CriticalDance Forum

Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat May 09, 2015 12:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Xander Parish is interviewed by Teresa Levonian Cole for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun May 10, 2015 4:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Swan Lake
Mariinsky Theatre
7 May 2015
by Catherine Pawlick

Following the passing of ballet legend Maya Mikhailovna Plisetskaya on 2 May, the end of a brilliant artist that was felt deeply across Russia, numerous performances across Russia's major cities were held in memory of the great ballerina. At the Mikhailovsky Theatre, the ballet troupe performed excerpts from Swan Lake outside and filmed it for home viewing. At the Philharmonic, a moment of silence was requested before Yuri Temirkanov began his concert on 3 May. And Uliana Lopatkina dedicated her 7 May performance of Swan Lake to Maya Plisetskaya as well.

Uliana Lopatkina has long been an emblem of the ideal Odette/Odile character. Blessed with impeccably long limbs and a beautiful face, her embodiment of the dual swan roles has become a model for other ballerinas worldwide, and not due only to her physique. Lopatkina's Swan Lake is the version intended by Petipa, infused with nuance, detail and depth, fully analyzed and fully saturated with meaning. Every gesture, every glance has a purpose. Her performance is an iconic tribute to the best of Russian classical ballet. It is impossible to watch her in this role and come away unchanged - witnessing her rendition is witnessing part of ballet history. No one worldwide comes close to her in Swan Lake.

I have watched performances at the Mariinsky Theatre for the past 11 years. I've seen hundreds of Lakes, Beauties, Giselles and Bayaderes. I've witnessed young dancers come out in their first attempt at a role, and I've seen mature dancers perform for the last time before retiring from the stage. But in these past 11 years, which is a mere drop in the span of the history of this great Theatre, I've never seen Lopatkina offer a Swan Lake quite like the one on 7 May. Perhaps it was my seat -- in the Tsar's actual box, the box to the left of the stage, first chair, which allowed me to touch the stage floor if I were to reach over and do so -- or perhaps there was something in the ballerina herself that altered this particular performance. In any case, the video cameras behind me, (with cables running under my chair) and throughout the hall recorded this night for the Mariinsky archives. Someone will be able to see this on film at some point.

Her Act I entrance began with a chassé jeté, followed by the delicate preening of a swan. Seeing Siegfried, Lopatkina stepped backwards, frightened, and then raced to the other side of the stage where he caught her. Lopatkina froze at this moment, staring deeply into Seigfried's eyes, and only after a number of seconds began to bourrée. The emphasis is on the meeting of two beings, of two souls and then the sudden beating of her heart. The moment when the electricity passes between them and the bond is created.

But Rothbart's interruption of their meeting and his ultimate pull put an abrupt end to the soulful interlude -- as the musical chord struck, Lopatkina reached forward towards Siegfried while being visibly pulled backwards into the wing by Rothbart's black magic. The sequence wasn't mere choreographic execution, it was a visual depiction of forces stronger than Odette.

The White Adagio began with additional layers of nuance. As Odette entered the long double row of swans on stage, and ran downstage, her eyes were focused only on Siegfried, who stands outside that double line, stage right. In the historical version, Siegfried was not supposed to walk down the parallel line of swans, for that was the pathway for their Swan Queen only, and not for mortal humans. So as Lopatkina's Odette emerged from the parallel lines of swans, she mimed, asking Siegfried, please, not to harm her swan sisters. Later, she looked skyward, towards the wings, and flappedher arms slowly, indicating her flight, her transformation into a bird, before continuing the pas de deux. In the pirouettes, as she rotated in attitude devant, she looked adoringly at Siegfried each time, before beginning the turn. In her variation, she emphasized a tendu à terre in the sissone sequence before shifting to arabesque relevé. After the first set she bourréed backwards, folding forward at the waist with her arms behind her before completing the second set. At times Lopatkina's Odette seemed trusting of Siegfried but at others, she bourrées back from him cautiously, her path to trusting the suitor far from immediate. Her breath in the final dip before the penchée arabesque pose that closes the Adagio perfectly accented the conductor's timing.

Act II took a different approach. Lopatkina entered with entirely different carriage: proud, composed, sly, and devastatingly beautiful -- decorated in gleaming ruby drop earrings, a matching ruby crown, and the sleek black tutu. The intent, of course, was to entrance and seduce, to extend Rothbart's power and win over Siegfried, to maintain control over Odette. In the first diagonal her bourrée-tendu devant to attitude ended with a slight allongé before the pas de basque, adding polish to the sequence. In the usual saut de basque section she took the second set of counts in piqueé turns. Later, when Rothbart intervened to pull her from Siegfried for a moment, their lines mimicked each other identically, as if two halves of the same evil whole. After the music shifted and Siegfried sensed Odette's cry for help, we saw Lopatkina's stance shift noticeably, as softer port de bras take over in a tender pose, her eyes slyly focused on Siegfried, assessing her effect on him and thereby divulging her main goal. When the moment of danger has passed she gestured to him to move downstage. He offered his hand, and Lopatkina took two counts to knowingly place her arm in his with a grand royal gesture, emphasising her intent to garner respect and adoration from the unsuspecting victim, but also her intent to control the situation. The pas de deux closed with 10 pirouettes before the final pose.

Odile's variation began with a deliberate and well-placed double pirouette transitioning into a single pirouette in attitude. Lopatkina omits the battu before the developé à la seconde, however this doesn't detract from the initial portion of the variation. The rest was a smoothly nuanced rendition that ended on the music with a double piqué-to-double piqué close.

Act III featured Odette again, but now adorned with a tiny three-pronged diamond crown signifying her exceptional position. After Seigfried's entrance, Lopatkina used her port de bras to indicate tears, turning away from him at first under her arm/wing and then hopping backwards in arabesque as if telling him a story about her life.

Whene Rothbart appeared for the final battle, she stepped between him and Siegfried, sternum high, arms back, attempting to protect the mortal man. Following the alternating lifts by the two men, after she used her last efforts to combat the Evil Sorcerer, we witnessed her fold forward at the waist while bourrée-ing again, repeating the steps from Act I to emphasize the theme, but this time, spent of all strength, she crumbled to the floor. Ince Rothbart's wing was torn off and his powers destroyed, the spell was over. Siegfried touched Odette's arm, gently awakening her. As she stood up tentatively, Lopatkina first nuzzled Siegfried, and then, in disbelief, looked at Rothbart's body lying lifeless at her feet, before she took the final pose in a low attitude, her eyes looking towards the heavens. Words are grossly inadequate to describe the depth of emotion that she depicted throughout this performance, but it far surpassed any other Swan Lake I've seen here in the past decade. Bravo, a million times.

Author:  NataliaN [ Sun May 10, 2015 6:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Thank you, Catherine, for your sensitive review of this special performance. I cannot imagine any other current ballerina on earth who could truly do justice to the spirit of Plisetskaya as can Lopatkina. Brava!

[ Post made via Mobile Device ] Image

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun May 10, 2015 11:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Aw, thanks Natalia -- Lopatkina really deserves praise for this performance!

Author:  Cygne [ Sun May 10, 2015 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

I also echo "..bravo a million times." Thank you Catherine for this exceptional review of yet another historic performance
of Uliana's Odette/Odile. Your vivid description of Uliana's Swan Queen has moved me to tears of joy. Uliana has most assuredly
held Maya Plisetskaya's baton in "Swan Lake," and as "The Dying Swan." Now in Maya's memory, Uliana once again powers forward
with this, her latest installment of this role, leaving all who currently dance this role behind in her wake.
Brava, brava, brava!

Author:  DrewToo [ Sun May 10, 2015 6:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Just wanted to add my thanks for your review Catherine...Lopatkina really is a life-changing ballerina (even for those of us who have only gotten to see her a very few times)--and perhaps never more so than in Swan Lake.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Thanks Drew! That is kind of you to say, and I agree that Lopatkina is a life-changing ballerina -- a fitting word choice.
And thanks Cygne also! ))

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Last night the "Knights of the Dance" gala concert appeared at the Mariinsky's historical stage. Luckily a live stream is available from the MT site for those who wish to see it! So I won't go into length here but a few brief comments.

The evening, though billed as a celebration of these three principal male soloists, each of whom has reached official "retirement" age of 38 -- that is, having performed for 20 years (at least) on the Mariinsky stage to date -- was in fact, above all a celebration of Gennady Seliutsky's talents as a teacher, pedagogue, coach and friend. The three men on stage were all aided by Seliutsky throughout their careers, they are, as I refer to them "Seliutsky's boys". The bottles of champagne backstage afterwards, and the gathering with other Seliutsky boys -- including Andrey Ermakov, Alexei Popov, and others -- attested to what a serious celebration this was.

Per the initial portion of the video at the start of the evening (which is in Russian and was showed on a scrim on stage prior to curtain), Fateyev notes that the men chose these pieces themselves and each is very different in personality. I would have characterized them slightly differently than Fateyev did but I'll leave that to the viewer to decide.

Of particular interest, the piece for Igor Kolb set in the style of the 18th century with the costumes "en travesti" especially when viewed in this theatre, give a good idea of what very early ballet was like at the time of the courts.


Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Two quick updates (of many).

Hooligan/ Ballet No. 2/ Leningrad Symphony
Mariinsky Theatre II
1 July 2015
Saint Petersburg, Russia

On Wednesday night this week, July 1st, we witnessed a unique bill that normally runs in honour of Victory Day (for world War II) each year -- namely Young Girl and the Hooligan followed by Leningrad Symphony. They didn't run this year on the 9th of May per usual, but we luckily saw them before the season ended.
David Zaleyev reprised Hooligan with Elena Evseyeva as the Young Girl. At his first performance, the audience went wild. This time things were tamer (but then, this performance in the new theatre, which has considerably viewing difficulties due to the depth (and height) of the hall). Both accurately transmitted both the choreographic and dramaturgical text of this iconic work -- it's difficult not to feel the threat of stinging tears at the close of the ballet. This is one work that every foreigner should see, but sadly it never tours and there are few complete recordings available (legitimate or otherwise).

A new addition to the repertoire that premiered during the Choreographer's Workshop at this year's festival served as the centrepiece for this performance, Ballet No. 2 created by Maxim Petrov. The rather abstract work, set in post-War Soviet streets, adheres to the time-based theme of the overall program, but the lack of storyline in the second half of No. 2 makes for a rather anti-climactic ending. Nevertheless, some clever choreographic patterns and the charming musical score by Alexander Tsfasman hold our attention.

Leningrad Symphony brought the debut of the lovely Svetlana Ivanova alongside Vladimir Shklyarov. It's understood that a debut so long awaited and so much deserved would carry much anticipation. Coached by Gabriela Komleva, who created the role, Ivanova perfectly embodies the kind-hearted, pure soul of her character. Shklyarov's focus on Ivanova in the introductory section revealed a deep connection between the two in their dancing, and the partnering sections moved smoothly as if the pair had had more than their actual handful of rehearsals. For her part, Ivanova presented a wide-eyed innocence, a girl with faith in the future and love in her heart. But the mood, colors, and music shifted abruptly after the entrance of the German Nazi troops. As a series of bare-chested Russian men in grey tights are shot or beaten to death one-by-one by helmeted Germans, Shklyarov's soaring jete entrance into the 'battlefield' spoke of good defeating evil, introducing the series of jumps by other men -- double tours, or flying tour jetes -- these jumps alluding to a simultaneous mixture of hope, determination, and tragic loss.
In turn, Ivanova expressed the full range of grief, rage, and mourning of every woman during wartime. From the wide-eyed hope int the first section to the disbelief and shock at the losses incurred, each of her developpees or outstretched arms sought help that would never come. As her arms reached towards the audience in a final questioning gesture, more than one set of eyes in the house had to quickly wipe away the tears.


03 July 2015

Uliana Lopatkina and Andrey Ermakov embodied the sort of love that extends beyond death in La Bayadere on July 3. At the height of her career, Lopatkina continues to amaze with impeccable lines and dramatic artistry. Her Nikiya, especially during Act 2, is one character in whom we see a clear example of her acting talents. From the joy at her secret meeting with Solor in Act 1 --shown through the sweeping steps she takes around him, and the complete focus on their duet-- to the shock of Gamzatti's successful sabatoge of the true love Solor has for Nikiya in Act 2, we witness a range of emotion and feeling from Lopatkina that doesn't occur to the same extent in more abstract works (such as Diamonds). Ermakov, for his part, matched her every step of the way, from extreme detail to the timing (notably in Act 3's step up turns, in which the couple wordlessly and simultaneously caught up to the music after a slight legato use of the initial counts), to his own variation. Given Ermakov's extreme height (he's the tallest high ranking male in the company at present time), a double cabriole done with velocity results in his tall frame flying across the stage, a sequence that incites cheers from the (now often) tourist-filled hall.
Special mention must be extended to Grigory Popov for his rendition of the Slave. Mr. Popov's dramatic delivery is ever attentive to detail, even when it is a role such as this that is beneath his company rank and emploi. His obedient stance to Solor, his faithfulness to Nikiya, and his ever incredible ballon are viewable even in these minor roles. One hopes to see him again as the Hooligan sometime soon.

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Maxim Petrov — Young Choreographer

I’m so glad to see that his ““Ballet No 2” to A. Tsfasman's score”, which was debuted at this year’s Mariinsky Festival’s Young Choreographer’s evening, will be performed twice this month. It’s so delightfully enjoyable and it’s also fine art. I’ve watched it thirty times or more on video.

It’s such a cross cultural (or should I say cross Atlantic) work that highlights the very best of ‘Russian' artistry, Mariinsky in particular, with a fine sense of the very best of such choreographers as Jerome Robbins. It also has resemblances in feel to the brilliant and charmingly bittersweet (wonderfully upbeat ending), Broadway quality, Russian movie musical “Стиляги” (Stilyagi) or “Hipsters.”

Having just seen Christopher Wheeldon’s “An American in Paris” for the second time it makes for a very interesting comparison. Christopher Wheeldon having created many fine ballets based on the tradition of Balanchine, Robbins, McMillan and others, sometimes with the ethereal input of ballerina Wendy Whelan ("After The Rain," etc.), has now made his nod to Broadway. I would say that he’s tailored his “An American in Paris” more to Broadway sensibilities than to ‘high culture’ Lincoln Center’s with much success, although as Robbins did with his "West Side Story," this work could be refashioned in many directions and I hope will be.

Maxim Petrov’s ““Ballet No 2” to A. Tsfasman's score” is more formal, more ballet, yet has similar charm and excitement. To the extent that it’s a nod to the heart of the best of the ‘American dance-musical culture’ I would look forward to the day when an American choreographer and company would return the favor. At another discussion I suggested what a nice idea it might be if a resemblance of Oksana Skorik and Andrei Yermakov’s dream scene duet from “Raymonda” could be inserted into “An American in Paris,” perhaps after the iconic “Stairway to Paradise” song and dance sequence.

I truly hope that Maxim Petrov’s ““Ballet No 2” to A. Tsfasman's score” along with his very delightful “Cinema” from last year’s Young Choreographer’s afternoon will become regular features of the Mariinsky repertoire. They’re world class works with such a pleasant change of pace and feel, highlighting the finest of Russian related and Mariinsky dance artistry.

On another note: The very young, delightful and highly talented Yekaterina Chebykina, partnered by Xander Parish , will be performing “Swan Lake” the 23rd.

Author:  Buddy [ Sun Jul 19, 2015 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Looking at future programing it’s nice to see that Daria Pavlenko with her husband Alexandre Sergeyev will be performing Anna Karenina in September after the summer vacation. It’s always great to see these two extremely fine artists performing significant roles as often as possible.

I’ve been watching as much video material as possible of two dancers that I consider among the Mariinsky’s most beautiful. They are Alina Somova and Oksana Skorik. They resemble Ulyana Lopatkina in linear grace and style. The difference that I’m noticing in current works is that Alina Somova, as mentioned in my comments about her Raymonda, is so lovely in the pureness of her highly sculptural flow. Also she has an artistic and exciting freedom of motion that can be seen in such works as those by Alexei Ratmansky. Oksana Skorik is noteworthy for the subtle meaning, poetry and drama that she adds to her exquisite sculptural motion. I would say that they are equally fine.

For similar reasons I like the young Yekaterina Chebykina. Her style is looser and freshly alive, but she has the same underlying linear beauty and refinement of Ulyana Lopatkina, Alina Somova and Oksana Skorik. She’ll be performing Swan Lake the 23rd and I’ll be following any internet insights as closely as possible. Oksana Skorik will be dancing Frederick Ashton’s Sylvia the next day which should also be a very interesting and fine performance.

[typo correction made]

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Ok, outside the box on this one or maybe not. For me the Mariinsky and ballet in general can be such a place of enchantment, sometimes something that is so soul touching that it could be called spiritual. These two informal performances by Wendy Whelan, “This Bitter Earth” and “After The Rain,” both choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with I’m sure much being contributed by her, so possess the same feeling. So think the White Swan duet from Swan Lake and then watch these. Two artistically different places merge so beautifully with their heart touching beauty of motion and expression. I would hope that someone at the Mariinsky would watch these and that Wendy Whelan, who is exploring new directions, will continue to build on this place. The merging of expression such as these suggests a wealth of future beauty.

“This Bitter Earth” starts at 1:50. “After the Rain” starts at 14:10.

(This is posted by the NYCityCenter, the performance site, so should be within this forum’s guidelines)

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Just a note to say that the 2015 season is closing shortly, followed by the Leonid Jakobson troupe's short residence (August 3-13th) at the Mariinsky theatre with a series of "Swan Lake" performances.

And for those willing to wait and/or dig a bit online, this dance competition will air later this fall and proves to be interesting:

in which Nadezhda Batoeva, Ernest Latypov, Renata Shakirova and Kimin Kim will all appear on the "Grand Ballet" televised ballet competition that was first aired in 2012.

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

Thanks again, Catherine, for the updates.

Yulia Makhalina

In my last post I mentioned the wonderfully expressive artistry of Wendy Whelan. I’ve also been watching a video clip of the Mariinsky’s Yulia Makhalina performing Mikhail Fokine’s “The Swan” in February of this year. Her expressive quality is also remarkably displayed and is another excellent case for the value of maturity in artistry. I imagine that she now performs very little, coaching more, but the beauty of expression that she shows is certainly one of a growing artist. I’ve written elsewhere that I would hope that more of a place could be found for maturing dancers whose careers are often ended because of some of the physical demands but whose artistry continues to develop and shine.

In 2012 at the Mariinsky Festival I saw her perform the pas de deux from “Anna Karenina.” Although some of the physicality was very challenging, her artistry was once again extremely beautiful.

In the video of her ‘Swan’ I have an interesting reaction. She’s performing for a somewhat casual audience, yet she seems to have such dedication. She enters the stage past a group of privileged spectators who aren’t totally paying attention to someone who many feel is one of the finest ballerinas of our generation. I have to think of Anna Pavlova who had such a sense of purpose, while performing anywhere for any kind of audience. Yulia Makhalina's attention to every detail and determination to present the finest performance possible has her almost floating above it all. Also her modest and appreciative graciousness at the curtain call is so typical of Mariinsky stars and ballet dancers in general.

I’m going to post the clip. It’s not an official one but several others have been posted by the cellist Borislav Strulev, who's been equally featured and has been touring this with her. They are of much lesser video quality so I prefer to post this one and don’t think that they would object. If you feel differently, Catherine, please delete it.

Author:  Buddy [ Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mariinsky 2014-2015 (232nd) season

It’s a real pleasure for me to watch the performances of Yulia Makhalina and Wendy Whelan side by side (in the above posted videos). They are both so heart touching and beautiful. They also show similarity and difference in style.

Yulia Makhalina shows what we would call Mariinsky refinement or fineness. Wendy Whelan is loser, the emphasis being on a personal loveliness of flow and delicate drama of highlight. There is at least one moment, her hands are placed in an overhead crown, when her refinement of detail is as fine as I’ve seen by anyone. I use Oksana Skorik as a standard for this particular shaping.

Both artists create magnificent shapes. Wendy Whelan’s are more outreaching. Yulia Makhalina’s are wonderfully designed.

Wendy Whelan’s expression is more personal, more of human concern and emotion. Yulia Makhalina is equally heartfelt, but in a more idealized way. She is an otherworldly being, a Swan spirit. I also see her as trying to embody the ’soul’ of Anna Pavlova whose “The Swan” was its first performance and perhaps in beauty of motion the finest statement of ethereal beauty in all dance.

Here we can compare the Mariinsky style and what might be the more modern style. These two great artists illustrate some of the differences (and similarities) along with their very personal expression and I would say that both their performances and styles are equally soulful and beautiful.

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