St. Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick
19 March 2008
In the fourth of six “Swan Lakes” this week at the 8th Annual International Mariinsky Festival, the audience was treated to a high caliber, polished performance that revealed flawless technique and moments of elevated virtuosity as Angel Corella of American Ballet Theatre joined the Mariinsky’s Viktoria Tereshkina in the leading roles.
Following the receipt of the “Honored Artist of Russia” title by Vladimir Putin on February 27, at the young age of 23 Tereshkina continues to serve as a shining example of the Mariinsky’s tradition of pure classicism. In this performance, she seemed to raise the bar for other ballerinas technically, and underscored her place after Uliana Lopatkina in a long line of traditional Petersburgian ballerinas.
This evening, every inch of Tereshkina spoke “ballerina-swan”, her ultra thin legs culminating in a beautiful set of curved, high-arched feet, and her arms stemming from deep inside her spine, every fingertip carefully in place. Tereshkina moves as if she is a long stream of silk poured onstage, but in addition to beautiful lines, her greatest strength is perhaps her mastery of balance and timing. A natural turner, she gives the impression of being suspended from above, her spine erect, her spot precise. Like Lopatkina, Tereshkina doesn’t follow the superfluous school of footwork; hers is impeccable. As Odette, Tereshkina epitomized the trembling, careful white swan. Expertly shifting personas for Act Two, her Odile teased Corella while capturing his heart. Hers wasn’t a wicked sorceress, but a conniving and clever woman with plenty of beauty to entrance even the most innocent suitor. Here, while her sharply accented port de bras and head movements demonstrated those character traits, moments of fluid, soft port de bras were interspersed, a nod to the woman-swan she pretended to be.
While Corella doesn’t seem to fit the typecasting that is often followed for Siegfreid inside the Mariinsky Theatre, this turned out to be his greatest blessing. Whereas local dancers such as Fadeev and Korsuntsev have taken a more aloof interpretation of this role, from the start Corella was a playful (if not playboy) Prince, enraptured by the various women of the court in the first scene. He was a lively man on a hunt for a woman, not a Prince bored by court proceedings or too haughty to interact with the courtiers. Likewise, his light-hearted reactions to the Jester added an extra layer of color to the stage, as a short joke about drinking more wine took place on stage right, or when the Jester offered him the Tutor’s book rather than the wine. Upon his first meeting with Odette, Corella was overcome, at one point shaking his head and placing his hand on his heart as if to say, “She is simply too beautiful for me.” The pair’s timing in the White Adagio had been impeccably rehearsed. Near the end, he offered her his hand. Tereshkina paused, looked at him, and –on the music – took his hand and stepped into sousous before beginning the petit battements en promenade. The only possible flaw was Tereshkina’s height. On pointe she stands considerably taller than him, making some of the partnered turns (that begin with her holding his hand above her head) a bit of a challenge.
In the coda of the Black Swan section, both dancers seemed to feed off of the high-energy racing between them. Corella repeatedly finished a sequence of jumps only to run completely to the other end of the stage. His pirouettes were signature, short and quick, his head snapping with amazing speed in the chaine turns. Tereshkina performed all 32 fouettes, including a double every third turn initially.
The Jester, danced admirably by the talented Grigory Popov, also reached new heights of virtuosity in this performance, soaring in a set of saut de basques in Act Two, and performing a blazing round of tours a la seconde in the First Act. Popov’s improvisational acting abilities have grown in the past season, and this role is now clearly his own. Throughout the evening he never falls out of character; Popov’s Jester is actively interactive, a high-energy comedian who adds much to the stage.
For the dances in the Second Act, the casting changed slightly from the previous three performances. Viktoria Kutepova and Kamil Yangurasov appeared alongside first-timers Alisa Sokolova and Egor Safin in the Spanish dance, all four of them with equal mastery of the flavor and spice of deep back bends and waving fans. Yana Selina appeared alongside Alexei Nedvega once again in the Neopolitan dance, their tambourines and sauté arabesques sending a nice message of cheer in this concise interlude.
The same set of delicate, small swans danced the pas de quatre: Svetlana Ivanova’s lithe frame and quick footwork standing out among Elizaveta Cherpasova, Elena Chmil and Valeria Martinouk. Ekaterina Kondaurova danced the first Big Swan Variation with command –one wonders why she doesn’t dance Odette/Odile -- and Daria Vasnetsova the second, with slightly less power.
Mikhail Sinkevich conducted the evening in complete synchronicity with the dancers, leading the orchestra in some of its richest sounds yet this week.