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mohnurka

Galina Mezentseva

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You might even say that for Leningrad audiences and dancers she updated the existing standard: in their eyes she brought something unusual, extraordinary, or very personal, but always unexpected, in her performances of the great classics. Maybe it was just the fact of seeing something familiar done in a different, but still recognisable way, which attracted them - for that matter Mezentseva has been making school at the Mariinsky.

Nobody was offended. Like I said I never understood the fuss about her myself :wink:

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Ok, here's a theory. I have no idea if it's right. It seems as if perhaps I (and a few other people on the thread) are puzzled by Mezentseva's reputation because she is atypical of what we usually expect from Russian prima ballerinas. She is not particularly quick, athletic, flexible, or emotive. But maybe that's precisely the reason she's so revered in Russia: because she offers something different? I dont know, it's just a theory. Maybe it's what made her stand out among the light, quick, elegant, Kirov corps: she's stately, deliberate, aloof. I have no idea if this is true, it's just a theory.

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I hope we'll hear from those who do admire Mezentseva -- what specifically do you like about her? What are those who don't missing?

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This has been a really interesting discussion - I have enjoyed it. Of course, people must be allowed to have likes and dislikes and personal opinions.

I knew I had it somewhere, searched and found it - I havent seen it for years, why, well it was not so interesting.

So I saw Mezentseva in Giselle. Again after all these years...

Now what, well, I know a video is not a live performance but nevertheless it gives an idea.

I saw her on video as Giselle and though I admired the full works - after all it was not a tiny performance by a small town company - she left me pretty cold - cant explain it, but there just wasnt anything there. Cant say it was good or bad, she, as Giselle did not TOUCH me in the way that Maximova does. Oh, beloved video of Maximova and Vasiliev, taken out a couple of times a year as as super treat with a bottle of champagne.

OK, call me biased, I am hooked on the Maximova-Vasiliev Giselle, they set the standard so maybe I will always compare with them. But for ME, that is

the greatest I have seen.

To me Mezentseva is fine, but I would not hop on a plane to see her - nor would I

send for more videos either... :wink:

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In the Byzantium of Russian ballet, if Selutsky gave his flowers to Terekova, it had nothing to due with Mezentseva's performance but was rather due to some personal contretemps that was occuring behind the scenes.

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I first saw Mezentseva dance at her "official" debut in Bayaderka in Leningrad in 1974; the other official debutante on that occasion was Tatiana Terekhova. Sadly I wasn't able to follow the careers of either dancer and it was over a decade later before I saw either of them again. At the time Mezentsova danced with the Kirov she was one among a number of exceptional contemporaries. There were far more outstanding dancers of her generation than there are today.

Over the weekend I have watched both the Giselle and the Dying Swan videos referred to here and I have to say I found her impressive in both. Her acting was astonishing with real tears quite visibly glistening on her cheeks during the mad scene of Giselle. Her "skinnyness" is surely dictated by her body type, as she is astonishingly long-limbed, her arms in particular are unusually long giving her a very idiosyncratic line. Indeed, her physical type is uncannily similar to that of present day divinity, Yuliana Lopatkina.

A word here about party membership in Russia: It did not guarantee a successful career as many party members languished in the corps de ballet while non-party members could still make it to the top. And before someone comes back about Kolpakova and Vasiliev's party membership, yes, they were party members - but they would have made it to the top anyway. Mezentsova was almost certainly not a party member and was indeed suspected of having dissident sympathies.

She was not a party sycophant nor was she a "mediocrity".

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Unfortunately the recent arguing about G.M. looks more like a quarrel rather than a discussion. It’s a pity since the phenomenon of “M’s enigma” is worth trying to understand it, rather than only exchanging opinions of whether merits exist or not in M’s dance.

One side of the problem is rather simple; it’s related to reproaching M. in technical flaws and the like. A famous sculptor once said that anatomy must be learned and then should be forgotten. Both parts of this prescription are equally important. Without knowledge of anatomy, that is, mastering the technique, you do not have a language to express yourself even if you have something to say. But if you’re too concerned on technical brilliance, the language would overweigh the content and you get a technically perfect dance about nothing (examples are abundant). Surely M., as any other successful graduate of Vaganova Academy, has learned the anatomy of dance very well. However, as a great artist, she is ready to sacrifice the demonstration of technical brilliance and physical beauty when the logic of an artistic image dictates to do that. For example, her arabesques in the second act of Giselle are moderate, soft, and as people here have said “brittle”, because they are just adequate to a ghost of young girl who died from sorrow. Also, in general, understatement often says much more than overstatement.

Edited by Alexandra

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My only experiences with GM have been through watching a demonstration of classwork with the Willis Ballet, followed by a series of clips from pas de deux, as well as Backstage at the Kirov. I believe that Mezentseva represents the Kirov style in its transition period. This transitory period was the divide between the great dramatic ballerinas of the sixties and seventies, more along the lines of Kolpakova and Maximova, and the newer phase of Russian dance starting in the late 80's, which I would say started with Assylmuratova and progressed to the present. I think she embodied the Kirov schooling, perhaps as it became less flamboyant and dramatic and more pure. In this classroom video, I think her technique is formidable, a true textbook of the Russian school. However, this was before the current flexibility of the Kirov dancers. I think she was less athletic and more pure line. And due to this purity, and possible difference in style from the dramatic ballerinas was a different presentation, and is why she is highly regarded.

I agree that she looked cold in some of those video clips, but I think that might have had to do with a face predisposed to a certain "suffering" look; not a dramatic face. As for her stiffness, I find that it is similar to that of some of the pre-transition ballerinas. In general, I think that the Kirov's fluidity has been the result of the last few decades, and not before. I was excited by her dancing in Don Quixote and I thought her White swan pas de deux in one of the clips supremely beautiful. I would agree also that she is not in general physically beautiful: I don't like her back, but I do think it's fair to say that she exemplifies the Kirov schooling.

Rachel

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Hello, Rachel -- and welcome back. We've missed you!

Thank you for that assessment. I think your comment about Mezentseva being a transitional ballerina is very perceptive. I remember when Asylmuratova first begain dancing, hearing reports that "the Kirov has a new, very streamlined, ballerina." More in the Western mold. As for Mezentseva, I'll never see the purity of line, but others do.

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My only experiences with GM have been through watching a demonstration of classwork with the Willis Ballet, followed by a series of clips from pas de deux, as well as Backstage at the Kirov...I think she embodied the Kirov schooling, perhaps as it became less flamboyant and dramatic and more pure. In this classroom video, I think her technique is formidable, a true textbook of the Russian school...

The Willis videotape series of classroom work, although a valiant effort, is far from an example of Vaganova schooling in its purest form. There are so many mistakes that it is difficult to credit Mezentseva with knowledge of the lower and middle levels of the Vaganova Syllabus. Perhaps this video was made when Mezentseva was at a turning point in her career? Just beginning as a teacher for Willis? The idea of Vaganova Academy or someone authorized by the Academy, producing a video series representing their school, is a fantastic idea, but it must be done with better examples of the actual execution of the steps by professional level students or in the case of Mezentzeva, someone who could take the time to research what the actual execution of movement should be at various levels. A video produced by another for public distribution that has not been approved by the school (and would not be approved in its current state) is misleading to all who are trying to learn about the the study of/teaching of the Vaganova program.

As for Mezentseva, as a performer...brava! I was only fortunate enough to see her in Russia, a few times, with the Makarov Company (Choreographic Miniatures, formerly directed by L. Jacobson), after she had "left" the Kirov. She performed the pas de deux from Legend of Love, Dying Swan and the lead in a ballet choreographed by Willis on the Makarov Company. It was the end of her performing career, but she was still in good shape. I cannot comment upon whether or not she embodied the Russian school or not, as these ballets were all quite particulari n their own style, but she was beautiful. I remember wishing I had had the opportunity to see her in more classical work, as a younger dancer.

I did miss one important gala performance of hers at the Maly Theatre unfortuantely. There was not a ticket to be had. Everyone was there and by that I mean, all of the soloists and ballet masters from the Kirov, all of the faculty and administrators of the Vaganova Academy, as many students as could be stuffed into the upper balcony with the free seating for students and of course whatever general public could afford the hefty price of the ticket (I do not recall the price, but it was steep by Russian standards. I was too late in arriving at the theatre to get in with my Vaganova Academy pass). The excitement within the ballet community was unbelieveable, something I had not experienced in Russia. I heard for days about this performance. It was all anyone could talk about, good and bad, but it really did spark the professionals into gear. People truly had been inspired. :devil:

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vrsfanatic: I agree that Mezentseva may not have been executing the steps in the manner that they would have been performed by a student of that level. However, I was more under the impression that she was called in to demonstrate, not an actual producer. But again, how can a "prima ballerina assoluta" execute third year material (because I saw the Beginning level 3 tape) like a third year student would?

Thank you for the warm welcome Alexandra.

Rachel

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Rachel, my observation has more to do with the fact the material was incorrectly executed (as material) by not only Mezentseva, but the other "students" in the class. It is not that they looked better or worse than a student of 3rd year, it is that the material is incorrectly presented. There are rules of execution of every step and one of the beauties of the program is that these rules are observed, particularly in the lower and middle levels. There are certain ways to do things at each level and it is obvious in these vidoes that this was not understood by whomever produced the video. My expectation would have been that Mezentseva would have recognized how important certain particulars were/are to the body of work. I do not place blame on her, just disappointment. I recognize that most people looking at these videos would not see what I see, but if videos, such as these, are intended to be a respresentation of the Vaganova Syllabus, they had better be correctly executed. There are teachers and students who would look to these videos as actual documentation of the Vaganova program and accept them as factual. They are not. Perhaps I misunderstood your point when you said,

...I think her technique is formidable, a true textbook of the Russian school....

Since the execution was not in the manner of the level for students of that age group, to me, then it does not clearly represent the Vaganova program. I ask your understanding in my concern. :devil:

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I understand now after that clarification, vrsfanatic. I may not have the discerning eye and knowledge of the syllabus to say that Mezentseva was not executing movements correctly, however, I can say that those two girls in back of her in Beginning III were quite terrible; I would say an insult to Mezentseva and ballet technique in general, not just the Vaganova technique. Could you give me some examples of incorrectly executed steps, just to broaden my understanding of the technique? Also, if Mezentseva were to perform the steps as she had but in a higher level, would they still have been incorrectly executed; is it incorrect for that level, or in general? By the way, do you know where I might get ahold of some upper levels of these Willis videos? Thanks.

Rachel

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Rachel, one would have to know the videos, Vaganova terminology and the way movements are broken down and taught to actually understand the conversation. Maybe if I explain through PM? PM me if you are interested to continue this conversation further. :devil:

Edited by Alexandra

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I, too, have only seen Mezentseva on video (Swan Lake and Pas de Quatre) and I can't say she left much of an impression on me either way. She appeared quite secure technically, although I have trouble looking at her feet (it makes me wonder how those arches got into the Vaganova Academy). Beautiful long limbs, though. Her acting seemed flat to me, especially compared to the wonderful expression of Kolpakova, Yevteyeva, and Komleva in Pas de Quatre.

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Dear friends,

I have just joined this forum and read many topics with great interest. Such a variety of opinions, views and cultures. [comment snipped]

Back to the topic of Mezentseva. She is certainly an enigma. I must admit that when I saw her life, I was very young, but mature enouph to see greatness where it presented itself. Why greatness, one might ask. Galina was not a beauty: protruding knees, big head, kinda shortish neck - well, not a Zakharova. But great she was.

While possessing Kirov technique she was ready to sacrifice it all for ... expression. Oh, that illusive skill, the ability to express. How one can measure it? Certainly not in degrees of a develope, not in inches of one's jump, not even in musicality. Give you an example. Swan Lake. She portrays Odille just like Odette: aristocratic, refined... no even, rare. You come to like her, admire her and then... totally out of the blue she throws the bouquet of flowers that Zigfrid had presented to her, she laughs convulsively like a devil in a human form. It was so unexpected that people seating in the orchestra pulled backward, so unexpected was the turn of events.

Some time later I watched the same ballet with her on DVD. Nothing even close. Go figure!

Edited by Alexandra

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Unlike you, I have seen her Giselle, a taped live performance - in her prime, which is painful to revisit with the exception of Terekhova's Myrtha, the corps and Zaklinsky. I do not suggest, I emphatically declare that it was lousy, period.  It was so lousy, that during the curtain call Selyutsky, who danced Hilarion crossed in front of Galya and gave his bouquet to Terekhova to add to her floral glory instead.  Imagine that affront.  Terekhova's Myrtha and Asylmuratova's Moyna blew Mezentseva's performance out of the water. 

I checked the dvd and my feeling is you may be reading to much in that bunch of yellow flowers Selyutsky hands to Terekhova. Even though it's not like were talking JFK at Dallas, let me run it by you.

Therekhova is the first soloist to take her bows. People start throwing flowers; she picks up a white bunch and steps back to face the upper tiers. Selyatsky rushes on stage, takes his bow, and picks up the yellow bunch in the process, handing it to Terekhova. A nice gesture.

Mezentseva enters as he's handing Th the flowers; she wasn't there when he picked them up.

So it's not like he might as well have handed those flowers to M rather than Th. - that would have been a conspicuous slight.

This is an interesting discussion, to which I have little to add, unfortunately. I only know GM from the Giselle dvd. She's not my Giselle type, too big and floppy. And I guess I'm comparing her to Maya Dumchenko of the same company, a generation later. Now that was a Giselle I loved. But you can't really compare video and live, IMO.

Another thing, somebody a page back was impressed with GM's "real tears" in the Giselle video. Well I was puzzled by those same tears. Pardon my French but aren't we supposed to be crying, rather than she?

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Thank you for that, Herman; brave of you to come to this thread! (I'd second your last comment, about Giselle shedding real tears on stage, though I'm sure many find it genuine and touching.)

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I personally didn't see Mezentseva in Giselle, nor can I imagine her as one.

Being both perplexed and awed by her talent, I still can't bring myself to buy

and watch a DVD with her. It doesn't seem to be her. I mean she is not an easy

Giselle. Who is? We demand a ballerina to be petite and svelte in Act I, yet

tall and swanlike in Act II. I thought that Svetlana Lunkina could dance this

role, but not to the technical perfection that we learnt to expect.

Who is a perfect Giselle?

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It's interesting that Mezensteva does not translate for Western audiences. She continues to be one of the most revered Kirov ballerinas among current Kirov dancers: Veronika Part in a recent interview cited her as a favorite, or even her most favorite.

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Veronika Part in a recent interview cited her as a favorite, or even her most favorite.

(Ears perking up) Which Part interview? In what publication?

The last time I saw GM live was with a little group at the Pace University theater downtown. The program was made up of the usual pas de deux done at galas. Obviously in a group of 2nd and 3rd tier Russian dancers, GM stood out as the class of the field, despite being twice the age of some of the other dancers. But she also stood out for her knowledge of stage craft, and yes, the soul she brought to the stage. For GM didn't perform as if she was on the stage at Pace, but as if she was at the Met, La Scala or the Maryinsky. She's not my type of dancer, but she had my respect and I can see why many people find her so powerful. And maybe that quality is hard to come trough on videos.

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Another thing, somebody a page back was impressed with GM's "real tears" in the Giselle video. Well I was puzzled by those same tears. Pardon my French but aren't we supposed to be crying, rather than she?

As the poster that mentioned those tears (and by the way I referred to them to illustrate her immersion in the role; I didn't say I was impressed by them). Don't you think that any woman who had just discovered that her lover was a two-timing rat would be crying at the very least?

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In real life? Sure. Or she could kick him out straight away. But Giselle is a work of art, and what's going on in her mind is supposed to be expressed in art, so as to have that peculiar impact only art can have, IMO.

In real life a dead woman doesn't rise from the grave to dance with Willies either.

You know, those tears were no big deal to me, either way, better or worse. As I said I was just a little puzzled. But I would never consider it a plus, since there are many very great artists who do not cry "on the show", and their performance is not colder for that.

BTW Albrecht is not a two-timing rat, but a two-timing count. Big difference. :P

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Don't you think that any woman who had just discovered that her lover was a two-timing rat would be crying at the very least?

But ballet is a stylized art that doesn't make its impact through the use of realistic effects (at least not in classical works like Giselle). When I see such added touches -- they crop up occasionally, like Odette and Siegfried kissing in the last act -- I find that instead of moving me they jar me. It's out of context with the rest of the production.

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