Natalia

Kirov Tour of USA, Fall '08

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OK, so i'm confused whether this should be here or on the recent ballet performances forum :)

I got to see the Tuesday and Wednesday nights of 'Program A':

Raymonda (Act III)

La Bayadère (Act III, or 'Kindgom of the Shades'), and

Paquita (Grand Pas)

Raymonda was danced by Irma Nioradze, Yevgeny Ivanchenko, and Vladimir Ponomarev in the leads. The dancing was generally crisp, even if somewhat constrained by the confines of the small Zellerbach stage ...a lot of good dancing, some very good dancing, impressive jumps by Ivanchenko, and not much else as, well, nothing really happens—particularly removed from the dramatic context of the first two acts.

La Bayadère was next. As a ramp was not arranged for somehow, the corps made its entrance from an opening in the curtain at the back of stage centre, and (due to the tight stage) we only had twenty-four (rather than the customary thirty-two) shades... these two issues detracted from what i think is one of the greatest ballet scenes. But somehow the Mariinsky still managed to give us the magic of that piece... except for *one* dancer who wobbled noticeably and repeatedly, the corps was beautiful, tender, and dream-like... and then Leonid Sarafanov's Solor made his entrance, followed shortly by the appearance at the back right corner of Alina Somova's Nikiya...

[pause to put my flame-proof suit on]

...and la Somova proceeded to impress and dazzle. Her dancing was, at once lyrical and powerful... in the first adagio, her jumps into Solor left me momentarily breathless: full of abandonment, yet softened by passion. Sarafanov's dancing was outstanding and flowing, attaining amazing height on his jumps and executing all those lifts seemingly effortlessly (let's remember he's quite minute). In summary, a very electric yet dreamy 'Shades'. It made me decide on the spot to come back wednesday.

Last was Paquita, with Viktoria Tereshkina, Andrian Fadeev and la Somova (again) on the small lead role. Tereshkina danced very well, and virtually flawlessly—if uni-dimensionally... if she has many colours in her palette, she left them in the dressing rooms and showed us only bright and brilliant. Oddly, it was la Somova who provided the contrast with a lyrical and soft touch in her very short variation. Sadly, one of the choryphees or soloists (not sure who it was), somewhat over-rotated and fell toward the end of her variation... Fadeev was amazing to watch, particularly on his lifts.

In summary, an enjoyable evening of ballet... where much of the magic came from an unexpected source :blushing:

...will post my impressions of night two and la Vishneva later.

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Since i haven't been to CA to watch in person (can be sure), i was still very much disgusted by the NASTIEST review by Rachel Howard at SF Chronicle (she only praised Somova (omg ;-(( and Sarafanov)...
...um, I'll have to look it up.

Though to be fair, I was there, and la Somova was one of the few bright spots of the night :o

I posted my thoughts here.

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You're right about Tereshkina's performance--really good technically, but when I saw her dance on the 14th it felt like a "done by the numbers" performance--it wasn't the strong, passionate performance by her as Kitri in Don Quixote about a week earlier as some here have reported.

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Night Two:

As night two's Raymonda had listed the same cast, we decided to arrive fashionably late and skip it :P ...all the more to enjoy a promising 'Shades', what with Ivanchenko and la Vishneva.

Things started as the night before (including the same wobbling girl) until Nikiya's appearance. From that point on, the experiences diverged... having dazzled her Solor (and much of the audience) with her mere appearance, Vishneva then retreated to subdued, tentative dancing... in the beautiful andantino following their entrance she and Ivanchenko seemed to just go thru the motions, with very little rapport between them. Her dancing became more assured in the following adagio, with the precision and softness I'm accustomed to seeing, but with little of the feeling. Ivanchenko's Solor never got over his bedazzlement over seeing his Nikiya and just moved thru his variations without inspiration. Vishneva saved her best for last—for the twenty or so breathtaking seconds that it took her to dance, with all her heart and soul, her finale diagonal. The three shades were Yulia Kanskova, Tatiana Tkachenko, and Daria Vasnetsova. They danced beautifully both nights.

For Paquita, we were intrigued by the prospect of seeing Somova and la Tereshkina in switched roles (the only other cast change being Anton Korsakov in the male role). As it turns out, with more stage time and no dramatic constraints to worry about, la Somova's mannerisms and exaggerations became more pronounced than they had been the night before. Still, she showed a greater range of colours than la Tereshkina had, and in her last variation she reeled off fouetté after fouetté (including a handful of doubles) with hardly any travel (unlike la Tereshkina the night before). As for la Tereshkina, her brief variation was a good change of pace for her, if a tad too brief to convince that she is more than a bravura ballerina. Korsakov was not quite as clean as Fadeev had been, but was good.

Bubelnikov conducted the orchestra, which, as usual, played exceptionally well, even if the brass were a tad on the blaring side in Paquita (specially on their entries in the Adagio). Ludmilla Tchaikovskaya's violin solos in Bayadère were sublime :rofl:

...so this may prove to be an unpopular viewpoint here on BT, but in my opinion la Somova clearly outperformed Tereshkina, and by a smaller margin, la Vishneva herself. What does this mean about the current state of things at the Mariinsky? Good question... perhaps those of you seeing Don Quixote this weekend can shed some light. I doubt i will be attending... but one never knows.

As an aside, after the performance, it was a treat to see Ms. Vishneva at my favourite North Berkely haunt. She made quite an entrance, beautifully clad in a black sheer blouse and a bright red pashmina ...channeling Kitri maybe? :o

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THe difference between Lopatkina and Somova seems to be temperamental to come from within; Lopatkina creates a mysterious world, and carves her images very carefully, with attention to every facet of the positions she ossupies whilte she's dancing so as to let those who can imagine what kind of soul she must have, to take such infintie pains, may apreciate her rich inner world. Perhaps a different coach could temper Somova's waywardness -- but she does not have Lopatkina's control, whether or not she wants it. Her fouettes were wild, her spot has a peculiar glitch in it, the chin does something strange. Her chaines were a whirlwind but they were out of control. She does not really know where her body is -- though she has determination in abundance and seems able to will herself through to the end. It's, to quote Allen greenspan, an irrational exuberance.know she will wow the crowd. Somova thrusts herself upon us -- she reminds me of Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.

Nioradze, though.... Well, she CAN do the steps,

but they're not HARD. THey just have to be done with the right feeling and style, which requires taste, and she has not a clue. Raymonda is very far from being temparamentally appropriate for her.

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THe difference between Lopatkina and Somova is temperamental and comes from within; Lopatkina creates a mysterious world, and carves her images very carefully, with attention to every facet of the positions she ossupies whilte she's dancing so as to let those who can imagine what kind of soul she must have, to take such infintie pains, may apreciate her rich inner world. Somova thrusts herself upon us -- she reminds me of Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.

Nioradze, though.... Well, she can do the steps, but -- they're not HARD. THey just have to be done with the right feeling and style, for which she has not a clue. Raymonda is very far from being temparamentally appropriate for her.

Your description of Ulyana Lopatkina is probably one good reason why many Russians call her the "Soul of Russia," whatever that means. You can see that REALLY clearly in her performances of "The Dying Swan" and in the Odette role in Swan Lake in the way she does every body move, which at times makes you feel like you're watching a real swan in action.

Gawd, I wished I was at the Mariinsky International Ballet Festival back in March 2008 so I could have compared Lopatkina, Tereshkina, and Vishneva as Odette/Odile live. :o

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THe difference between Lopatkina and Somova seems to be temperamental to come from within; Lopatkina creates a mysterious world, and carves her images very carefully, with attention to every facet of the positions she ossupies whilte she's dancing so as to let those who can imagine what kind of soul she must have, to take such infintie pains, may apreciate her rich inner world.

DearPaul Parish,

As to Lopatkina creating a mysterious world, I too have experienced this. For me however, she is unable to completely sustain her best achievements throughout a full length ballet.

It would appear to me, that the Kirov company is fully aware of her marketable value and has in the past tended to concentrate on particular the aspects of her technical achievement that astound audiences from a purely physical point of view. I have however never felt I have seen a complete performance from her, in either Swan Lake or Bayadere with their contrasting acts.

In the white acts her technical control is extraordinary with a purity of movement only marred by the occasional lapse of the appropriate aesthetic for a 19th century ballet. I do of course refer to the use of hyper-extended arabesques, more appropriate to a gymnastic display or certain modern dance choreography.

A few years ago having watched Lopatkina in the white act of Swan Lake I said to my companions I think I am going to leave now as

although I felt her somewhat on another plain to many other dancers, the flow and concentration of her performance was for me mesmerising and I might not enjoy the black act. I stayed and I was wrong to stay as I ended up questioning the whole aesthetics of Lopatkina dancing the role of Odette/Odile. I realised I had been mesmerised by the technical control and her kind of physical beauty.

Where, was the Odette who grieved for her mother and her situation? I think the appeal I had at first experienced was due to a kind of hypnotic narcissism that inhabited her performance in the creation of beautiful poses and her very slow control of movement.

When technique and physicality of any dancer is too visible, they have failed as an interpretative artist and failed the art they serve.

There is an aesthetic canon for the performance of 19th century ballet that is valid for all time. The value of such canons, have been revealed quite explicitly today in the authentic style performance of Baroque music in the concert hall and the opera house.

Such a canon exists in the choreography of Balanchine and Grigorovich which is not transferable to 19th century ballet as the aesthetic is completely different.

Without the understanding and appreciation of past performing style and the reasonable presentation of it today in ballet, we end up watching a corruption of what we should be watching.

I am sure someone will say that great dancers create their own Canon and that is very rarely the case. In my experience their adopted style does not cut across the 19th century aesthetic as

Lopatkina can with the continuous use of a 6 o’clock or on occasion a 5 to 6 o’clock arabesque penchee.

I believe that there is a very strong case to be made, that female dancers in Petipa ballets, should not exceed 5’4” in height(most leading dancers of at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century were shorter) and if they do, they really have no place in the performing of Petipa classics. Tall dancers frequently have a problem of dancing with the correct weight of execution, shape to be achieved in particular steps and the brilliance appropriate to the choreography. Failures in these matters debase both the choreography and the appropriate performing style.

I know that people in general are taller now than a hundred years ago, but you do not today cast against the ‘aesthetic’ type in the operas of, Gluck, Mozart, Cherubini or Bellini simply because we are living in a different era. You just cast appropriately to the requirements of the work.

What is the problem with employing dancers that only fit the appropriate aesthetic? By nature of physique, tall dancers because of their physical attainment, to my eyes rarely avoid the look of being an athlete in certain steps and movements.

In the case of Lopatkina and Zakharova (both tall dancers) who can exhibit fluent and impressive technique in music played adagio or moderato, they can both however lose their precision in dancing allegro, especially where the complexity of steps choreographed exists. When this occurs, that essential of academic classical ballet, the continuous flow of movement that Karsavina once talked about, becomes lost

Leonid

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Somova thrusts herself upon us -- she reminds me of Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.
What a wonderful comparison, Paul. I can visualize your point immediately. Not having seen Somova on stage, I found myself applying "Lydia Bennet type" to a couple of other ballerinas I've seen over the years. :flowers:

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Somova thrusts herself upon us -- she reminds me of Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.
What a wonderful comparison, Paul. I can visualize your point immediately. Not having seen Somova on stage, I found myself applying "Lydia Bennet type" to a couple of other ballerinas I've seen over the years. :flowers:

I was trying to find a description of Somova, and "Lydia Bennet" is perfect! Thank you Paul!

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