Saint Petersburg, Russia
By Catherine Pawlick
26 March 2010
Sometimes leaving the jewelry store is necessary in order to truly appreciate the blinding beauty of the jewels. But often a glimpse of precious gemstones leaves an impression strong enough to last well into the future.
Both proved to be the case following this reviewer’s recent six-month hiatus from Petersburg and exposure to several Western ballet companies. Upon returning to Russia, it is clear that the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet is still unsurpassed the world over. Whatever your preference in terms of technique, artistry and, most of all, dramatic expression, the top artists at the Mariinsky define the standards by which classical ballet today is judged in each of these areas.
Uliana Lopatkina’s performance in “Giselle” on the company’s home stage Friday night left no doubt in the hearts of Petersburg’s serious balletomane elite that she remains the best example of the Vaganova-based, Kirov style.
As Giselle, Lopatkina’s initial graceful entrance etched the image of an orchid in the wind: delicate, beautiful innocence, gentle, soft and shy. After she first circled the stage in the famous balloné sequence, a fleeting moment of her hand lifted to her forehead implied the coming theme of a weak heart stressed by dancing – and love. Her bouyant port de bras implied youth; and small touches, such as a head turned completely to Albrecht in her arabesque fouetté, underscored a carefully dissected characterization.
As Albrecht, Danila Korsuntsev extended his dramatic range, proving an emotional actor of significant depth in this role. His angst over Giselle’s death felt real, and his disbelief at her sylph-like state in the second act was palpable. His acting in this performance placed him in the top league of male danseurs; in addition to strong technique – smooth turns and lofty jetés-- his love and care were real.
Inspiration in the corps de ballet came from several familiar faces – Svetlana Ivanova, back from maternity leave, and Olga Minina, a fairly new graduate of the Vaganova Academy.
Second Act highlights were many. As Myrtha, Ekaterina Kondaurova earned a burst of applause upon her entrance, marked by glacially smooth bourrées, sharp jumps, and pristine technique throughout. Moyna and Zulma, danced by Yana Selina and Irina Golub, performed adequately, though Golub’s raised shoulders belied a tension in her variation.
In Giselle’s set of developpés à la seconde around the kneeling Albrecht, Lopatkina’s gift for legato allowed her to balance en pointe longer than typically done; likewise, her pencheé was statuesque, solid and flawless. But shifting into the coda, Lopatkina swept across the stage with urgency, another demonstration of her dancing range.
While those perhaps less versed in the technical aspects of classical ballet might consider Lopatkina mannered or over-rehearsed, this reviewer found neither to be the case. Uliana Lopatkina is a stunning example of the Vaganova technique, polished to a fine gleam. Along with others, such as Kondaurova or Tereshkina who also uphold this fine tradition, these ballerinas carry the brand that marks Russian ballet above the others, at least when concerning classical ballets, and sometimes in even broader categories. Friday night’s performance served as a perfect demonstration of the Kirov’s high caliber performance capabilities, superb artistry, and soul-filled dancing.
The ever-conscientious Boris Gruzin conducted.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)