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Mariinsky: NYCC

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I have to ask this, because I'm relatively new. It's a bit off-topic, but I'm posting it here since everybody has seen the Mariinsky. (Anyway, the Mariinsky's not doing a performance until tomorrow, so we have a few moments.)

This is the first time I've seen the Mariinsky. I know the ABT extremely well. I'd like to hear how the people who've been posting comments on the Maryiinsky dancers would compare them to those of ABT. I've had friends make comments placing the ABT and its dancers all over the range of quality - comments on the company range from "not much better than what you'd see in a regional company" to "best in the world". And, while I won't name names, comments on individual dancers were similar - "S/he'd be a star anywhere" to "A principal? S/he couldn't be in the Corps at the Paris/Bolshoi/Royal/Mariinsky."

This is only my own opinion, so take it at that - but I don't think ABT's women can hold a candle to the Kirov's (with the exception of their guest dancers) and with the exception of Sarafanov I don't think the Kirov's men are in the same league as ABT's best male dancers.

It will be interesting to hear your opinion after you've seen ABT do Etudes this summer!

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Thanks for replying. (You seem to agree with Gottlieb, who loves the ABT men, and can't stand the ABT women.) Of course, I have my favorites, but I won't post which ones they are (my friends know). But I will say that, as for the ABT's "Etudes", I can't wait to see what Cornejo does with it.

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.......But I will say that, as for the ABT's "Etudes", I can't wait to see what Cornejo

does with it.

I predict Cornejo will be fantastic on many levels. He's a big favorite of mine at ABT.

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Meanwhile, a scurrilous, ad hominem comment that Somova has hair extensions like a Brighton Beach Russian girl is left untouched.
You refer to this?

She, too, wears the nail extensions (as do several corps members), but her's are less immodest and a natural color as opposed to Somova's which rival those worn by working girls hanging out in front of any housing project in Brooklyn.

Adam, this remark about nail (not hair) extensions is a legitimate comment on the dancer's appearance. No mention is made of any ethnicity, although perhaps some readers will draw on their own stereotypes of who populates Brooklyn housing projects. BalletTalk's rules about ad hom attacks pertain primarily to comments about or directed toward other posters.

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I suppose dancers are human and have good and bad days. The best of them have mostly good days and so have that shiny reputation. I found the Kirov's company worked well at all levels and would love to see the full company on a big stage. Now I await the ABT season to see how they look after a few Kirov's.

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April 15, 2008

Ekaterina Kondaurova: BIG RED TRIUMPHANT!

(But first a message from The Program: Igor Zelensky to partner Uliana Lopatkina in Saturday night's Ballet Imperial)

The Forsythe program was a joy that turned into bliss in the concluding In the Middle..., that was highly elevated by a commanding Ekaterina Kondaurova. In the middle of the piece Big Red and Mikhail Lobukhin danced a duet that demands that these two dance the Agon pretzel. She is so precisely loose, limbs of grandeur, reaching so high that one would like to think she's in contact with Mr. B. She fills this stage, would fill the Met's, and even Madison Square Garden. Later, the ballet ends with her partner meeting Prima Tereshkina for the final PdD. But the lone Ekaterina lurks in the shadows, rear stage left, watching... Even as the sublime Viktoria and powerful Mikhail demand attention, the eye cannot avoid watching that dangerous red feline, lurking, planning, in the near dark. It is ending. Ekaterina approaches center stage as just in time Viktoria leads her partner off, to stage right. Kondaurova commands. The curtain falls, ovations and cheers begin. Numerous curtain calls, the greatest roars of all for Our Big Red.

In all, the company really impressed tonight. First Diana Vishneva, serious yet glowing in Steptext, surrounded by the male triumvirate that she'd brought on her Beauty tour. One might have imagined her married to Igor Kolb, yet when she became attracted to the two young men, her look changed. That of a lightly romantic fling, with Alexandr Sergeev, then, with Mr. Lobukhin, she let go control a little as he swept her off her feet to exit stage left. However, she was soon back to Mr. Kolb, a little wiser and a little happier. Sorry, but I needed a story, as the butchering of Bach was painful, the early silence with house lights full on, seeming to confuse some ushers who were unsure, still letting folks in. Ms. Kondaurova will dance this in the last two performances.

After intermission, a pair. First Approximate Sonata that began with wretched music that seemed to want to ape Bjork, but without her intelligence or voice. Andrey Ivanov had to make some sour faces, then his partner Elena Sheshina came out to brighten him up a bit. They talked, her voice off stage. (Later they would end the piece, talking again as she worked out some choreographic issues.) Then Ryu Ji Yeon brought a lot of charm in her duet with Sergey Popov. But what made this dance worth seeing was Yana Selina and Anton Pimonov. In their duet she suddenly traces love circles skimming the floor's surface, toward him. I refer to the movement in Ashton's Dream that Diana Vishneva directed toward Oberon in her ABT triumph, signaling that she would submit to love, if real and mature. Shortly Pimonov goes to stand rear center. She strikes a pose of incredible beauty, then with pure beauty dances off. Ekaterina Kondaurova (partnered by Maxim Zyuzin) is her grand and glorious self. But until her In the Middle..., it was the third couple (also fine in the last ballet) that gave my high point of the evening.

The second of the pair was The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, a fun, balletic piece with those famous pancake tutus, starring Elena Androsova, Olesia Novikova, and Ekaterina Osmolkina. The two guys were Leonid Sarafanov and Andrian Fadeev. This was splendid, but it is almost cheating, using such glorious music (finale of Schubert's 9th).

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I’m just back from the Forsythe program, too. I saw this program a year or 2 ago in DC and my feelings about it haven’t changed. I didn’t really care for the first 2 pieces but I liked the last two - same as last time. Purely as choreography I find much of this material gets monotonous after awhile, I think I would prefer to see any one of these works on a mixed choreographic bill rather than an all Forsythe evening. I think I preferred Vertiginous Thrill & In the Middle because they were more dynamic than the first 2, and because they both got incredible performances- by Sarafanov & Fadeev in Vertiginous and from Tereshkina and yes - the star of the night, Big Red Kondaurova in In the Middle. I really feel badly singling these performers out because all the dancers were great tonight, and they looked so different from their normal classical selves but I can’t help it....

I have always loved Vertiginous and Androsova, Novikova (subbing for Gonchar) and Osmolkina were all beautiful whirlwinds but Sarafanov & Fadeev were the highlight. Such incredible virtuosity from both of them. Fast forward to In the Middle where Tereshkina & Kondaurova were like ravenous lionesses. Kondaurova especially is just incredible here, stretching her long limbs every possible way with such sculptural beauty. She is astounding in this, can’t wait to see her in the Balanchine. I also thought Sergeev was really impressive in In the Middle. In Steptext we saw what a wonderful partner he can be but he really came into his own in In the Middle with a beautiful, lyrical quality that was surprising to see in Forsythe.

BTW- tonight’s playbill contains updated & full casting for the rest of the season. In addition to the Zelensky Alert -

The only changes to the Forsythe program are: Tereshkina replaces Golb in all performances of In the Middle

On Wednesday Alexey Nedviga replaces Pimonov in Appx Sonata

On Thursday Kolb replaces Pimonov in Steptext, Selina replaces Petushkova and Pimonov replaces Nedviga in Appx Sonata

Balanchine program casting:

Fri

Serenade

Walse-Somova & Korsuntsev

Russian: Osmolkina

Dark Angel: Kondaurova (hooray!)

Elegia: Sergeev

Rubies - Vishneva, Fadeev, Kondaurova, Pimonov,Nedviga,Khrebtov, Shcherbakov

Ballet Imperial: Tereshkina, Kolb,Osmolkina,Shklyarov, Zyuzin,Selina, Ivanova

Sat Mat

Serenade

Walse-Osmolkina & Ivanchenko

Russian: Gonchar

Dark Angel: Kondaurova

Elegia: Sergeev

Rubies - Tereshkina, Korsakov, Gonchar, Pimonov,Nedviga,Khrebtov, Shcherbakov

Ballet Imperial: Somova, Shklyarov,Novikova, Sergeev, Zyuzin,Selina, Ivanova

Sat eve

Serenade

Walse-Kondaurova & Korsuntsev

Russian: Osmolkina

Dark Angel: Vasnetsova

Elegia: Sergeev

Rubies - Somova, Sarafanov, Gonchar, Pimonov,Nedviga,Khrebtov, Shcherbakov

Ballet Imperial: Lopatkina, Zelensky, Novikova, Sergeev, Zyuzin,Selina, Ivanova

Sun Mat

Serenade

Walse-Tereshkina, Ivanchenko

Russian: Gonchar

Dark Angel: Kondaurova

Elegia: Sergeev

Rubies - Novikova, Shklyarov, Kondaurova, Pimonov,Nedviga,Khrebtov, Shcherbakov

Ballet Imperial: Vishneva, Fadeev, Osmolkina, Shklyarov, Zyuzin,Selina, Ivanova

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Thanks for the reviews of the Forsythes, which I'm skipping this time around...have seen in StP, London & DC. Very happy to read that (apparently) Andrei Ivanov is back after a multi-month convalescence from an injury. I'm particularly delighted to continue to read about BIG RED's triumphs...as that 1980s commercial tune rings in my head...kiss a little longer - stay fresh a little longer - longer with Big Red. Well, everything is definitely longer (balances, extensions, etc.) with our BIG RED.

Just saw on the RTR Planeta cable-TV station (which we get in the USA) that the Golden Mask Award for best 'new' ballet in 2007 in Russia went to the Kirov-Mariinsky's reconstruction of FLORA's AWAKENING...the ballet that we were supposed to have seen at City Center last week until it was cancelled a couple of months ago! [We got the CORSAIRE Highlights instead, hardly an equal substitute to a complete 50-minute ballet involving over 100 dancers + animals...ughhhh.] Sergei Vikharev also won a Golden Mask for Best Choreographer of a Ballet for his work reconstructing FLORA.

Now I am triple-frustrated that FLORA is not being toured anywhere outside of Russia. Perhaps to the Kennedy Center in 2010?

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I also attended the April 13th matinee. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ll make this brief. “Chopiana” was even more beautiful than when I saw it at the April 5th matinee. I love ABT, but I don’t think I’ll ever see their “Les Slyphides” again without comparing it negatively to the Kirov’s “Chopiana”. Naomikage was exactly right when she posted last week that this ballet took her away to a deep forest. And maybe this is just my opinion, but I much preferred Yevgeny Ivanchenko’s Poet to that of Danila Kortsuntsev whom I saw in the part on April 5th. Ivanchenko was not only a wonderful partner, but he had wonderful leaps and great soft landings.

With regard to “La Spectre De La Rose” I’m not sure who I saw as the young girl. The program said Nadezhda Gonchar, but I swear it was Yalina Selina whom I saw in the part on April 5th. Does anyone know for sure who danced this part at the April 13th matinee?

I’m so used to seeing ABT and New York Ballet, and I know most of their dancers by sight – certainly all the principals and soloists and many of the corps as well. It’s strange seeing a company where I only know a few dancers. (But if the Kirov could come back to New York every year, then I’d get to know their dancers better. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that could happen?) But whoever danced the young girl, she was really wonderful – the epitome of the romantic ballerina. Igor Kolb was pretty good as the rose, but I preferred Anton Korsakov in the part. Not only were Korsakov’s leaps higher than Kolb’s, but Korsakov did wonderful multiple air turns. Kolb only did pirouettes (I hope my ballet terms are correct.) I don’t mean to be picky about this, but Kolb just didn’t live up to my expectations of how the part should be danced.

Diana Vishneva was wonderful as the “Dying Swan”, but I was more moved by Lopatkina’s performance in the same part. I greatly admired Vishneva’s swan, but Lopatkina’s swan brought me to tears.

And I really really really really loved "Etudes”. All right so it’s not a serious piece of artistry, but it’s such a fun ballet. And yes there are a lot of balletic tricks. But if these tricks are carried off (and they were), then you have a really exciting ballet (in my opinion anyway). The entire cast was great, but Somova and Sarafanov really stood out. Other posters have described their performances much better than I ever could. Somova was fantastic, but Sarafanov was one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen Barysnikov, Cornejo, Corella, Woetzl, Ulbricht. In fact Sarafanov may be better than those dancers I just listed except for maybe Barysnikov. I’d love to see him dance more often, but it doesn’t seem like the Kirov will return to New York for quite a few years (at least that’s what an article in Playbill said). Well, at least I’m going to one more performance (the April 20th matinee), although unfortunately I won’t be seeing Sarafanov at that performance.

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I also attended the April 13th matinee. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ll make this brief. “Chopiana” was even more beautiful than when I saw it at the April 5th matinee. I love ABT, but I don’t think I’ll ever see their “Les Slyphides” again without comparing it negatively to the Kirov’s “Chopiana”. Naomikage was exactly right when she posted last week that this ballet took her away to a deep forest. And maybe this is just my opinion, but I much preferred Yevgeny Ivanchenko’s Poet to that of Danila Kortsuntsev whom I saw in the part on April 5th. Ivanchenko was not only a wonderful partner, but he had wonderful leaps and great soft landings.

With regard to “La Spectre De La Rose” I’m not sure who I saw as the young girl. The program said Nadezhda Gonchar, but I swear it was Yalina Selina whom I saw in the part on April 5th. Does anyone know for sure who danced this part at the April 13th matinee?

I’m so used to seeing ABT and New York Ballet, and I know most of their dancers by sight – certainly all the principals and soloists and many of the corps as well. It’s strange seeing a company where I only know a few dancers. (But if the Kirov could come back to New York every year, then I’d get to know their dancers better. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that could happen?) But whoever danced the young girl, she was really wonderful – the epitome of the romantic ballerina. Igor Kolb was pretty good as the rose, but I preferred Anton Korsakov in the part. Not only were Korsakov’s leaps higher than Kolb’s, but Korsakov did wonderful multiple air turns. Kolb only did pirouettes (I hope my ballet terms are correct.) I don’t mean to be picky about this, but Kolb just didn’t live up to my expectations of how the part should be danced.

Diana Vishneva was wonderful as the “Dying Swan”, but I was more moved by Lopatkina’s performance in the same part. I greatly admired Vishneva’s swan, but Lopatkina’s swan brought me to tears.

And I really really really really loved "Etudes”. All right so it’s not a serious piece of artistry, but it’s such a fun ballet. And yes there are a lot of balletic tricks. But if these tricks are carried off (and they were), then you have a really exciting ballet (in my opinion anyway). The entire cast was great, but Somova and Sarafanov really stood out. Other posters have described their performances much better than I ever could. Somova was fantastic, but Sarafanov was one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen Barysnikov, Cornejo, Corella, Woetzl, Ulbricht. In fact Sarafanov may be better than those dancers I just listed except for maybe Barysnikov. I’d love to see him dance more often, but it doesn’t seem like the Kirov will return to New York for quite a few years (at least that’s what an article in Playbill said). Well, at least I’m going to one more performance (the April 20th matinee), although unfortunately I won’t be seeing Sarafanov at that performance.

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What I did - and I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner! - is go to the Mariinsky's website. They have bios - in English - of all the dancers (except for the corps, unfortunately), with headshots. Now I know who I'm watching!

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/ballet/soloist

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I tried to get in several times at the beginning of the City Center run, Adam, but the site seemed to be down.

Maybe they were closed until they made the personnel changes on the website that were just posted here in the last few days.

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I just saw the Thursday night Forsythe program. I'd never seen Kondaurova before, but holy moly! What a dancer! No matter what she's doing, she just grabs the stage. Perhaps it's the ease with which she can move her body into all of those Forsythian contortions or how expressive she makes every gesture, but whatever it is, she has the IT factor. Every time she exited the stage, I couldn't wait for her to get back on again. I can't wait to see her tomorrow in the Balanchine program.

It was interesting seeing the Kirov dance Forsythe too. They bring a legato, continuous quality to the work that sometimes work, and sometimes doesn't work for this choreography. But how they can express their gloriously long lines even in this work. The first time Kondaurova just stretched her arms out in the beginning of Steptext was like putting the audience on alert. I also loved Yana Selina in Approximate Sonata, and Victoria Tereshkina more than held her own against Kondaurova in In the middle, dancing the Sylvie Guillem role. Both Kondaurova and Tereshkina were really going for it in In the middle.

Vertiginous fell flat for me, which is curious because I would think that the dancers would be most at home in a work that's the closest to the classical rep they're going to get from Forsythe. It wasn't for the want of technique, but rather contrast in energy level. Everything seemed up all the time, and there wasn't a contrast in the phrasing.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a slightly larger body amongst all those skinny girls. Elena Sheshina however had plenty of technique and expressiveness, and it didn't really matter what size she is.

It's also my first time in NYC, and I was half gawking at all these famous ballet celebrities (like Sofiane Sylve) who were in attendance!

--Andre

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I ran into two Russians this afternoon, an architect who lives and works here and his female friend who was introduced as a former dancer and music producer of chamber concerts. Whatever. So asked if they had seen the Kirov here in NYC and both rolled their eyes and then said that the Kirov is now all about atheleticism and showmanship and it the company is nothing like its former self. They seemed very disappointed in the the "run" here at CC. That was sort of odd.

Having no reference I just shrugged my shoulders and said I hoped to see more of the company but perhaps on a larger stage with the full company.

What was the former Mariinsky like as opposed to what they are today?

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If you replace "Russian" with "New Yorker" and "Kirov" with "NYCB", that story would still be true. :(

--Andre

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... I'd never seen Kondaurova before, but holy moly! What a dancer! No matter what she's doing, she just grabs the stage. Perhaps it's the ease with which she can move her body into all of those Forsythian contortions or how expressive she makes every gesture, but whatever it is, she has the IT factor. Every time she exited the stage, I couldn't wait for her to get back on again. I can't wait to see her tomorrow in the Balanchine program...

--Andre

Yes, Andre, it has been that way since opening night. She owns us!

While Diana Vishneva excelled in delineating her different personas with each of her partners in Tuesday's Steptext (but then what I most love in her dancing is her mind), Kondaurova was simply overpowering. She must know by now that she is an Event in NYC, and her dancing oozes confidence, joy, and complicity with her audience. The Act II pair of ballets did not grow on second viewing, but the finale, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, again dominated the program. Viktoria Tereshkina even surpassed her Tuesday performance, and Albrecht Sergeev also stood out. But it was that battle for Mikhail Lobukhin between Viktoria and Ekaterina Kondaurova that stands as one of the major high points of this visit.

Just curious, is Big Red Kondaurova this great and so loved at The Mariinsky Theater? For our Balanchine taste, valuing dancing full-out, fearless, and fetching, she's a real Farrell/Bouder fix!

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Wow. Just goes to show. I didn't dislike her, but didn't think much of her in In the Middle; I was more interested in Tereshkina.

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Hugely frustrating is looking on the Mariinsky website and finding that the hair color of almost none of the dancers matches the photos. Corrections to any id's I've made or clues to whom I've seen would be greatly appreciated.

The program said that Tereshkina and Kondaurova were the leads in "in the middle, somewhat elevated," but there was a strawberry blond with French braids and a woman with darker hair pulled up, but with the short ends hanging, not in a bun. The latter's hair looked somewhat like the color of the woman who danced "Steptext" (listed as Kondaurova), but the strawberry blond dancer had a more open and animated face than Tereshkina does in the photo.

The strawberry blond had a lot of snap to her movements. The darker-haired woman had a lot of energy in the last gnarly pas de deux. But both were very leggy dancers, and I was trying to figure out what was missing, since "in the middle" didn't have the softer, politer quality that nearly all of the dancers showed in the other three works, where, for the most part, the placement was centered and careful, even if the deliberateness wasn't exaggerated in the "now I point my foot and you watch" way. There's an approach common to the dancers, where while the pelvis is the source of the movement, it and the abdomen becomes invisible, with the emphasis on the legs and feet and then upward in the back, neck, and arms. The tendency to have a blank in the middle made the men look chaste. Apart from "Steptext," where watching the movement ripple through their arms and back like no other company in the world -- viscerally thrilling -- and Kolb's (I think it was he) atypically unrounded movement, they didn't really register for me.

For "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," this was fine for the ballerinas in their pie plate tutus. If the website is of any help, it was Ekaterina Osmolkina who shone in this piece, the woman who did the third female solo, towards the end of which the lights went out for a good 10 seconds. (At first I thought Forsythe, who is credited with the lighting, was being perverse, but it happened again during the curtain calls.) She did every movement to the fullest and never looked rushed, while the other two women danced well, but not with the amazing ease that Osmolkina showed.

The exception was Elena Sheshina, both in "Approximate Sonata" and "in the middle..." and what an exception: shorter, with a wide muscular back, relatively wide hips, girth -- she didn't disappear turning sideways -- and breasts. Apart from having slender calves, she is the type of dancer that Mark Morris would hire in a heartbeat. I wondered whether Forsythe had sent a ringer to join the Kirov dancers, because here was one where the energy radiated from the pelvis in both directions and through the abdomen into the back and chest. Other dancers did movements, some of the them breathtaking, but Sheshina not only made shapes, but she transformed them into new ones. She was also the only dancer who "got" the sharp contrast between full throttle and stop, and walk off to the side, like in rehearsal. She was phenomenal.

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Strawberry blonde = Kondaurova.

Dark hair = Tereshkina.

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..... is Big Red Kondaurova this great and so loved at The Mariinsky Theater?

Yes, Kondaurova is now admired but she has had to rehabilitate herself, in the local public's eye, from the early years when she was somewhat mocked due to her links with a wealthy patron who used to, for example, send her huge bouquets presented on the stage even when she was dancing demi-solo roles...with the leading ballerina getting the smaller bouquet. [Not gossip -- this is absolute fact.] It created an embarrassment in her first year or two in the company, so early leading roles (like Nikiya & Medora) did not remain in her repertoire.

Fast-forward 4-5 years....

The fact is that Big Red is beautiful, naturally talented and has now EARNED -- the old fashioned way -- her place and our admiration.

I am truly looking forward to seeing Big Red and her colleagues in the three final performances of the run. Her "tall girl" in Rubies should be a special delight.

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Strawberry blonde = Kondaurova.

Dark hair = Tereshkina.

But she wasn't strawberry blond in "Steptext" -- her hair looked darker red in that piece. How did she do that by two intermissions later?

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The make up and wigs and so forth allows these dancers to look almost nothing like their head shots on the web site. I would never recognize Viktoria Tereshkina on the street after seeing her on stage. hahahaha Isn't that the point?

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In classical ballet, I wouldn't think twice. But Forsythe is the one place I'd expect them to go wigless.

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The lighting has a lot to do with it. For ex, our favorite hyper-flexible dancer's hair looked bright-lemony-yellow in Paquita and more ashen (toned down) in Bayadere Shades.

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Kondaurova's hair looked red to me last night, too. It was telling the difference between Novikova and Tereshkina that had me scratching my head for a while.

Helene, I also noticed that the dancers were dancing In the middle with quite a bit more energy and daring to go off-balance a lot more, though Kondaurova was fantastic in Steptext. It was Osmolkina who was dancing her solo when the lights went out.

BTW, if anyone's attending the Friday Balanchine, I'd love to say hi and put some faces to screennames. Is there a spot in the lobby where people usually gather? I'm flying home Saturday morning, so that will be my only chance to say hi.

--Andre

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