silvy

Larissa Lezhnina

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I read in an interview to Larissa Lezhnina that she said to Marc Haegman (the interviewer) that she had to leave the Kirov because the director (Vinogradov) hated her.

I just would like to know WHY this was so, as Lezhnina, for me, was one of the most charming, promising, classically perfect ballerinas of the 1990s at the Kirov. Was it typecasting? If so, what could possibly be wrong with her?

Anyone knows?

astonished silvy

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Silvy, this is a rather complicated question, as you will understand. The Kirov’s management’s policy toward its dancers, even those about whom everybody agrees that they are something special or unique or whatever, is anything but logical. It never has been, I doubt it ever will be. Several talented dancers have left or were kicked out of the company at that point (Kunakova, Mezentseva, Pankova, Melnikov, Lezhnina, Polikarpova, Shapchits, Zavialov etc.) for various reasons.

In Lezhnina’s case there was definitely nothing wrong with her, except maybe that the times just weren’t right for her any longer in the Kirov, and eventually this clashed with her own ambitions. Physically, stylistically, as well as mentally Lezhnina belongs to a different era, and this is meant in the most respectable sense (“I left the Kirov, and I have a different style in my memory”, as she says herself). After having been promised heaven for some time, she found herself with nothing to do anymore. As we all know Vinogradov opened the door for another breed of female dancers, and we can observe the result of that today.

I hope this answers your question somehow.

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To me, Lezhnina is the ideal Kirov Aurora -- very much in the Kolpakova mold. Pushing her out, and bringing in another "ideal," was one of the turning points in recent Kirov history, for me.

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I happen to have seen Lezhnina dance Bluebird here in Montevideo around 1997, or 1998. I thought she classically perfect (maybe rather "cold" for what here in South America are used to). Of course, I had seen her on video previously.

then my last experience with the Kirov "live" was in Buenos Aires around 1996. There I saw Mahkalina as Dying Swan and Paquita, Diana Vishneva in Tchaikowsky pdd, Ruzimatov doing a solo by Bejart, Lopatkina with Zelensky in Swan Lake (they were incredible - lots of curtain calls then). Veronika Ivanova was a soloist in Paquita then.

Do you mean that the company has been so changed since 1996? If so, what changes, exactly?

silvy

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Silvy, this is a much to complex matter (and deserves a separate thread) to deal with in a few words, but you have seen Diana Vishneva perform the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, right? Well, just imagine how Larissa Lezhnina would dance this and then you'll understand what has changed in this company :).

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I just cannot imagine Larissa Lezhnina in Tchaikowsky's pdd - maybe it is too "modern" for her??????? I cud not imagine Irina Kolpakova in it either

Is that what you mean, Marc??

silvy

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Larissa Lezhnina is still dancing, Calliope. She is a first soloist with the Dutch National Ballet, in Amsterdam since 1994 (for more details please check out her biography on the site of the Dutch National Ballet: http://www.het-nationale-ballet.nl/new/htm...etail.php?id=47

It has nothing to do with "too modern", Silvy. Of course we can't imagine Kolpakova in Balanchine, because she never had the chance to dance it, yet many observers assume she would have been wonderful in it. But Lezhnina did and does dance Balanchine as well as many other "modern" choreographers. Her current repertoire ranges from Bournonville and Petipa to Balanchine, Robbins, Van Manen, Tharp and Forsythe.

What I meant is the difference in plastique, style, approach and manner of the current Mariinsky dancers compared to Lezhnina. That has changed, no matter what repertoire or choreographer they are performing.

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Marc, this is a little off topic, but I was wondering if Pankova is still dancing?

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I think she is, Roma, but my information is two years old, so......

Silvy, your question spurred me to put on line several interviews from past issues of DanceView. One of them, also by Marc Haegeman, is of Kirill Melnikov, another expatriate Russian dancer. He talks about changes he saw in the Kirov then -- the interview was done in 1999 -- and what he says may explain more.

Melnikov interview

There are other reviews -- Jane Simpson with Alexander Grant, talking about staging Ashton. Mary Cargill with former NYCB ballerina Juditih Fugate. Several by Marc of Paris Opera Ballet dancers.

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Thanks Alexandra for having posted a link to Melnikov's interview. Though I have not seen the Kirov recently, I must say I agree 100% to his views about how ballet should be approached.

In the film "The Leningrad Legend" Makarova expresses some of Melnikov's same concerns: that she sensed the company were too young and that they did not have older dancers (still dancing, not as coaches) to mirror from which to learn. I thought that was SO IMPORTANT.

However, I must disagree with him about automatic teller machines: they are SOOO PRACTICAL!!!! :)

Silvy

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To me, Lezhnina is the ideal Kirov Aurora -- very much in the Kolpakova mold. Pushing her out, and bringing in another "ideal," was one of the turning points in recent Kirov history, for me.

Was interested to see this old discussion just after watching Lezhnina, with whom I wasn't familiar, as Aurora on the DVD last night. Exquisite tiny doll she was, and simply mesmerizing and fairylike at all times. I had to remind myself that Aurora is still in a sense a 'mortal' compared at least to the Lilac Fairy and the others, because she is the lightest little thing imaginable. I love this production too, so someone please tell me if they think this is wonderful too--even things like Garland Waltz are better than I remembered them elsewhere, and much preferred to Royal Ballet DVD of 1994 with Viviana Durante. Gergiev makes the orchestra sound slightly sharper than Fedotov, but the music still sounds good here. And the Queen here is wonderful, as she tries to express distaste for Carabosse without seeming snobbish.

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Okay, BT! Before I start rudely pm'ing experts and/or starting a new post, I will be happy to depend on the kindness of strangers. Maybe shoudl start one anyway regarding Soviet and post-Soviet Kirov 'Sleeping Beauty'. Because when I wrote the above I hadn't yet watched the 3rd Act. Well, I just think this is one of the most marvelous things I ever saw and heard, pure magic.

So, of 'Sleeping Beauty''s on tape or DVD, is this one of the gold standards? Because it's the best one I've ever seen IMHO. I just adore it from start to finish, and the only thing I like as well is the beauteous and more luscious Alla Sizove in the movie of the Kirov. But this production is something else. What also then interests me is: Was Sovietism responsible for this perfection? Has post-Sovietism and some of the discussion in this thread by Marc Haegeman and Diana Vishneva and new styles (and why Lezhnina was pushed out of Kirov) produced anything that equals this or surpasses it? I need to know, because if you can see a 'Sleeping Beauty' better than this, I need to see it to believe it. It's probably rude to say it, but my impression is that Kirov must be always known as the greatest of all ballet companies, with exception of certain special periods in certain other special companies. I thought this SB was in a different dimension from anything I've ever even seen live.

So tell me, EXPERTS, am I suffering from hyperbole and exaggeration caused by little knowledge (that dangerous thing)?

Answers are humbly requested...

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Well I am by no means an expert, but I do think that aside from the Vikharev reconstruction, the Sergeyev Sleeping Beauty is easily one of the very best productions. There are aspects I do not like, such as the replacement of mime with bland, unimaginative choreography. It is also possible to quibble with Sergeyev's blatant departures from the Stepanov notation in the Bluebird pas de deux, particularly Princess Florine's variation, but overall, it is very strong, and the Maryinsky dancers (at least those of Lezhnina's generation and previously) can all act beautifully, the nobility conveying weight and grandeur without being heavy, and everyone with impeccably neat footwork, generally brilliant beats, and very pure, elegant port de bras. Dancers of that generation also had a notably pure line (Makhalina was sometimes an exception) which frankly I have hardly ever seen in the current Maryinsky dancers--instead of moderation, it's about extremes now.

You may also wish to get the Kolpakova DVD; although she is past her prime, you can see the wonderful panorama during the Act II boat scene, although be warned--seeing that makes just about every other treatment of that scene look insipid.

Lezhnina on the particular DVD you mention was very young (I have heard as young as seventeen, but I don't know if that's true) and so at times she is a little mechanical, but her beautifully elegant, clear technique and pure style shine through. Sizova is the best Aurora, of course, and I think that if Lezhnina had been allowed to develop at the Maryinsky she would have been very like Sizova. I think that maybe this DVD is the one that has Terekhova as Florine? That performance is another gem. The only one whose performance strikes a false note, for me, is Ruzimatov as Prince Désiré. That is a casting decision I don't think I will ever fully understand.

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Hans--thank you so much for that superb response. Yes, that is Terekhova as Florine and the very eloquent Queen is Nina Makhailova. I like what you say about the nobility without being heavy. And the 'impeccably neat footwork, brilliant beats and very pure, elegant port de bras' is something that makes as well for an astonishing musicality, both dance-musicality and with-the-music musicality. I frankly have never seen a whole company seeming to be a single organism much of the time to quite the degree I think I see it here. And the 'impeccable footwork,....' etc., also combine to make much of it look as if defying the law of gravity. Before, I have seen this mostly in individual dancers, usually the stars would be the only ones to strike me, and I am still unsure if its my perception that can encompass more that is different, but I think that is less of it. Because things like uninspired corps work don't even exist in this high realm, it seems; none of the less showy pieces are dull. You don't wait for another big solo, because it's all this organic thing. And I have to say that the severity of this company is almost frightening: The very severity that would cause Lezhnina and Dumchenko to be shoved out of the way--with those kinds of talents they have--is also in the dancing itself. It never really seemed mechanical to me, and Lezhnina's youth is one reason why she seems more like Aurora than Dumchenko (who was probably very young too, but not quite as petite, or so it appears at first look), in short more really like a baby princess instead of a long-limbed Swan Queen (I never really thought I'd make such differences, and even if they're off, I still can see now how they'd be very different things).

Unfortunately, it does make one not want to see too many other companies' Sleeping Beauty, although I did love the Royal Ballet with Nureyev and Seymour--but not like this. And it does continue to interest me that, while I always thought the Soviet regime mostly maintained old things as prestigious objects, this is perhaps the first time I've thought there could even have been some occasionally advantageous results of a regime otherwise repressive and backward (but this is probably nearly impossible to assess; I imagine it partially from what you said about the succeeding period.)

You mentioned that Makhalina was an exception to the pure line, but I was pretty devastated by her as well. There is that part in the 3rd Act, where one leg after another comes up to the hand (pardon my vocabulary lack, ARE THEY DEVELOPPES?) and she appears to brush it back down with her hand that I found hypnotic. Is that an extreme sort of thing? (I've already found I have a taste for 'extreme Soviet style' by way of Mezentseva adoration ...

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Hans, Lezhnina was 20 when she first danced Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

There is this old interview (1998) with her in Dance View magazine, which sheds some light about things mentioned here:

Larissa Lezhnina

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Hans, Lezhnina was 20 when she first danced Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

There is this old interview (1998) with her in Dance View magazine, which sheds some light about things mentioned here:

Larissa Lezhnina

Wonderful article, thanks. Interesting also to see that Mezentseva was considered a legend within the Kirov, and is not to most Western tastes. I must like something about Soviet Style that many don't. ON the other hand, she talks about 'Fountain of Backshisarai' very reverently, and I don't get it.

Hans, were those developpes one after another that I am talking about that the Lilac Fairy does in Act III?

I forgot to mention that I recently did see excerpts from Kolpakova in SB, but not the whole thing. I liked her, but not nearly in the way I like Lezhnina in it, although I see that IK was her teacher and she 'wanted to be her' at first. Also interesting comparing Zaklinsky and Ruzimatov as partners, fascinating perception about Diana Vishneva (I don't know whether she's 'changed for the better' in Lezhnina's terms or not, but someone will) and also about 'Herman Schmerman', which may or may not have been mention on the 'Naked' thread. Very articulate young woman, though.

Edited to add: Now I see I saw the whole SB of Kolpakova, but on VHS which is unsatisfactory because of bad TV sound here. I should try to get the DVD which I use on the computer, but I had not liked that production from what I could tell nearly as well as this one. (just found they have DVD, so will report back on boat scene, anyway need to hear it properly.)

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Hans, were those developpes one after another that I am talking about that the Lilac Fairy does in Act III?

It is a little bit hard to say :) They start out as developpés, but but each one ends with a retiré action. So one might perhaps say that they are both a battement developpé and a battement retiré/raccourci...perhaps this is a question for the Teachers forum on BTfD. :wink: I don't consider Makhalina's extensions on that tape extreme, I am mostly thinking of a few moments during the Act III pas de deux on the DVD of her Swan Lake where she goes a little too far for my taste. One does not, however, generally see her distort the classical line.

I completely agree with you about "not waiting for the next big solo because it's all this organic thing." I fast forward through other productions, but this one I watch beginning to end.

I also agree re: Dumchenko, she is more of an Odette. What mesmerizes me about her is her unflappably calm technical assurance. She never hesitates, she just dances each step as if it's the most natural thing, and this allows her to have a serene, otherworldly elegance (I'll bet her Nikiya would also be quite special).

The trouble with the Maryinsky now as I see it is that for a long time they were training many different types of dancers, all technically strong, but with different strengths and weaknesses, different body types, &c. Now they are training everyone to be Svetlana Zakharova, and they are able to do this because they can hand-select every single student who comes into the Vaganova Academy. Other big schools can do the same, but whereas they focus on every aspect of technique (to take the Paris Opéra Ballet dancers as an example, they can all jump and turn and beat as well as developpé to their ears, &c) the Maryinsky seems to have the single goal of higher extension (and to a lesser extent more pirouettes) with the result that technically weak dancers like Somova are given principal roles.

I think one could argue that this trend toward a very high extension has been going on for some time with dancers such as Mezentseva, Asylmuratova, Makhalina, &c (even Lezhnina, toward the end of the Rose Adagio, raises her legs quite high during the écarté, failli, écarté, pas de bourrée, pirouette terminée en attitude sequence) but to me the difference is that these ladies never allowed the leg to go so high as to disturb their torsos or to give us the impression that we were seeing anything indecent, and they did not allow the legs to interfere with their arms. In addition, they could all still do petit allegro very well (Makhalina, for all her high extensions, had a very neat entrechat-six) and their grand allegro jumps floated through the air ("up and over") instead of merely traveling forward on the 180º+ degree angle of their legs.

I'm afraid this post is starting to turn into a rant, so I'll stop here. Suffice it to say that the Maryinsky is still, whatever its flaws, my favorite ballet company, and that if I am hard on it, it's because it is not living up to the high standards it previously set.

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Hans, were those developpes one after another that I am talking about that the Lilac Fairy does in Act III?

The trouble with the Maryinsky now as I see it is that for a long time they were training many different types of dancers, all technically strong, but with different strengths and weaknesses, different body types, &c. Now they are training everyone to be Svetlana Zakharova, and they are able to do this because they can hand-select every single student who comes into the Vaganova Academy. Other big schools can do the same, but whereas they focus on every aspect of technique (to take the Paris Opéra Ballet dancers as an example, they can all jump and turn and beat as well as developpé to their ears, &c) the Maryinsky seems to have the single goal of higher extension (and to a lesser extent more pirouettes) with the result that technically weak dancers like Somova are given principal roles.

I think one could argue that this trend toward a very high extension has been going on for some time with dancers such as Mezentseva, Asylmuratova, Makhalina, &c (even Lezhnina, toward the end of the Rose Adagio, raises her legs quite high during the écarté, failli, écarté, pas de bourrée, pirouette terminée en attitude sequence) but to me the difference is that these ladies never allowed the leg to go so high as to disturb their torsos or to give us the impression that we were seeing anything indecent, and they did not allow the legs to interfere with their arms. In addition, they could all still do petit allegro very well (Makhalina, for all her high extensions, had a very neat entrechat-six) and their grand allegro jumps floated through the air ("up and over") instead of merely traveling forward on the 180º+ degree angle of their legs.

I am an admirer of the "old Mariinsky", as I call it. I understand that Makhalina et al were revolutionary for their time, but when I think about them in the context, I think that they and their high extensions were calculated. Each of them, to a degree thought "OK, for Giselle, let's go this much, for Odile, let's dazzle with a little more, and let's pull it back for Flower Festival" I mean, Lopatkina, Nioradze, and THOSE dancers still do that, and as long as they are there, the Mariinsky is still a gold standard, but with the advent of Somova...::frowns:: If I want to see gymnastics, I'll tune into the Beijing Olympics. But, I agree with you in that there was more thoughts of the appropriateness of the extension, rather than the "wow factor". In some cases, "wow" turns into "ouch, those poor muscles!"

::ponders:: Not to digress, but had Somova stayed with gymnastics, the Russians would have done wonderfully at Athens. Just a thought :)

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Ngitanjali & Hans, well said! I totally agree with you - both of you hit all of the points.

Hans you mentioned Maya Dumchenko stating,

I also agree re: Dumchenko, she is more of an Odette. What mesmerizes me about her is her unflappably calm technical assurance. She never hesitates, she just dances each step as if it's the most natural thing, and this allows her to have a serene, otherworldly elegance (I'll bet her Nikiya would also be quite special).

Unfortunately, Dumchenko hasn't been given the opportunity to essay either Odette/Odile or Nikiya.

She graduated in 1995, and has been a soloist since 1996. Her rank, (for a number of years) has been

first soloist. She has danced in the pdts in "Swan Lake," and "Bayadere" Act 3, as well as Henirette

and Clemence in "Raymonda." Maya is a wonderful Giselle. On the other hand, Lezhnina has essayed

both O/O and Nikiya successfully with DNB in Amsterdam. Both she and Lezhnina are artistic

sisters: They are classically pure ballerinas. My guess is that if Lezhnina had survived Vinogradov

and stayed, she might have been on the same "career path" as Dumchenko. Obratzova is another

artistic sister of Lezhnina and Dumchenko. Notably, all three ballerinas excel as Aurora and Juliet.

I won't go into the differences between the Vinogradov and Vaziev regimes. Classical purity,

taste, style and substance have been set aside in favor of what Ngitanjali calls "the wow factor."

The manifest consequences of their artistic policies were eloquently covered above in the previous posts.

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....My guess is that if Lezhnina had survived Vinogradov and stayed, she might have been on the same

"career path" as Dumchenko. Obratzova is another artistic sister of Lezhnina and Dumchenko.

Notably, all three ballerinas excel as Aurora and Juliet. ....

Sorry to go off-topic a bit (Obraztsova).

Well, hopefully Obraztsova won't have the same "career path" as Dumchenko. I could not help but notice that she is absent from all of the City Center-NY castings -- as is Dumchenko -- and was also absent from the recent KennedyCenter-DC run of complete 'Bayaderes,' despite the fact that she was the First Shade at the MT this fall. At least Obraztsova is getting the chance to shine as an international guest star, e.g., her Kitri in the current Vikharev reconstruction in Tokyo, her multiple assignments in Rome, and so on.

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I also agree re: Dumchenko, she is more of an Odette. What mesmerizes me about her is her unflappably calm technical assurance. She never hesitates, she just dances each step as if it's the most natural thing, and this allows her to have a serene, otherworldly elegance (I'll bet her Nikiya would also be quite special).

Yes, and another way of saying this is that it's so authoritative from the first moment, it almost seems as though it had never even had to be choreographed--as though she had always owned it is what I mean, and which paradoxically would honour the choreographer most. She's one of those types that seems to be onstage continuing from thoughts she had while still offstage and which she will continue again when the ballet is over--so that her onstage entry does not seem divided off (in the best sense, not some of the pop senses with which this sort of idea could be confused.)

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Sorry for coming back to this so late--I have had rather limited internet access lately.

Cygnet, I think it's really unfortunate that Dumchenko has not been able to dance Swan Lake or La Bayadère, although I have seen a bit of her Giselle, and it was gorgeous. I also find it interesting that these dancers excel at Juliet in addition to Aurora, as normally I would not relate the two roles. Another very pure Maryinsky-trained ballerina, Galina Ulanova, was also an exceptional Juliet (although I would not necessarily think of her as the same type as Lezhnina) so I will have to get out my video of her and give the role another look.

Papeetepatrick, I love your latest comment about Dumchenko, I think it captures her exactly.

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To me, Lezhnina is the ideal Kirov Aurora -- very much in the Kolpakova mold. Pushing her out, and bringing in another "ideal," was one of the turning points in recent Kirov history, for me.

Was interested to see this old discussion just after watching Lezhnina, with whom I wasn't familiar, as Aurora on the DVD last night. Exquisite tiny doll she was, and simply mesmerizing and fairylike at all times. I had to remind myself that Aurora is still in a sense a 'mortal' compared at least to the Lilac Fairy and the others, because she is the lightest little thing imaginable. I love this production too, so someone please tell me if they think this is wonderful too--even things like Garland Waltz are better than I remembered them elsewhere, and much preferred to Royal Ballet DVD of 1994 with Viviana Durante.

Lezhnina is lovely as Aurora! She is a tiny exquisite gem, radiating joy. This was only her second time performing the role. I've grown up watching this Kirov production and think it is simply wonderful -- my personal favorite Sleeping Beauty. All the dancers, the corps, the soloists, are a pleasure to watch. (I prefer the costumes and sets to the new ones.) This is one of the few SBs I enjoy from beginning to end. It is a pity more of Larissa's dancing was not filmed; to my knowledge there is only her SB, Nutcracker, and one of the Prince's Friends in Swan Lake.

I was beyond excited when recently I discovered Lezhnina's debut in Sleeping Beauty on YouTube, partnered by Ruzimatov. There were some nerves, but she was a very sweet princess, her smile lighting up the stage. Supported by her fellow dancers, she delivered a performance full of promise. The unexpected highlight for me was her Vision Act. She was not a princess made of flush and blood, but a phantom of ethereal lightness. She was in a world of her own as she danced, casting a spell over Desire -- and me. She was mesmerizing, leaving me breathless.

After seeing her debut I rewatched my video. Larissa is better in her second performance, more confident and sure, yet just as sweet. I only prefer the magic of her Vision in her debut.

Brava Ms. Lezhnina! :wub::clapping:

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