A Choreographic Journey: ‘Reverence’, ‘Etudes’, ‘In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated’
St. Petersburg, Russia
9 June 2005
By Catherine Pawlick
There are evenings of ballet that quench one’s thirst for a formal classical ballet, and those that cover a broader range of styles and choreographers, the promise of something new, modern, or out of bounds. This week the Kirov Ballet danced a well-rounded program, billed as “A Choreographic Journey” and including works by David Dawson, Harold Lander and William Forsythe that demonstrated –in moments of strength and with the proper casting -- just how wide their range can be.
Dawson’s ballet, it should be stated, requires more than one viewing. He has said in various interviews that the message in the ballet, as its title suggests, implies a farewell of sorts. But the ballet tracks the stages in a relationship between a man and a woman – initial attraction, the discussion phase, and then, the final farewell. This isn’t readily apparent from his choreography but if one looks, it’s possible to piece together the message.
Upon second viewing this message became clearer. Sofia Gumerova begins the ballet in a series of pulls, tugs and circular movement. Three couples – Gumerova alongside the promising young Alexander Sergeev, Ekaterina Petina alongside Andrei Mercuriev, and Natalia Sologub next to Mikhail Lobukhin -- perform a sequence in cannoned fashion. One couple breaks off, expressing their own relationship in movement, and then the second couple does the same. Sologub holds a suspended retire passé and finishes a whirlwind of motion with a simple port de bras to fifth en avant. Petina and Mercuriev danced to the low cello chords in Briars’ score with synchronized timing. Their complementary sizes and approach to movement suggest that this pair should be cast together more frequently – Petina devours Dawson’s choreography and Mercuriev is a prince in any ballet, ever-present, always precise. Alexander Sergeev demonstrated wild abandon in his detached solo, arms aloft, before dancing with his partner. The final line of three couples performing arabesque, soutenue, developpee front, and then laying on the ground is in essence the farewell. They all walk upstage except for Sologub, still dancing as the curtain falls.
Although initially billed as the final ballet of the evening, the presence of Sultan Burnei in the Tsar’s box required the reorganization of the program, and “Etudes” thus became the second ballet of the evening (thus allowing the Sultan to depart during the second intermission). This VIP presence also resulted in a late start to the performance and tens of not-so-secret security men with squiggly ear pieces standing throughout the theatre. But it was worth the short delay to see this ballet. Who better to dance for one of the world’s richest men than one of the world’s most polished ballerinas? Victoria Tereshkina danced the lead in “Etudes” with her usual majesty and sparkle, using even her eyelashes to enthrall the audience. Leading up to this, however, was the distraction of watching 12 Kirov ballet dancers at three ballet barres with perfect fifth positions and 180 degree turnout performing the series of barre excercises: tendus, battements, fondues, releves. It was a glimpse of a dream: a ballet factory, beautiful silhouettes, tutus, pointe shoes, plies.
It then goes without saying that Leonid Sarafanov would not be far from this sort of action. Arriving onstage as one of Tereshkina’s two partners, Sarafanov flashed his signature good boy Dentyne smile (literally -- there was a visible gleam from his teeth shortly after his first entrance on stage). He also flashed his signature split jete manege, and his “aha!” finish to each tour, turn, jump or pose. His counterpart, Vladimir Schkliarov met the various choreographic challenges with equal tenacity, if slightly less polish.
Of the corps de ballet, Yana Selina drew attention for her pirouettes from fifth position in the “pirouette” section, and Ekataerina Kondaurova for her light, quick series of brises moving downstage.
The final ballet of the evening, William Forsythe’s “In the Middle Somewhat Elevated” (ITMSE) infused energy into the laziest viewer, but not at its usual over the top level. Unfortunately Nikolai Tsiskaridze’s guest appearance in this ballet was not as energy-infused as the rest of the work. Tsiskaridze approached the Forsythe movements with plenty of time to spare, removing willfully or otherwise the accents that give this choreography much of its oomph. The result was a rather lethargic, slightly effeminate Bolshoi danseur in a shiny green unitard alongside Irina Golub as the main soloist. While approaching the ballet with more energy, Golub’s petite frame didn’t emit the same shock effect as Pavlenko or Sologub manage to do in this role. She and Tsiskaridze were polite and adequate, but manners and textbook accuracy haven’t any place in a Forsythe work. Kondaurova’s spider leg lifts, on the other hand, were electric, and filled with the right kind of Forsythean punch that perks up the ballet. It seems that the longer limbed, more gymnastic a dancer, the more impressive he or she is in ITMSE. Ekaterina Petina and Alexander Sergeev also drew attention for their attack and abandon. It is probably as well that this singular lukewarm offering wasn’t viewed by the Sultan.
Boris Gruzin conducted.