CriticalDance Forum

Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat May 24, 2014 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

I believe you're correct Cassandra. I never use wikipedia for historical information because anyone can log in and add whatever they want, it's not well monitored and not necessarily true...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat May 24, 2014 7:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Tonight, Ekaterina Chebykina debuts in Swan Lake. She has performed it before in Kiev but this will be her Mariinsky stage debut.

Lopatkina performs it tomorrow night, May 25th -- somehow Evgeny Ivanchenko will manage the role of Siegfried two nights in a row; he is partnering her upon her request as Korsuntsev is injured.

Subsequently Lopatkina will appear in Moscow for a gala concert at the Stanislavsky in her name on Tuesday, May 27th.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon May 26, 2014 12:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Lopatkina Ivanchenko Ermakov
Swan Lake
25 May 2014
Mariinsky Theatre
Saint Petersburg, Russia

Since 2007, the Mariinsky Theatre has changed. A new director, a new theatre, new recruits. It is rare these days for even city residents to see some of the "old guard" dancers, those who carry forth the deepest traditions of Vaganova, who share that work ethic, and the well-rounded cultivation of an artist in the fullest sense of the word. One who is well-read, steeped on poetry and art history, who understands ballet history and various approaches to roles. This is mostly because almost none of those dancers are still performing. In some ways Uliana Lopatkina is the last remaining ballerina from that tradition currently on the roster. Trained by Dudinskaya who was one of Vaganova's favorite pupils, and coached in all of her roles by Ninel Kurgapkina who was another direct "descendent" of the Vaganova traditions, Lopatkina is sadly now one of a dying breed. Yulia Makhalina, while on the roster, no longer performs regularly if at all; Diana Vishneva, not a "white ballet" dancer, only comes once or twice a year to the Mariinsky, and lately only with her own modern dance projects. The other principal dancers come from a younger generation who were trained by different pedagogues and coaches. While beauties such as Kondaurova and Tereshkina still grace the stage, no one can compare to Lopatkina in certain classical roles. She is the iconic Russian Odette/Odile; her portrayal of the role sets the standard for all ballerinas. One theatre employee last night was asked by a visiting tourist who Lopatkina was."The best ballerina in the world," the employee replied. The visitor asked "in the world?" "See for yourself," the employee said.

The proof is in the pudding as they say -- and it was laid bare for all to see last night on the stage of the historical Mariinsky Theatre. Lopatkina has perfected Odette to the point of being able to alter the nuances in the role with each performance. Her entrance last year differed slightly from that performed tonight. After the bourrée entrance, we saw her turn in place, and take only two steps - on the musical chords -- before the jeté and the final pose. In Swan Lake, as everyone knows, Odette is under Rothbart's spell. But tonight, we were under Lopatkina's spell - the utter beauty, the legato pace, the fluid musicality. It was impossible to take one's eyes off of her. This is perfection, this is Swan Lake, this is the standard by which all should be measured. In the White Adagio, she etched nothing but perfect lines throughout. Whereas other dancers will overlook transition steps, focusing on the larger poses, here nothing is overlooked. Lopatkina personifies the music, hears it, and emotes it through her body. She's a visual representation of Tchaikovsky. She is sublime.

Her cavalier, Evgeny Ivanchenko, dressed in a plush purple velvet vest created anew for this performance, looked every bit the prince. Despite the exhausting requirement of having to perform Siegfried two nights in a row, he rose to the challenge, even managing 6 pirouettes in the Act 2 variation, finishing en relèvé in retiré passé with a smile, before continuing on to his arabesque.

A surprise came from Lopatkina in Act 2 in the form of a strongly contrasted Odile. While perhaps not typically her strongest persona, tonight Lopatkina's Odile had a refreshing level of seductiveness. Soft port de bras, just enough to hint at Odette, were interspersed with sharp turns of the head and assured gestures. We witnessed Rothbart's partner in crime, luring Siegfried successfully to his ultimate declaration of betrayal. She completed 32 single fouettes on time to the music, and in the final diagonal, managed to keep her eyes and head on Siegfried while moving downstage in the opposite direction. The overall characterization of Odile was genius, artistic, well-thought out and fully considered.

Andrey Ermakov danced Rothbart with an equally surprising freshness. Perhaps some extra coaching sessions with the revered Gennady Silutsky are to be thanked, for his large port de bras and additional epaulement added a significant effect. Rather than seeming a background character as is often the case, one truly sensed Rothbart's presence and his crucial role in the libretto.

With the constant changes at the Mariinsky it is unclear how many chances will be left to see a performance of "Swan Lake" with Lopatkina at its helm. May 25 was a blessing in that sense, and one that was a true honor to witness. One hopes there will be many more of the same to come. If not, the visuals of harmony and beauty that Lopatkina created last night will remain engrained in countless minds for decades to come.

Author:  DrewToo [ Fri May 30, 2014 6:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Thank you for the review of Lopatkina's Swan Lake. I had the chance to see her dance the role at the Mariinsky last year--probably my one and only chance to see her dance it--and it was one of the great experiences of my life.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Hi Drew,
Thanks for your comment - and welcome to the forum! Lopatkina sets the standard for Swan Lake worldwide. You will not see anyone dance it like her,'s a huge gift that you were able to see her perform it live. I have each of her performances engrained in my mind's eye...sometimes words don't suffice, but it seems she is a legend in her own time...

Author:  Buddy [ Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Thanks also, Catherine, for your fine comments about Ulyana Lopatkina. The new generation is starting to make significant waves as well.

Olga Smirnova (Bolshoi, Vaganova graduate) made a guest debut appearance with ABT in La Bayadere the beginning of the week, giving many in America their first glance. I look forward to seeing her in Swan Lake when the Bolshoi visits NYC in July. I still compare her rise to stardom very much with that of Oxana Skorik. Oxana Skorik, for me, has more subtle poetry, which I love. Olga Smirnova seems to be exhibiting a wider range of expression, along with her ‘Vaganova’ beauty and fineness. Olga Smirnova is already considered by some, including myself, to be on the track to being one of the best ballerinas ever. Oxana Skorik’s more subtle poetry may not catch folk’s attention in the same way, but I wonder if she’ll eventually be seen to have the same greatness. It just might not come across as strongly at first. I’m fascinated to see where this all leads to.

Author:  Buddy [ Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

An article has just appeared in Dance Magazine about and highly praising Olga Smirnova. I’ve put it in the Bolshoi topic.


These are a couple quotes that I feel relate to my post above, comparing her with Oxana Skorik. One of the differences is in Olga Smirnova’s rang and brilliance of expression. Her combining of this with her remarkable ‘Vaganova’ qualities are alluded to in the second quote.

“ Slowly, she ventured new accents for her character, Bianca—and broke into a rapt smile when Maillot [the choreographer] screamed his approval. “There is a softness to her, and she has no preconceptions,” he says of Smirnova. “She uses every detail, every piece of information I give her.” “

“At just 22, she is fast making her mark at the crossroads of the St. Petersburg and Moscow traditions, her pristine clarity of movement melding seamlessly with the dramatic emphasis Moscow has long cultivated.”

I would add to the last quote my feelings that Olga Smirnova has a ‘genius’ that is very much her own and probably transcends company styles. Oxana Skorik also has a very personal ‘genius,’ but might be more identified with Mariinsky style because of its pure loveliness. The poetic depth to which she carries this, I would say is very much her own.

Author:  Buddy [ Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

In further reference to the above posted comparisons of Oxana Skorik and Olga Smirnova, Alastair Macaulay (New York Times) has this to say about Olga Smirnova’s recent ABT appearance, which touches on her Vaganova essence. (Article posted at ABT forum.)


“Olga Smirnova, was born and raised in St. Petersburg; she chose to become a Bolshoi Ballet soloist. She is a prodigy, startlingly mature for her years.

“As yet, she seems to have acquired no evident Bolshoi characteristics. Her softly relaxed, Romantic use of elbow and wrists has more in common with some aspects of the St. Petersburg style….

“Another St. Petersburg aspect is her emphatic use of legato….”

[Legato: this is a word borrowed from musical language, but it is used in dance with the same meaning. It expresses a quality of movement in which flow doesn’t stop, but the feeling is always continuous and fluent.]

Although Alastair Macaulay seems to like her a lot (along with the Viktoria Tereshkina and Vladimir Shklyarov ABT La Bayadere performances) he has some mixed feelings about this. For me, it’s a sign of her individuality. I’d love to see her exhibit as much of her Vaganova beauty as possible.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jun 03, 2014 1:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

He writes "she's holding too much in reserve." I disagree.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Catherine, the difference in expressiveness between the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi is a very interesting topic. I don’t see the difference perhaps as much as others. Svetlana Zakharova, considered the Bolshoi’s current ‘prima ballerina,’ for me, still shows a lot of her basic Mariinsky fineness and loveliness. Other Bolshoi stars, such as the recently departed from the company, Svetlana Lunkina, show lovely 'restraint' and delicacy.

In the Dance Magazine interview, Olga Smirnova, who seems like a very intelligent and level headed individual, discusses the idea of expressiveness.

“The bold acting tradition was another challenge. Her hunger for new experiences and love of theater have helped her fit in, but Smirnova is still fine-tuning her approach. She reviews videos of her performances with her coach, critiquing and revising her choices. “When I first came here, everybody said: Here is another ballerina from St. Petersburg who will be cold and unemotional,” she remembers. “I didn’t understand what they meant—should you be crazy onstage? What’s the limit? It’s still an open question for me.” “

Author:  Buddy [ Fri Jun 06, 2014 6:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

In the ‘for what it’s worth department’ and regarding the difference between Mariinsky and Bolshoi style or expressiveness, I continue to Not see that much difference in the 'ballerinas' or women 'soloists.' I’ll immediately admit my bias towards the lighter, ‘ethereal’ style dancers, whom I associate strongly with the Mariinsky, and am focussing on here. I'm also focussing on performances in the more Swan Lake and Giselle-like 'ethereal' works.

When I just finished watching video clips of some Bolshoi dancers whom I like very much for the same reason, Ekaterina Krysanova (who does seem to do any style brilliantly, but whom I love most for her gentle loveliness), Anna Nikulina and the newly emerging Kristina Kretova, I see so much that resembles similar Mariinsky dancers. Perhaps I see Slightly more 'animation' in the Bolshoi women, but nothing that dissimilar. I also compared these video performances with that of Evgenia Obraztsova’s Romeo and Juliet from a few years ago and feel great similarities. Consider now that Evgenia Obraztsova is no longer a Mariinsky dancer, but a Bolshoi Principal, and the distinctions disappear ever more.

A difference might exist in the feel of the overall works, but not, for me, in the ballerinas. Also it depends on which works the companies focus on, Giselle as contrasted to Spartacus. The Bolshoi ballerinas are no longer in the Maya Plisetskaya style and that was when there seemed to be more of a distinction. I’ve already mentioned in this new grouping the Bolshoi’s 'prima ballerina,' Svetlana Zakharova (formerly Mariinsky), and the Bolshoi’s rising young star Olga Smirnova (Vaganova (Mariinsky school) graduate). I like the ’new style’ Bolshoi ballerinas very much and do see a strong resemblance to what I love so much at the Mariinsky.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 08, 2014 4:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Buddy you make an interesting and I think intelligent point here -- the lines today are not AS distinct as they were perhaps 30 or more years ago between North/South (Petersburg/Moscow) in terms of the style. Certainly there has been more crossover as you note three big names who came from the Vaganova Academy (Zakharova, Obratsova and Smirnova) and who are well known Bolshoi ballerinas. As you and most ballet fans know, the Bolshoi style is typically known for its more bravura, fanfare-based "big" approach, not so much for delicacy and refinement which are historically characteristics of the Petersburg school. But when looking at individual ballerinas of course that can vary greatly especially depending on where they trained...

These are not my conclusive thoughts on the subject, and I want to come back to this discussion, but I need to post a review of Friday night's Bayadere before more time moment please...

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 08, 2014 4:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

La Bayadère
Mariinsky Theatre
Saint Petersburg, Russia
6 June 2014
by Catherine Pawlick

Announced just weeks ago, on June 6 the Mariinsky audience was blessed with the opportunity to witness Uliana Lopatkina in La Bayadère. The unbelievable good luck -- her Swan Lake was just 12 days prior - of witnessing this masterful artist in yet another white ballet in such a short time span was a rare event.
Often the programming is such that local audiences go months between viewing her in two purely classical ballets. And yet, we were rewarded with two virtually back to back performances, both equally breathtaking.

Lopatkina's characterization of Nikiya remains complex and multilayered. From her first entrance in Act I, pride and integrity infuse her every gesture in the face of the Great Brahmin's advances. Her strength is visible physically -- sternum forward, chin held high, but only until the Brahmin backs down. Then she immediately turned away, exhausted from the efforts, revealing the internal delicate innocence of her character, Nikiya's true vulnerability to being wounded.

This evening she appeared even more lyrical than usual, taking more liberty with the musical phrasing in the short pas de deux that is her first encounter with Solor in Act I. During the first three lunging steps around his kneeling form, she held onto his arm longer than usual, and he to hers, her every step filled with joy and love. In their sweeping duet, fluidity of movement seemed foremost. After Solor swore his love for her, she looked as if to heaven, her face covered in a radiant smile. That Solor - the talented, and quickly rising Andrey Ermakov -- was the most expressive he has ever been in this role. We saw a noble prince, but one that was brightly expressive in all of his emotions. His passion for Nikiya was visible in his face, his strength as a warrior in his stance. During that same declaration of love, one had no doubt that this Solor was a man of his word.

Act II, of course, sadly takes a different course, but first one is offered the distractions of the wedding celebration dances. Here David Zaleyev as the Golden Idol stunned the audience with a new approach to the role. In the section where the young students encircle him and he stands frozen, shifting leg positions every 4 counts, here Zaleyev widened the circle, performing a series of whip fast tours a la seconde. Zaleyev's talents almost exceed the company's ability to cast him - he's one for whom the dance is easy and knows no bounds.

In similar fashion, during the Act II Grand Pas, Ermakov hung in the air in the tour jetés (ending in attitude) at the entrance with Gamzatti, as well as the Bournonville jetés heading downstage. The man's height --well over 6'3"-- means that his legs go on forever. But unlike his tall counterparts in the company, Ermakov has a means of using every last millimeter of leg, so when he jumps, he consumes an incredible amount of physical space. The results are magnificent.

Upon Nikiya's Act II entrance, things become more somber. Lopatkina's monologue, taken here at an appropriate legato pace to the mournful sounds of the cello, depicted the anguish in Nikiya's soul. The soutenue, retiré passé into plié fondu arabesque sequence was performed silently, seamlessly and without wobbles, as if already a phantom moving through space and time. And when, during her lament, she glanced up to see her beloved kiss Gamzatti's hand, she covered her mouth in horror and tried to run upstage - interrupted in her flight by the offer of the fatal basket of flowers. Hope immediately returned to her face at that moment, causing an additional ache in the viewer's heart, knowing what was to come.

Act III was an essay in pure classicism and remains one of the expert components of the Mariinsky repertoire. All 32 shades were in perfect form, calling forth applause for their synchronic movements. Of the 3 Shade variations, the most noteworthy was Nadezhda Batoeva who performed the arabesque hops en pointe. A born ballerina, it's only a matter of time until Batoeva climbs the ranks. Her style translates to reliability and flexibility; no matter the choreographic challenges, she always matches the role dramatically and delivers with ease technically. One wanted to see Victoria Brilyova, Svetlana Ivanova, or Alisa Sodoleva cast alongside her in one of the other two Shades variations.

Nikiya and Solor's mystical dance of love was infused with carefully thought out details, as is Lopatkina's signature. The jeté-to-écarté sequence ended in a careful matching of both Solor and Nikiya's lower arms, and they maintained the distance of the pose throughout the 360-degree promenade.

Endless yells of "Bravo" from even the 5th balcony after the final curtain attested to not just Lopatkina's high level artistry, but how beloved she is among the local, and international audience. One had the sense, on June 6, of witnessing an incredible moment in ballet history, a performance unparalleled even by Lopatkina herself. Would that the casting directors gave her more than just a handful of such opportunities each season.

Author:  Tiara [ Sun Jun 08, 2014 7:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Catherine Pawlick wrote:
La Bayadère
Mariinsky Theatre
Saint Petersburg, Russia

Endless yells of "Bravo" from even the 5th balcony after the final curtain attested to not just Lopatkina's high level artistry, but how beloved she is among the local, and international audience. One had the sense, on June 6, of witnessing an incredible moment in ballet history, a performance unparalleled even by Lopatkina herself. Would that the casting directors gave her more than just a handful of such opportunities each season.

Cathy, I too was present at this "incredible moment in ballet history" and agree Uliana's Nikiya was sublime, and would very much like to know why it has never been filmed, despite being one of her greatest roles. Next month Tereshkina and Shklyarov will dance two performances conducted by Gergiev, an indication that one of the performances may be filmed. Why give them these performances and possibly a film? Uliana will be regarded historically as one of Mariinsky's Greats - will they? I doubt it, good though they are. Neither of them is in Lopatkina's league. Why no Lopatkina Bayadere on video??? It's a disgrace.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun Jun 08, 2014 11:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2013-2014 (231st) season

Actually, interestingly enough that performance *was* supposed to be filmed, but at least 5 dancers who Fateyev wanted in the filmed version are out now, so filming was cancelled. Needless to say the main purpose to film this in my view is to record Lopatkina for generations to come. Sadly the administration is overlooking what is in front of their noses. I agree with you wholeheartedly that as great as the others in the upper ranks may be, they're not in her league. I don't actually know of any other dancers who are! :-)

Additionally due to injuries at least 3 dancers normally cast won't be going to London so that tour should prove interesting.

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