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Bolshoi N.Am. -'Raymonda' reviews/comments

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#16 wanderer1



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Posted 12 November 2004 - 07:08 PM

Thanks Helene for the review. I saw the same performance and was fully swept by it. Your review brings back those delightful and precious moments... I have been waiting for positive review after the play...

#17 chiapuris


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Posted 15 November 2004 - 11:47 AM

The Bolshoi Ballet’s production of Raymonda (11/12/04) in Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre was a revelation for me. Raymonda can be said to be a balletomane’s favorite work for the reasons that:
1) It is a storehouse of Petipa come down to us through the work of all the conservators who have kept the variations and the ballabiles from disappearing.
2) It is a vehicle ‘par excellence’ for the display of classical dancing.
3) It has a great score (Glazunov), even if it is your belief that Tchaikovsky’s scores are unsurpassed.

The revelation for me was that the production of some 170 minutes had not a dull minute in it. (Well, OK, maybe just a FEW minutes of the superfluous ‘click clack’ dances of the retinue of Abderrakhman in the second act.) Mime as a conveyor of story-telling is minimized, and the chief means of expression is through dancing, principally danse d’ecole, supplemented by character/national/social styles.

Another revelation for me was that Raymonda served as an excellent vehicle for the dancing of Nadezhda Gracheva, showing off her gifts to maximum effect. I had seen Ms Gracheva as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake (in Detroit) and as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty
(in Moscow), and I had decided that I just could not appreciate her art. During this performance of Raymonda it struck me that Ms Gracheva may have an affinity for the music of Glazunov, because unlike my earlier (somewhat negative) impressions of her, I found her dancing crystalline and unmannered.

Her arabesques impressed me as one of the high accomplishments of dancing on contemporary stages. They are so pure they seem like feats of virtuosity reaching a stage of nonchalance. I guess I’m a convert.
Ruslan Skvortsov as Jean was a gallant partner and a confident, virtuosic performer.
He also has striking good looks. This was a pairing that magnified the gifts of the two dancers—synergy at work.

The first act seemed beautifully put together, with the introductory scenes flowing, with a steady pace, into the dream scene. The early scenes gave us the dancing of Maria Alaxandrova (Clemence) and Ekaterina Shipulina (Henriette). It was exciting to see them dance in unison. Their partnered work, as well as the adage with Ms Gracheva were first-rate.

The dream scene (there’s always a dream scene; why? is it because dreams are outside logic?) had many riches but I’ll mention only two- my two favorite Bolshoi K’s.
Ms Kobakhidze in the first variation, and the young Ms Krysanova in the second variation, are the most convincing signs that ballet is alive and well and thriving and has a bright future (or ought to).

Both have a musical intelligence that lifts their dancing from entertainment into art.
But art of what? Ballet, for me, is the explication in art of the human body with the principles of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Ballet’s concern is in displaying
the complexity and intricacy of Vitruvian humanity- the structure of the physical body.
(It’s not about ecology, or the torment of the soul, or mothers-in-law. Its subject matter is as much a concern of 21st c. humanity as it was a concern in any other century; its central subject is not passé).

In the second act, Dmitry Belogolovtsev, as Aberrrakhman, created a menacing anti-hero with bravura dancing of high quality. In his retinue, Yulia Lunkina and Denis Medvedev were a colorful pair in blue feathers, fire-birdish, in an ‘orientale’duet. Maria Isplatovskaya and Anna Balukova were exotic with long black hair and red costumes in a Spanish dance.

In the third act, I’ll only mention some standouts:
a) The male pas de quatre with well-synchronized young dancers for the double tours section, all with secure and generous demi-plie landings. A joy.
b) The Grand Pas variation of Ms Krysanova. She covered what seemed like every inch of the stage, as if claiming it as her rightful domain. Exciting dancing.
c) The Grand Hungarian Dance led by Yulianna Malkhsyants and Timofey Lavenyuk with authority and style.
d) Lastly, Ms Gracheva’s Grand pas variation was an elegant study of economy in art – where all flourishes and non-essentials are discarded, so that only the brightly etched core of the choreographic line remains.

Thanks to one and all in the Bolshoi Ballet!

#18 Treefrog


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Posted 15 November 2004 - 04:37 PM

Chiapuris, I'm so glad you were able to give us that review. My only response is: Yeah, what she said.

I am speechless with wonder over the detail and richness of your review. I was there, and I didn't see (or, I don't remember) half that stuff!

I liked it too. Though, I'm still marveling over the fact that Raymonda shows up at court in a tutu when everyone else is in luscious period costume, and no one bats an eye. Some things about ballet are just too weird to interpret logically.

#19 chiapuris


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Posted 16 November 2004 - 12:00 PM

Thanks Treefrog.

I guess the convention of having the leading lady in tutu while all the rest are
in "luscious period costume, and no one bats an eye" is just a convention that
lets the audience know who to keep their eyes on. There is no logical interpretation!

#20 Alexandra


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Posted 16 November 2004 - 01:01 PM

Those costuming conventions are one of the things that drove Fokine crazy and led to his reforms. (And thanks, too, for the reviews!)

#21 Paul Parish

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 02:15 PM

Hey all --
Thanks for all your WONDERFUL reports --

Raymonda was thrilling for me, I could have seen it every day for a week -- well, I might have gotten bored during Grigoriev's corps work in Act 2, but he left so much fabulous Petipa in his version, there were tasty intricacies in there that made me quite wild with delight, over and over. The dancers looked in many cases very young, and eager and delighted with their tasks and enormously talented and SO ready to get out there. The 2 Misses K made me bravo them in the dream sequence -- the arabesque hops of the former and the cabrioles of the latter were so musical, so delightful, I could not believe I'd seen something for real that so closely corresponded to the way I'd WANT to see them

I wrote a review of it for DanceViewtimes, which I hope you'll check out -- it's at


So I won't say all that all over again --

But I will say that Allash had a very good day Sat afternoon and danced with more joy and spirit than Antonicheva did the night before. She got happy in her toe-hops and really DANCED, like the kids were doing.

Volchkov is a thrilling dancer -- his Act 3 variation included a diagonal with a fouette-saute, where with the back leg in arabesque he brought the standing foot up to passe in mid air and then LANDED the jump on the knee -- calm as Fadeyechev, and he did it perfectly 3 times. But he is not very big next to Allash; he's slender, especially in the thigh, and I was a little worried about the big lifts -- and at the end of Act 2, the big Soviet overhead press-lift at the end of her pas de deux with Jean (after Abderakhman has been despatched) began to come undone as he carried her, one-handed, the whole diagonal of the stage; she was sliding forward, but neither betrayed any anxiety, and Volchkov managed to get her near the front corner and subside onto his knees as he gently but noticeably dropped her; whereupon she pushed herself up with her hands, smiled at him as if to say "You ARE my savior" -- and suddenly we in love with them both. A huge emotion swept through the house. Such spontaneous graciousness, such modesty, such exemplary behavior in front of all the children in the house that afternoon (the Russian families had come out in force) -- you felt like you'd just seen a revelation of the old traditions. Now that's chivalry.

I wish I'd seen Gracheva.

And now I know I want to see the Kirov's version.

PS Probably Allash wasn't helping Volchkov enough in that lift -- it came at the very end of the second act, and both were surely tired. It takes incredible abs to hold the legs out horizontal with support only under the lower back....

The thing that impressed me though, was the way neither of them let blame enter into the question, and the way he went to the floor for her -- as in ballroom dancing; it's always the gentleman's fault.

#22 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 01:16 PM

After generating mixed reviews on both coasts, would the Bolshoi be too tired, bored, or injured to produce good performances here? I went to the 12th November (Gracheva, Skvortsov, Belogolovtsev) and 13th November evening (Antonicheva, Filin, Klevtsov) performances of Raymonda, partly because, while Glazunov isn't Tchaikovsky, it isn't Minkus, either, and partly because I had such a good time watching ABT's Raymonda in New York in June. (The second reason turned out to be silly.) I was impressed right away by the excellence of the Bolshoi orchestra, and only wished it weren't made to sound thick and shrill when loud by the totally unnecessary amplification inflicted on pit orchestras by the Auditorium Theatre in recent years.

But when the curtain went up, I was delighted by the excellent strong lighting, which was weaker upstage, giving a very agreeable impression of depth, but making everyone rounded and present, not flattened. The drops reminded me of pastel chalk drawings on dark paper, and the corps tutus in the Dream scene, with their thin layer of gauzy black over white harmonized very well with the drops, making the most handsome stage picture of the evening. (The Dream was lit in blue here, not in the green that annoyed Rita Felciano in the Bay area, according to her review on Dance View Times.)

As the evening unfolded, both I and my dancer companion on Saturday prefered the choreography of Acts I and III to most of II: "Broadway," my friend said, although it had its moments.

So, could they still dance? I had a better time watching Antonicheva and Filin than Gracheva and Skvortsov; while Gracheva had lovely moments - lots of them, actually, it's such a big role - Antonicheva seemed to me consistently better - clearer, crisper, more enlivened. And Filin's consistently clean line, already noted here, gave his dancing big effect. "He's good!" said my companion. Much of this company, we noticed, looks "loose" in the sense that limbs are not so energized and controlled from the center of the body, but Filin is one of the superb exceptions. And Belogolovtsev seemed to me more effective than Klevtsov in what is, after all, an unsympathetic role.

But Krysanova! What vitality! What bouyancy! Luckily she and Antropova as well as Alexandrova danced both evenings. My companion's sharp dancer's eyes noticed Krysanova "rolls through the foot" going on and off pointe, while Antonicheva seemed to move her foot from the ankle. I think this helps to account for this demi's bouyancy. As my companion remarked at the end, "What kind of a company is it where the demis are better than the principals?"

#23 chiapuris


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Posted 19 November 2004 - 06:03 AM

"What kind of a company is it where the demis are better than the principals?"


I enjoyed your review of the two Raymondas, Jack Reed.
As for your friend's question, I think it suggests a company that gives us a lot to look forward in the future.

My understanding of the comment that Krysanova rolls through the foot to reach point, is that generally the Bolshoi dancers favor shoes whose construction leads to a quick rise on point without the intermediate rolling of the foot and then quickly down; unlike the tradition of French training [and SAB and other schools], of through the foot rise to point.

#24 Paul Parish

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Posted 19 November 2004 - 01:30 PM

"What kind of a company is it where the demis are better than the principals?"


Well, it's true, Krysanova WAS fabulous.

But.... Raymonda is a MUCH more difficult role than Krysanova's -- it's generally admitted to be the most difficult ballerina role of all. She does so much unsupported dancing. Raymonda has 6 or 7 solos in every style, they exploit every aspect of the techniquefrom big jumps to hops on pointe to hops in deep arabesque fondu to extremely exposed solo adagio -- she piques to arabesque, rolls down into fondu with the back leg at 100 degrees, then steps straight backwards onto pointe in passe, rolls down into fondu, repeats that, then takes one tiny extra step and repeats ALL THAT on the other side, at an extremely slow tempo. And that's only the adage.

IMHO it's actually a sign of a great company when those who perform supporting roles are particularly delightful in brightening their corners.

#25 Thalictum


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Posted 19 November 2004 - 02:01 PM

I don't see how anyone could be better than Antonicheva, an impeccable classical stylist with superb taste.

#26 chiapuris


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Posted 20 November 2004 - 05:52 PM

This is addressed to Paul Parish of Post #24.
I happen to concur altogether with what you say in this post, namely that one can't really compare the work of a principal (any principal) who performs the dances of a three-act ballet lasting some two or more hours, with the work of a soloist who may perform a variation lasting no more than a minute (as some of Petipa's do).

I don't think I have commited such an offense. The isssue that bothers me is that
you have put my name on a quote-- which I quoted from Jack Reed's Post #22.
I DID NOT SAY IT, I MERELY QUOTED IT and commented on it.
My problem was that I didn't use the Quote software correctly, so that the originator's
name never appeared on the quote of my post. That was my fault and I'm sorry for it, because it may have led you to believe that it was my thought.
It is not. Hopefully this clarifies the picture.

#27 Paul Parish

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Posted 20 November 2004 - 09:55 PM

Thanks Chiapuris --

I too am AWFUL at manipulating the quote feature --

I did not realize I had made it atribute the quote to you....

And i also apologize to everybody for the "severity" f my style. I did not mean to sound severe. I was just trying to figure out how to say what I meant. I should prbably have softened it....

I did LOVE the Bolshoi's Raymonda. And I did think Antonicheva was lovely -- she danced the opening night in Berkeley, and there are several problems with that stage -- first it is so small -- she had to rein herself in at every point. And it's a rather hard stage. And of sou\rse, it's not raked.

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