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Ballet Festival '03 - HISTORIC BALLETS NIGHT - Feb. 26


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 08:25 PM

2003 MARIINSKY INTERNATIONAL BALLET FESTIVAL
Mariinsky Theater – St. Petersburg, Russia

February 26, 2003
Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

EVENING OF HISTORICAL BALLETS
Individual numbers and casting, as follows, within main body of the review

As a long-time Kirov-Mariinsky history buff & collector of historic books and films, I was particularly anticipating this evening’s program. The variety of rare numbers on the program, as well as the finesse of the dancers, fulfilled my desires, above and beyond expectations.

I will follow a slightly different format for this review, as it entails multiple excerpts. Away we go…and enjoy the ride!

I. ROMANTIC THEME ( Divertissement)

Pas de Quatre (chor. Dolin, after Perrot/ mus. Pugni)

Marie Taglioni – Yulia Makhalina
Fanny Cerrito – Xenia Ostreikovskaya
Carlotta Grisi – Elvira Tarasova
Lucile Grahan – Maya Dumchenko

This Victorian cameo of a ballet set the stage perfectly for a sequence of famous Romantic Era ballets. In long pale-pink romantic tutus, roses adorning their hair, four Kirov-Mariinsky ballerinas took us back 150 years ago & beyond. This little ballet was the original entertainment on the order of today’s ‘Three Tenors’…call it the ‘Four Ballerinas’ who danced in London at a Command Performance for Queen Victoria! Needless to say, it was quite a feat putting four dancing divas on the stage together. Dolin’s ballet perfectly recreates the steps, as well as the egos, of those grand dames of the dance, patronizing nods to one another and all!

Yulia Makhalina, a glamorous senior ballerina with the company, captured the confidence of the most famous of them all-- the original ‘Sylphide’ Marie Taglioni. Young Xenia Ostreikovskaya was a bit too ‘northern’ in character to fully capture the fiery essence of Cerrito (Carla Fracci’s quintessential rendition comes to mind) but she finished her variation on a high – a clean triple pirouette. Sassy Elvira Tarasova showed crisp batterie in a series of cabrioles, while angelic Maya Dumchenko was an appropriately airy Grahan.

Le Papillon pas de deux (Lacotte, after Marie Taglioni/Offenbach)

The Butterfly (papillon) – Zhanna Ayupova
Young Man – Igor Kolb

Now the company’s most senior principal ballerina, Zhanna Ayupova continues to delight an audience with her unique charms and brilliant filigreed technique. She is a precious dancer with a doll-like face, who has always excelled in the Romantic and neo-Romantic repertoire…sylphs and nymphs and such. ‘Papillon’ is just the right vehicle with which to show-off her talents of quick feet and adorable mannerisms. She spun lace with her feet in tonight’s solo.

Igor Kolb, as her partner, performed a high-flying solo with a Slavic flavor, crisply and cleanly. It’s a shame that the second set of solos of this pas de deux were not performed, due to lack of time. (See video of Kolpakova/Berezhnoi, to see what I mean…each dancer is supposed to perform two solos before the coda.
)
Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux (Bournonville/Helsted & Paulli)

The Girl – Yevgenia Obratsova
The Boy – Leonid Sarafanov

I suddenly seem to have wandered into an IBC competition. Hey, it’s Leonid Sarafanov dancing Flower Festival once again, as in Budapest, Moscow, etc.! But seriously, Sarafanov is quite wonderful in such technical show-pieces, so more power to him! A recent hire to the Kirov’s soloist ranks, Sarafanov is an engaging dancer of nice long proportions, yet slight of frame. Thus, tonight he was paired with an up-and-coming tiny soubrette of a Kirov dancer, Yevgenia Obratsova, who danced Manu (from ‘Bayadere’) twice at this festival. They pulled out all stops – even though Bournonville purists would cringe, with both dancers’ 180-degree splits – and won the crowd, with the first volley of loud ‘bravos’ and sustained clap-in-time-applause of the evening. I admire them and don’t mean to belittle them but, to me, they spell ‘junior team.’

Le Diable Boiteux “Cachucha” (Lacotte, after Coralli/trad’l Andalucian music)

Yulia Makhalina

In the 1840s, Fanny Elssler captured the heart of St. Petersburg balletomanes with dances such as this…right across the street, at the long-gone Bolshoi Theater, where the Conservatory now stands. Elssler’s spirit came back to life tonight with this rare bon-bon of a Spanish dance. Kudos to Makhalina, who captured our modern hearts attired in Elssler’s famous salmon gown with black lace flounces, castanets in her hands and a huge ‘peineta’ in her hair.

La Vivandiere pas de six, a.k.a. ‘Markitanka’ (Lacotte, after Saint-Leon/Pugni)

The Lead Girl – Irina Zhelonkina
The Boy – Anton Korsakov
Four Demi-solo girls: ‘Mirroring Duet’ – Xenia Ostreikovskaya & Yana Serebriakova;
First little solo (renverses) – Viktoria Teryoshkina;
Second Little Solo (arabesque balances) – Yana Selina

Irina Zhelonkina, a dancer of ‘Cojocaru proportions’ and dark-haired beauty, spelled ‘joie de vivre’ in this dance that includes many little leaps and tricky shifts of balance. Zhelonkina danced it as well as anyone I’ve seen do it, on par with the great Alla Sizova, for whom this piece was revived in the late 1970s. Anton Korsakov was a loving partner, once again displaying his signature high entrechats and a lovely series of double tours in opposite directions.

II. FOLKLORIC THEME

Coppelia Act I selections – ‘Ear of Wheat’ and ‘Variations on Slavic Theme’ (Vikharev reconstruction of 1884 Petipa, after Saint-Leon/Delibes)

Swanhilda – Ekaterina Osmolkina
Franz – Andrei Merkuriev
Eight corps ladies as Swanhilda’s friends

The full overture to ‘Coppelia’ prefaced two small and tantalizing bits of the Petipa choreography, as revived by Sergei Vikharev one year ago in Novosibirsk…so perhaps the Kirov-Mariinsky will one day delight us with the full production? It was a joy to see these bits of old-fashioned, elegant choreography, with very few ear-high developpes in sight…although, yes, Ms Osmolkina did perform one or two of these! (It is 2003 now, after all.)

The ‘Ear of Wheat’ dance is, essentially, a pas de deux adagio, framed by the eight friends of Swanhilda. Osmoskina was but a light feather in the arms of Merkuriev, who had little to do in tonight’s bits. The ‘Variations on a Slavic Theme’ for Swanhilda and the eight girlfriends was a revelation, in that we can see how much of the original choreography has remained intact in the Royal Ballet/Ninette De Valois version, so very little has changed. Simple and pure.

Little Humpbacked Horse ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ (Gensler renewal of 1900 Lev Ivanov chor./Liszt)

Two Lead Couples: Galina Rakhmanova/Andrei Yakovlev I and Polina Rassadina/Islom Baimuratov
Twelve Corps de Ballet Couples

What a treat to see, live on stage, this fiery Hungarian Dance, which was the favorite number of the last tsar…yes, Nicholas II would always ask for this number to be encored, whenever it was presented at the Mariinsky during his reign. And here we saw it, once again, in its entire splendor. The compositional genius of Lev Ivanov was still apparent in this, his final great creation before his death. Two lead couples in black/gold brocade with white fur sleeves are framed by a semicircle of twelve couples in orange/gold brocade. The lead couples’ ladies perform several deep backbends, a-la Swan Lake Spanish Dance. The slowly-accelerating movement echoes the increasing frenzy of the music.

-III. SPANISH THEME

Paquita Selections –

‘Children’s Mazurka’ - Vaganova Academy students (12 couples) – I have nothing to say about the Vaganova children that I have not written before; they are one of the wonders of the artistic world. To the manor born!

and Grand Pas Classique (Petr Gusev & Lydia Tyuntina’s renewal of Petipa’s 1881 chor./Minkus)

Paquita – Agnes Letestu (Paris Opera Ballet etoile)
Lucien – Jean-Guillaume Bart (Paris Opera Ballet etoile)
1st solo, Little Humpbacked Horse ‘White Pearl’ – Irina Zhelonkina
2nd solo, Kalkabrino – Daria Pavlenko
3rd solo, Don Quixote Amour – Elena Sheshina
4th solo, Pavillon d’Armide, Armide’s variation (by Fokine) –Ekaterina Osmolkina
5th solo, Paquita ‘Harp Variation’ – Tatyana Amosova
Star Ballerina, Paquita’s Jete Variation – Agnes Letestu
Male Star, Lucien’s Variation to Coppelia Franz music – Jean-Guillaume Bart

As the corps ballerinas made their frisky entrances, I could not help but think of the recently-departed Natalia Dudinskaya …Dudinskaya taught this pas to so many Kirov ladies! So I think of this as a tribute to a great lady, even though it was not stated as such in the programme.

Letestu and Bart are a tall and elegant pair, giving Petersburg a taste of the full-evening ballet’s leading roles that both have danced in Paris to high acclaim. Letestu is an interesting combination of a thoroughly modern figure – that wondrously long torso! – with fine classical technique, particularly her soaring grand jetes tonight. Bart never fails to amaze in the crispness of his movements, for such a large and muscular man. He can hold Letestu high in presage-lift, causing gasps from the audience.

The female soloists were all memorable: Zhelonkina in deep lilac tutu, eliciting ‘bravos’ for her delelope-renverse-attitude turns; Pavlenko, in aquamarine, floating through a dreamy solo with lovely poses in arabesque; Sheshina, in gold, breezing through the Amour variation; Sologub in pink, charming her way through Fokine’s ‘Pavillon d’Armide variation to the accompaniment of a celeste; and stately Amosova, in deep blue, dancing the ‘harp variation’ that usually goes to the lead ballerina (Paquita). Tonight’s Paquita, Letestu, opted to dance the fiery jete variation…then wowed us with 32 fouettes in the coda (single-single-double all the way to the end). Petersburgers LOVE their fouettes and Agnes Letestu did honor to France with her performance of this move. The same can be said for Jean-Guillaume Bart, whose final move of double-tours in opposite directions won over the audience.

Never a dull moment at the Mariinsky. So now we move on to a world premiere on Thursday night – ‘Princess Pirlipat’ – the prologue to ‘Nutcracker.’ There is much anticipation in this Northern Palmyra.

Jeannie Szoradi
St. Petersburg, Russia

#2 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 11:19 PM

Thanks, Jeannie for this detailed report. Good to see that even the less-favoured of the company are performing :).

#3 Françoise

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Posted 27 February 2003 - 05:01 AM

Did Jean-Guillaume Bart make also his famous "coupés jetés" manege.

Agnes Letestu makes the same fouettés in Paris, alternating
single-single double all the long. She is one of the most technician of fouettés in POB. the other one is Aurélie Dupont but she's always injuried, and we're afraid she will never appear again on a stage.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 28 February 2003 - 12:27 AM

Francoise - Yes, he did them. :) Several of the POB dancers are scheduled to appear at Sunday night's final gala, as are the Royal Ballet and some of the NYCB guests...plus ABT's Malakhov.

So sad, what you write about Dupont.


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