Robert Gottlieb goes to St. Petersburg and sees the Maryinsky/Kirov and Perm Ballets dance Balanchine.
The real question isn’t how many Balanchine ballets they’re doing, but how they’re doing them. And the answer is mixed. A case in point: Their current Prodigal Son has some very peculiar touches—at the beginning, for instance, the Father makes a series of irritating fussy gestures over his children’s heads as he’s blessing them. Was this the idea of Karin von Aroldingen and Paul Boos, who staged it? I doubt it. Or is it a bit of scene-stealing by the famous character dancer Vladimir Ponomarev? As for Mikhail Lobukhin, the Prodigal, who encouraged him to be so relentlessly randy? This wasn’t a naïve kid mesmerized by the Siren, or awed by her, or scared of her; he was just hot to trot. Well, maybe, but that’s not the way Jerome Robbins or Francisco Moncion or Edward Villella saw it—and from the photographic and written evidence, it’s certainly not what the original Prodigal, the somewhat epicene Serge Lifar, was all about. There are well-meaning and capable coaches at the Maryinsky responsible for monitoring the Balanchine repertory after the balletmasters sent by the Balanchine Trust to stage works have come and gone, but do they know enough about a ballet like Prodigal to intervene in such matters? And do they have the necessary authority?