Sunday, Oct 19, 2003, 7PM
Sunday's evening show was full of fits and starts everywhere --- the Hollywood and Highland plaza lost power earlier in the day, moving Sunday's 2PM performance to Monday at 8PM, and threatening Sunday night's performance. The ticket agency also lost my ticket, but quickly corrected the situation. The show did indeed go on at 7PM, but I was unaware of the power situation until a couple at a local restaurant also attending the ballet told me about it. As a result of the blackout, most of the shops and restaurants were closed, with the restaurant we were in just starting business again, and being completely impacted by the sudden rush of hungry theatre-goers. Despite arriving at the restaurant some 45 minutes before the show, I didn't get anything to eat, but fortunately there was plenty in the performance to fill me up.
First, let's get the bad out of the way: the acoustics of the Kodak are really terrible. The orchestra can barely project out of their pit, especially for seats on the main floor close to the stage. The amplification seems to amplify only certain instruments, and spoils the ensemble by juxtaposing its artificial sound over what little muted, direct sound from the ochestra.
The corps wasn't as on last night as reported on previous nights --- there were several instances of visibly shaking and buckling knees even on simple steps such as fondue arabesque. This was visible throughout the show from the beginning where the female corps appeared to the third or fourth shade coming down the ramp.
The principals were having trouble as well. Leonid Sarafanov's lifts were insecure, and nerve-wracking after a while, including what looked like an aborted overhead lift. Diana Vishneva fell during the third act --- it wasn't during a particularly tricky balance as she was just in a transition move on pointe --- but she recovered well, and the audience received her very warmly after that dance, as if trying to assure her.
Lastly, cell phones went off during the performance.
Now the good stuff. Vishneva is astounding. The expressiveness of her arms and upper body, coupled with her technique, are spell-binding --- I couldn't watch anyone else when she was on stage. Even her first movement just extending her arm out and up was gripping. Moving with mostly slower adagio steps until near the end of her dance in the wedding scene, I was surprised when she transformed her previously sinuous movement into quick powerful quick movement. I didn't know you could move through that wide a range! Her dramatic expression and commitment were equally amazing, as she made the most of the concise transformations through each of the three acts. Her argument scene with Gamzatti was particularly gripping for its sustained tension.
Sarafanov, when dancing alone, was amazing. Along with an expressive, committed physically dramatic performance (done with that beautiful port de bras and epaulement so abundant throughout the company), Sarafanov had an absolutely easy, floating technique. Jumps were truly effortless, as he made them float just another instant more. Double tours were the cleanest and most effortless I had ever seen, including a series done en menage. Tour jetes hung in arabesque in the air. Turns were fully controlled, with an especially powerful pirouette in second (reminiscent of Angel Corella's), and capped with insouciant endings, as if Sarafanov could go on if he wanted, but instead chose to stop exactly when he wanted and wait in balance for as long as he wanted to. Dramatically, Sarafanov seemed like a young Solor, earnest in his love for Nikiya, but perhaps more as puppy love than a truly deep love.
Irina Golub's Gamzatti dramatically complements Sarafanov's Solor. She's literally a rich, spoiled princess who always gets what she wants, and isn't afraid to shove that fact in your face, and she made Gamzatti into the villain you love to hate. Together, they're young kids who are perhaps in over their heads in this love triangle --- Solor for underestimating Gamzatti's spite, and Gamzatti for underestimating Solor's ardor for Nikiya.
Besides some shaky knees, the corps was quite disciplined --- their movements were synchronized, and performed as a uniform whole. The descent of the shades (24 of them on Sunday night) from their mountain ramp is still astounding in its scale, and the corps did nothing to diminish that.
If I had to pick one highlight for me, it would have to be Vishneva's complex dramatic performance, as well as her expressive technique. I hope I get to see her in Rubies next weekend, if for nothing else than to see how she transforms to a completely different role.
A last unrelated question: does anyone know if Vishneva has a tattoo on her left hip? There was something visible through some of her costumes that didn't look like a smudge.