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Moscow Festival Ballet


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#1 Paul W

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Posted 26 March 2001 - 07:53 AM

Moscow Festival Ballet company performed Swan Lake in Burlington, Vermont's Flynn Theatre last Thursday (3/22). I assume it was part of a larger tour in the states and perhaps Canada. It appears this group has toured widely (England, U.S., rest of Europe) in the last five years. I thought it was a very fine production. First time I had seen the Jester given such prominence. In Kudelka's Swan Lake I don't recall the Jester at all, and likewise for the NYCB Swan Lake performances I've seen. Though once or twice his presence distracted a bit from parallel activity going on, I found this role added to understanding of the story through his mime. I think this performance must have been following a very traditional Russian approach, as the ending was much more "romantic" than Kudelka's also.

This company was founded and is directed by Sergei Radchenko, whom I gather is a very well known former principal dancer with the Bolshoi. It was well presented and excellent for the circumstances (small stage, touring venue). My only complaint was that it was not clear who was dancing each role from the program list. I did discover that Odette/Odile was danced by Irina Kovaleva who was quite good dramatically but technically not quit up to Chan Hon Goh (NBoC) whom I've seen in the same role. She was so different from Odette, as Odile, that I at first thought it was a different dancer.

Beautiful scenery and the dancing was so wonderfully "Russian". Small stage meant they had to work hard to fit it all in without major injuries. There were only 16 Swans in the Corps group, but they were exceptionally "together", and very good lighting with the white tutus creating an amazing impression. In Act II the four little swans were superb!!

I noticed that the role of Rothbart was completely different than in other productions I've seen (Kudelka's, NYCB). Especially in Kudelka's version, I recall actual physical battle represented between Siegfried and Rothbart. In this production there was never any eye contact between Siegfried and Rothbart, only a hovering presence of Rothbart. Rothbart was not a major player, only occasionally coming forward in his menacing and powerfully controlling essence, who appeared to be beyond the pale of physical existence and not noticed specifically by anyone. Only his affect on Siegfried or Odette was clear.

I found this production mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyable. Even though there was only recorded music (generally the sound and timing were very good) Tchaikovsky's great score and the well staged production brought out that lovely magical feeling.

This was a different Moscow ballet company than I had seen a couple years ago here in Vermont when I saw Moscow City Ballet perform "Cinderella", which I also found to be very good. But I liked Radchenko's "Swan Lake" better than "Cinderella" (directed by Smirnow-Golovanov), maybe just because of the particular ballet itself.

#2 Amy Reusch

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Posted 28 March 2001 - 02:00 AM

I'll be reviewing this company doing "Don Quixote" in a few weeks for Eastern CT University's campus paper "The Lantern". I saw their production of Swan Lake here a couple of years ago. The casting was impossible to figure out from the program for that performance as well. The jester was the only memorable dancing of the evening. At one point, Moscow Festival Ballet changed it's name to Russian National Ballet. Now it seems to be touring again as Moscow Festival Ballet. Anyone know why? I tried to find a website for them, but without success. I'm curious to know where their costumes and sets come from. I can't imagine they have the financial resources to commission new ones.

I wonder about these productions... while I'm happy to see ballet being presented at college campuses, I wonder if we wouldn't be better off seeing some of the better American regional companies. I suppose they can't match the box office allure of an international company, particularly one with Russian references; but the quality of the dancing might not inspire a return visit.

What can one hope from a ballet company touring small venues? If I remember, the Joffrey Ballet started off their first tour in a station wagon.

Would our better regional companies consider touring to taped music? Are they allowed to? Is it cheaper to bring in a Russian company or is it just easier to fill the house if it's Russian?

Why is it easier to see American modern dance than Americna ballet (if you don't live in the company's home town)?

Pondering how to write a review without casting info,
Amy

[This message has been edited by Amy Reusch (edited March 28, 2001).]

#3 Andrei

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Posted 28 March 2001 - 01:12 PM

Amy, before writing a review, I recommend to you to meet with Sergei Radchenko. He speaks perfect English, he is a very communicated person and can answer to most of your questions.
I saw this company couple years ago with "Giselle". I wasn't impressed by performance first of all because of the principles ( they were miscast, IMO) and second, company looked very tired. The last week I saw "Don Quixote" with them in Orono and my impression was much better. First of all, when I came to the theatre around 5 o'clock, they had a rehearsal of "Giselle" for the next day performance in another town of Maine. After this they rehearsed "Carmen" and some pas de deux for the performance for the next week and they finished it at 7:20. At 8:05 the curtain rised and I thaught that I will see dead people on the stage, but they were not! The performance was very alive and technicaly very professional. I have some disagreement with the choreographer (this is the version of Vetrov)about musical cuts. Some numbers don't connect in a proper style with Petipa's choreography, but anyway it was very solid performance.

#4 Amy Reusch

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Posted 28 March 2001 - 03:38 PM

Originally posted by Andrei:
Amy, before writing a review, I recommend to you to meet with Sergei Radchenko. He speaks perfect English, he is a very communicated person and can answer to most of your questions.


That sounds like a wonderful idea... I wonder if it is possible. I apologize for my ignorance, I've never written a review for publication before. I wonder if he has time to talk to me on a one-night-stand situation like this performance will be. I guess I should ask the press contact person at the venue. So far, I've only sent out an exploratory e-mail to see if I can get the casting and some info on the National Ballet/Moscow Festival Ballet issue.



I saw this company couple years ago with "Giselle". I wasn't impressed by performance first of all because of the principles ( they were miscast, IMO) and second, company looked very tired.  


It must be exhausting doing a tour of one night stands like this (although I guess it's all part of the game for most companies).. I can't imagine not feeling played out by the end of the run. I wonder where in the run this performance will be. It would be nice if there were a volunteer organization out there with it's goal to make the visiting dancers' lives easier... make sure they have food, etc... a place to relax, with magazines or whatever... a kind of gopher organization... but probably it would feel like just one more audience.

[some content snipped out]

I have some disagreement with the choreographer (this is the version of Vetrov)about musical cuts. Some numbers don't connect in  a proper style with Petipa's choreography, but anyway it was very solid performance.


Again, pardon my ignorance... but could you tell me about Vetrov? I was wondering how close to the Petipa original the performance would be. Unfortunately I'm not terribly familiar with the complete ballet, only the much performed grand pas de deux. I've seen that excerpt on film with Maya Plisetskaya doing those famous leaps, but other than that this will be my first full Don Q. What should I look for?


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#5 Juliet

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Posted 28 March 2001 - 04:38 PM

When they were in Annapolis last week, they had completed three months of a four and a half month tour of (mostly)one night stands.

I don't know if it would be possible to meet with Radchenko beforehand, but it would be a very good idea (to get the casting, if nothing else!) When they were here, there was no one from the production staff, let alone the cast, much in evidence, but you might be able to contact them and arrange something beforehand. Wardrobe mistress arrived at 5 pm for a 7:30 show......

I heard very positive reviews of the performance. It is generally much easier to draw an audience in a smaller town with a Russian company, no matter how tired or mediocre the dancing. This is not generally the case with Moscow Festival Ballet -- although the stages and touring company may be small, the calibre of the dancing is usually quite fine. The production is not a new one (far from it) but they do a very good job with resources available!

#6 Amy Reusch

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Posted 28 March 2001 - 11:02 PM

Thanks Juliet...

The other thing I'm wondering is whether this is mostly a pick-up company. I think that is the tradition of festival ballets, isn't it? Wasn't the first festival ballet something Alicia Markova put together for some festival in England that was in such demand for return performances that it finally become a company in it's own right? Or is this a true company that performs at home in Moscow as well.

#7 Andrei

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Posted 29 March 2001 - 10:31 PM

This is the true company and they perform in Russia as well. Usually they invite some guest artists from major Russian companies by impressario's request, but sometimes they use their owns.
Alexandr Vetrov is a former soloist of Bolshoi Theatre, winner of several international competitions.
Petipa made "Don Quixote" in 1869 in Moscow, in 1871 in St. Petersburg. Gorsky made a new version for Bolshoi in 1900 and staged it for Mariinsky in 1902.(Petipa was very angry, he was still alive and nobody asked his permission.) After this a lot of people put their hands into it.
In Vetrov's "Don Quixote" dances more close to Petipa are : segedilya (character corps de ballet dance in the first act), variation of flower girls, Dream scene (without children- cupids, it's pitty), the final pas de deux(at least adagio).

#8 vrsfanatic

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 08:00 AM

Andrei, Please clarify which choreography used the Dream Scene in Don Q with the children doing the cupid dance. I have heard of this version, actually know what I was told was the choreography, but unfortunately have never seen a version with this in it. Where may this be seen? Thanks so much.

#9 atm711

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 09:42 AM

I saw the Moscow Festival Ballet perform "Don Q" at a Long Island college a couple of weeks ago. Marina Rzhannikova had the necessary spirit and technique for a fine Kitri. All the female dancing was strong throughout the ballet...I would love to identify them by name, but the program gets too muddy for that! On the whole though, the male dancing was sloppy.

#10 Andrei

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 01:32 PM

It's about 16 (24?)little girls on pointe 12-13 years old, who wear the same costumes as the ballerina-cupid and litlle bows. The dance statrs with the little solo of one girl, late all join it. The major movement is coupé balloné, the dance is very cute.
You can see it in St. Petersburg in Mariinsky, I don't recall that company is bringing children for abroad touring.

[This message has been edited by Andrei (edited March 30, 2001).]

#11 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 01:39 PM

anna-marie holmes' production of don quixote in boston also uses the little girls dressed as cupids. it's a very cute dance, as andrei says..

#12 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 01:47 PM

So does the Bolshoi. In this production there is also a dance for the little Cupids in the last Act.

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 04:22 PM

Amy, there are quite a few videos of Don Quixote that you might want to view before you review the performance. As for casting, I'd suggest when you call for tickets you impress upon the press person that you MUST HAVE casting. MUST MUST MUST. And that it MUST be accurate. Dogging the press person -- at intermissions, tracking them down after the performance, etc. -- works. You could get it from the company director, but IMHO, talking to company people before reviewing is dangerous. You learn how the dancers haven't eaten in three days and how the costumes got damaged in the fire, etc. etc., and how they had to leave their best dancers back in Poughkeepsie with bad knee injuries, and how if they get one more bad review..... (I don't mean to say that this is how this particular company operates, but just to say it can happen. The worst, IMO, are the husbands of local modern dancers. But I digress). Learning the trials and tribulations of the company can skew one's perceptions of the performance. I'm a soft touch, so I try to duck when I see them coming. Posted Image

#14 vrsfanatic

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Posted 30 March 2001 - 08:24 PM

Again, thank you Andrei. I know this version from school. Watched children's rehearsals and performances in Mariinsky. I thought maybe there was a different version, since I learned a different piece, different music from original Russian Don Q score. I learned it from a Bulgarian/Bolshoi teacher in the US.I cannot figure out what it is.

#15 Amy Reusch

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Posted 31 March 2001 - 12:10 AM

Originally posted by alexandra:
Amy, there are quite a few videos of Don Quixote that you might want to view before you review the performance.



Alas, I live in the boondocks... my neighbors are cows... and to boot, I have a toddler on my heels at almost all times... perhaps I'll get lucky and one of the local excuses for a university dance department will have one in their college library... But thanks for the reminder, I'll look in spite of my pessimism. Sometimes I'm happily surprised.

You could get[casting] from the company director, but IMHO, talking to company people before reviewing is dangerous. You learn how the dancers haven't eaten in three days and how the costumes got damaged in the fire, etc. etc., and how they had to leave their best dancers back in Poughkeepsie with bad knee injuries, and how if they get one more bad review..... (I don't mean to say that this is how this particular company operates, but just to say it can happen.  The worst, IMO, are the husbands of local modern dancers. But I digress).  Learning the trials and tribulations of the company can skew one's perceptions of the performance.  I'm a soft touch, so I try to duck when I see them coming.       Posted Image


Posted Image I'm already expecting a ragged performance considering how many one-night-stands they've just pulled... I'm hoping to be surprised... Perhaps luckily for them, it's only a campus newspaper review (and not for the campus they're performing at)... I believe I'll be writing for people most of whom didn't see and won't see the performance and many of whom have never been to a city larger than Hartford. I'll think I'll make the focus of the article "Russian allure" and and after going on about the tradition a bit see how they measure up (maybe they will!) for a company under what seem to me to be limiting circumstances.


[This message has been edited by Amy Reusch (edited March 31, 2001).]


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