Mariinsky Theatre II
Saint Petersburg, Russia
25 October 2014
by Catherine Pawlick
The Mariinsky greeted viewers with an early holiday mood on October 25 with its performance of "Jewels." Now regularly rotating in the theatre's repertoire, Balanchine's triptych masterpiece presents three types of jewels in three acts set to different composers, each with its own aura.
Xander Parish joined Yana Selina as the main couple opening "Emeralds", set to Fauré's hauntingly beautiful score. Selina, who for years danced only the pas de trois in Emeralds, has, post-maternity leave, been given more soloist opportunities. A reliable performer, she executes musically and with accuracy, although the sense of mysterious romance that can decorate this section was missing. Instead she was a cool gemstone, seemingly emotionless, but flawless in execution save for an odd tendency to raise her chin repeatedly. Parish, seemingly entranced with his partner, performed the intricate pas de deux with ease, weaving in and out of the corps as if a Prince in a land of brilliant gems. Victoria Brilyova danced the second pas de deux, somehow reminiscent of Sofia Gumerova in the same role, long, graceful and lyrical as she tapped her pointe shoes in the fondu poses during her variation. Her partner, new face Roman Belyakov, did a fine job of supporting her in the challenging stacatto "clock" pas de deux. A spark of energy came as always from David Zaleyev who led the two ladies in the pas de trois -- Oksana Marchuk and Ksenia Ostreikovskaya -- and then flew through double tours and sissones with attack. Marchuk danced the "crossed bourrées" variation that used to be Selina's, and while her smile enchants, precision was missing in the crossing of her legs - rather than sharp positions in the walks en pointe, we saw a blur, with a lack of accents.
"Rubies" shocks when the curtain opens, and shocks again with Stravinsky's rebellious Capriccio, the piano solo played exquisitely by Ludmila Sveshnikova. Ekaterina Kondaurova, waiting like a Siren upstage, carried this section on her own - fiery, energetic, and yet aloof, her Ruby was a match for no one. From the moment when four cavaliers manipulate her into à la seconde and arabesque to the standing penchés delivered without a wobble, she emitted a sense of the untouchable soubrette, impervious, but electric. In terms of energy and flirtation Nadezhda Batoeva danced in a similar vein in her pas de deux with Vladimir Shkylarov. The tempo for the couple seemed fast at first, or perhaps the pair seemed under-rehearsed, as the distinctions often seen between movements were vague, poses seemingly hit in a rush to what came next. As both are equipped with ideal technique, perhaps it was an issue of timing or tidiness that needed to be addressed.
However, any discrepancies in timing or delivery were put to rest when "Diamonds" began.
Perhaps every ballerina makes this role her own in a different way. It has been a number of years since Uliana Lopatkina's interpretation gained iconic status for its utterly spare, pristine delivery. Not a single step extra is taken, and even a transitional glissade or coupé is infused with meaning and musicality. Her port de bras perfectly etches the Tchaikovsky score, meeting it on the note, never before or after. Lopatkina's presence is quiet and demure - and in that subtlety is grandeur. She does not have to announce her entry, for her lines, musicality, and presentation do so for her. Moments of tenderness toward her partner, Evgeny Ivanchenko, who in this performance proved quite reliable, intertwine with romantic era arm positions. Nothing is taken to extremes, everything is measured, and this very approach is what entrances most. We witness greatness, it is impossible to draw one's eye away, and when the dance ends, one longs to see it again, just for a minute, to indulge in this rare, heaven-sent beauty once more.
And when the grand promenade of the finale begins, the corps adorned in white gloves with their cavaliers, we have a glimpse of what Balanchine saw as the Imperial tradition - no image more fitting for the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre itself, the home of that very heritage.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)