Saint Petersburg, Russia
27 April 2011
By Catherine Pawlick
It has been several years since Daria Pavlenko graced the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre – or any other stage for that matter – as the lead in a full-length ballet. Maternity leave followed by a serious injury were the cause for the interruption for spectators who love and adore her, but the long draught ended on April 27, when she was granted her first Bayadère at the Mariinsky.
Unfortunately the shift in directorship at the Mariinsky means shifts in preferences for casting. Despite their official status, well-known principals such as Lopatkina and Pavlenko, sadly are now rarely given stage time, and at least in Pavlenko’s case she has had to ask for performances. Hardly conditions for a ballerina, but a situation that makes their appearances on stage all the more valuable.
Indeed, Pavlenko's dancing on Wednesday night justified not only her status in the theatre, but more audience exposure. Pavlenko’s Nikiya was expressive, her moods easily read on stage. From her first stately entrance in Act I, dressed with clear pride and willful strength towards the highly emotional Brahmin (Soslan Kulaev), to her utter elation at first greeting Solor (Evgeni Ivanchenko), Pavlenko won over the hearts in the full house.
In the dance of grief in Act II, her deep anguish and disbelief at Solor’s betrayal of their declared love was palpable. But these emotions shifted to bright joy upon receipt of the basket of flowers, her body reflecting the alteration as well: quicker steps, lighter pointework, a willful spirit in her certain culmination of the dance. That determined nature revealed her character’s comprehension of love and promises; Pavlenko’s Nikiya is neither tempted by the power and riches offered her by both the Brahmin and Gamzatti, nor by the prospect of life itself coming to her from the wrong hands: when the Brahmin hands her the antidote, her refusal is decisive. She chooses death with honor, insofar as it is an option, over a life in which she would be indebted to the wrong individual.
Act III brought us another vision of the ballerina: elegant, long lines, reliable and clean execution. No faltering was found here. The pirouettes with the veil were smooth; the turns and maneges perfect. Supported throughout by Evgeni Ivanchenko’s surprisingly strong Solor, Pavlenko’s professionalism spoke through her dance, as she transformed herself into the true vision of Solor’s dream. Ivanchenko is not the fiery type onstage, but in his variations he appeared sleek, his front leg cutting through the air like a knife in the jeté manège. His partnering was faultless.
Anastasia Matvienko, who danced Gamzatti, will perform two days hence in the Tour de Force in Los Angeles, but for now is still dancing almost nightly at the Mariinsky. Her Gamzatti was adequately fearful, jealous and wicked in Act I, before dancing a technically proficient wedding pas de deux with Ivanchenko in Act II.
As one of the four small Bayadères, Maria Shirinkina’s delicate limbs and exact choreographic drawing were pleasing to watch. Svetlana Ivanova’s fragile and girlish Manu was a delight. Corps member Margarita Frolova drew attention for her lovely frame in the Shades scene, where Oksana Skorik delivered a beautiful third variation, her skill in legato evident.
Pavlenko’s triumph on Wednesday night speak to her talents, professionalism, and enduring strength of character as both a ballerina and a human being. Here is to hoping we see more of her on stage, and on tours, in the near future.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)