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Lovebird

The Three Bolshoi Graces

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I would like to know what anyone thinks about Nadezhda Pavlova,Natalia Bessmertnova,and Yekaterina Maximova.In all the books I have read they are said to have been the most talented young Bolshoi ballerinas.Has anyone seen them perform live or on video? Maximova is the teacher of Svetlana Lunkina, but what are the other two doing?

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I have only seen Nadezda Pavlova on film, in particular, the Shades section of Bayadere. (Russian Ballet, The Glorious Tradition, vol.3). Truly exquisite. For me, it has never been danced better. She captures the beautiful melancholy of the ballet. (Last week, I saw it danced at ABT by Tuttle with a broad teethy grin most of the time.)

I saw Bessmertova dance Spartacus and Giselle and the best I can say is that she is a good company ballerina.

I only saw Maximova on tape and I have always been favorably impressed with her work.

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When the Bolshoi came to the U.S. under Grigorivitch's (sp?) direction, Bessmertnova (as I remember) received reviews very much along the lines of ATM711's comments. But I really enjoyed and admired her lyricism, her dark, romantic looks, and liquid bourees in Grigorivitch's choreography. I think one of the roles I saw her do (in Ivan the Terrible), may actually have been created ON her, so I probably saw her at her best.

I only saw Pavlova dance once, in the Legend of Love, and my memories are not terribly vivid, but people absolutely LOVED her. She had gorgeous hyperextended legs -- with extraordinary feet. Croce wrote (again, as best I recall) that her positions really did fulfill all the curves/diagonals of the old classical ballet handbooks. I can't express an opinion on that, but they were just stunning. She also had a rather fetching stage personality. One can see these qualities a bit in the photos.

Maximova was another ballerina people just LOVED. I only saw her live very late in her career, but I was quite impressed. Although I am a video skeptic -- actually I'm often quite bored by dance on video -- I had become a bit of a fan watching her dance with Vasiliev in a video of Act I of Grigorivitch's Nutcracker. (In that video, Pavlova and Gordeyev take over in Act II.) Although this was also towards the end of Maximova's career, she really captured Clara, or so I thought. I saw her live, about ten years ago, with some Vasiliev directed pick-up troop. She must have been close to fifty (?) Both she and Vasiliev were extremely shrewd about how they presented themselves. They didn't try anything they couldn't still do rather strikingly, and they paced the whole evening, so that when they appeared and did their rather limited numbers, they still came across as the evening's big stars. I do not say this critically; on the contrary, I greatly admired the professionalism. In that regard, he deserves credit, since he was the choreographer.

Anyway, at this performance Maximova did very little dancing that was unsupported by Vasiliev; he partnered her in a series of lifts and carries etc. All that said, and given the admitedly limited context, I thought she was marvelous. Not just a star, but still a great DANCER. Her movements were just beautiful -- youthful and spirited with everything taut, flowing, classical. She was being held in lifts the whole time and she looked fearless besides. (I guess she and Vasiliev had been dancing together long enough!)

For this performance, I was with a friend who was not a particular ballet fan and was, therefore, without my pre-disposed respect and sympathy for older legends -- but my friend was dazzled too! To my mind, it was a great example of 'once a ballerina, always a ballerina.'

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Does everyone agree with me when I say that:

1.Nadezhda Pavlova was a virtousa ballerina

2.Natalia Bessmertnova a lyrical ballerina

3.Yekaterina Maximova a soubrette ballerina

Does anyone disagree?

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I've only seen Pavlova on film, and Bessmertnova and Maximova on film and, when onstage, at the very end of their careers.

Wasn't Pavlova also considered a great Giselle? That would make her more a lyrical ballerina, I think.

There's a video of Maximova doing "Walpurgisnacht" that is phenomenal -- can't remember which collection of Russian goodies it's on, but maybe someone else reading this will. I agree with you that Maximova is a soubrette (and I'm glad to find someone who makes distinctions among types of dancers :) but she was also a fine technician. Not primarily a virtuoso ancer, but certainly could put over the virtuoso roles. While I think Bessmertnova was always more the Giselle and Juliet type.

Others?

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pavlova can also be seen in a rather odd movie of 'the blue bird' in which i think she plays the bird, and elizabeth taylor plays 'light'. here is a paragraph i found about the film:

The Blue Bird Based on a famous classic fairy tale "The Bluebird of Happiness". Dog, Cat, Light, Fire and Bread lead children on their quest for true happiness. Directed by George Cukor. Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner, Cicely Tyson, Patsy Kensit, Will Geer, Robert Morley, Pavlova.

1976/G/99 min. Being Redigitized and available for DVD.

[ 05-26-2001: Message edited by: Mme. Hermine ]

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Three interesting Bolshoi ballerinas and also three different ones. Nadezhda Pavlova is much younger than the other two and studied in Perm (she was born in Ufa), while Maximova and Bessmertnova are Moscow graduates.

Both Maximova and Pavlova are soubrettes, the former more comical, the latter more lyrical. Both were in fact in the wrong place in the Bolshoi once dominated by Yuri Grigorovich, although I guess that Pavlova’s career suffered more from this than Maximova’s, who had already made a name for herself before Grigorovich took over. Maximova was the ideal Kitri. She is arguably also a more flexible personality and found in the later stages of her career an outlet for her comical talent with other choreographers like Briantsev. She formed with her husband Vladimir Vasiliev one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Soviet ballet.

There was no repertoire in the Bolshoi that honored Pavlova’s particular gifts and that she still left a mark in the company (and on the international stages on tours) was mainly thanks to the fact she was supported by Bolshoi legend, Marina Semyonova, who prepared all the great classical roles with her. She was an excellent Giselle, Juliet and Nikiya, but she would have been an even greater Coppélia or Lise.

While Bessmertnova, married to Grigorovich or not, she is still one of the greatest Russian Romantic ballerinas ever (I'm just being personal when I say that I rank her much higher than Makarova). A tremendous Giselle. However, Grigorovich cast her in almost everything he did, which probably caused more harm than good although it should in no way detract from her real achievements and qualities. Fact is also that the existing (late) videos (with the exception maybe of Bessmertnova’s Giselle with Lavrovsky) convey any of the magic of her live appearances.

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Marc,you are right when you say that Maximova's stage persona was not suited to the Bolshoi under Grigorovich period.I remember reading in a book from the library that her Giselle was not the best because that sort of suffering and dramatic acting was not suited to her.She was,or could have been with the right repertoire,a supreme comic-soubrette ballerina.When I say that Nadezhda Pavlova is a virtousa I mean that she is good in roles like Nikiya,Legend of Love and many others that require perfect technique.She is wonderful as Giselle but in a different way than Bessmertnova,who was very romantic and lyrical.Bessmertnova is also my ideal Aegina in Spartacus.

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OK, Lovebird, I understand what you mean and I guess it’s clear to everybody (and before anybody blames Grigorovich of all the plagues that befell the Bolshoi :)) that if Giselle didn’t show Maximova at her best, this had nothing at all to do with Grigorovich. Maximova learned the role very early in her career under the guidance of Ulanova and although she danced and developed it throughout her career, basically her witty and mischievous character remained alien to Giselle’s world. Yet, it was much less of a failure than to have her cast as Phrygia in Grigorovich’s "Spartacus" (which is also what Bessmertnova danced - not Aegina).

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Originally posted by Lovebird:

.. that sort of suffering and dramatic acting was not suited to her..

That may have been true of Maximova when she was younger, but I saw her do Tatiana in Cranko's Onegin late in her career and she was wonderful, up there with Makarova and other great ones I've seen. The only other thing I saw her in was Paganini, back in 1963, and I don't remember much about her except a general impression of youth.

I saw Bessmertnova in the same season as one of 3 swans in Swan Lake (Plisetskaya/Fadeyechev) and that I do remember, very clearly - she looked young, beautiful, serious and intelligent and as if she'd been touched by the finger of God. Seeing her nearly 30 years later as Odette was a terrible disappointment.

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Forgive me,I meant Phrygia,of course,not Aegina.I was thinking of an interview I read with Svetlana Lunkina that said Aegina was an emotional role.Phrygia is the lyrical role.About Mr.Grigorovich,in an article I once read in a Spanish newspaper it said that it was no secret that many dancers had left the Bolshoi,angry,not amicable partings,because of Grigorovich and the way he ran the company.Changing topics,I think it is remarkable how the Bolshoi hands down its traditions, from Ulanova to Maximova to Lunkina,right now the Bolshoi's brightest star.Jane,perhaps she did perfect her acting,a true artist always overcomes those sort of limitations.I believe Maximova liked Cranko's choreography,she also danced The Taming of the Shrew to much acclaim.Did she ever dance with the Stuttgart ballet?

[ 05-26-2001: Message edited by: Lovebird ]

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Lovebird, I think you are referring to my interview with Svetlana Lunkina in the April 2000 issue of Ballet.co magazine.

I am not sure if Maximova ever guested with the Stuttgart Ballet. I also saw Maximova in Cranko's Onegin when she guested with the English National Ballet in 1990. She was sublime. I am also lucky to have seen Bessmertnova and Pavlova during the Bolshoi seasons in London in the late 1980s.

[ 05-26-2001: Message edited by: Kevin Ng ]

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Lovebird, as far as I am aware, Maximova never danced with Stuttgart Ballet and she never did "Taming of the Shrew" either.

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Mr.Ng,it was your interview I was refering to.Another question:did Nadezhda Pavlova found a school in China? In an interview with A.B.T soloist Yan Chen it said that the first ballet school in Beijing was founded by two russians,one of them named Pavlova.

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I have seen so many videos of Maximova - she is probably the cutest and vivacious Kitri I've seen. Those passes (I can't get the accented e to show up) from fifth in the middle of the Act III variation are so quick, it's like if you blink, you'll miss six beats. I also have landed a videotape of Bessmertnova as Phrygia (at least, that's what everyone's calling the main character.. right?) in Spartacus, and she wowed me with those awesome lifts with Mukhamedov. My golly, I would be so scared that I would cry on stage if someone whooshed me up, upside down and on one arm. She is such a lyrical, flowing-y dancer and really swallows the stage up with her presence. Either that or it was the close-ups.. (stage makeup.. scary).

I have never seen Pavlova in anything; is she related to Anna? (My ballet history goes back about five minutes and that's about it.)

Ta!

Luka

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Lovebird, please call me Kevin by the way. I don't know who the two Russian founders of the National Ballet of China are, (Hu Xinxin should know) but it can't be Nadezhda Pavlova who would have been too young when the company was established in China.

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Lovebird, Pyotr Gusev and his wife, Valentina Rumyanseva, from Kirov helped to found the school in Beijing in 1954 and Shanghai,1960. There also was someone from Bolshoi involved, Viktor Tsalpin I think.

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IMO, one word to describe Maximova is that she is absolutely "charming." We say a lot of dancers are "charming" today, but her level of charm can't be found amongst many dancers.

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I woulld like to answer your question about the Chinese ballet.

Pyoty Gusev was surely a great man in China's ballet history, but we don't think he was the founder of NBC.

The first director of the company is Dai Ai Lian, known as the mother of the Chinese ballet. She was born in Trinidad-Tobago born and trained at the Rambert and came back to China around 1940 to join the war against the Japanese.

Actually it was some Russian people who brought us classical ballet much earlier. They came to China after the October Revolution (in 1918?),some of them were teaching ballet to make their lives.

In 1954, after the founding of the Peoples Republic of China, the first ever official dance school (known now as Beijing Dance Academy) was established in Beijing. This dance school at that time had invited 6 Russian ballet experts to teach at the school, among them was Pyoty Gusev, who has made great contribution to ballet development in China. The Russian experts trained the first generation of teachers, dancers and choreographers of ballet in China, who successfully performed the first classical full-length ballet--SWAN LAKE in Beijing in 1958.

In 1959, a company was found at the Academy. Dai Ai Lian was the first director. Later the company separated from the academy and was named the Central Ballet of China by the government. The English name of the company changed in late 1990s to 'the National Ballet of China'. But we usually call it its Chinese name 'the Central Ballet'.

Sorry for my late reply. Thanks.

[ 05-29-2001: Message edited by: Hu Xinxin ]

[ 05-29-2001: Message edited by: Hu Xinxin ]

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To Lovebird:

I guess the "Pavlova" Chen Yan talked about was Anna Pavlova. I heard Anna was in Shanghai and taught ballet there in the early days.

BTW, I don't like Natalia Bessmertnova very much. I saw her many times when Bolshoi toured Tokyo in 1988. I had expected to see Nina Annaniashvili, but it was always Bessmertnova. She was too old, but appeared everywhere in Swan Lake, Giselle and Spartacus.

I think Nadezhda Pavlova came to China 1989 or 1990 and danced Spartacut with Muhamedov. Muhamedov did a great job (much better than he did in Japan), but she was not very impressive.

FYI.

[ 05-29-2001: Message edited by: Hu Xinxin ]

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Xinxin,you saw them when they were past their prime and their technique was probably not as good as when they were younger.I do agree with you,though,that they should noy have put Bessmertnova in so many performances when other,younger talents could have been put in some of them.

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In the early-mid 80's, I saw a film of Pavlova dancing pas de deux from Don Q, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty. She was a brilliant technician, with high extensions and extraordinary, swivel-like pirouettes that looked effortless. Her Giselle was particularly lovely in it's lyricism, and she displayed a natural musicality which was very appealing.

Melissa

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