CriticalDance Forum

Bolshoi Ballet in London 2007
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Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Aug 14, 2007 9:09 am ]
Post subject:  Round up of Spartacus reviews

Reviews of Spartacus – and they are all positive as well as being pretty unanimous ... fd2ac.html ... 857019.ece ... d=23407426

The Times sent two critics along: ... 215483.ece

In the second critique we finally get a review of La Bayadere from The Times ... 234772.ece

The Guardian also sent two critics: ... 96,00.html

But the speculation about Ratmansky going to NYCB, will have the Bolshoi fans aghast. ... 94,00.html

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Aug 14, 2007 10:39 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks, Cassandra and Ana, for your fine reviews and for letting us know what the press is saying.

Response in London seems to be very good to the Bolshoi performances especially to those of Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Don Quixote. I saw these same performances in Washington DC last February and was extremely impressed. If anyone would like to read what I felt at that time please take a look. It is not too different from what is being said in London today.

[spelling correction made]

Author:  AnaM [ Wed Aug 15, 2007 3:08 am ]
Post subject: 


I saw the performance of Don Quijote with Osipova and Vasiliev and I think it really redefined how this ballet can be danced. Both young dancers were simply terrific in the way they danced, acted, jumped... and my god, they can jump!

But, once again, the company raised to their magnificent standards and gave the performance of a lifetime... what a company! Their new vitality is something to treasure... It was a veeery long time since I had seen the jota and other Spanish dances danced at their exciting tempo. It made a difference, every dance was performed with vigour and vibrancy. This is what Don Q is all about: excitement, joy, vitality...

The audience was in an almost state of shock after the performance. I was talking to some very knowledgable people after the performance and general consent was that this company, as it is performing this summer, is reconciling us all with the art form...

So, once again, a big thank you to the company for treating us with such wonderful performances!

Author:  David [ Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:27 am ]
Post subject:  Mixed programme

Bolshoi Ballet - ‘Class Concert’, ‘Elsinore’, ‘In the Upper Room’
London Coliseum; August 13, 2007

Asaf Messerer's “Class Concert” starts so simply. Four small girls, then four boys, doing simple barre exercises that are the very root of ballet. Half an hour later, everyone has grown up and the audience is having their breath taken away by a dazzling series of virtuosic solos. It really gives the dancers a chance to show the technical skills they are so good at. It almost becomes like a competition, especially between the men, as easy attempts to outdo whoever had gone before, jump higher, leap further, turn more and faster. And best of all, you can see in their faces that they are really enjoying what they are doing.

Messerer called “Class Concert” “a ballet class on stage,” but actually it is much more than that. It is a demonstration of the company’s heritage, of the connection between school and the stage, and between simple basic exercises and amazing virtuosity. It is what they are all about. In some ways, ballet at it simplest, and sometimes simplest is best.

If "Class Concert" was all about dazzling virtuosity, then Christopher Wheeldon’s “Elsinore” was definitely about moody intensity. Essentially the work is a reflection on Hamlet. It’s dominated by a single pale costumed brooding presence. There are no defined characters but it seems as if this is the Prince himself, here beautifully portrayed by Dmitri Gudanov. ‘Presence’ because although we see him as real, it is as if he is not really there but is still something or someone whose influence cannot be escaped. The mediaeval atmosphere is added to by Part’s music, Paul Tazewell’s costumes and Adrianne Lobel’s great but simple set, dark and angular, that again suggests the castle while never actually saying that is what it is.

The trials and tribulations of Wheedon’s making of the piece are well documented. It looked as if the men had the message, but there seemed a distinct tendency on the part of the ladies to soften things, almost to try and prettify the movement, dare I say, make it more classical.

What should have been another dazzling work to end the evening was hugely disappointing. Comments following Moscow performances suggested the company really had “In The Upper Room” nailed, but almost without exception the dancers looked decidedly uneasy with Twyla Tharp’s loose-limbed style. Although it improved as it went along, it was as if they couldn’t let go. What was especially surprising was that they were also out of time on occasions, with each other and with the music. And what had they done to the sneakers? They looked rather like jazz shoes. Fine, it allowed them to show their beautifully pointed feet, but surely the idea is that they are different? Maybe it was just an off evening but there were other problems too. The smoke didn’t really work as well as it should and some of the entrances and exits looked untidy. The dancers are supposed do disappear into a shadowy nothingness. I really don’t want so see people holding curtains open for them.

There may have only been one truly classical looking work among the three, but in a way this really served to show just what the company is truly all about - classicism and technique. And while this might make performances in other styles look difficult or a little different, is this a huge problem anyway? What is ingrained in bodies continues to show. If you have been trained only in a particular style or way of moving, you can’t simply throw it off. And should you anyway? Yes, the Tharp looked very different, but does that mean it’s wrong? Some will say 'yes'. Just think of the ire that's directed at anyone who doesn't do Ashton 'properly'. Company styles are important and if they are lost or diluted, it’s very difficult to get them back. Just think of the criticisms levelled at The Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet as they become ever more removed from what many perceive as ‘true’ Ashton and Balanchine.

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Aug 15, 2007 6:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

With somewhat of a London theme, for the moment anyway, I see a sort of 'modern day' Plisetskaya-Ulanova comparison emerging. This would include--Natalia Osipova--now making gigantic Plisetskaya-like waves in London and ---- ???? -----

Alina Cojocaru--with that mercurial ability to slip through your fingers (or your mind) yet leaving traces of beautiful compelling imagery that may never go away.

They are both very young and natural. Their impact is very youthful. As I mentioned earlier I think that this is great ( ! ) and there is no need to rush into maturity. Nor do I feel that there are direct comparisons to be made between them and Plisetskaya-Ulanova. Both Natalia Osipova and Alina Cojocaru are of another era and reflect this. Also Plisetskaya-Ulanova Ulanova-Plisetskaya were giants not to be easily equalled. I am just implying some possible parallels.

Natalia Osipova at the moment hits you like a loving ethereal tidal wave and Alina Cojocaru, also capable of being extremely combustive, has layers of poetic subtlety. It should be wonderful to see where these two extremely fine artists go. As for the present--fasten your seat belts !

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:40 am ]
Post subject:  Christopher Wheeldon on Channel 4

The UK's Channel 4 did a news item about Christopher Wheeldon's recent involvement with the Bolshoi and have now put it on line together with a video clip of his new ballet Elsinore: ... ton/675562

The dancers are Dmitri Goudanov, Maria Alexandrova, Egor Khroushin, Svetlana Lunkina, Ruslan Skvortsov, Anastasia Yatsenko, Viacheslav Lopatin, Anna Rebetskaya and Yan Godovsky

Nice to see Channel 4 taking an interest in ballet. The BBC's online coverage of the arts has now almost ceased to exist.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:24 am ]
Post subject: 

Class Concert, Elsinore and In The Upper Room
Bolshoi Ballet
Coliseum, London
13th August 2007

Christopher Wheeldon’s new ballet Elsinore is in my view the finest piece of new choreography seen in London this year. The work started out inauspiciously when his ballet Hamlet was aborted after his chosen interpreter for the role, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, fell ill. Unable to envisage another dancer in the lead Wheeldon’s original ideas were shelved, but the ballet that has eventually emerged has remained infused with the dark moods of Shakespeare’s drama.

The ballet is for four couples, with two couples more prominent (Gertrude and Claudius, Ophelia and Laertes perhaps?) and one solo dancer with an air of mingled authority and anguish, played brilliantly by Dmitri Goudanov. There is a stark quality to the work with powerful emotions being played out and the two more featured female dancers are those exulted Bolshoi luminaries, Maria Alexandrova and Svetlana Lunkina, revealing to us dramatic sensibilities that they have never been called upon to display in the past. All credit to Mr Wheeldon for recognizing the latent abilities of these two fine dancers. He uses all nine dancers in the cast well and one, Anastasia Yatsenko, will be seen with Wheeldon’s new company at Sadlers Wells next month.

Wheeldon’s bottomless well of invention shows no sign of ever drying up with striking ideas throughout including a breathtaking moment when Lunkina and her partner Ruslan Skvortsov turn their bodies into the shape of a heart, but if this arresting image stays in the memory, so also do those sculptured elegant poses that Goudanov strikes at the back of the stage, rather like a statue in a niche. At the second viewing I was more impressed than at the first though that is always the way with Wheeldon whose choreography becomes more rewarding with each repeated viewing. The music was Arvo Pärt’s sombre Symphony No. 3 and was played absolutely magnificently by the Bolshoi Orchestra under Pavel Klinichev.

Class Concert, the work that opened the evening is similar in format to Harold Lander’s Etudes but without the sense of climax that Etudes achieves possibly because it doesn’t have the benefit of a single composer. This is a work that has always been popular with London audiences probably because the cast includes most of the company’s leading dancers. Created originally by Asaf Messerer, it has been revived by his nephew, Mikhail, a familiar and well-liked figure in British ballet circles. The ballet begins with little children at the barre illustrating the early start a dancer must have, but a couple of scenes the kids were involved in struck me as twee and one of the older girls was so worryingly thin that to preserve an ethical stance over these matters it would have been better to have replaced her.

The action expands to a display case of the talents of the senior company members with examples of different aspects of technique, it’s very impressive stuff with everyone performing their speciality: Osipova displays her soaring jumps, Alexandrova her fierce fouettés and on the male side Ivan Vasiliev turns into a human blur in an incredible series of chaîné turns while Denis Matvienko performed one of the fastest pirouettes a la seconde I’ve ever seen, but most impressively it was bang on the spot barely travelling an inch. There were also examples of pas de deux work with Zakharova dancing a lyrical number with Sergei Filin and Osipova flinging herself fearlessly into the arms of Andrei Merkuriev from a vast distance (Note to Mr Ratmansky: ever thought of reviving Moszkowsky Waltz for these two?).

I imagine Class Concert should find a permanent place in the Bolshoi repertoire as it encapsulates everything the Bolshoi does best, but I still can’t make up my mind about the merits of a Bolshoi version of In The Upper Room. Never a favourite work of mine, I can’t think of a ballet that lumbers the dancers with such ugly costumes as this does as even the most perfect of bodies look unattractive in vile striped prison togs. The dry ice conceit has never worked for me either and I can remember one performance a while back when the mist shrouded the stage to such an extent you could barely spot the dancers at all. Nothing like that happened at the Coliseum, as the dry ice seemed to disperse itself across the vast stage rather thinly. On the other hand it meant the dancers were very exposed and open to more scrutiny than usual.

Are the dancers selected on the basis of their stamina for this work? That may be the case as they were all a game bunch and never showed any signs of flagging. The choreography is by turns jazzy and balletic, but one or two of the dancers appeared not to shed all their classical style in the more modern sections and I got the impression that some saw the work as simply another opportunity to flaunt their technique. The dancer who most engaged with Tharp’s choreography was Osipova, throwing herself into all the new moves with vigour and complete abandon; she appears to have limitless reserves of energy and with the acquisition of this new role proves to the audience that any dance style in existence is probably within her reach.

I’ve a feeling that over time the company will subtly alter the aesthetic of this work making it even more of a Bolshoi showpiece than it is now. It’s certainly a crowd pleaser in their hands though.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:45 am ]
Post subject: 

Don Quixote
Bolshoi Ballet
Coliseum, London
9th August 2007

The Ballet of Don Quixote has as little to do with the famous novel by Cervantes as Le Corsaire has to do with Byron’s poem. The ballet revolves around a love affair between an in-keepers daughter and a barber opposed by her father who has other plans for her, with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza becoming merely peripheral characters. They are given the opening scene but are later compelled to make an unremarkable entry into the main action without their customary horse and donkey thanks to the Coliseum’s apparent aversion to livestock. This Bolshoi production by Alexei Fadeyechev has a lot going for it and is easy on the eye but for all its virtues it is still a ballet out of the confectionary box and a little of this Russo-Spanish hokum goes a long way

The big attraction in Don Q. on this occasion was Ivan Vasiliev, he of the fulsome advance publicity, in a full-length role although he had been seen in a couple of soloist parts in other ballets during this London season. Vasiliev is very short with heavily muscled thighs, saddlebag thighs they used to be called and perhaps still are, his long torso and short legs give him the abilities of a virtuoso. This dancer can jump: his favourite step is to jump to the height of other dancers shoulders and then throw his legs wide in the splits. He can also perform a move I’ve only seen the Shaolin Monks do; a kind of horizontal roll in the air, not a thing of beauty but it sure impressed the audience. Youthful bravado in plenty but he’s not quite the finished product yet as his feet weren’t always fully stretched, his partnering still has a way to go and he doesn’t have much line. As an actor he is surprisingly successful for one so young and has an easy stage presence with no apparent nerves to mar his big debut and he even managed an individual touch in the scene where he plays dead by reaching up and fingering Kitri’s cleavage. He looked pretty good opposite Osipova (everyone does) but I noticed that when on pointe she is taller than he is. The audience was extremely responsive and made appropriate noises after all his amazing technical feats. I welcome young Mr Vasiliev most warmly now that virtuoso dancers are becoming so rare and the jaw dropping moments of the past just distant memories. With the advent of this precocious teenager we can look forward to some fun.

His Kitri was Natalia Osipova, his female counterpart as Bolshoi wunderkind dancing in her second London season. I have little to add to my thoughts of last year about this dancer; quite simply she is astonishing, she has built on her performance of last year with a slightly more mature reading of the role, not so much Daddy’s little girl stamping her foot as a young woman determined to get her own way. She has adapted her interpretation to compliment that of her new partner, as Vasiliev is far more intense than prankster Matvienko who partnered her last year. Kitri is a role that could have been created for Osipova who seemingly rides the air in her now trade mark jetés, but she is not just an exploding firework, she has a barely tapped vein of romanticism that turns her metamorphosis into Dulcinea into lyric poetry.

The entire company was on top form for this one, but the two principals weren’t the only audience pleasers as Yulianna Malkhasyants dancing her wild, rather crazy Gypsy was rewarded by absolute screams of approval. The party atmosphere prevailed onstage and in the auditorium too. It was quite a night.

Author:  David [ Fri Aug 17, 2007 5:54 am ]
Post subject: 

Further to Cassandra's post re Channel 4, I understand they have made a documentary about the making of Elsinore, to be shown in the UK at Christmas.

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:17 am ]
Post subject:  Don Quixote Reviews

What the press had to say about Don Q.

Clement Crisp at the FT would like to award the performance six stars ... fd2ac.html

Debra Craine at the Times awards a slightly more modest five stars ... hoi113.xml

Luke Jennings of The Guardian seems to think that Ivan Vasiliev resembles Harpo Marx (scroll down past the Spartacus review for Don Q.) ... 94,00.html

The Telegraph’s Sarah Crompton was a satisfied customer ... hoi113.xml

And Sarah Frater at the Evening Standard enjoyed herself too ... d=23407765

Author:  Buddy [ Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:16 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks, David and Cassandra, for the most recent fine reviews and, Cassandra, again for tracking the press response. Here is a more general article that you might have missed that I found through some other sites. It is a New York Times article. ... ref=slogin

"Mr. Ratmansky attributed the company’s renewed exhilaration to a number of factors. For one, he said, the repertory is now diverse enough, and includes enough contemporary international pieces, that Bolshoi dancers no longer feel the need to flee abroad to try them. It meant a lot to him, he added, that no dancer has left since his arrival."

Author:  kurinuku [ Sat Aug 18, 2007 1:10 am ]
Post subject: 

Bolshoi is as camp as a ballet dancer's knickers
by JUDITH FLANDERS on the blog of the Guardian
published: August 8, 2007

And that is the glory of ballet. It is sublime. It is silly. And it is, at the Bolshoi, sublimely silly.


by DEBRA CRAINE for the Times
published: August 08, 2007

The sex is laughable, the love duets too quirky and the choreography – exhausting, repetitive – belongs to the school of “when in doubt, jump”. Yet the cumulative effect is undeniably compelling and occasionally thrilling. You may marvel at how bad some of it is, but you can't tear your eyes away.


Don Quixote
by JUDIT MACKRELL for the Guardian
published: August 11, 2007

Performed badly, it is a creaking 19th-century relic, but, performed well, it is a riot. Done as it is by the Bolshoi's opening cast in London, it is transfigured into something like genius.

The fact that the ballet's juvenile lovers, Basil and Kitri, are danced by the company's two youngest stars - Ivan Vasiliev (barely turned 18) and Natalia Osipova (21) - gives the performance a head start.


Don Quixote
by DEBRA CRAINE for the Times
published: August 13, 2007

Leading the opening night triumph was Natalia Osipova, 21, whose Kitri is one of the Bolshoi’s most amazing assets. She arrived on stage like a speeding bullet and barely stopped for breath during the next three acts. Naughty and high spirited, she danced with an exhilaration that knew no bounds, soaring over the stage as if there was no tomorrow, polishing off one defiant set of turns after another. Yet when grace and symmetry were called for, in the hallucinatory Dryads scene, she delivered them with poise, an impeccable ballerina.


Bolshoi Ballet
by DEBRA CRAINE for the Times
published: August 15, 2007

The change of mood in Wheeldon’s introspective new Elsinore – set to Arvo Pärt’s Third Symphony – couldn’t have been more drastic. An abstract work with a Hamlet theme, it’s filled with subdued emotional turmoil and a flurry of unsettling forces, which could be seen to represent some existential trauma. It shows Wheeldon thinking outside the Bolshoi box and some of his choreographic permutations are most unusual and compelling, but the ballet didn’t seem to be about these particular dancers, while Dmitri Gudanov’s muted role as a lone ghostly figure (Hamlet, presumably) came across as a wasted opportunity.

Author:  Buddy [ Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:56 am ]
Post subject: 

Of general interest the russian language Bolshoi discussion site has eighteen ( 18 !! ) computer pages devoted to the London performances. Last year also there was very enthusiastic coverage. ... sc&start=0

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:06 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for posting that link Buddy, I'll try and wade through it in the next couple of weeks but most of it is a bit beyond me.

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:08 am ]
Post subject:  A round up of triple bill reviews

Clement Crisp doesn’t like In The Upper Room at all: ... fd2ac.html

Judith Mackrell is positive though: ... e_continue

But Zoe Anderson is lukewarm ... 876741.ece

Debra Craine of the times liked most of what she saw ... 258226.ece

David Jays at the Sunday Times wasn’t keen on Elsinore (scroll down past a belated Don Q. review: ... 265289.ece

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