The Mariinsky Theatre
Saint Petersburg, Russia
28 April 2012
By Catherine Pawlick.
In between festivals and tours—Switzerland and Moscow were the most recent stops--the Mariinsky Ballet finally found footing on their home stage for several nights on Saturday, when the company performed George Balanchine's "Jewels." Tickets were completely sold out for the chance to see Uliana Lopatkina in one of her signature roles, the lead in the third act, "Diamonds," but each of the three sections sparkled in their own right.
When Gabriel Faure's soothing score opened the ballet, symmetry reigned as the corps de ballet wove their careful lines on stage, the ornate patterns suggesting the careful tending of a Versailles garden. The dancers, in long, pale green skirts with deep emerald satin bodices, seemed to have emerged from a Degas painting and devoted equal attention to the steps and music. Maria Shirinkina, warmer and with more depth and nuance to her dancing than in other abstract ballets, was accompanied by Maxim Zuizin, who accompanied her reliably in all of the partnering sequences, and seemed at ease in his own turns and jumps. As the second soloist, Daria Vasnetsova lent a softness to her solo, her supple arches placed into each piqué arabesque carefully, presenting faultless lines in arabesque and échappés as light as meringue. In the pas de trois, a joyful Svetlana Ivanova drew the most attention, delicate but accurate, alongside Yana Selina and Alexei Popov. Ivanova's dancing, faultless and self-assured, offered an ideal for others to match. Yana Selina's strong piqué "walks" en pointe echoed the section's themes of structure and intersection, and Popov's beautiful legs were a pleasure to watch during his easy pirouettes.
"Rubies" greets with an element of shock: short, ruby red leotards; high legs, and all of the flash and fanfare of Broadway in New York set to the bold sounds of Stravinsky. Here Viktoria Tereshkina led the way with what seemed for her an unusual sense of abandon, alongside Alexander Sergeyev, who personalized the steps with playful interaction. Tereshkina's ever-reliable technique allows her a freedom in neoclassical roles such as this; Sergeyev is simply a dream, both dramatically and technically. Yulia Stepanova danced the single soloist role with strong presentation but untidy delivery. In the partnered section, Alexei Nedviga, Anton Pimonov, Denis Zainetdinov and Vasiliy Tkachenko all did justice to their responsibilities as her cavaliers.
But it is "Diamonds" that one waits to see, and there is no better casting choice for the queen of Imperial classicism than Uliana Lopatkina. This section pays homage to Petipa, with white tutus and (in the final procession) long white gloves, and is most suited to Balanchine's home stage, his roots at the Mariinsky. Here the corps de ballet, all trained at the same school, in the same style, for nine long years, sparkle like true gems, moving in unison, like a diamond shifting under the light. The grand style of classicism, long lines, diagonals and arabesques hint at times at the Russian influence, with a brief allusion to Russian folk dance here, and --in the soloist's section-- moments from Odette's encounter from Siegfried there. If there was any doubt over the symbolism, sections from Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony in D major provide the score, carving a path of imperialistic grandeur. Lopatkina, adorned in white satin, beige tulle and the twinkle of diamonds, while surrounded by other gemstones, danced as the crowning jewel. At moments a woman, a swan, or a shining gemstone, all to the sounds of swelling violins, she emitted the essence of tsarist splendor and refined classicism. Her cavalier was Evgeny Ivanchenko, who delivered a swift jété manège but seemed distracted in some of the final duet work.
While neoclassicism is not this troupe's typical forté, tonight's performance of "Jewels" certainly suggested that this multi-faceted ballet is best performed by dancers who can display the nuances of each of its three sections -- and the Mariinsky dancers did just that.
Boris Gruzin conducted a memorable performance.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)