Until it goes live in a proper format, here is my review:
Kirov Ballet's "Jewels" A Treasure Chest of Balanchine Gems
In allegorical fashion, the Kirov Ballet's glittering rendition of "Jewels" reminded us of the company's prized place in Russian culture Friday night. From Rubies' sexy playfulness, and the cool romanticism of "Emeralds" to the respectfully ceremonial "Diamonds", these Russian gems dazzled at every turn, reclaiming Balanchine for themselves and proving there’s no better place for Mr. B's choreography than on his home turf.
Cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. have been blessed with appearances by the famous ballet troupe as recently as last year. Thus they've also been treated to debuts of the Balanchine work more recently than the west coast has. After an interminable 12 year wait, we're finally again able to feast our eyes on the Kirov Ballet. And it is a repast fit for kings.
Following the grandeur of Fokine's mixed program, "Jewels" greets us with boundless energy, stylistic accuracy and impressive artistry.
From a combined score with music from Faure ("Emeralds"), Stravinsky ("Rubies"), and Tchaikovsky ("Diamonds"), the ballet is said to mirror three eras of Balanchine's life: his early days in his home country, his time in New York City, and finally, an ode to Imperial Russia. After seeing the choreography, it is easy to draw the parallels.
The soothing, cool green tones of the Emeralds tutus, against a backdrop of delicate romantic movements seems to cross 19th century classicism with Mariinsky schooling, with a sprinkle of Balanchinean movement mixed in. Sofia Gumerova and Daria Sukhurova were the two leading ladies in Emeralds, both appropriately serene with decorative turns of wrist here and there. Sukhurova is a wispy creature whose long graceful arms spoke through Faure's soft calm music -- fluid but accurate. If her facial expressions at times belied self-doubt, her limbs delivered the choreography with an opposing assuredness. She was partnered by the credible Victor Baranov, a dancer of both good proportion and good timing.
Gumerova, however, drew more attention to herself with a no-nerves smile that radiated joy and conviction at every moment. Despite a brief spill on the stage's Marley floor, she continued dancing, hanging in the air on several pique attitude turns as if to show she was unscathed. With every subsequent entrance she seemed to merge more with the music, lending a maturity to the steps that offered glimpse of "the ballerina within". Andrey Yakovlev, a blonde dancer, supported her walks en pointe, wrists entwined almost in the manner of a Russian toast. Gumerova almost made up for Zhanna Ayupova's absence from her intended debut in the Emeralds role.
The pas de trios in Emeralds was danced by Yana Selina, a wide-smiled, ebullient redhead, and Ekaterina Osmolkina, a graceful brunette, both of whom were partnered by the strong Anton Korsakov. Mr. Korsakov's dancing outshone the other men, his beats strong, his partnering secure and his stage presence admirable. One is wont to imagine him in even greater roles. Likewise, Ms. Selina was visible no matter her place on stage, mainly due to her expressiveness.
After luxuriating in the green glow of Emeralds, when the curtain rose on Rubies we were met with the very embodiment of panache: the famous Diana Vishneva, partnered by Leonid Sarafanov. Robed in the briefest of requisite Rubies costumes with a saucy, sexy temperament to match, Vishneva was a no-holds barred rendition of the rouge-colored gem’s choreography at its best. From swiveling hips and high battements to elastic extensions in every direction, Vishneva demonstrated the capabilities of her --very unique-- human body. Suggestive of the freedom, speed and earthiness of New York City, Rubies presents the elements of America most of us relate to, only in upscale balletic fashion with touches of almost-Broadway stances – and glances. From jumping rope movements and wild west hitch steps to languorous arm movements, the message is clearly American, almost a la Hollywood. At more than one point Vishneva's acting skills suggested the pouty sex-kitten, teasing the audience, but then turning around to give them even more. Complementing Vishneva, Sarafanov approached both his partnering and his solo work with boundless energy and genuine joy. The two ended their pas de deux with knowing glances – and more than one set of audience-induced bows.
The evening's majesty was crowned by Daria Pavlenko and Danila Korsuntsev’s luminous rendition of Diamonds as the curtain rose for the third time. More than one audience member was heard to comment afterwards on the exquisite beauty and mature delivery of Ms. Pavlenko, to say nothing of her perfectly Kirovian lines. More than one audience member was also rendered speechless by the artistry of the young dancer. She was the incarnation of royal blood, the ballerina’s ballerina: radiant, certain, perfect. With nary a misstep, Pavlenko carried herself regally but performed emotionally, her secure smile bringing even more grace to her role. Pavlenko’s slender arms and legs make her every line a pleasure to regard, and her ability to make the choreography her own is a valuable talent that is already visible. Of note too is the dancer’s young age: at a mere 24 she is dancing principle roles unblemished. Vishneva, it seems, has some serious competition.
Pavlenko was complemented by the tall, princely Korsuntsev, who must be commended both for his partnering and his ability to move his more-than-six-foot frame across the stage with such power. As a tall dancer he is no doubt challenged by his height in certain roles; in Diamonds his size offered a nice setting in which the shining Pavlenko sparkled. Given the audience’s standing ovation at the end of Friday night’s opening, it would be safe to say that Jewels is a gem to look forward to.
While the saying "worth the wait" sounds mundane, after such a long hiatus we’ve been gifted with a return unspeakably grandiose and, in the case of Jewels, incredibly dazzling.
Maestro Gergiev was sadly missing from the orchestra pit, but Mikhail Agrest conducted admirably. With programs like these, more than one ballet fan will be hoping for the Kirov’s quick return to the Bay Area.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)