Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
sophia

Maria Alexandrova as Odette / Odile

21 posts in this topic

I heard that Maria Alexandrova made her debut as Odette / Odile in "Swan Lake" on May 14th. I find that dancer really extraordinary, she is a real marvel to me, "something" I had never seen before ( I discovered her in Paris last year). Did someone hear about her performance?

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for the link, dachnitsa.

I suspect that Alexandrova is one of those dancers whose Odette-Odile will be more appreciated by Western audiences. Russian balletomanes are very set in their expectations of the "look" of their Odettes, in particular. They should have an 'angelic' face, softer/less angular lines than Alexandrova.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm also grateful for the link, dachnitsa. Boy, those Russian reviewers take no hostages, especially when it comes to body types.

The review makes some interesting points about emploi, which sent me back to a thread on Aesthetic Issues: "Balanchine and Emploi."

The writer (L. Rozum) comments: "Maria Alexandrova's debut leaves much to be desired as well and leaves us to regret that the notion of 'line' or 'emploi' in lost in ballet practice. But parts are still divided into 'categories' -- for demi-charactere dancer and for danceur noble. It should be taken into consideration that not every ballet part will yield to a solist, even a strong and bright one. ... So, perhaps, the management of the Bolshoi shouldn't have complied with the desire of the ballerina who is certainly not destined to do this fantastically complex part. They should have explained everything to her and this way helped her to escape this career fault."

Sound familiar?

Share this post


Link to post

Welcome, dachnitsa, to BalletTalk! And thank you so much for the link. The practice of throwing young dancers into roles before they are ready is, unfortunately, not unknown in the US.

Would you like to stop by our Welcome Page please, and tell us a bit about yourself? As you can see, our Russian forums are very active. Glad you're joining the fray. The more, the merrier!

Share this post


Link to post

I can only describe the review as a hatchet job---is the writer a professional journalist? The writer is an admirer of Bessmertnova, a dancer I was neveer particularly taken with.

Share this post


Link to post
I can only describe the review as a hatchet job---is the writer a professional journalist?   The writer is an admirer of Bessmertnova, a dancer I was neveer particularly taken with.

I have never seen the articles of this author, Rozum, in the newspapers or magazines, at least those, which have authority and name in reviewing culture. The articles on the site bolshoi.org can hardly fit the "press" category since they appear only on this virtual resource which, to be frank, is organized and supported by the claque. And Alexandrova is far from being among their favorites.

Of course “Swan Lake” was a challenging experiment for her, which from my point of view didn’t turn out to be 100% successful. Yet it didn’t turn out to be a disaster as one may conclude from Rozum writings. A number of reviews by moscow balletgoers on this subject can be found on http://forum.balet.ru in the Балет110 section. From my opinion Alexandrova with her shining assertiveness is more Raymonda than a Swan, especially in the conventional Russian sense described by Natalia. :) But I hope that some day she will find her own, special way to a convincing Swan. Whatever “writers” write, she is a ballerina.

Share this post


Link to post

Ina, I'd love to hear more about "the claque" at the Bolshoi (within the limits of Ballet Talk's no-gossip rules, of course). The Bolshoi.org site is quite elaborate, sophisticated and -- I would think -- difficult to maintain. Well beyond the resources of your usual group of fans.

Share this post


Link to post

Bart,

you have a rare chance to obtain a first hand information from the claqueurs themselves. Here is the link to the same site, to the article by Irina Vinogradova (also unknown to the readers of conventional press). It gives the Claque profile in case one reads it cum grano salis:

http://pr.bolshoi.net/news/iv_230903.htm .

Unfortunately, it is in Russian, may be Natalia will take pains to expound the most ugly parts of it.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, Mikhail. I'll take it home tonight & give it a stab. At quick glance it has some shocking stuff but a lot of it is similar to what I'm aware of in St. Petersburg.

At the Mariinsky, a tall, dark-haired fellow known as "Yevgeni" is the Tsar of the Claquers. Anybody who has spent substantial time at that theater knows exactly of whom I speak. (wink) At the last Mariinsky Festival, tickets were so expensive that Yevgeni was rarely able to move "up" (actually, down to Stalls/Orchestra) from his perch up in the Gallery. We couldn't see him but, yes, we heard him loud and clear!

Share this post


Link to post
I can only describe the review as a hatchet job---is the writer a professional journalist?  The writer is an admirer of Bessmertnova, a dancer I was neveer particularly taken with.

I agree, the review was excessive. Alexandrova is an exceptional dancer.

This is a good example of destructive criticism. There's no encouragement at all.

Perhaps Grigorovich's version of SL is not the production she should dance.

And if so, that's okay. Vishneva has danced SL, but not with the Maryinsky. She's going to dance it with ABT, and has danced with the Berlin, the Tokyo and in Italy. These were stylistically valid moves on her part - and wise. Her style is very open, it would look 'different' in the Sergueyev production. This same "reviewer" completely blew Zakharova's May 2005 debut in Raymonda out the water in the same way. This person a) compared Sveta's Raymonda to her coach Semenyaka - wrong, and b) argued that the best coach (?) for Sveta in this ballet should have been Bessmertnova. Not so. IMO Bessmertnova was totally miscast as Raymonda.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, Mikhail and Natalia. This should be interesting!

Share this post


Link to post

What it adds up to is blackmail: if the dancers don't pay up their performances are seriously disrupted. I find their 'manifesto' disgusting.

The writer’s hatred of Alexandrova is intriguing, but when she recalls the fact that Grigorovitch turned down Alexandrova in favour of Volochkova in his Swan Lake (lol) all it signifies is that the elderly Grigorovitch must be losing the plot.

Strange things happen in the Russian dance world these days and many dancers in leading roles probably wouldn't be dancing them elsewhere. Interesting that outside her native country Alexandrova has the critics (professional ones) searching for fresh superlatives to describe her whilst back home all she gets is this undeserved ****.

MB

Share this post


Link to post

Well, I read a portion of the article last night. The initial portions about the claque payment system are staightforward & honest, e.g. "Mr. N", chief of the Bolshoi claquers, employs a group of sub-claquers, who receive their LIST of instructions every night on how to react to certain dancers, who to cheer/who not to cheer, etc.

What I found appalling in this article -- and the reason why I stopped reading half-way through -- is the downright malicious "news" of Maria Alexandrova's ties to a San Francisco-based group (termed a "sect") whose members supposedly travel often to Moscow & frequent the Bolshoi, cheering loudly for Alexandrova, thus allowing her to get away with not paying-off the claque. Sorry, Mikhail, but I stopped reading there.

Aside from all of the above, I DO know that Russian audiences' taste in ballerinas can differ greatly from, especially, the U.K. and the U.S. Assylmuratova & Ayupova, for example, were never as appreciated at home as much as they were in the West. This doesn't mean that they weren't stars. They never were the GREATEST stars in their own companies, at any given time. At the Bolshoi, Ananiashvili was never quite the star at home as she was (is) in New York...greatly promoted through private means, in private shows in Moscow & St. Pete, but never a huge star of the Bolshoi among the majority of Bolshoi fans.

Somewhat-related sidenote: In modern Russia, to be 'private sector' can still sound a sinister note, even if totally unfounded. This nasty overriding feeling trickles down to the ballet world. :angry2:

Natalia

Share this post


Link to post

Well, Natalia,

I share your feelings. Nevertheless, I forced myself to read the article to the end overcoming a natural aversion - it is always better to know whom you are dealing with. Probably, you did not notice that the article consists of three parts – the button to continue is at the end of each part. The first one is “dedicated” to Alexandrova, the second one – to Tsiskaridze (it is written in a similar style as this dancer cut his ties to the claque) and the third one – to "good old days" with Grigorovitch and to the criticism of the current repertory policy of the Bolshoi.

Now you know too the value of the claque criticism and praises (one has to compare positive reviews at their site to professional cries “brava” at the Bolshoi’s performances). Everybody goes his own way. Alexandrova has a lot of honest and passionate admirers in Moscow, not to say about Nina, who always naturally put the audience on “fire”. Altynai or Zhanna were also appreciated by sincere ballet lovers (all four of these ballerinas are between my favorites).

Meanwhile President Putin signed on June 6 a decret (published at the official Kremlin site) honoring Maria Alexandrova and Svetlana Zakharova the titles “Merited Artist of Russia”. This is an official recognition of these two exceptional ballerinas. And to hell with the claque.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you, Mikhail, Natalia, and all. I've heard of claques at La Scala in the past, but did not know how powerful they are in Russia. :)

I have so many questions and hope some of you can answer at least some.

Since money seems to be central to their motivation and power, where does this money come from? Is there so much cash floating around in Russian ballet?

Do individual dancers have managers or protectors who can afford to pay for the claque's approval?

Why does the management of the theater permit it?

Have dancers -- especially those attacked by the claque -- ever spoken out or taken action against it?

How does the ordinary, regular ballet audience feel about this -- and respond to it when the claque is in action?

And finally (thanks for your patience): are there any notable examples of claque-like organization and behavior in theaters outside Russia today?

Share this post


Link to post
Since money seems to be central to their motivation and power, where does this money come from?  Is there so much cash floating around in Russian ballet?

In the past the claque would be happy to accept tickets which they could then sell on the black market, but I don't know if that is still the case

Do individual dancers have managers or protectors who can afford to pay for the claque's approval?

Yes some do: there are a couple of female dancers with lovers/family with mafia connections.

Why does the management of the theater permit it?

Very good question: extortion is illegal in the rest of the world.

Have dancers -- especially those attacked by the claque -- ever spoken out or taken action against it?

According to a UK newsarticle I've kept from 1993, Gediminas Taranda once "poleaxed" a claque member who set off an alarm clock while he was dancing.

How does the ordinary, regular ballet audience feel about this -- and respond to it when the claque is in action?

No idea. But I doubt if it would be tolerated outside of Russia.

And finally (thanks for your patience):  are there any notable examples of claque-like organization and behavior in theaters outside Russia today?

Never come accross any.

Share this post


Link to post

My answers are in bold type.

Do individual dancers have managers or protectors who can afford to pay for the claque's approval?

Yes some do: there are a couple of female dancers with lovers/family with mafia connections.

Only a couple, Mashinka? (wink)

Why does the management of the theater permit it?

Very good question: extortion is illegal in the rest of the world.

This assumes that the "management of the theater" is innocent.....

How does the ordinary, regular ballet audience feel about this -- and respond to it when the claque is in action?

No idea. But I doubt if it would be tolerated outside of Russia.

Please re-read my reviews/log of the recent Mariinsky Int'l Ballet Festival. Go to the report on the Tsiskaridze/Nioradze Manon for a clue. The rest of us know why every such performance is met with loud non-stop screams of 'Bravo!' no matter how weakly danced. The average audience at the Kirov-Mariinsky and the Bolshoi have learned to filter out or understand the yelling. Every now & then (Cojocaru-Kobborg's Don Q, for example) the yelling is genuine. Not always.

And finally (thanks for your patience):  are there any notable examples of claque-like organization and behavior in theaters outside Russia today?

Not really. Perhaps at competitions (Varna...trying to influence the judges, as if they depend on an applause-meter). That's about it.

Share this post


Link to post

Bart,

you can also find answers to some of your questions at http://www.clacker.ru/ - a new site in Russian affiliated to the old one, bolshoi.net / adagio.ru. As is clear from the name of the site the point of view you will be introduced there is the one of the claque. Well, it's also some information… Natalia, please have a look at it - may be, you will find it possible to give some comments.

They pretend to help dancers but evidently you will never learn from there about shameful incidents when they prevented performances. The last one happened two days ago, on Monday, at the performance of La Bayadere with Svetlana Zakharova, Igor Zelensky and Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti (the ballet was shown in the scope of the opening of the Moscow ballet competition). Just before Alexandrova's variation in the Grand Pas of the 2nd act, when the audience and the orchestra were silent and the ballerina was already standing in preparation, somebody cried out “Oh” - loudly in an unnatural foolish (but already familiar!) manner. This produced a slight, but noticeable wave of laugh in the audience, to which Ms. Alexandrova only smiled back and demonstrated such skills and drive that earned sincere and real, not organized ovation. All this happened in the presence of Mr. Grigorovitch and the members of the jury - Natalia Makarova, Natalia Bessmertnova, Ludmila Semenyaka, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Heinz Spoerli, Alex Ursulyak and others. The only reason for this barbarous behavior is that the claqueurs are just desperate to show their fading importance.

In addition to Mashinka's information: many years ago there was an article in "Pravda" by Irek Mukhamedov against the claque. About three years ago Maria Alexandrova gave two interviews expressing strongly negative opinion concerning the claque's actions what produced the current war with her. This is mentioned by a claqueur himself at the beginning of the article which Natalia couldn't read to the end.

Share this post


Link to post
All this happened in the presence of Mr. Grigorovitch and the members of the jury - Natalia Makarova, Natalia Bessmertnova, Ludmila Semenyaka, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Heinz Spoerli, Alex Ursulyak and others. The only reason for this barbarous behavior is that the claqueurs are just desperate to show their fading importance.

In addition to Mashinka's information: many years ago there was an article in "Pravda" by Irek Mukhamedov against the claque. About three years ago Maria Alexandrova gave two interviews expressing strongly negative opinion concerning the claque's actions what produced the current war with her.

Thanks, Mikhail. Delighted to hear about the clacque's "fading importance." Sounds like the increasing internationalization of Russian ballet -- and an increasingly open cultural press -- is gradually breaking down the power of this dinosaur of an institution. I hope that as more and more Russian ballet people develop careers outside the country, and more westerners go there to perform at least attend performances, tolerance for organized clacquing will decline.

Share this post


Link to post

Bart,

I guess, the large number of foreign tourists at the Bolshoi does not improve the situation with the claque but influences just in an opposite direction.

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0