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Larissa Lezhnina


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#16 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 09:48 PM

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 ...

#17 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 11:18 PM

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

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 09:15 AM

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.)

#19 Hans

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 04:20 PM

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.

#20 ngitanjali

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:25 PM

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 :)

#21 Cygnet

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 08:45 AM

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.

#22 Natalia

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 08:55 AM

....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.

#23 papeetepatrick

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 09:10 AM

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.)

#24 Hans

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 06:51 AM

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.

#25 Rosa

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 11:25 AM

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:

#26 Lidewij

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 01:09 PM

I saw her dance live today for the first time! I can die happy now.. :wub:
It was a performance of Don Quixote, she made a really lovely and cute Kitri. I waited at the stage door after the performance, after an hour and 15 minutes (I was the last one there, all the others had given up!) she came out and I asked her autograph, she was so sweet! And apart from some wobbles in the pas de deux, the dancing was excellent.

And her smile.. :wub:

#27 Lidewij

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Posted 30 April 2014 - 01:00 PM

Larissa Lezhnina will retire at the end of this season. Her farewell performance will be on May 20.

 

This was announced on the Dutch version of HNB's website.

http://operaballet.n...lling/ballerina



#28 Drew

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 11:37 AM

I saw her early in her career with the (then) Kirov. I loved her. In my eyes, she was a real exemplar of everything great and enchanting about the Kirov/Mariinsky tradition. I especially remember a beautiful Aurora in Washington D.C. Very sorry not to have experienced the later stages of her career. Wishing her joy always!

#29 volcanohunter

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 05:55 AM

The Dutch National Ballet has made a little video of Lezhnina highlights.

 



#30 Rosa

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Posted 16 May 2014 - 03:39 PM

The Dutch National Ballet has made a little video of Lezhnina highlights.

 

What a wonderful video. I know Lezhnina best from her recordings with the Kirov -- Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Nutcracker. She has been one of my favorite dancers since I was a little girl.




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