleeping Beauty." Bertrand Normand is a very handsome and pleasant person who could possibly do as well in front of a camera as he does in filming with one. He is currently making a documentary about Valery Gergiev.

I knew that he had included Alina Somova, still a student at the Vaganova Academy, in his group of five 'ballerinas' featured in his film. I asked him why he chose Alina Somova. He replied openly and said that I was welcome to post his comments on the internet.

He explained that as part of his preparation for the film he attended some classes at the Vaganova Academy. He said that the first time most everyone looked the same to him. The second time he said that one dancer began to stand out and by the end of the day she was the total center of his attention. She was Alina Somova.

I asked him what qualities made her so compelling. He replied that it was her beautiful 'Gracefulness' that most impressed him.

I then asked him if during the current performance of "Sleeping Beauty" he still saw her in the same manner. His answer was that she has developed wonderfully in her gracefulness as well as in her ability to create a depth of expression and character portrayal.

There were four of us discussing this (the fourth being Bertrand Normand's producer) and we all seemed to be in complete agreement.

Author:  Buddy [ Sun May 02, 2010 5:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Alina Somova

Since Alina Somova and David Hallberg's "Sleeping Beauty" was the only full-length performance that I was able to see, because Alina Somova, in my mind, is a sincere and exceptionally talented artist and because she is the subject of so much attention and discussion, I would like to add some more of my perceptions and comments.

My overall view for the moment (I use the term "moment" because she is still a very young and evolving artist) is that she is a highly talented and highly versatile artist, who is always sincerely searching for the most appropriate use of her wide range of abilities to best fit each particular situation. I emphasize the word "sincerely", because from what I can gather she is an extremely modest person who is primarily concerned about the 'rightness' of what she is doing.

The Alina Somova that I have seen in numerous stage performances has been, above all, an exceptionally graceful and beautiful performer.

I have also seen examples of her being 'flamboyant' but not predominantly so, overall. The 'flamboyance' or bravura element has caused much discussion. I have to say that when I go to New York City and see this sort of thing as a common part of the Balanchine derived repertoire I am much less effected by a feeling of extremeness. When I have seen Alina Somova perform such feats, I have been very impressed, but not necessarily dominated by this aspect of her talent. The thing that impresses me the most about her use of this ability is, once again, her apparent attempt for 'rightness' in each specific situation.

So why is a dancer, who I and many others consider to be an exceptionally graceful performer, also viewed as being very loose and variable in some of her presentations. This is probably much more noticeable in the wide range of internet videos that exist of her, certainly than in the live performances that I have viewed, where she has been predominantly a study in beauty and grace.

I would guess that this is the result at times of her and perhaps some her 'advisers' seeking to reach out, expand the range of expression and take chances. Exploring and taking chances is something that Alina Somova seems willing to do and I think that this is to her credit.

The next question would be of the appropriateness of this and does it really work? In my viewing it has been 'appropriately' done and consistant with the possibilities within the nature of the work being performed.

So let me take a quick look at this most recent performance.

My overall impression was that of essentially 'Refined' and beautiful gracefulness. There were also certain personal touches happening that seemed totally in keeping with any artist's attempt at self-expression and search for expanded artistic meaning. Basically I would say that her performance was very restrained in the most lovely manner. If a few high extensions of the leg, etc. were there, they worked very well.

She also seemed to add a slight element of difficulty to what she was doing. For one thing there was an element of leaning backwards in some of her dancing, a challenging of gravity. In some of her unsupported spinning she added a cambre-like backbending which I don't recall sensing in other performances of "Sleeping Beauty." All this was still done in the context of total gracefulness.

One thing that was very noticeable to me was her absolute sense of professionalism and her almost uncanny ability to make it work. There were a few instances when her actions may not have been at the maximum level of accomplishment, but at the critical moments she amazingly tied it all together as if thinking, "This part has to be perfect!" This was most noticeable in some of her final balances and spins.

One last thing that I noticed was that in her motions there was a wavelike feeling that I have never seen exhibited by any other dancer and it had a beautiful effect.

So that's it for now. This is a lady who both touches my heart and fascinates me by the basic, outstanding beauty that she is capable of creating and by the range of possibilities that she is able to accomplish in a sincere and non-self concious search for both entertaining and inspiring artistic expression.

[spelling correction made]

Author:  Buddy [ Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Very enthusiastically positive internet reports coming from New York about Veronika Part and Alina Cojocaru's ABT "Sleeping Beauty" performances. As you may have noticed, I have long wished for Veronika Part (ABT principal dancer, formerly Mariinsky dancer) to appear at the Mariinsky Festival. Perhaps some day we will be so fortunate.

Alina Cojocaru, I did get to see at this year's Festival. She used to be a regular guest star at the Festival. She performed four full length lead roles, four years in a row. After a couple years' absence, she returned to do a wonderfully mature Gala performance of Kim Brandish's "Rushes." Hopefully we will be seeing much more of her again at future Festivals. I am very happy for her.

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov-Mariinsky Festival 2010 (April 14-24, 2010)

Thanks for posting everyone!

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