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PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2005 3:55 am 
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A Showcase for Chivalry and Trouble
by GIA KOURLAS for the New York Times

But even though aspects of the Bolshoi's "Don Quixote" are muddled, what lingers are lasting moments of brilliance: radiant lighting; dazzling, gazellelike leaps by the corps member Natalia Osipova; and a joyful Kitri danced by Ekaterina Shipulina on Wednesday.

published: July 23, 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2005 4:23 am 
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Not Quite Petipa, and Not Quite Egyptian Either
by ROBERT GRESKOVIC for the New York Times

Mr. Lacotte, who has production credits for story, staging and design, nevertheless had to pay some mind to the ballet's past. Besides sketchy notations made at the turn of the 20th century to document choreographic patterning, and isolated recollections of his Russian-émigrée teachers in Paris, he had Russian archives to study for pictorial souvenirs of a ballet not seen in some 80 years. These picture postcards, belonging to me, detail aspects of the ballet as it thrived in both St. Petersburg and Moscow 100 years ago.

published: July 24, 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:30 am 
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Poohtunia and Fedora -- Thanks for your Spartacus reviews. I didn't get a chance to see it this time. I saw the performance years ago that Rockwell mentions in his review, with Vasiliev, Liepa and Bessmertnova. I recall being awed by the athleticism of Vasiliev and Liepa, and the spectacle of the piece, but it was a little too marshal-artsy and 'let's celebrate the revolution'y for my taste. Would like to have seen it this time, anyway, just to see how they were handling it now. From your reviews, it seems to be more smoothed out now.

Poohtunia -- You should try to get that poster. Try checking with someone at the press room at the Met (across from the ladies room/sofa, on the left side of the orchestra level). There should be a Met rep there, and probably Bolshoi reps (they were crawling all over the house when I was there last week). They might be able to tell you how you might be able to get it.

Is anyone seeing Bright Stream? I would have like to have seen that too, but don't think I'll be able to.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2005 10:45 am 
Balletomaniac, thanks for the info on the poster – I’d like to get one.

Well, I am going to skip Bright Stream in favor of Faraoh's Daughter. With the cast of Zakharova-Tsiskaridze-Alexandrova one can't go wrong!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 3:13 am 
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A Soviet-Era Vision of a Rebellion by Roman Slaves
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

Thirty years is a long time. One wondered how Mr. Grigorovich's choreography would hold up. And how today's Bolshoi dancers, so different from their Soviet predecessors, would dance it. The answers are O.K. and O.K.

published: July 25, 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 3:16 am 
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Trivial to Some and a Comedy to Others, a Ballet Revels in the Past
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

Mr. Ratmansky is creating a trilogy of the Shostakovich ballets for the Bolshoi: he did the industrial "Bolt" this year and is about to revive "The Golden Age." That was choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich, who also did "Spartacus" and who was a student of Lopukhov; Russian ballet was and is a small world. With both "The Bright Stream" and "Bolt," Mr. Ratmansky made no effort to reconstruct the lost Lopukhov choreography. He has done his own versions, and in the case of "The Bright Stream," at least - I haven't seen his "Bolt" - that seems to have been the wise course.

published: July 27, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 10:28 pm 
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Just got back from "Pharaoh's Daughter". My instant review: Bayadere-lite. Forget the story, which is easy to do. The significance of the piece is the choreography - and not just the dancing, but the style and structure of what is presented on stage (as well as the execution, which Zakharova and several soloists did quite well). The choreography, whether it's Petipa or an imagining of Petipa, is a mixed bag. What's good is quite good; what isn't, isn't. And it gets betteras it goes along. More later.

Note - for those who will try to get tickets. All performances are completely sold out. Standing room will go on sale each day for that day's performance at 10. If this performance is any guide, standing room will sell out quickly for the other performances as well. This performance was 100% sold out, including partial views and standing room. Nothing like a little hype and an infusion of Russians!


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 11:14 pm 
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Your comments accord with my impressions from London, balletomaniac. To quote the ads for Fry's Turkish Delight (English chocolate bar) - "Full of eastern promise." Thus, the obvious link with "La Bayadere", but without the emotional intensity and interesting relationship deveelopment of that work. In terms of narrative cohesion (or lack thereof), I was also reminded of "Le Corsaire".

The Bolshoi dancers I saw were wonderful, despite the zillions of Lacotte steps.

The London CDers generally liked it much more than I did:

The Bolshoi's "Pharaoe's Daughter" in London


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2005 2:35 am 
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A Couple of Englishmen in an Opium Dream: Voilà! They're Ancient Egyptians
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

What he had, he often ignored. Amusingly, the Bolshoi was refused access by the Kirov Ballet to the only extant full score of Cesare Pugni's music - the St. Petersburg-Moscow rivalry lives! - and so the Bolshoi had to piece together a score from fragments and reorchestrate them.

published: July 28, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2005 2:43 am 
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Deft Portrayals in a Polemics-Free Zone
by JACK ANDERSON for the New York Times

Anastasia Yatsenko was Zina on both nights, giving endearing performances notable for their flowing lyricism. Her overall sweetness of manner never grew so excessive that it seemed a coy mannerism. She was especially ebullient on Wednesday, and when her Zina realized that she had gone to ballet school with the Ballerina, their meeting conveyed a sense of irrepressible joy.

published: July 29, 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2005 3:03 pm 
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The Bolshoi Ballet
Metropolitan Opera House, NYC
July 28, 2005: “The Pharaoh’s Daughter”


It is 1862. While the United States is deep into Civil War, European dreamers and visionaries (aka artists) were fascinated by recent events that illuminated their knowledge of human history, and inspired them to wonder what life would have been like in other lands in other times. And the dream of time travel, of actually living in a grander ancient culture, was not a 20th Century phenomenon – in late 19th Century Europe, writers, poets, and apparently even choreographers, frequently traveled back to the future.

One particular expression of this fascination with older and alien cultures was in the orientalism that overtook European culture in the latter half of the 19th Century. Things Indian or Chinese became wildly popular. And then there was the intoxication with things Egyptian. Napoleon’s landing in Alexandria, followed half a century later by the construction of the Suez Canal and punctuated all along with dazzling archaeological discoveries, fueled this fascination. Inspired by this cultural windstorm from the East, or perhaps merely in an effort to take advantage of it, in 1862 Marius Petipa created a ballet that tapped the public’s fascination with things ancient-Egyptian. And the framework for this ballet would be a sort of time travel as well. Instead of the then-thriving Romantic ballet style, Petipa grafted his Egyptian theme (apparently purloined from a then-popular work of fiction called "The Pharaoh's Daughter") onto French court dances that emphasized style and spectacle rather than plot. The result was a 4-5 hour (depending on what you read) dance spectacle, involving 400 or so dancers, that had little connection to the Egyptian theme except the minimal plotline, sumptuous sets, and interludes marked by mime that moved the story, such as it was, forward from one court-dance spectacle to the next. Petipa’s creation apparently was wildly popular, made Petipa’s reputation, ran for years, and then died, never to be seen in its original form again.

“The Pharoah’s Daughter” is the final program in The Bolshoi’s current season at The Met. But it is difficult to know exactly what it is that The Bolshoi is presenting. It is supposed to be the reincarnation of Petipa’s 1862. ballet, but the choreography is attributed in the program to Pierre Lacotte, “based on motifs from the ballet of the same name by Marius Petipa.” So what the audience is seeing is not Petipa, but a reimagining of Petipa; not an archaeological dig of a long-lost ballet, but a recreation of a long-lost ballet. But it looks like Petipa. Sort of. The same basic structure as, say, “Sleeping Beauty”, though nowhere near as refined.

Whatever it is, it deserves to be considered as presented. And the simple fact is that it does look a lot like what a ballet created in 1862 by a young Petipa probably might have looked like. And it suffers from the same flaws that a ballet created in 1862 by a young Petipa probably might have suffered from. Even reduced from Petipa’s original length and size (it is now down to roughly 21/2 hours long, and utilizes only a few score dancers), it is still overblown and De Mille-like (Cecil, not Agnes).

The story is of an English archaeologist named Lord Wilson, who explores Egypt accompanied by his faithful servant Sancho – er, John Bull, is caught in a storm outside a Pyramid, takes shelter in the Pyramid together with some none-too-noble contemporary Egyptians, takes a few opium drags, and dreams of falling in love with the Egyptian Pharoah’s daughter who is laid to rest in the Pyramid. Then you have a traditional plot. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Girl is promised to another, who she intensely dislikes. Girl jumps to her apparent death to avoid the arranged marriage, is rescued by a god (in this case the god of the sea), girl convinces father, who just happens to be Pharaoh, to let them marry, the end. And then Lord Wilson wakes up.

But the plot is a gimmick to present dances – the dances could just as well be presented independently of the plot. As Lacotte has reimagined them, the dances are uneven in quality. Every once in a while the chorography soars – particularly in Act III, in Aspicia’s (the title character) luxurious and lyrical dancing in the underwater grotto, and in the variations representing three of the world's great rivers (for no apparent reason except that they are rivers) (predicates for Fairies of the …, perhaps?). But much of the ballet seems formulaic and lacks coherence. The prologue, in which Wilson enters the Pyramid and eventually smokes the opium, is particularly wooden, with a set that, to be charitable, is simply dull. And when the spirit of Aspicia first appears, Lacotte has other mummy-sarcophagi in the Pyramid slowly rise up on from the floor, as if they are a silent chorus for Aspicia’s spirit. The result is so comic-looking that many in the audience openly laughed through what I suspect was supposed to have been a tender, revelatory moment. Act I, in which Wilson (transformed in his dream into a young Egyptian named Ta-Hor) is introduced to Aspicia, is nonstop dance with a hunting, Diana–like theme. But the nonstop dancing is uninspired. The choreography for the corps – consisting primarily of huntress-like images of women with bows in their hands, is repetitive and uninteresting, and for Aspicia is simply fast, but without purpose. Having only recently seen the reconstruction of Frederick Ashton’s “Sylvia” performed by American Ballet Theatre, the sight of Amazon-like women dancing with bows in their hands in this piece simply looks silly.

Act II, in the Pharaoh’s court, I recall as having very fast paced, quicksilver movements for Aspicia (perhaps a little like Petipa’s choreography for Aurora), with a bit of Bournonville thrown in. Act III, with scenes in the fisherman’s village, in the underwater realm and again in Pharaoh’s court, provides the best of the work’s choreography: interesting to watch, variable in content, and beautifully executed – except that in the grotto scene I kept expecting to see the Little Mermaid and to hear "Under the Sea" (which would have improved the lackluster score by Cesare Pugni), and in the Pharaoh's court a lot of the choreography (and even characterizations) looked like studies for “La Bayadere.” But even in this Act, Lacotte didn’t seem to have decided whether he was recreating what Petipa's 1862 ballet might have been llike, or creating a pastiche of it For example, Aspicia, who has leaped into the Nile from the fishing village where she had fled from the Nubian king and her father, is carried down to the river bed (and later taken up from it) by a crude-looking harness device. The image made many in the audience giggle again – not because it was funny and out of place, but because it looked like either Lacotte didn’t know how to show it gracefully, or The Bolshoi simply ran out of money to do it convincingly. And then there’s this poison snake in a bowl of flowers in the Pharaoh’s court, which the Pharaoh uses to threaten Ta-Hor. and which Aspicia threatens to let bite her if daddy doesn’t relent. It’s not just a fake snake; it’s a giant stuffed toy of a snake, sort of a snake version of Audrey II in “Little House of Horrors.” It makes the captured tiger in ABT’s version of La Bayadere look real. I don’t think Aspicia’s suicide threat was supposed to be funny, but it was hilarious to watch.

As Aspicia, Svetlana Zakharova, was better than the choreography (and at least as good as the myriad costumes that she seemed to change into every five minutes). She is a dazzling, soaring, beautiful dancer to watch, with what appears to me to be a perfect dancer’s body and perfect dancer’s feet. The only criticism I can give of her performance is that she seems to know full well that she is a dazzling, soaring, beautiful dancer to watch. Her Ta-Hor, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, spent most of his time on stage either partnering Zakharova, which he did deferentially and adequately, or gazing longingly (rather than lustfully) at this dazzling, soaring, beautiful dancer to watch, which he did deferentially and adequately. The few times that he danced on his own, he danced well, albeit without any significant excitement. Denis Medvedev did much better as John Bull, and was less constrained by his character than Tsiskaridze. As Aspicia’s Nubian servant, Maria Alexandrova moved competently and sometimes eloquently, but the dark make-up used to make her and the other Nubian characters (except, oddly enough, the Nubian king) look African made them instead look clownish. Anastasia Yatsenko was excellent as the fisherman’s wife, and all the soloists in all acts performed admirably.

Although it is not a landmark ballet, or a landmark reconstruction of a landmark ballet, “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” is a fun spectacle to see once or twice, especially for the quality dancing. But if you want quality Petipa choreography, stick with the original Petipa.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 2:38 am 
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The Pharaoh's Daughter - Bolshoi Ballet, New York
by HILARY OSTLERE for the Financial Times

Although Lacotte has trimmed the four-hour original to three, there's still plenty of dance. At times it falls into the category of superior classroom enchaînements glossed with a sheen of the Paris Opera Ballet style, possibly dictated by the curious mélange that's Cesare Pugni's score.

published: August 2, 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 2:41 am 
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Archaeology Mingles With Art to Conjure Up Old Egypt
by GIA KOURLAS for the New York Times

At a news conference the day before the Bolshoi Ballet's unveiling of "The Pharaoh's Daughter," its French choreographer Pierre Lacotte explained, "If you don't have the right steps, you must have the right spirit."

published: August 1, 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 2:51 am 
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In a State of Evolution, but Upholding the Past
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

Artistically, the two-week Met run provided a further opportunity to assess the transformation of the company, a process that began under earlier artistic directors in the post-Soviet era and continues under the current one, Alexei Ratmansky. The transformation involves both repertory and dancers, the two being inseparable, in that repertory is in part tailored to match company strengths and dancers are engaged and promoted with repertory in mind.

published: August 1, 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 8:47 am 
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On the July 31st Editorial Page of The New York Times, Eleanor Randolph discusses the incredible turnout by the Russian community for the Bolshoi's performances. She also comments on dance critics' comments.

The Bolshoi Ballet Returns to New York and Finds Moscow
By ELEANOR RANDOLPH
Published: July 31, 2005
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But in these last two weeks, the Bolshoi's favorites packed the opera house with so many Russians it sounded like the old days on Teatralnaya Square. Russians, many looking as American as a vodka martini, poured into the house from Brooklyn, Boston, New Jersey. "Spartacus," the muscular ballet that made Soviet audiences swoon 35 years ago, made ex-Soviets and their children swoon again at Yury Klevtsov's holding his partner aloft with one powerful hand. While some critics sneered at this year's "Don Quixote," the audiences raved.

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