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Kirov Ballet

'La Bayadere'

November 1, 2003 -- Detroit Opera House

by Julie Gervais

"Flawless But Human"

Bravo to the Kirov for another incredible evening! Saturday night's performance was much better attended than Thursday's, and the energy in the house was considerably higher. It seemed there were more ardent ballet fans present, as the entrance of each principal was greeted with applause. This seemed to notch up the energy a bit on stage as well (not that it had been previously lacking). Late comers got us off to an 8:15 start and it seemed the orchestra was trying to make up a bit of time on the overture – it was kind of zippy. Having spent a fair amount of time at the Met, where, if you arrive at 8:01 you are firmly hustled into the room with the monitor for a 2D version of Act I as your punishment for tardiness, I am always a little appalled at the late seating policies of the Detroit Opera House. (On occasion they even seat people AFTER the curtain is up - no comment.)

Sofia Gumerova danced Nikiya again, tonight with Igor Kolb as Solor. Kolb's story (as told to Cassandra of CriticalDance) makes him lovable before he even steps onstage – seven auditions indeed! His energy was determined and focused – intent on pulling out the maximum intensity from each bravura step. Gumerova in turn was extra charged as well. Their initial pas deux had a kind of Romeo and Juliet exuberance, and remembering it during the second act, in which she showed the life draining from her body bit by bit after choosing to let the poison do its work, was very sad .

The opening of Act II is fun and shameless. To the extent that this performance is true to the 1900 original, 100 years later I think it still serves as a great re-energizer for those who don't love mime or slower-moving ballet. (Guess they were around then too!) The elephant, the dead tiger, Solor being carried in on a huge litter – it’s all a kick. The girl with the pitcher on her head – anyone think that’s not really attached? But it's cute, and her tiny attendants in their own little pointe shoes are so sweet. In fact, there is a large contingent of local children performing in this run and they are very well-rehearsed (they found an expat Russian here to do the job).

I could watch those Shades all day long, seeing different details in perfect unison each time I look. I only wish they would more clearly identify each of those who do the Shade variations after the ensemble work – some of them have really tough choreography and it shouldn’t be thankless!

There was a cast change again – Irina Golub danced Gamzatti instead of Ekaterina Osmolkina. She is shockingly beautiful and radiates at high intensity even while standing still. She plays the princess to the hilt – you really believe she would casually give away jewels to get what she wants. Her lines are not necessarily the longest in the company, nor is she as loose-jointed so clearly she has worked extra hard to achieve this place. I am not crazy about the Kirov's way of having her (along with some other Act II soloists) take their bows in front of the curtain at the end of Act II, instead of with the rest of the cast at the end of the ballet. It seems a little incomplete at the very end to have her already gone. And it seems like she should share in the raw adulation that comes at the end of the night, which was very strong at this performance. The curtain was opened several more times after initial bows, and these moments, to me, are some of the sweetest of the evening, when people just don’t want to let them go. During those moments, when they release their professional command of the stage just a bit and their own personal emotions show through, the whole amazing spectacle becomes something a little more human – even the dancers seem still somewhat in awe of it, and their own power to create it.

Edited by Catherine Pawlick.

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