I was at last Saturday's and Sunday's performances of Reflections at the Orange County Performing Arts
Center, and recently read Lewis Segal's dismissive review of it in the LA
Times. I had my own Lewis Segal moments which reached a peak on Saturday night in a rarely seen Balanchine
ballet (Pas de Trois, 1955): finally, I thought, we have an adult choreographer who knows
better than anyone on the program how to construct a witty, beautiful
dance. But I wasn’t paying enough attention to what the dancers were
saying. By Sunday when I saw the program for the second time I
realized (a) these wonderfully trained Russian dancers loved what they
were dancing—they weren’t just marking time until they could get back
to the 19th-century; (b) they were full collaborators and co-creators
of these dances; (c) they let these dances reveal their individuality
and vulnerability more fully than any of the classics they often
dance so spectacularly.
When I first saw Maria Kochetkova in the piece Jarmo Elo created for her I
thought, “he isn’t doing her any favors,” but the second time around I
realized she was totally into it, and it actually revealed the
tremendous strength in that bird-like body, her wit, her quickness,
and her dance intelligence.
When Natalia Osipova appeared in Mario Bigonzetti’s almost brutal
piece, Serenata, with her short dark hair uncombed, in a plain dress,
with bare feet and bare legs, performing what looked like
uncomfortable, tortured moves, I thought, “where is my beautiful
Aurora from last summer in New York with David Hallberg?” But the
second time I saw it I realized Osipova is not only a memorable Aurora (and Swanhilda
and Kitri), she is a tough, punky girl who does not feel pretty or
gracious or elegant, and can convey that, too. But when I do see her
dancing with beauty and passion (and Bigonzetti created some wonderful
dances for her and all the dancers in his 50-minute ballet, Cinque) I won’t forget this other reality—it only deepens her art.
With Polina Semionova, who in some ways is the most developed
artistically of all these twenty-something stars (she was hired as a
principal dancer for the Staatsballett Berlin when she graduated from
the Bolshoi Academy at 17—she’s now 27), the contrast wasn’t so great.
Still, I was able to see her individuality as a dancer much more
clearly this weekend than when she brought down the house at the
Mariinsky Festival in 2009 in La Bayadere.
I actually felt hopeful about the future of dance after the
performance. Russians are justifiably proud of their new generation of
gifted dancers. I’m sure many Bolshoi fans in Russia will complain when Reflelctions is performed in Moscow (Maria Kochetkova has said as much in a recent intrerview: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/01/2 ... D520110128
But Reflections is part of a much larger conversation going on in Russia right now that includes Nacho Duarte’s appointment as artistic director of a major ballet company in St. Petersburg: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/ne ... 4960.story
I was very glad to see these extraordinary young dancers' contribution to the debate.