kirovboy

Alina Somova

217 posts in this topic

So her distortions are acceptable in Diamonds...?

Yes. Her distortions, incidents of technical seppuku, bent wrists, petrified fingers, failure to point toes, sickled feet, fudged steps, flexnastics, improvisation, footlight flirting, are acceptable in the ballets they've given to her.

At the moment, Lopatkina is the best and most active Diamond in the company (after Dasha Pavlenko IMO), who unfortunately is injured. Uliana would be the Diamond to send to Milan but she doesn't guest. Uliana stands at 5"9, so it would be impossible for her to find partners unless Danila Korsuntsev came with her. So, Vaziev requests and gets his protégée and Sarafanov.

The mentality is "no one else can do it but her." Fateev has one injured Principal, who when she's healthy is totally ignored and rarely cast (Pavlenko), two who are chronically inactive (Makhalina and Nioradze), one who makes infrequent appearances at home and is guest to the world (Vishneva), and one who averages 1-2 performances a month (Lopatkina). Besides 1st Soloists Kolegova and Matvienko, the classical rep is divided between Somova, Lopatkina, and Tereshkina, with other 1st and 2nd Soloists making occaisional appearances in roles, in many cases seasons apart. Tereshkina isn't considered a "major player" (yet), so Alina gets the nod.

Lidewij wrote:

She was the lead in 'Paquita' in the new years' performance that was broadcast on Arte, and that may end up on DVD.

Probably. I think that was the rationale for casting her: More exposure. But "Paquita" is a showpiece divertissement, not a full-length. Personally, I still think it's a miracle that she wasn't O/O in their most recent "Lake" dvd. That dvd was Maestro Gergiev's project; he conducted that live performance and his name is on the box along with Uliana's and Danila's. To this day, I believe if it wasn't his project and he wasn't conducting, it could've been Alina as the Swan Queen instead of a Big Swan. Vaziev was still the ballet director, and she was in heavy rotation at that time.

Helene wrote:

The silver lining in that broadcast is Tereshkina's Nikiya.

I agree Helene. Vika was sublime, and Katya Kondaurova delivered the Petersburg platinum standard/5 star performance in "Paquita."

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Here's an idea: Mariinsky stars, in times past and present, have had a history of rebelling against the famously dictatorial, top-down management style. It's not really gossip -- stars have complained about being cruelly treated, poorly paid, restricted in their repertoire, and being worked to exhaustion. It's kind of always been like this too, from the days of Petipa onwards. But historically so many Mariinsky stars have left the nest either by guesting extensively or flat-out defecting to other companies/countries. But this can only happen if the star is talented enough to build a fanbase abroad. Perhaps the Mariinsky management likes/needs a Somova-type? In other words, a house ballerina who's willing to dance as often as possible, but without risk of defecting elsewhere or rebelling against management.

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I don't hate her in this [Diamonds pdd]. It's a lot better than I expected, musically, nad I have nothing wrong with her lines. The promenade in passe is beautiful, much of it is in fact beautiful, the "Diana shooting hte arrow"poses are well-considered.

She's not Lopatkina or Farrell, the musicality isn't wonderful. But this role was built with very high extensions in the first place, and her clarity in extension is quite acceptable.

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The amateur video -- shot as it is from above -- seems to exaggerate the effect of Samova's hyperextended knees and very long, very thin arms.

I am no expert but I have never seen a performance of Diamonds like this. It's like something danced underwater. The movement qualities I am used to have been altered as though by the force of invisible currents. I found myself thinking of the way sea grasses and delicate tentacled animals move in films of coral reefs. Some of it is nice but the whole strikes me as essentially aimless.

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I don't hate her in this [Diamonds pdd]. It's a lot better than I expected, musically, nad I have nothing wrong with her lines. The promenade in passe is beautiful, much of it is in fact beautiful, the "Diana shooting hte arrow"poses are well-considered.

She's not Lopatkina or Farrell, the musicality isn't wonderful. But this role was built with very high extensions in the first place, and her clarity in extension is quite acceptable.

This was more or less my reaction. Without thinking this was a great Diamonds, I found the video far from "nasty" (as one viewer above did), though I could not quite put an analysis into words.

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But this role was built with very high extensions in the first place, and her clarity in extension is quite acceptable.

Paul, but what really shocks me about Somova is not quite the showing of her hyper extended limbs...(actually I think Zakharova abuses the trick way beyond Somova)-but rather how distorted her hyper extensions are...(which I have to recognize I don't feel with Zakharova). I mean, I'm not an expert or anything on "lines", but c'mon...this girl's limbs look like they have a life of their own...a very disorganized one, IMO...

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Somova doesn't look like ballerina material in this video to me. She looks student-like.

Like the later "Chaconne", in "Diamonds" Balanchine emphasized Farrell walking, especially the feet, which Farrell could make sing. I blanched at Somova's tendu front. I don't know what music she was listening to.

That said, her arms were quite lovely in places, although that did not compensate for energy, dynamics, and musicality.

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I agree with Bart's characterization of this watery Diamonds: it's not Diamonds at all. 80% of her gestures are in italics - "emphasis mine" she's saying. It's ok to be elastic with time with Balanchine, but not with rubbery and rococo gestures. And what must her Giselle be like!

Oh, yes Cygnet, Daria Pavlenko was great in Diamonds here in the SF Bay Area several years ago - with Danila Korsuntsev - very measured and classical.

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Pavlenko was indeed mesmerizing in hte adagio -- I remember the feeling that I was looking deep into her eyes all the way through. She is so poetic, so deep, and as a woman, she's very beautiful. I was struck by how much she looked like hte young Elizabeth Taylor. She was weak in hte scherzo, though.

Me, I'm not crazy about DIamonds; I find Farrell's performance on the "Dance in America" video not very interesting. I never saw her doit live, and i'm sure that was a very different story. But I wasn't there and didn't see it. Kyra Nichols was marvellous when I saw her live.

julie Diana danced it here with SFB, very like Pavlenko -- huge eyes, deep pools of melancholy, beautiful performance. Sarah van Patten is tremendous in hte role, almost like Lopatkina, who is by far my favorite -- with Lopatkina, I find the phrasing astonishes me, the whole thing is cryptic and mysterious to the highest degree and every moment is a surprise.

But the performers who've bored me in it are legion. I won't mention any names.

i don't find Somova boring. QUite the opposite, she has star quality, her very fine-boned limbs etch a very vivid line. She seems coltish and very young, she seems younger than she actually is, which is EXCELLENT for Balanchine. Though she's not fascinating, she makes a case for this ballet that it's kinda Melisand-ish, which carries over the echoes of Faure's music that I find very pronounced, so the echoes of Emeralds in the honr-calls all make it feel like some frail moon-child girl is trapped in a tower in hte forest somewhere, and Somova can evoke these romance-heropine qualities by her spectral pale thin-ness and her fey qualities. I think she's much better as a moonlit creature than as say kitri (which she danced here in Berkeley, unconvincingly) or Odette, which calls for gravitas....

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I am no expert but I have never seen a performance of Diamonds like this. It's like something danced underwater. The movement qualities I am used to have been altered as though by the force of invisible currents. I found myself thinking of the way sea grasses and delicate tentacled animals move in films of coral reefs. Some of it is nice but the whole strikes me as essentially aimless.

This is one of the two big problems I have with Somova in this video. Perhaps first is the quality of her movement itself, which seems to me very , very strange, and not very good at all. Like with some other dancers today, I don't see a strong, beautiful sense of movement, instead I see transitions from one pose to another. And here's my second problem, Somova looks amateurish as she sets up these positions; so it's not necessarily the extreme extensions themselves (as others have pointed out, not so inappropriate here) and the resultant distorians but the way she thrusts her limbs into position in an often jerky manner.

As Bart noted, she seems to be moving underwater. I would think if this video were slowed down it would look even stranger.

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Paul Parish:

Me, I'm not crazy about DIamonds; I find Farrell's performance on the "Dance in America" video not very interesting. I never saw her doit live, and i'm sure that was a very different story. But I wasn't there and didn't see it. Kyra Nichols was marvellous when I saw her live.

Nichols was great - and I thought the productions of Diamonds at City Ballet in the early nineties, the dark years, were quite amazing. Diamonds depends on great and dazzling counterpoint between the two leads - the 2007 Miami Herald rehearsal video of Deanna Seay, with Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez incisively sweeping across behind, showed this - it was much different than the larghissimo Farrell/Martins one, which is baroque but still interesting. Also brilliant counterpoint between leads and the corps and within the corps - at City Ballet everything came tumbling on the heels of everything else. It has to be done without much preparation - Octavio Roca points this out as the virtue of the Cuban approach to Balanchine, the last step or beat being the beginning of the first of the next phrase - or else the ballet loses its meaning.

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I've seen quite a lot of videos of Somova on youtube and interestingly I find her movement quality reminds me of another controversial Maryinsky ballerina: Galina Mezentseva.Same weird way of holding the arms and both super skinny physically. It's funny because like Somova, Mezentseva was a ballerina that many Westerners never "got", personally I have no idea why Mezentseva was such a star, she had a really weird way of moving, like her limbs were too long and her technique was not so strong.Maybe Somova is a throwback to Mezentseva, and that is why the Maryinsky management likes her, they also really loved Mezentseva.

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I've seen quite a lot of videos of Somova on youtube and interestingly I find her movement quality reminds me of another controversial Maryinsky ballerina: Galina Mezentseva.Same weird way of holding the arms and both super skinny physically. It's funny because like Somova, Mezentseva was a ballerina that many Westerners never "got", personally I have no idea why Mezentseva was such a star, she had a really weird way of moving, like her limbs were too long and her technique was not so strong.Maybe Somova is a throwback to Mezentseva, and that is why the Maryinsky management likes her, they also really loved Mezentseva.

Canary, you may be on to something with Mezentseva. I never saw Mezentseva live, only on videos, but I remained in the camp that never really got her. She was really admired and sort of actually adored by an awful lot of people so it remains a bit of a puzzling situation. But there are a lot of performers in a lot of different areas of performance (dancers, singers, actors, etc)that polarize their audiences so it's best to accept that sort of situation. It's really fairly common and the best approach is to agree to disagree.

But going back to Mezentseva, my beef with her was the way she moved. I never got (only on video) a really beautiful, striking quality of movement, just a transition from one pose to another. And the long , very thin , limbs didn't paint an attractive picture as they went from one position to the next. I find many of the current crop of MT dancers on the brittle side and, from videos anyway, it seems Mezentseva was the model for that kind of dancer. Now again, I try to be careful, what appears brittle and unlovely to me can seem just breathtaking to somewhat else with a different perspective. So it's good to be aware of that. This is how I try to think of these seemingly unresolvable differences in opinion.

I remember watching a video some years ago shot in St Pete. It juxtaposed the lead Kirov ballerina, mezentseva, rehearsing and performing bits of Swan Lake with the very young Altynai Asylmuratova who was coaching the same roles in preparation for her first performance (I may be a bit off on the details here). But what struck me was the difference between the two, Mezentseva with her long, brittle looking arms, carefully transitioning from one position to the next and the much less experienced Asylmuratova dancing some of the same bits with a beautiful, singing, graceful movement.

But yes, your post was a bit of an AHA moment for me. But let me also state that I find some very obvious differences between the two. Mezentseva seemed to have a much better schooling and technique than Somova in terms of executing various types of steps. But both seem , well, somewhat clunky to me.

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Cygnet wrote:

By the Mariinsky's standards, (and their indulgence of her's), her rise is unprecedented. My conclusion? Two words: Manufactured career.

Precedented in the not-too-distant past by this lady: Xenia Ter-Stepanova. Just read what Valeri Panov writes about her in his bio and see that Somova is not the first Kirov (Mariinsky) ballerina manufactured solely on politics, rather than talent. At least Ter-Stepanova's rise was more or less stiffled after she bombed with the Western press during the first tours to the UK & US. Somehow Somova keeps thumping on. :helpsmilie:

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Natalia wrote,

. . . At least Ter-Stepanova's rise was more or less stiffled after she bombed with the Western press during the first tours to the UK & US. Somehow Somova keeps thumping on.

:dunno:. That's what makes Somova's case so bizarre.

. . . But yes, your post was a bit of an AHA moment for me. But let me also state that I find some very obvious differences between the two. Mezentseva seemed to have a much better schooling and technique than Somova in terms of executing various types of steps. But both seem, well, somewhat clunky to me.

I totally agree Canary and richard53dog. I never understood Galina either. However, in her heyday Mezentseva was considered the book to be studied by V. Academy students. To this day Lopatkina worships her as a unique artist. Unlike Alina, Galina's technique was solid and reliable. Mezentseva wasn't an aerial ballerina, and she had moderate dramatic ability, but her port de bras, epaulement, turnout, pointe and terre a terre work was "there." Her 2nd Act in Giselle had a brittleness that just didn't work for me. I state the same about her "Swan Lake." I think her technique was solid because she studied in the Academy's 'Perfection Class' prior to graduation, and then she was assigned to coach Olga Moiseyeva as one of her first pupils. Galina saturated her Odette with mannerisms, and her Odile was dry with little characterization. Sometimes her fouttes, took a chef's tour of the kitchen,but the bottom line is that she was technically consistent throughout her performances. For me, the summation of Galina's artistry and her personal best role was the Lilac Fairy.

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I agree that I find weird similarities between Mezentseva and Somova as well. Both of them kind of accentuate the boniness of their body by their movements. Hard to describe but both are/were really into jutting out their chin or flapping the wrist in a way that just makes them look all skin and bones. It contrasts with the fluid port-te-bras I associate with many Mariinsky ballerinas. Also, both of them seemed to lack elevation, giving all their performances a rather earthbound, jerky look.

But anyway, the depressing thing is the few times I've seen the Mariinsky since Somova, many of the corps de ballet seem to be striving for her look. Ultra thin, blond, chins jutting out and flapping bent wrists. It just doesn't look healthy for any woman to be that thin. I mean, I understand ballerinas are usually tiny as is, but the Mariinsky corps de ballet now looks like they are on a gulag diet.

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Mezentzeva was worshipped because of her musicality and her refined sensibility --

I looked for it in vain till I saw her do white swan for the kids in "Children of Theater street, " -- I mean, CHECK IT OUT, that's one of THE greatest white swans I have EVER seen....

Somova doesn't have that. They may be similarly articulated -- you're very aware of their joints, and they move like moon-landing creatures, with three-part legs (thigh, shin, foot) The Russian technique moves the foot to and from pointe with a slight spring, so it moves altogether in one piece and looks at its best like a baguette diamond but even at its best it's noticeably jerkier than Balanchine's method, which calls for rolling through the ankle and the metatarsals and then springing onto the toe -- and a certain body-type makes this look noticeably jerky to American eyes.

But it was Balanchine who said "the bones must show" -- Gelsey took this too far into anorexia, but the way she let you see the geometry of the dance in the angles of the bones themselves made her dancing truly thrilling -- the muscles just move the bones into place, and the bones do most of the work.

With Somova, it can be very exciting to see those limbs deployed, especially since the amplitude is so great and her lines can be very beautiful -- not always, for sure, but as Denby said of Toumanova, whose dancing he found a LOT of fault with, the next day one had only a searing memory of terrifying extensions. I certainly get that from Somova's Diamonds -- the very first passage, where they do a bird-like courting dance and then he takes her hand, her first sautes in arabesque just blew my head off.

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I am not a Somova hater, but, Paul, what you just said in describing Alina's dancing is exactly why people criticize her. Namely because she doesn't move through the movements, there is no cantilena which is a very important part, not only of the Russian school, but of any school. Kirkland really had this, this was what was so amazing about her and why her weight never really mattered, if you know how to move through the movement you will never look heavy. Somova just does poses, it's like she's moving from one great picture to the next, first really deep penchee arabesque, then a developpe, the this, etc. there is no connection between the movements.

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Somova doesn't have that. They may be similarly articulated -- you're very aware of their joints, and they move like moon-landing creatures, with three-part legs (thigh, shin, foot) The Russian technique moves the foot to and from pointe with a slight spring, so it moves altogether in one piece and looks at its best like a baguette diamond but even at its best it's noticeably jerkier than Balanchine's method, which calls for rolling through the ankle and the metatarsals and then springing onto the toe -- and a certain body-type makes this look noticeably jerky to American eyes.

But it was Balanchine who said "the bones must show" -- Gelsey took this too far into anorexia, but the way she let you see the geometry of the dance in the angles of the bones themselves made her dancing truly thrilling -- the muscles just move the bones into place, and the bones do most of the work.

With Somova, it can be very exciting to see those limbs deployed, especially since the amplitude is so great and her lines can be very beautiful -- not always, for sure, but as Denby said of Toumanova, whose dancing he found a LOT of fault with, the next day one had only a searing memory of terrifying extensions. I certainly get that from Somova's Diamonds -- the very first passage, where they do a bird-like courting dance and then he takes her hand, her first sautes in arabesque just blew my head off.

See I've seen Somova live and on video and I disagree that her lines have great amplitude. I think it's sort of the opposite -- her overly bent joints make her dance "small" despite the extravagant extensions. The constantly jutting chin and flapping wrists and weird way of holding her hands make her dancing look, as you said, jerky, but more importantly, it takes away from any sense of classical line. Many dancers who are not nearly as long-limbed as Alina Somova manage to have more amplitude in their penchee arabesques, simply because there isn't the constant jerk/joint effect I see with Somova. For instance, let's do a comparison:

Alina Cojocaru:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG4XpSF9j1c

Alina Somova:

Same exact ballet, same variation (Rose Adagio). Alina Cojocaru is not blessed with long limbs, a long neck, or attractive feet. But her elevation, and the fluidity and grace of her movements give her dancing more "sweep" than Somova, who is never able to get off the ground in her opening series of jumps, and has an irritating way of pausing between her jumps to jut her head sideways, which cuts off the continuous movement.

I'm not even bothered by Somova's hyperextensions anymore. They're fairly common for a lot of ballerinas. It's her jerky, awkward way of dancing that irritates me.

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I'm not even bothered by Somova's hyperextensions anymore. They're fairly common for a lot of ballerinas. It's her jerky, awkward way of dancing that irritates me.

Yes, that's exactly what it is, and her Rose Adagio is perfectly abhorrent. The weird mantis-like body would be wonderful if she could get it to coordinate--maybe that wasn't required so much in 'Ballet Imperial', which caught me off guard when I liked it, because all I'd seen were those clips that look so strangely out-of-control.

Mezentzeva was worshipped because of her musicality and her refined sensibility --

I looked for it in vain till I saw her do white swan for the kids in "Children of Theater street, " -- I mean, CHECK IT OUT, that's one of THE greatest white swans I have EVER seen....

And I think it's her BLACK Swan that is one of the greatest--this combination of creaminess and utter viciousness and vacuity, she luxuriates in it--she's plain wicked, and probably really is!

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Mad about Mariinsky has posted on Facebook a few hours ago the videos of Somova being coached in Sleeping Beauty in 2008. They might be the Japanese Lessons dvd. RussianBalletvideos has on Youtube a 9 part video of Galina Mezentseva at age 35 in class. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ljl8unztdg

Willis Ballet has on their website videos for purchase of Mezentseva http://www.willisballet.com/To%20Order%20Page.htm They have a good selection of videos. In the teacher's videos it is Mezentseva demonstrating the steps in class and also her in performance.

Alina Somova is much thinner and doesn't control her limbs as well as Mezentseva. I have only seen Somova live at The Kennedy Center a few times, I was more impressed by Obraztsova.

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I'm distracted by the guy on the right, who shifts over each time he does a tendu.

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Mad about Mariinsky has posted on Facebook a few hours ago the videos of Somova being coached in Sleeping Beauty in 2008.

Like Canbelto and others, I'm over Alina's 180s. They are the main ingredient in her stage persona recipe. Many ballerinas have Alina's flexibility. However, not all of them choose to display it, or (when in doubt) fall back on it in performance like she does. It's each dancer's artistic choice and judgement call. Flexibility can assist one's technique but it's no substitute for it; nor innate talent, musicality, ability or artistry.

I've just finished viewing the "Lessons" dvds on mariinsky-livejournal. Alina made her debut as Aurora in October 2005 in Los Angeles. Here's the thing: When this dvd was filmed Somova was a 1st Soloist and had been given Aurora and O/O many times during 2005 - 2008, at home and abroad. What's revealing about the "Lessons" dvd set isn't only how Madames Moiseyeva, Tchyentchikova (Vazieva), Kunakova and Tarasova coach, but how their pupils respond to their instructions. Here's where you can really see the difference. If you have the dvd set or get a chance to view them online, notice the facility and technical ease by which Tereshkina, Novikova and Obrastzova work with their respective coaches Kunakova, Moiseyeva and Tarasova. Their's is a collaboration; Madame Vazieva's and Alina's is a private lesson.

Lubov, Olga M. and Elvira guide and polish Vicky, Olesya and Yevgenia. The ballerinas polish their dances, and develop their interpretations. They're not taking class again, and they're not learning the roles/solos from scratch. Alina can't get to the solo or interpretation because there's a major lack of technique in her way. Olga T.-V. repeatedly corrects Alina's technical mistakes. This was also the case in the "Ballerina" dvd. Makhar Vaziev, Gennady Selyutsky, and wife Olga were three on one, repeatedly trying in vain to get Alina to properly execute Odette's first entrance for her debut in "Lake." It was a stage rehearsal. It was impossible not to notice that there was a problem. That was the sign. The operatic equivalent of this would be a singer at her first rehearsal for a debut in a major role. The maestro gives the downbeat. The pianist plays the opening bars for her first scene and aria. She doesn't know the lyrics or the notes. She's flat with each attempt, but everyone carries on as if that's normal.

Now fast-forward 4 years later to "Lessons." Again, from 2004 - 2008, she was given many performances as O/O and Aurora. Alina's Odette and the Act 3 Aurora sessions were simply impossible. She doesn't reach the end of either variation. In stark contrast, Novikova, Tereshkina and Obrastzova complete their diagonals and the rest of their solos several times in their segments. Their legs and feet (alone), are stronger than Somova's. Madame Vazieva shouldn't have had to demonstrate (practically), the entire variation for her. Alina sees what to do and how to do it, yes - but she can't even imitate Olga T.-V.'s movements or assimilate her instructions. Besides Tsar Maiden in "Little Humpbacked Horse," Aurora and O/O are her calling cards. As a Mariinsky Principal with +6 years of study, tours, rehearsals and performances, she should be able to execute (in this case) Odette's and Aurora's 3rd Act variations without having to reinvent the wheel. I'm giving my East Coast friends fair warning: She will (most likely) be featured as "Giselle" at Kennedy in February, and may even get opening night. http://kennedy-center.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=showEvent&event=BLBSF.

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Alina might have a lot of hip/joint flexibility but in other areas her flexibility is lacking. For instance, she has an extremely stiff back and upper body. This makes her dancing kind of seem very disjointed -- a hip that is constantly swinging, but the back, neck, shoulders, and arms are held rigidly.

Again, here's a comparison:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U6Z_UnaiR8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMQ9tLBxx6U

Same exact ballet, same exact variation. Diana Vishneva again doesn't have Alina's physique. Diana's a lot shorter, for one, and doesn't really have very long legs for a dancer. But Diana uses her back flexibility to imitate the Oriental belly-dance style, and is able to control her body so Nikya's variation looks like one long dance of grief. Somova's lack of flexibility in her back and the jerkiness of her movements take away from her characterization of Nikya.

But when the Kirov came to the City Center, opening night the company closed with the Kingdom of the Shades scene, and it was given to Somova.

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