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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:19 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
The Kirov Ballet
Chopiniana, Divertissements, La Bayadère (Act III)
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; May 22, 2008


The Kirov’s second programme in Birmingham gave us a mix of the lyrical and classical, bravura solo skills and precision corps work. “Chopiniana” (“Les Sylphides”) is all romantic elegance and restraint. The leads, Evgeny Ivanchenko, Elena Sheshina and Anastasia Kolegova all looked ideally suited to the work, full of light yet precise technique. The corps was however not quite as in tune with each other as you would wish, with more than one dancer making small slips. But it didn’t spoil what was a very enjoyable start to the evening. The white romantic tutus simply decorated with flowers looked quite stunning, although why did someone decide to add a piece of material at the back connected to the hair and upper arms? All it served to do was take away from the beautiful line each dancer was trying to create. You could also argue that the forest glade was perhaps a little brightly lit, but at least it made a change from the almost perpetual gloom many lighting designers seem to foist upon us these days.

The central part of the evening, made up of four divertissements, turned out to be something of a mixed bag. They got off to a decidedly understated start with the “Harlequinade” pas de deux danced by Anton Korsakov and Elena Shesina. Both were pleasant enough , and Korsakov certainly gave us some spectacularly high leaps, but this short excerpt highlighted problems of taking a pas de deux out of context. This one is very much about two characters rather than lots of bravura technique and relies on a certain understanding of the story, which is of course lost when it’s presented like this.

Best of the four was undoubtedly the “Grand Pas Classique”, often known as the “Auber Pas de Deux”. Viktoria Tereshkina and Leonid Sarafanov were perfectly in tune with the choreography, the music and each other. Tereshkina was so rock solid when placed on pointe she looked like she could quite happily have balanced there in attitude all evening. The youthful looking Sarafanov meanwhile was not only a great partner but gave us magnificent jumps, each landed absolutely precisely. The audience quite rightly gave it the ovation it deserved.

Whatever followed was likely to be anti-climatic, but Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky pas de deux” was a huge disappointment. Alina Somova showed some magnificent extensions but the whole piece seemed flat. Balanchine himself described it as a “display piece based on the music and the maximum gifts of virtuoso performers”. Here, the two dancers seemed to be playing safe. The music may be largely discarded parts of the original “Swan Lake” score, but “Swan Lake” it is not. The whole thing lacked a much needed spark.

A change to the original programme brought the series to a close with the pas de deux from “Don Quixote” danced by Olesya Novikova and Mikhail Lobukhin. They gave solid performances with Lobukhin in particular looking to be rock solid as a partner, but they never really managed to light up the stage.

Finally came Act III (Kingdom of the Shades) from “La Bayadère” with its well-known opening procession of 32 ballerinas, all identically dressed in white tutus, all in arabesque and all perfectly spaced who slowly fill the stage. And in Birmingham the Kirov did it with just the trademark precision we have come to expect. But it didn’t stop there. Ekaterina Kondaurova was delicate, exquisite and featherlight as Nikiya, while her partner, Evgeny Ivanchenko made for a classic Solor. We expect high standards from the Kirov, and this was definitely the company at its delicious best.


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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:20 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
The Kirov Ballet
Don Quixote
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; May 23, 2008


They say you should always leave the best to last, and the Kirov certainly did that in Birmingham. Alexander Gorsky’s 1900 version of “Don Quixote” broadens the dramatic from Petipa’s earlier staging and gives the whole thing a more naturalistic and, dare one say, even English style. Some of the humour and at times the whole feel of the piece is decidedly reminiscent of Ashton’s jollity at its best. It’s not surprising that the audience lapped it up.

The ballet would perhaps be better described as ‘based on “Don Quixote”’ as it does rather lose the detail of the story. It is for example not always clear why things happen, including the tilting at windmills scene, which although over quickly was well done. Don Quixote himself is more of a constant presence than a central figure in proceedings, although Vladimir Ponomarev brought a nicely understated dignity to the role. It does hang together well though, presenting a series of colourful and energetic dances wrapped around the love story of Kitri and Basil. Indeed, the dancing never seems to stop.

Of course, it helps top have a great leading couple, and Alina Somova and Leonid Sarafanov were certainly that. These two incidentally were undoubtedly the stars of the week. There was an undoubted chemistry between them that made you really want to believe they were in love. And they not only reeked personality and charm, but backed it up with glorious technical work. Somova in particular looked quite accomplished as an actress and her wonderfully natural smile would melt anyone’s heart. Both dancers reinforced their performances from earlier in the week. Sarafanov is not the strongest when it comes to lifts but his jumps and pirouettes were again quite magnificent. Somova’s rock solid fouettés showed she can certainly turn too and again showed us the amazing extensions seen in “Rubies” but now allied to a more delicate and sensitive artistry.

Elsewhere, Tatiana Tkachenko as the street dancer, and Ji Yeon Ryu as Mercedes were both dramatic and captivating. In contrast, Yulia Bolshankova as the Queen of the Dryads and Elizaveta Cheprasova both showed a nice lightness of touch as they danced in the garden of Don Quixote’s dream.

Looking back at the week as a whole, it was a classic display of excellent technique. The energy levels were sometimes amazing. How do the men leap so high or spin so fast, yet land so softly without a sound or stop with such control? Strength is not a male prerogative though. The women may have the most amazing extensions but they can control and hold them too. Let’s hope the Elmhurst students who were there for the gala programme were taking notes. If there was a disappointment it was the Balanchine works. While they were not badly done, and I know Balanchine was quite happy to see companies and dancers put their own stamp on them, they did lack that edge that you always seem to get with American companies in particular.

The orchestra was in good form the whole week, playing the Minkus in particular with great attack. It would be nice not to hear them talk during performances though, as happened during Kingdom of the Shades. The conductor throughout was Pavel Bubelnikov.

Much has been made of the audience numbers on the tour. In Birmingham they were not the largest, although only that for Don Quixote could really be described as poor. They were however certainly enthusiastic for what was the company’s first visit to the city. While they were popular visitors, someone somehow needs to find a way out of the cycle of increasing costs and increasing ticket prices. In Birmingham they were double that for Birmingham Royal Ballet and it did put many off. It was however a great week to conclude the inaugural International Dance Festival Birmingham. Let’s hope they can come back.


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 8:43 am 
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Location: London UK
Don Quixote
Kirov Ballet
The Lowry, Salford
16th May 2008


After the very mixed offerings of the Gala programme the night before, this performance delivered an evening of pure pleasure; Viktoria Tereshkina’s Kitri was a thing of beauty from start to finish. If I were to find any fault with her performance, I would say that she’s not a natural soubrette and that a few rough edges don’t go amiss in a ballet that is primarily about fun and knockabout comedy, but the sheer beauty of Tereshkina’s dancing, the musicality, the speed and the mastery of technique made this a performance to remember. Slim and dark with huge expressive eyes, Tereshkina is a more than credible as a Spaniard, Kitri doesn’t get to don a flamenco dress in the ballet, but if she did she could pass as Spanish born and bred. Her blond partner, Leonid Sarafanov has an uphill struggle to look anything other than Russian. I can remember when fair-haired dancers would happily don a black wig to look more authentic in a role, but such niceties now seem a thing of the past. Putting his appearance aside, his actual performance was super-charged throughout with a strong vein of humour that put me more in mind of Figaro than Basilio, as this young barber seemed to be calling the shots all the way through, with pig-headed fathers and foppish rivals becoming nothing more than trivial irritants in his unstoppable pursuit of Kitri. Sarafanov looks very good with Tereshkina and he had no difficulty with any of the partnering this time around with the one handed lifts in particular seeming quite effortless.

The other roles were mostly well performed, though I was mortified to hear that the incomparable Islom Baimuradov, who was to have danced Espada, had suffered a serious injury in rehearsal. Baimuradov has made this role his own, so it must have been daunting for the young Konstantin Zverev to have to replace him at very short notice, nevertheless he coped very well and if he was suffering from nerves then the audience certainly didn’t pick up on it. The Street Dancer was Tatiana Tkachenko, as glamorous and beguiling as usual; the gipsies were beautiful Ji Yeon Ryu and the very nimble Rafael Musin, but the Gypsy/Tilting at Windmills scene was shorter than usual with the puppet show omitted.

The Don’s dream in that gorgeous garden saw Tereshkina’s vivacious Kitri transformed into a Dulcinea of such classical purity that I involuntarily caught my breath as she traversed the stage. Normally the final pas de deux is the highlight of Don Q., but for me this scene when performed by the likes of Tereshkina is easily the focal point of the entire ballet. The corps de ballet was perfection and the cute, mischievous looking Cupid of Valeria Martinyuk was delightful although Alina Somova’s grotesque Dryad Queen added nothing to the overall effect.

It is not quite five years since Viktoria Tereshkina first appeared in the UK as an eighteen year old of quite exceptional ability, to see someone that young looking so professional and assured was an unusual experience and it’s particularly rewarding to have charted her progress through the intervening years. Today this dancer has maintained her reputation for excellence and has developed into a performer of great versatility seemingly without limitations as she triumphantly adds role after role of the core classical repertoire to her CV. The audience in Salford rose to their feet at the curtain calls, so very well deserved for a dancer who always gives her all.


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 3:37 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Clement Crisp enjoyed the two programs he saw in Birmingham -- "Jewels" and the gala program. His review in the Financial Times:

Financial Times


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 8:17 am 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
David, thanks for your posts.

I am elated that Kondaurova was given Nikiya in the Shades scene. She has never danced it here in St. Petersburg. This is a huge milestone if it was her debut.


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 Post subject: Kirov comes to London this year after all.
PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:37 am 
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Location: London UK
While in Salford I heard the rather unlikely news that the Kirov was to dance in London after all, not at Covent Garden or the Coliseum but at Sadlers Wells. Until now I couldn't get a confirmation but the dates are now up on Sadlers Wells website.

http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/Mariinsky-Kirov-Ballet

I think I can give the Forsythe a miss but the triple bill looks really interesting. Booking for this is already open and the prices look very reasonable. Does anyone have any thoughts as to the likely casting of the Ratmansky/Balanchine triple bill?


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 Post subject: Re: Kirov comes to London this year after all.
PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:32 pm 
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Quote:
I think I can give the Forsythe a miss but the triple bill looks really interesting. Booking for this is already open and the prices look very reasonable. Does anyone have any thoughts as to the likely casting of the Ratmansky/Balanchine triple bill?


Programme 2 starts with "Pierrot Lunaire?" Oh dear. This new work wasn't received well in Orange County or New York this past February. The music alone is extremely difficult to digest. The concept was deemed to be OTT, and Ratmansky's choreography incoherent and unfocused, (a rare 'bad' on his part). Also, if one doesn't speak German, (there are no subtitles), or study the program notes as if for a final exam, it will be hard to follow the ballet. This work was made especially for Vishneva, who will (no doubt) be cast in each performance. However, the Balanchine covers a multitude of sins. I wonder if Mr. Fateev will have the stones to cast you know who ( :roll: ) in "Apollo" or "Prodigal Son?" We'll see.

I would've thought that after the "Golden Age" two years ago, the Maryinsky Ballet would try to come back to London with stronger programs, MO. Please pardon my cynicism, but I can't resist: Why would the producers of this engagement put on 1/3 of "Beauty in Motion?" Wouldn't it have been better to separate the Maryinsky Ballet from Vishneva's solo program?


Last edited by Cygne on Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Pierrot Lunaire
PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:30 am 
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Location: London UK
The music for Pierrot Lunaire is very familiar to London audiences and the Glen Tetley version of the piece has been danced by both Rambert Dance Co and the Royal Ballet, so musically we know what to expect. Personally I like some of Schoenberg's music.

Sergei Popov would be a wonderful choice for Apollo. He's got the looks, not sure about the feet though.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 6:29 am 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Cygne, I too find it strange that the MT would repeat part of Vishneva's own one-woman production (or rather, Danilian's production) under their own name. Just plain strange. It wasn't done for the Mariinsky, and it isn't in their rep, and they have a ton of other options...just plain strange.

Cassandra I agree with you. Sergei Popov doesn't have much of a ballet body at all. It stops at the neck :-). He is great at the posing roles that don't require much technique though.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:53 am 
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Location: Great Britain
Dear Cygne,

Why “cynicism”? I totally agree.
When Mariinsky comes to London – at last – I prefer to see their own productions without experimental work brought by individual stars from their international enterprises.
Vaziev as I remember didn’t do it during Mariinsky’s tours. Is the new head a softer touch?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 10:20 am 
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Location: London UK
The Sadlers Wells engagement was in the bag some time before Mr Fateev took over so I imagine the programming was approved either by Vaziev or Gergiev.


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