CriticalDance Forum

Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Mar 12, 2014 6:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

The Mikhailovsky Ballet will perform at New York's David H. Koch Theatre in November 2014. The program includes "Giselle," November 11-13; "The Flames of Paris," November 14-16; a triple bill, November 18-19; and "Don Quixote," November 20-23. Allan Kozinn previews the performances for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Russia Beyond the Headlines previews the North American tour, which now includes "The Flames of Paris" at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California, November 28-30, 2014. The triple bill on November 18-19, 2014 includes Asaf Messerer's "Class Concert," "The Lady and the Hooligan" (with Vasiliev and Osipova) and Nacho Duato's "Prelude."

Russia Beyond the Headlines

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Nov 07, 2014 12:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Marina Harss previews the company's performances at Lincoln Center for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Nov 09, 2014 6:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Gia Kourlas interviews Mikhail Messerer for TimeOut New York.

TimeOut NY

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 12, 2014 7:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

In the New York Times, Gia Kourlas reviews the Tuesday, November 11, 2014 performance of "Giselle" at the David H. Koch Theatre .
NY Times

Apollinaire Scherr reviews the same performance for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Holly Kerr reviews "Giselle" for Broadway World.

Broadway World

Author:  balletomaniac [ Sat Nov 15, 2014 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Mikhailovsky Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

November 11, 14, 2014
“Giselle, Ou Les Wilis,” “ The Flames of Paris”

-- by Jerry Hochman

For its premiere New York engagement, Mikhailovsky Ballet is presenting four different programs during its two-week run at the David H. Koch Theater. The first two: “Giselle, Ou Les Wilis” and “The Flames of Paris,” were this week’s offerings.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet has a substantial history. It’s been in existence since the early 1930s, and has a wide-ranging repertoire. But it is less familiar than Russia’s major companies, the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi, and Mikhailovsky’s attraction, at least to most balletgoers in New York who don’t speak Russian, is less the company as a whole than the presence of its two stars: Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. For Ms. Osipova, and to a slightly lesser extent Mr. Vasiliev, this is the first leg in a series of appearances in New York that will continue with, as presently scheduled, American Ballet Theatre in the spring and an independent program that they headline in the summer. For Osipova/Vasiliev fans, the time to start saving pennies is now.

There was nothing new in the respective performances of Ms. Osipova as Giselle on opening night, and Mr. Vasiliev as Philippe, the male lead in “The Flames of Paris,” on Friday. Those who love to see them were not disappointed; their performances were largely emblematic of their work in other performances to date. But the program also provided other dancers in the Mikhailovsky an opportunity to show themselves off, and the company itself an opportunity to introduce itself.

I don’t know if this Mikhailovsky version of "Giselle," staged by Nikita Dolgushin, is a more authentic reproduction of the original than others (although what’s ‘authentic’, in the case of stagings of classic ballets, is a relative term), but authenticity alone is an overrated, and frequently abused measure. My preference is that a classic breathe with a contemporary sensibility. The Mikhailovsky’s “Giselle” – particularly Act I – looks preserved in aspic.

“Giselle” is a Romantic ballet, perhaps the finest Romantic ballet. But the village scene in Act I, at least based on Western productions (which, admittedly, may have tinkered with the ‘original’), is not danced in the same Romantic style as Act II. But here, the corps work in Act I was similar to the corps work in Act II, just with different costumes and facial appearance. There was no verisimilitude; there was nothing natural about it (other than the beautiful set by Vyacheslav Okunev). This was obviously intentional, but it was very difficult to watch. The corps dancers may have done what corps dancers in the 19th century did (and it was certainly what they were programmed to do here – all the corps work looked highly regimented; no head angle or hand position different from another), but frieze-posing, saluting some highlighted soloist en masse (each dancer with the same gesture - one arm raised in unison), and turning their collective backs on the action when the going gets rough quickly becomes tiring to watch. It may be museum quality, but it belongs more in a museum than on a contemporary stage.

This stodgy framework, of course, allows the principals to stand out, although they would have anyway in a more animated production. But even here, in Act I, the principals, until the end of the act, looked more restrained than usual. Ms. Osipova was fine as Giselle, but from my vantage point her patented orbiting jumps seemed much more earth-bound than they did when she danced in ABT’s production. Indeed, because the ABT version has a contemporary feel and is less stylistically restrained in Act I, she looked much less animated here than she did when dancing the role with ABT. Her Albrecht (here simply identified as ‘Count’), Leonid Sarafanov (whom I understand made a strong impression when he last appeared in New York with the Mariinsky, with which he was a principal from 2002-2010) was disappointing. With his short cropped hair and boyish face, he looked effeminate and prissy. Perhaps this was the style Mikhailovsky wanted: Hilarion (here called ‘Gamekeeper’), played by Vladimir Tsal, instead of appearing brutish, thuggish, or just plain dumb, was portrayed as a schlimazel. They both came somewhat to life at the end of the act, after Giselle dies, but between the corps’s artificial posing and these characters’ artificially feeble characterizations (again, both of which may have been programmed into the production), the damage was done. Even the elimination (or, looked at another way, the failure to incorporate) Giselle’s mother’s fully animated descriptive rendering of ‘seeing’ what might happen to her daughter if she strains her heart by continuing to dance, all while the corps turns away, contributes to the act’s low level of emotional interest. (My recollection is that in the ABT production of “Giselle” that I first saw, staged by David Blair, Giselle’s mother acted – or didn’t act – similarly; it was only in subsequent ABT productions that the mother’s detailed foreshadowing was incorporated.)

But Act I wasn’t completely devoid of interest. The peasant pas de deux, though in a different location in the act from where I’m accustomed to seeing it (and less naturally incorporated into the action for that reason), was nicely danced by Veronika Ignatyeva, a member of the Mikhailovsky corps, and Andrey Yakhnyuk, a First Soloist. Mr. Yakhnyuk was technically immaculate, with feet that gripped the stage floor like talons, and Ms. Ignatyeva, tiny and feather-light, even broke into an occasional smile. The highlight, however, was the staging following Giselle’s death. Albrecht tries to run away, but at each pathway, he’s blocked by approaching nobility. With no alternative, he has to stick around a bit longer for some additional histrionics. This escape attempt provides a different, and intellectually interesting, interpretation of Albrecht’s character, but it also is a neat additional visual foreshadowing of Act II, where the Willis block Hilarion and Albrecht’s attempts to escape.

With the exception of some unnecessary scenic quirkiness (where the Willis emerge from, and return to, the woods, camouflaged by trees that move up and down and up and down as if to repeatedly remind the audience that one wouldn’t really be able to see the Willis unless one could see through the trees), was relatively standard and in some respects superior to others. Myrta, here called “Queen of the Wilis,’ was portrayed by Ekaterina Borchenko with somewhat less iciness and viciousness than I’ve seen elsewhere, but was danced exquisitely. A company member since 2008, Ms. Borchenko has remarkable strength coupled with equally remarkable finesse. The corps work was superb, and the patterning differences made sense. These were not just pretty pictures – the corps in this production is an active participant in the ensnarement process, circling Hilarion to prevent his escape at one point, and barring Albrecht from leaping offstage after Giselle at another. (Why, in ABT’s and other productions, when at one point Giselle dances into the wings downstage right and Albrecht thereupon leaps after her, doesn’t he take the opportunity to just disappear into the woods? The audience is supposed to assume, if it thinks about this at all, that the supposedly omnipresent Willis will only drag him back. But this Mikhailovsky production avoids such intellectual gymnastics.)

Ms. Osipova’s Giselle in this act, again, was less dramatically portrayed than I’ve seen from her previously, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and, except for not looking quite as ethereal as others (Diana Vishneva, for example), was very well done. Mr. Sarafanov demonstrated extraordinarily clean technique, and his final series of entrechats were executed perfectly, with eye-opening ballon.

Mikhailovsky's “The Flames of Paris” is espresso to the chamomile tea of its "Giselle." The complete ballet (as opposed to the last act pas de deux) is rarely seen here, so Mikhailovsky’s presentation was a treat. And it’s a treat for another reason as well – it includes some excellent dancing (as well as more than the usual amount of pyrotechnics), shows off the company well, and is lots of fun to watch.

With choreography by Vasily Vaynonen and music by Boris Asafiev, the ballet premiered in Leningrad in November, 1932, at the Kirov (Mariinsky)Theater, and moved seven months later to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Its real raison d’etre, the 15th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 1917, is transparent even if the point weren’t conceded in Mikhailovsky’s program notes. Seeing the French revolutionary flag carried onstage emblazoned with words in Cyrillic rather than French, seals the deal. But a transparently self-congratulatory motivation isn't a reason to condemn "The Flames of Paris" as merely artistic propaganda. It’s not a great ballet, but it’s well worth seeing.

The story is not unusual for this genre. The nobles are the bad guys; the peasants are the good guys.

As modified in this version, the story begins with a father (Gaspar), accompanied by his two children, a young boy (Jacques) and an older girl (Jeanne), gathering firewood in the woods – the property of the Marquis de Beauregard. The dastardly Marquis and his entourage arrive unexpectedly, and the brutes rough up Gaspar. Jeanne comes to his aid, and the Marquis brushes her aside. If the Marquis had a mustache, he’d twirl it. But suddenly the sounds of the Marseillaise, the revolution’s background music, is heard coming toward them, and the Marquis and his minions, cowards that they are, retreat to the safety of his castle. The Marseilles then arrive, led by the dashing Philippe (Jerome in other versions), comfort the family, and recruit them to the cause in the process.

In the next scene, a ball at King Louis XVI’s palace, the dastardly Marquis convinces the King to sign a document that the Marquis prepared seeking the help of the friendly next-door Prussian army to help crush the revolution. After his advances toward the lead female dancer in a troupe that provides the nobles with the evening’s entertainment, Diana Mireille (Mireille de Pointois in other productions) are rebuffed, the troupe’s danseur, Antoine Mistral, discovers the document, and is thereupon killed by that dastardly Marquis. Is there no end to his villainy? Diana finds Mistral dead, and, to quote the program notes, “knows what she must do” (she must run off and join the revolution, of course).

Meanwhile, back in Paris, in Act II, the revolutionary storm has gathered from the all corners of the country, or what would eventually be the country, and the visiting folk dance their local folk dances as if auditioning for a French version of the Moiseyev, with the joie de vivre of the gypsies in Don Q. The disparate throng was ignited by Teresa, a Basque firebrand. Diana arrives with news of the monarchy’s alliance with Prussia. The People, led by the dashing Philippe, sing revolutionary songs (from offstage) and storm the Tuileries, the King’s palace in Paris. In the ensuing fight, the dastardly Marquis is killed, but Teresa is shot dead, a martyr for the Revolution. In the final Act, the crowd celebrates the victory and the wedding of Aurora and Prince Desire, I mean Kitri and Basil, I mean Jeanne and the dashing Philippe complete with divertissements and a pas de deux that might have been hijacked from “Le Corsaire.”

It it all sounds somewhat cartoonish. But it’s great fun, and there’s some really fine dancing. The Act I, Scene 2 ‘intermezzo’, danced by Irina Perren (Diana), Mr. Sarafanov (Mistral), Ms. Ignatyeva (as an Amour-ish ‘Cupid’), and unidentified corps dancers, was beautifully executed by all. Ms. Perren’s technically dazzling display of strength and artistry was particularly memorable. Oksana Bondareva (Jeanne) was equally spectacular in her dancing, with a series of fouettes (doubles; triples) interspersed with releve turns a la seconde. In her fouette sequence in Act II, Scene 1, it looked at first like she was drifting excessively – until it became clear that she was executing her fouettes and patterning circularly concurrently. That she could hold her own with Mr. Vasiliev, who pulled out a fusillade of tricks for the occasion, speaks volumes. (Ms. Bondareva, who has danced with the Mikhailovsky since 2009, recently joined the Mariinsky Ballet and is appearing with the Mikhailovsky now as a guest principal.) Mr. Vasiliev was a revolutionary bull in a French china shop; he exploded through everything with astonishing acrobatic creativity. But he seemed to know that this was what the audience came to see – in the concluding pas de deux, before his solo, as he was walking to position upstage, I saw him flex his muscles while flashing a knowing grin to anyone with binoculars capable of seeing it. And I think he even winked – unless I just imagined that.

Other performances that should not be overlooked were in the Act III divertissements: Valeria Zapasnikova, Svetlana Bednenko, and Anastasia Soboleva, who performed effortlessly and engagingly as the ‘Equality’ trio; Mr. Yakhnyuk and Victor Lebedev who danced as mirror images in the ‘Fraternity’ duo; and in ‘Freedom,’ Ms. Perren and Marat Shemiunov (a blond haired tree trunk) displayed a series of one-armed overhead lifts that looked breathtakingly dangerous but were executed with the ho hum ease and facility of an Olympic weightlifter clean-jerking a toothpick. One wonders if Mr. Shemiunov might be available for some ABT gigs.

Finally, credit must be given to the sets and costumes by Vladimir Dmitriev, which were both lovely and magnificent, the fiery conducting by Pavel Bubelnikov, and the ‘revised choreography’ and staging by Mikhailovsky’s Ballet Master in Chief, Mikhail Messerer.

“The Flames of Paris” doesn’t have the gripping emotional power of “Les Miserables," which at times it visually resembles (cross-pollinated with a touch of Cirque du Soleil), and it's somewhat ironic that it owes a huge debt to Petipa, the Imperial choreographer, but it should be seen at least once. As should the Mikhailovsky Ballet.

edited 11/16 to correct egregious typos

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Nov 16, 2014 8:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Brian Seibert reviews the Friday, November 14, 2014 performance of "The Flames of Paris" for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, November 18, 2014 performance of "Three Centuries of Russian Ballet," including Petipa's "Le Halte de Cavalerie," Asaf Messerer's Class Concert" and Nacho Duato's "Prelude."

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Mikhailovsky Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

November 18, 20, 2014
“Le Halte de cavalrie,” “Class Concert,” “Prelude”
“Don Quixote”\

-- by Jerry Hochman

The Mikhailovsky Ballet glided into the second week of its two week debut New York season with a repertory evening bearing the overall title: ‘Three Centuries of Russian Ballet,” and then completed the run with its version of the classic, “Don Quixote.” Both the repertory program and the full length ballet were marvelous vehicles for excellent performances by the dancers in this unexpectedly entertaining and engaging company.

With a program titled “Three Centuries of Russian Ballet,” one expects to see blockbusters. The program wasn’t quite at that anticipated level – but the three dances, collectively, proved to be sparkling company showcases.

The final piece on Tuesday night’s program, “Prelude,” a contemporary ballet created in 2011 by its Resident Choreographer, Nacho Duato (Nacho Duato’s full name is Juan Ignacio Duato Bárcia), was the evening’s surprise. Although the reception for it was tepid – perhaps because the audience, heavily laden with Russian-speaking patrons, may have been underwhelmed because the piece was devoid of tricks - I found it to be a visually interesting and intellectually stimulating dance.

Have you ever wondered what George Balanchine’s “Serenade” might look like if choreographed by Jiri Kylian? Of course you haven’t. But that’s a thought that crossed my mind as I watched “Prelude.” The ballet includes a female corps, costumed in flowing, ankle-length skirt/dresses made of multi-layered diaphanous chiffon-like material, who on occasion raise their arms, hands outstretched, as if saluting ballet’s Romantic legacy. This image, coupled with a panoramic scope of stage activity that occasionally empties into a solo or duet, and a series of focal points that are narratively uncertain but which are not purely abstract, made the piece look at times like a cross between any number of early-Kylian pieces I’ve seen, and any number of Balanchine’s nods to his ballet roots, particularly “Serenade.’

Given Mr. Duato’s professional background and the stated theme underlying theme of this piece, the relationship between ballet’s Romantic heritage, seen through a contemporary filter, and a Kylian-like style, is not surprising. Mr. Duato’s initial position was with the Cullberg Ballet in 1980, and he was scooped up a year later by Mr. Kylian, who brought him to the Nederlands Dans Theater. He was named one of that company’s Resident Choreographers in 1988, and became Artistic Director of the Madrid’s Compania Nacional de Danza in 1990, before assuming a position as Artistic Director of the Mikhailovsky in 2011 – a position he held until this year. Not surprisingly, his choreography, at least based on the dances of his that I’ve seen, is marked by balletic fluidity with a contemporary dynamic pulse. “Prelude” is no different. But what makes “Prelude” particularly grand is its scope and its intensity.

“Prelude” is a sweeping cross-cultural, and cross-stylistic dance that Mr Duato has indicated is intended to reflect the cultural and stylistic differences that both he and the Mikhailovsky faced when he became the company’s Artistic Director. It describes the meeting of two different dance worlds. To excerpts from unidentified compositions by Handel, Beethoven, and Benjamin Britten, and with arresting costume design by Mr. Duato, the piece pulses and flows between one style and another seamlessly, although the culture-clash is apparent.

The Romantically-dressed women first appear in the background, upstage of men dressed in contemporary-looking black outfits (the costumes were designed by Mr. Duato), and the female corps gathers the front of their skirts up to their bodies, as if to hide from, or protect themselves from, the contemporary invasion downstage. Obviously, the women are representative of the Mikhailovsky’s ballet tradition; the more aggressively-moving men in black representative of contemporary ballet. At one point, a curious-looking adaptation of an imperial chandelier drops down from the rafters – even it must adapt.

The clash of stylistic cultures creates a conflicting environment in Mr. Duato’s ballet that is seemingly impossible to reconcile, but must be. To this end, two characters, danced by Leonid Sarafanov and Irina Perren, appear after the initial corps groups are introduced. Both are dressed in simple, neutral, off-white costumes, and they appear to be representative of the culture clash, and the need to reconcile it, taken to an individual level. The conflict creates in Mr. Sarafanov’s character, who I assume is intended to be a Duato-surrogate of sorts, an artistic torment that is seen as both style-searching and soul-searching. (After his initial appearance as the Count (Albrecht) in Act I of “Giselle” last week, which I found disappointing, Mr. Sarafanov has excelled with dramatic technical brilliance.) The anguish in Mr. Serafanov’s character is matched by Ms. Perren, and their attempts to rebel against the forced adaptation are visually striking. (Although they don’t look at all alike, Ms. Perren’s expressive movement quality throughout the piece, particularly in view of the simple but elegantly flowing dress she wears, brought to mind Sabine Kupferberg, Mr. Kylian’s partner and muse.) In the end Ms. Perren walks off together with Mr. Sarafanov into the brave new Mikhailovsky world.

Although it’s a ballet with a singular purpose, as constructed it’s a marvelous not-quite synthesis of balletic and contemporary styles, and every dancer in the piece – the other 15 featured dancers plus a corp of 14 women and 4 men - performs with exquisite passion.

“Le Halte de cavalerie,” the one-act ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1896 that opened Tuesday’s program, would have been even more of a novelty than it was had the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet not mounted a fine production of it last spring. I reviewed it in some detail then, but with the added luster of the Mikhailovsky dancers, the piece looked more polished now, and is a particularly valuable addition to the more familiar Petipa canon. It’s simple story of the stage-rivalry between the town sweetheart, Maria, and the town spitfire, Teresa, for the love of one of the village’s young men, and a cavalry’s temporary bivouac in the village that upsets the normal routine and results in three of the cavalry officers of varying rank vying for Teresa’s affections. The comic adventures that follow until the cavalry leaves, coupled with the performances by Angelina Vorontsova as Maria, Olga Semyonova as Teresa, Alexey Malakov, Vladimir Tsal, and Maxim Podosyonov as the three cavalry officers, made the ballet particularly engaging. And as the man over whom Maria and Teresa squabble, Ivan Vasiliev largely kept his tricks under wraps and played Peter as a somewhat dense but also somewhat lovable bull.

What I found particularly interesting about this production, which I didn’t catch (or which was staged differently) in the GK Ballet production, was how much the corps work in the rousing finale before the cavalry leaves the village anticipates corps work by Balanchine. From my vantage point, I could see the dancers race at breakneck speed from one position at the end of one choreographic sequence to assume their positions at the start of the next sequence, as well as the progression of lines of male and female dancers downstage as the finale concludes, led by the dance’s principals. It all looked surprisingly like the Balanchine-crafted finale in “Theme and Variations,” as well as in many other Balanchine/Tchaikovsky ‘collaborations’. Seeing this, for me, was like opening a time capsule, or discovering the missing choreographic link.

The central piece on Tuesday’s program was “Class Concert,” a theatrical version of a ballet class created in 1960 by the notable Russian dancer, choreographer, and teacher Asaf Messerer, which was revived for the Mikhailovsky by his nephew, Mikhailovsky Ballet Master in Chief Mikhail Messerer. The only surprise in this “Etudes”-like ballet (only it’s bigger, befitting its Bolshoi roots) is how exciting it is to watch. The progression from children at the barre (which featured children from local ballet schools – including the Gelsey Kirkland Academy) to bravura performances by the Mikhailovsky’s stars prompted a chorus of oohs and aahs from the thrilled audience.

Thursday’s opening of the Mikhaiovsky’s four-performance run of its new (2012) production of “Don Quixote, though limited by curious narrative sequencing, was nevertheless one of the finest presentations of this classic ballet that I’ve seen. The reason is two-fold – the fabulous conducting and execution of the Minkus score by Pavel Bubelnikov and the Mikhailovsky Orchestra (the orchestra’s fast pace electrified Act I, which set the tone for the rest of the ballet), and the extraordinarily performances by the Mikhailovsky dancers.

Although it claims ‘additional’ choreography by a committee of five, as well as staging by Mr. Messerer, this production very much resembles the production that the Bolshoi Ballet brought to New York four months ago. And my comments are essentially the same as they were for that production: the sequence, though presumably ‘authentic’, makes no narrative sense. The gypsy camp and the Don’s ‘dream scene’ are standalone, with no relationship to the rest of the ballet other than the presence of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; the performance is larded with over-the-top gypsy dances; it includes a logically improbable puppet show that causes the Don to go ballistic; and it ends with the Don and Sancho being invited to a wedding party by passing nobles he’s never before seen, and at which Kitri and Basilio, who are nowhere in the vicinity at the time the invitation is extended, celebrate their own wedding. The American Ballet Theatre production – particularly its ‘original’ version by Mikhail Baryshnikov, but also the less vigorous current incarnation – is much more coherent.

But, like the Bolshoi production, this one features many extraordinary performances, particularly by its ballerinas. It almost goes without saying that Natalia Osipova’s portrayal of Kitri was fabulous (her performance here was much more fluid and comfortable-looking, but no less exciting, than her portrayal with ABT a few Met seasons ago). But Anastasia Soboleva’s ‘Street Dancer’ (the Act I portrayal of Mercedes in the ABT production) was a knock-out. Ms. Soboleva, a First Soloist who stood out in one of the divertissements in “Flames of Paris” last week, danced with particular flair and nuance, and delivered a degree of excitement that is absent from recent overly careful portrayals at ABT. Similarly, Ekaterina Borchenko’s ‘Queen of the Dryads’ was danced with exquisite strength and finesse – the same qualities she brought to her ‘Queen of the Wlis’ (Myrta) in the Mikhailovsky’s “Giselle” last week. Also dancing at high levels of technical and expressive levels were Ms. Semyonova, a choryphee, who portrayed a fiery ‘Mercedes’ (here, Mercedes is an electrifying dancer in the Tavern), and Mariam Ugrekhelidze (Theresa in “Flames of Paris”), a member of the corps, as a soulful Gypsy Girl. Veronika Ignatyeva, another member of the corps, danced a delightful Cupid (‘Amor’) – she played essentially the same role, with slightly different choreography, in “Flames of Paris.” And Yulia Tikka and Anna Kuligina sparkled as the Flower Girls. Among the leading men, Mikhail Venshchikov played Espada with appropriate bravado, and although the role of the Gypsy Man is overbaked, it was danced with particular flair, and no small amount of eye-popping tricks, by Sergey Strelkov. Credit must also be given to Marat Shemiunov’s strong and sensitive Don, and Alexey Kuznetsov’s exuberant Sancho.

And then there was Mr. Vasiliev’s Basilio. If you’re going to pull out all the tricks in your repertoire, it might as well be in “Don Quixote.” And to the shrieks of glee of women of a certain age within earshot of me, Mr. Vasiliev delivered. He may be a consummate showman, ballet’s equivalent of Evel Knievel, but Mr. Vasiliev’s athleticism is without peer, and what he may lack in finesse and grace he makes up for in sheer power.

The Mikhailovsky’s New York season has been something of a revelation. It is no surprise that the quality of dancers in what used to be known as ‘regional’ American companies has risen significantly in recent years: there are wonderful dancers in every nook and cranny of this country. It should come as no surprise that the same situation may exist in Russia – at least as evidenced by the Mikhailovsky. More than that, the repertory that the Mikhailovsky has selected for this engagement shows that it is a company of quality – of all the programs it has presented in the past two weeks, I found only part of one of them to be problematic: Act I of “Giselle.” But most important is the level of energy and the appearance of accessibility of the dancers in this company. Every Mikhailovsky dancer – not just its stars – danced brilliantly, and with a degree of cross-proscenium enthusiasm that generates not just awe, but a sense of familial pride as you get to watch them over time The Mikhailovsky has obviously tried very hard to make a good first impression on New York balletgoers, and it has succeeded.

edited 11/24 to correct a few flagrant typos. There are probably others. There always are.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Nov 23, 2014 12:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Luke Jennings reviews "Giselle," "The Flames of Paris" and "Three Centuries of Russian Ballet" for The Observer.

The Observer

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Nov 23, 2014 12:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

Robert Greskovic reviews "Giselle," "The Flames of Paris" and "Three Centuries of Russian Ballet" for the Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Nov 24, 2014 12:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

In the Orange County Register, Jean Lenihan previews "The Flames of Paris," Friday through Sunday, November 28-30, 2014 at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California.

Orange County Register

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Nov 24, 2014 12:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

In the New York Times, Gia Kourlas reviews "Don Quixote."

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Nov 24, 2014 12:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mikhailovsky Ballet in North America, November 2014

In the Los Angeles Times, Joseph Carman previews "The Flames of Paris," November 28-30, 2014 at Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa.

LA Times

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