Kirov in Berkeley: Fokine
Posted 08 October 2003 - 10:22 PM
Tatiana Amosova was a wonderful in Firebird--a hummingbird in her quick darts and short-wheelbased recoils and her hoverings. On Tuesday she filled in for Diana Vishneva and Saturday evening should be doing Rubies, which is something to very much look forward to.
The moonlighting Kirov orchestra was full and rich and played in stretches as if it were one big cello. There were no heart rendering individual solos such as you hear on old Russian Lps, and the Stravinsky could have been more angular. But was balanced and all over very satisfying (delicately meaty). And at times you didn't know whether to listen or to look.
Does anyone else have any impressions of the performances? And can anyone help me out with an approach to Fokine's work?
Posted 08 October 2003 - 10:49 PM
Having said that, I should warn you that I'm not a historian, only a fan...but an opinionated one, so here are some further thoughts.
As I understand it, Fokine was aiming at a tighter, more coherent dramatic consistency within each ballet than he found in much of the previous generation's work...Theoretically it should be impossible to transfer a Fokine variation from one Fokine work to another (imagine a solo from Les Sylphides in the middle of Scheherezade). With all due respect to the unified architecture of a work like The Sleeping Beauty or the vision scene in Bayadere one can (and, historically, producers have) moved variations from one Petipa work to another, particularly some of his lesser works.
The unity of effect aimed at by Fokine involves the crystallisation of and commentary on a particular look or ideal -- say, the romantic ballet in Les Sylphides -- but it also involves the fusion of music and dance with sets and costumes. The ideal was not just a unity of vision but a totality of vision. New York City Ballet tried Les Sylphides without sets and costumes and the consensus was not that it looked more modern or less prim, but that it just looked wrong.
Fokine also wanted effects that we now might associate with character dancing or, more trivially, with a certain exoticism to be more authentic and more organically joined to the dramatic totality of the ballet. "Oriental" dancing wasn't supposed to just mean a few veils or turbans on top of classical steps and point shoes...Again, I would be wary of caricaturing the Petipa heritage, but the exoticism of a ballet like Scheherezade or even the pretend Russian fairy tale of Firebird -- an exoticism that may seem rather old-fashioned to a twenty-first century eye -- was trying to show a genuine kinetic connection to its sources. In all candor, the one time I saw Scheherezade, I thought it looked surprisingly classical and Petipa-esque, but I don't think it would have seemed that way to me in 1910! (It might help to think of modern painters' interest in, say, African masks...to us it may now seem like surface appropriation of effects that have been completely decontextualized, but it also enabled a certain type of experimentation within the heritage of western painting.)
Posted 09 October 2003 - 07:05 AM
The whole notion of after-Petipa/pre-Balanchine is a fascinating one. When I saw a tape of Spectre de la Rose immediately after seeing the Kirov's new/old "Sleeping Beauty" and realized that there was less than 20 years difference between the two, I was struck at how similar it was to Petipa in some ways -- not that far from the Bluebird, choreographically, although, of course, the context is different -- not a divertissement, a tiny story/poem.
We see almost nothing like Fokine today -- the whole Noverre line (anything that can be painted can be danced, unification of costume, decor, music, choreography) as well as the use of character and demi-caractere dancing -- is gone, or at least sleeping. Fokine is indeed very unlike Balanchine - he wanted rounded line, what he considered "natural" movement, and wasn't interested in experimenting with the body to see what it could do -- not interested in movement for its own sake, but in how to use movement to express something. The two political parties in ballet
I think it's great that you sensed there was something going on there that you might not be seeing. One of the big revelations for me was when I realized that, for Fokine (and for audiences of that day) the steps were private; people weren't concerned with the technical aspects of dancing beyond "wow! what a jump!" They were watching/seeing the expressive possibilities of movement. So from both sides -- stage and audience -- the context in which they were creating and watching is very different from today.
Did anyone else go? What did you think? Silly and old-fashioned? Of historical interest only? Rejuvenated and lively? Or something else entirely?
Posted 09 October 2003 - 09:48 AM
Posted 09 October 2003 - 02:58 PM
Posted 09 October 2003 - 03:37 PM
One might say that Balanchine went BACK to Petipa, leapfrogging back over Fokine. They're both branches of the same tree, of course, and Fokine was quite capable of formal choreography, but they operated from a different aesthetic. I don't think Fokine thought he was a reinterpreter of Petipa -- he was leapfrogging back to an older tradition there, too (the Romantic ballet on the one hand, and the ideas of Noverre on the other).
Posted 09 October 2003 - 03:52 PM
This is another problem for dancers, audiences, and artistic directors -- how much can one expect the audience to know? How much baggage can we bring to the theater? And even if we KNOW the history, if we don't feel it, if the aesthetic is completely foreign to us, how can we appreciate it?
One answer is to see what's there, that we can then -- is the dancing good, for some people; or the spectacle, the costumes, the whole picture. And maybe on a second viewing it will seem different -- and maybe it won't.
Posted 24 October 2003 - 12:26 PM
night Fokine program in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. I saw 3 of the Kirov
performances (1 Fokine; 2 Jewels); as well as Bayadere in LA. And this weekend
will get another Jewels dose...after that I hock all my furniture.
The opening night Fokine program was wonderful - the absolute highlight for me (as well as almost everyone else judging by the chorus of bravos ringing out in the hall) was the Sheherazade, so I'll mainly report my impressions of that particular piece. The opening Chopiniana like a calling card - sort of like introducting the members of the team (well, mostly female members, that is, except for the noble Danila Korsuntsev). The piece did feel at first a bit like a warm-up, but the dancers quickly settled in. Actually, I liked easing into the evening with this piece. I enjoyed the familiarity of the Chopin waltzes, and I appreciated the delicary of the piece. In particular, it was a pleasure to see the wonderful corps.
But it was in the middle piece, Sheherazade, that the company, sprung fully to red-blooded life. Here was a performance in which everything came together - music, dance, drama, spectacle. It was showy, gaudy, lascivious and quite unembarrassed about being so - it was also breath-taking, superbly danced, and ultimately, moving. For some reason, critics in the west always feel the need to apologize for this piece - is it hokey, excessive? Perhaps, but so are at least half of the world's greatest operas (I love opera as well as dance). And, for me, what counts is what the performers bring to the piece; how much they invest in it and are able to carry us along with them for the ride. What a ride we got that first night with Uliana Lopatkina and Igor Zelensky! THe moment Zelensky burst onto the stage - like a tiger let out of his cage - he had us in thrall to him. Huge, beautifully placed leaps and spins, all done with supreme machismo and danger (on at least 3 occasions I thought he couldn't possibly stop before in landed in the musician's pit).
Then there was Lopatkina. I have been waiting years to see her dance after reading about her performances in the late 90's in St. Pete's, London, etc. She seems less well-known in this country than some of the other Kirov ballerinas (such as Vishneva and Zakharova) - but I put this down to her having not
performanced in the last 1-2 years; the SF Chronicle reviewer identified her as Tckachenko! (It was on this website that I learnt that she'd had a child, which explained the absence) She has that something special that marks her undeniably as a star. Glorious elongated body, sinuous moves, with arms fluttering like ribbons, beautiful extensions, wonderfully dramatic. She's got it all. I found her utterly mesmerizing to watch. She and Zelensky looked brilliant together, and were so sexily matched that it would have been unnatural if the two of them *weren't* carrying on together!
Aiding and abetting them on opening night was Valery Gergiev, who created a more lyrical rendering than that on his recording, and coerced gorgeous sounds
from the orchestra. (Too bad Zellerbach Hall's acoustics aren't more favorable
to orchestras, though). What a treat to have a world-class orchestra in the pit. On opening night Mikhael Agrest conducted the Chopiniana; Gergiev the remainder of the program. This the best ballet orchestra I've ever heard, which isn't surprising since the regular (concert and opera) Kirov Orchestra is out of this world.
Talk about an embarassment of riches. The Bakst-designed set with its Arabian Orientalism was gorgeous to look at, as were the costumes.
The final piece, 'Firebird', was fantasy and spectacle, and an enjoyable way to
end the evening, although it was hard to top the Sheherazade. Tatiana Amosova expertly danced the role of the Firebird, but I missed the extra edge that a Vishneva (who was originally scheduled to dance) would likely have brought to the role.
Great corps, wonderful partnering.
On Friday and Saturday - I saw Jewels; then most recently Bayadere (a superb Vishneva; with Sarafanov in virtuosic form, but his partnering made me anxious - and again those glorious Shades...) But I think this post is long enough (apologies for that), so won't go into detail here. But I will say that (again) the highlight for me in Jewels was seeing Lopatkina, wonderfully partnered by Korsuntsev in the Saturday Diamonds. That said, perhaps Emeralds will grow on me (after I see it yet again in Costa Mesa), but Diamonds is what sends me out the theatre floating.
Posted 24 October 2003 - 04:51 PM
Re Fokine and Petipa -- in 1905, when Fokine led the dancers out on strike, one of their demands was for the RETURN of Petipa. They really did respect him enormously.
Posted 24 October 2003 - 07:02 PM
I'd like to see some more Fokine about, though, not just the Sylphides, Polovtsi, Arabs and Ancient Russians contained in the standard survival versions. I wonder, for example, if anybody alive today would remember "Les Elves", set to the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto?
Posted 25 October 2003 - 04:19 AM
Posted 25 October 2003 - 08:03 PM
"Sorry, folks" is not enough.
You MUST tell me what you liked about her Firebird. She made me apoplectic....
THough she WAS way past the edge.....
Posted 25 October 2003 - 10:19 PM
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