2014-2015 Season Opening - 232nd Season
Saint Petersburg, Russia
26 September 2014
by Catherine Pawlick
Although in years past the decades old tradition of opening the theatre season with "Swan Lake" has been sprinkled with variations -- a "Romeo" here or a "Raymonda" there -- this year's opening held true to that tradition with three Lakes in a row. Reappearing on the historical stage to the baton of Boris Gruzin leading the energetic orchestra, the ballet troupe looked reinvigorated after a 5-week annual break.
Oksana Skorik had the honour of dancing opening night alongside Evgeny Ivanchenko in the two leading roles. Skorik has come a long way since her series of Odette/Odile appearances on the California tour several years ago. Now more refined in her delivery, more self-assured and cleaner in technique, her manner of transitioning through steps has gained a maturity and depth. The speed of her port de bras when arching into the signature swan pose have now acquired a personalisation that allows her to embellish delivery without straying from or altering the choreographic text. Her Odette is a sprightly, frightened bird. Her Odile emanates sly seduction, those quick turns of head intent on manipulating Siegfried to the very end. Ivanchenko, the ever reliable prince managed an ending to his Act II variation with a multiple pirouette that ended in two rotations with his arms pulled up overhead, and a triumphant smile to punctuate the step.
As Rothbart, Andrey Ermakov danced the first two performances, both with strong dramatic delivery and verve. Fully disguised in the silver face paint, Ermakov creates a stunning image of the evil, all-knowing sorcerer, his head tossed back as he runs off stage, seemingly victorious in the first act, and encrypted in the second as he plots along with Odile.
In a pleasant surprise, Grigory Popov was cast once again as the Jester. No dancer in the company can carry this role as well as Popov to date, although others such as Tkachenko offer strong renditions in their own right. Popov was tasked with performing this role in the series of back-to-back "Swan Lakes" years ago in one of the Mariinsky Ballet festivals and even today he adds a light-hearted charm to a role that, on the wrong dancer, can fade into the background.
More delights came in the Act I Pas de trois with Ernest Latypov offering double tours to a perfect fifth position, and sissone-ouvertes that hung in the air, his ever-growing legs etching fine lines on stage. Nadezhda Batoeva sizzled through triple beats in each of her assemblés, ruler-straight chainé turns and a radiant smile throughout. We saw her again as one of the two swans in Act III, hopefully portending her own chance at Odette/Odile in the future.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)