This year's Festival will have two evening performances by George Balanchine, "Jewels" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I've enjoyed very much the Mariinsky's interpretations of Balanchine works over the last several years. I say interpretations because they seem somewhat different in feeling from what George Balanchine presented. One major difference is that the Mariinsky takes seem more lyrical, more refined. I'm not that familiar with Balanchine style or performances, but they seem a little more hard edged, more jazzy.
Although the Mariinsky might not have the innate understanding of George Balanchine's intent, like dancers who live in the world in which he created and staged much of his work, the United States, and have even been taught by his own dancers, the Mariinsky's interpretations are not without a basic understanding. Maybe it's because George Balanchine came from the same school and country that they do, the Vaganova Academy in Russia, or maybe it's just the universality of the dance language. At least one London critic, after the remarkable Mariinsky Balanchine/Robbins evenings in London two summers ago, stated that the Mariinsky had brought its own back home, that George Balanchine had always be a part of the Mariinsky. This is a very 'discussable' viewpoint, but having attended those evenings, I had a very similar feeling, even to the extent of including Jerome Robbins' "In The Night" because of the possible Balanchine influence.
In September of last year, the well known London reviewer, Clement Crisp, on the suggestion of Merrill Ashley, the famous Balanchine dancer who had just finished coaching the Bolshoi in George Balanchine's Diamonds, actually went to Moscow. He was knocked over by the performance of Olga Smirnova, a Vaganova graduate, only 19 years old(!). He had this to say:
"I saw superb performances by [Suzanne] Farrell, for whom a fascinated Balanchine made Diamonds. Smirnova’s radiance, the unaffected nobility of her manner and the charm of her means make the role hers. She creates something magical and it touches the spirit. Not since the earliest performances by Altynai Asylmuratova have I seen so luminous a debut. We have much to hope for."http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/f16dc240 ... z2K8RzOIHP
I've been watching two internet videos of Diamonds. One is performed by Suzanne Farrell and the other by Olga Smirnova. (There are at least two videos of Olga Smirnova dancing Diamonds, and I'm referring to the second, more developed one at the final gala show of the MosFilm TV project "Bolshoi Ballet" in September, 2012). For me, Suzanne Farrell seemed to have a beautiful gracefulness, a softness, that I don't overall associate with Balanchine dancers. There are a lot of similarities between her manner and that of the Vaganova 'derived' Olga Smirnova. It is a beautiful comparison, which also implies to me that the Balanchine 'image', even during his direction, was and is a flexible one.
Balanchine, like anything in art, is open to rewarding interpretation. Even though Balanchine said that others will stage his works, but no one will do it like he would have done it, with the obvious implication of his definite intent, CriticalDance's own "balletomaniac", Jerry Hochman, whose NYCB and ABT reviews I would highly recommend, had this to say about a recent NYCB evening of dancer demonstration and discussion:viewtopic.php?f=4&t=35976&start=30
"It was a great free performance – but it also was a marvelous presentation, all the more significant for dispelling any lingering perception that ballerinas are bunheads (I overheard innumerable members of the audience commenting, with some measure of surprise, on how articulate and intelligent these ballerinas were), and for reemphasizing through the ballerinas’ repeated comments that Balanchine ‘allowed room for the ballerinas to create a world around them’. (Ms. Mearns) That is, contrary to common understanding, Balanchine dancers were not mannequins chained to the choreography and some preconceived image concept, but were given the opportunity to put their own stamp on a role."
And so does the Mariinsky put its "own stamp on a role" (or work), and in my opinion, Beautifully !