kirovboy

Alina Somova

217 posts in this topic

Many thanks, canbelto, for making it possible for us to compare these two dancers so closely. I agree with you 100%.

I'd add that Vishneva's arms, long compared to the proportions of her legs, are marvelous instruments enhancing her solo. In comparison, Somova's seem to be creating distraction.

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This has been a very interesting discussion and I have learned a lot from it. I do still have some residual concern about how we discuss and invoke video. Somova may or may not be an appalling phenomenon--not having seen her live I can't say--but I do think that while criticizing her videos is, in this era, fair game (if not perhaps entirely fair since so much that is theatrical is not captured) one should at least note their dates. I am thinking in particular of the Sleeping Beauty (rose adagio above) which I have not looked at for years--and which is often cited to exemplify the horror of her dancing. It's a performance from at least three years ago--a lifetime for a young dancer. I myself just saw Ashley Bouder give a performance sensational in many ways but which involved several tiny adjustments during the course of her first big variation, somewhat undermining it to my mind, and a semi-stumble at the end of her fouttes--if that were to be all over Youtube, what might not we hear about Bouder's 'sloppiness' as if that were the eternal truth of Ashely Bouder?

Of course one might say the big difference is context: people regularly see Bouder 'nail' her variations and those criticizing Somova's dancing here and elsewhere have seen her live or, like me, have been reading critics and message-board comments from long-time ballet-goers etc. and in that context it may make sense to say 'see, this old Sleeping Beauty seems to exemplify the problem' that we have seen in many other performances or that we are trying to describe....and yet I remain a little uneasy about the way a particular performance, early (or in other cases late) in someone's career becomes some kind of frozen exemplar for criticism to refer to even years later...I've had to learn to live with the fact that Kirkland's Nutcracker video IS Kirkland for most of today's ballet fans whereas I don't even think that it should count as her Nutcracker! It occurs to me that this is perhaps a different topic than Somova per se and I really can't 'defend' a ballerina I have never seen live and whose video excerpts do not suggest I would find her a favorite (though I'm on record as thinking some of the Little Humpbacked Horse excerpts rather charming and not hating the Diamonds video).

Anyway, I just wanted to register a certain unease at the way we invoke video evidence--obviously we can, and this discussion certainly has, benefited from it and yet I would still advocate for a more cautious (and, especially, date sensitive) way to talk about it.

I AM learning a lot from all these detailed analyses and was fascinated by the suggestion of a certain stylistic relation between Somova and Mezentzeva--whom I saw once and 'respected' but did not particularly like. What was my shock when I learned she was one of the truly adored Kirov dancers!

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This has been a very interesting discussion and I have learned a lot from it. I do still have some residual concern about how we discuss and invoke video.

Thanks, Drew, for you well-developed post. I've thought about what you've written and now want to retract my statement about being able "to compare these two dancers so closely." Clearly, that is a gross exaggeration.

Speaking only for myself, YouTube clips sometimes allow me to look more closely at what the dancer is doing and to make decisions about what I like/admire and what I do not in that particular performance. The variables, as you mention, are numerous and are something we never should forget. I thank you for reminding me of that.

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...this video vs. live performances issue somehow made me remember something a poster said a while ago-(can't remember who),...something like "one doesn't has to go to the Sahara to know that it is hot there..."

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...this video vs. live performances issue somehow made me remember something a poster said a while ago-(can't remember who),...something like "one doesn't has to go to the Sahara to know that it is hot there..."

haha Cristian, yes, but you do have to go there to know 'how it is hot there'. I became aware of this when I went to Switzerland in 1997, after knowing about their highest standard living. But when you go there, you get all these other dimensions, like how they've provided for their citizens already in a way that American politicians always only promise in their re-election campaigns. And this was something that was very different in the direct experiencing of this generalized prosperity from merely knowing 'it's like that'.

I understand the disappointment that happens with reproduced performance, even though we're glad to have it for the most part. But you're also right...because, ultimately, the recorded and taped things have become more and more what is imprinted on most minds. In every field too: I was thinking just now of how I've never seen the B'way show 'South Pacific' on stage, but I consider that I know everything important about it from the film. I don't, btw, think that it therefore follows that I know all about Ms. Somova, only that that Rose Adagio and her awful balances, if they can even be called that, were definitely awful 3 years ago, and most people still find her an anomaly. I'm sure her nearly inexplicable superstardom--well, maybe it's not quite that--is very significant in a broader cultural way.

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The good thing about Somova is that her career has been pretty well-recorded through the years. Maybe not officially but on youtube definitely. She's also "out there" in Mariinsky tours, and is usually heavily cast, so ... well people have lots of opportunities to see her.

For instance here's a more recent Rose Adagio, from February of this year:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IVFxbMvDMk

In any case, some things are toned dowm. Her hair is a more natural shade of blond, the first set of balances are more secure, and the position of the chin less extreme. But the basic problems are still there -- the lack of elevation or any kind of spring in her jump, the jerkiness of her movements, the way she distorts the old-fashioned tutu by insisting on on an ear-whacking penchee at every opportunity, and the awkward way she holds her arms and shoulders. Also, she has maybe the worst case of smiling sickness I've seen -- the frozen, vacant smile that she uses for every role.

Here's recent video of her Giselle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zprL29_XFjI

Again, in the very exposed choreography again she's jerky where she should be fluid, earthbound when other Giselles fly. There's a kind of heaviness to her movements that it weird for someone so thin, but I think it's because of the jerkiness of the movements and the way she emphasizes her joints when she dances. Her entrechats are weak.

She is reminding me a bit of Yvonne Borree. Obviously very different dancers, but for years Borree was cast in the NYCB in roles where she just obviously was technically out of her league. She became the dancer I avoided when casting came up. I think Somova maybe just doesn't have the talent to justify all the roles she's given, and that's all it really is.

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There is something unfinished to me in her dancing. I'm surprised that the Marinsky would showcase such a dancer. I'm wondering about her coaching, if she was given too much too soon. She dances like a student. I don't know if her bad habits,could still be corrected,I haven't given up hope for her as yet.I hate to see such high extensions in Beauty and Giselle. I'm astounded that her coaches permit it!

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The main thing I noticed upon watching Cojocaru right after the 2007 Somova is that Somova has no crispness there. (I was about to leave out all crispness, but later...). It's just too laid-back, for lack of a better way to put it.

That Vishneva clip is glorious, and Somova's I watched second, it comes across as vapid (and more, but I won't say more).

But I said 'leaves out all crispness there...' because I was surprised at this miore recent clip of Somova's Aurora. The entrance has many arresting moments in it, in which her slight freakishness comes across as being able to inhabit itself, as it were. And even the 'balances' were better, and their eccentricity wasn't unappealing. I was surprised, believe me--but there was a sense that she can do some things uniquely, even--but she never comes across as an especially intelligent dancer. That's maybe the worst of some of it--whereas Vishneva's artistic intelligence as Nikya is quite breathtaking (I wasn't expecting anything quite like that even thought I liked her the one time I've seen her in person.)

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I've always had the feeling that her coaches were trying to make the best of a difficult situation; fix as much as they could, since they aren't the ones that put her in that situation necessarily.

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Yesterday I went to La Scala for the Ballet season's premiere which starred Sarafanov and Somova (and Barenboim as conductor). While I found both Sarafanov's performance and Barenboim's conducting as brilliant and exciting as I remembered and as I expected, Somova confirmed the negative voices I heard and read about her. She's insignificant, completely lacking in that particular charisma that marks great ballerinas, and her technique does not balance this out. I found in her movements something unfinished, "untidy" and ill-defined..I mean, she just "throws" her leg in arabesque or attitude.

I was quite excited about seeing someone new in the role of Odette/Odile, because Zakharova began even to bore me (forgive me!). Now the only thing I (and all the loggionistis I talked to yesterday) can think about is: give us Sveta back! Or at least Osipova, or Semionova, or whoever...

I'm looking forward to seeing Guillem and Murru this february.

Cheers!

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(When did the company start performing Nureyev's version?)

On the 7th of July 1990, quite a long time. :wink:

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Thanks, coppelia. For the moment there is a video of Somova and Sarafanov in the latter half of Black Swan at La Scala. (When did the company start performing Nureyev's version?)

So she is back to her natural brunette hair color, I see. Not much change in the rest, alas.

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I have been reading this topic with great interest. I don't really follow the Russian companies as well as I do NYCB, but I remembered seeing Somova in "Ballerina" and not being very impressed. The variation she performed for the student performance looked very unfinished and sloppy indeed--of course, back then she was a student. On the other hand, I couldn't get enough of Obraztsova!

Well, a few months ago, I purchased a series of tickets for the Kennedy Center ballet performances--and to my great disappointment, my ticket is for one of two Somova performances. (For casting see: http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=showEvent&event=BLBSF#details)

What should I do? Try to sell my ticket and see another performance? Should I see Somova (since I have not seen her before live) and give her a fair shot? The overwhelming consensus of this message board seems to be NO NO NO!!!

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I would suggest trying to exchange them for one of the two Diana Vishneva performances. Diana's Giselle is really a classic portrayal -- not really conventional either, but it works incredibly well. You won't be disappointed!

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I have been reading this topic with great interest. I don't really follow the Russian companies as well as I do NYCB, but I remembered seeing Somova in "Ballerina" and not being very impressed. The variation she performed for the student performance looked very unfinished and sloppy indeed--of course, back then she was a student. On the other hand, I couldn't get enough of Obraztsova!

Well, a few months ago, I purchased a series of tickets for the Kennedy Center ballet performances--and to my great disappointment, my ticket is for one of two Somova performances. (For casting see: http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=showEvent&event=BLBSF#details)

What should I do? Try to sell my ticket and see another performance? Should I see Somova (since I have not seen her before live) and give her a fair shot? The overwhelming consensus of this message board seems to be NO NO NO!!!

I'd encourage you to exchange (though, if you have a ticket to her 02/10 performance at least you'd have the consolation of seeing the exquisite Ekaterina Kondaurova as Myrtha!). I saw Somova live several times in 2008 and found her to be graceless and utterly lacking in musicality. Why see Somova when you could see Tereshkina, Vishneva, or Lopatkina instead?

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Woohoo! Kennedy Center has announced changed casting for the upcoming Mariinsky tour. Now my ticket is for the Tereshkina/Shklyarov/Kondaurova performance! :clapping:

Glad I wasn't too quick to change the ticket. I might have accidentally ended up with a Somova ticket-again!

Review (albeit amateur) to come in February!

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Thanks, coppelia. For the moment there is a video of Somova and Sarafanov in the latter half of Black Swan at La Scala. (When did the company start performing Nureyev's version?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UklbC5tTbjA

Do you know what, to give the devil her due, having watched this (and can I state for the record I share all the same reservations about Somova as everyone here) Somova wasn't half bad. The improvement in her from a few years ago is dramatic and quite impressive.

I dont think she's a ballerina, or a top flight one, and certainly not deserving of the huge onus the Mariinsky places on her as a prima, but and this is a big but... her dancing and technique have improved beyond all recognition.

Her security in the pirouettes especially, those fouettes hardly travelled at all and she was including several doubles and trebles, of course there are moments when she seems just unable to help herself from reverting to her old bad habits, those crotch detaching battements and developpes, which then knock her off balance, but in other areas she was keeping the leg classically placed (almost), using her feet better than I've seen her do. She still breaks her wrists and splays fingers a la Balanchine pastiche and her use of turn out is indifferent, because she doesn't have much and overcompensates with her abnormal flexibility. But she is trying to dance in the classical form at least and her musicality has improved too, she's actually listening to the music and tempo.

Again, can I say, she's not a favourite of mine, those stylistic and technical glitches are still there, (albeit reined in) I don't think I'd ever pay to see her but she really really has come on leaps and bounds and is almost unrecognisable from that Aurora that does the rounds on Youtube. She seems to have made a huge and concerted effort to improve and deal with many of her issues and for that she deserves some plaudits and respect.

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Simon, I'm totally in agreement with you about Somova's improvement. She seems more centered and in control of her turns. I was impressed at the end of her fouettes, where she almost loses control of them, but seems to adjust her placement to finish them well. As a former dancer, I think these things take a tremendous amount of work. Good for her.

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I'm started to appreciate the fact that thanks to Somova's faults the ballet world has come to detect and appreciate the good stuff much easier, and also that she's a living example and guideline for young dancers of what to avoid. It is sad that she's carrying the scapegoat title, but it is what it is...

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This past week I saw 3 performances of Giselle at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Mariinsky in town. I saw Diana on Tues Feb 8, Alina on Friday Feb 11 and Ulyana on Saturday Feb 12. First of all I should say I feel fortunate enough to get to see any of these women in real life, they are all brilliant. But for what it's worth here's my opinion.

In the evoking emotion category, Diana blew me away. In execution category, Alina wins. And I must say I thought something was off about Ulyana's Act I but good lord she was absolutely, divinely perfect in Act II.

So there you have it, my first contribution to this board. It's great to see everyone's opinion but I wanted share mine which is I think Somova is extremely talented and more than worthy of her position in Mariinsky and by extension, the planet.

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Haven't seen her in person, but based on the comments, I think it is important to keep several things in mind:

1. Somova did not promote herself directly to principal - the Maryiinsky AD is responsible.

2. Once promoted, ballet does not generally "demote" dancers, unless to o them out to character roles, or to guest positions.

3. All (AD, coaches, etc) who inherit the system of promotions, really are not at liberty to dismantle it.

At any rate, I am glad to hear she is improving, perhaps by the time I make it to Russia (someday) she will be at her best.

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Fully realizing imperfections of teenaged Somova, I must admit that I liked her then even more. There was Spring like freshness and abundance of joy in her dance which were both powerful and endearing. Alina’s line is now more refined to be sure, she is much more in control of her longer than long limbs and indeed, she became a consummate actress ... but and here it is, I enjoyed performances of younger Somova at least as much.

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....2. Once promoted, ballet does not generally "demote" dancers, unless to o them out to character roles, or to guest positions.....

The Mariinsky has done so, even recently, although it is usually a demotion from 1st or 2nd Soloist to Choryphee, e.g., Vasily Scherbakov (the Prince's servant, in the DC Giselle's last week), Xenia Ostraikovskyaya (in the corps of Giselle in DC), and Yulia Bolshakova - the latter now departed). Recently, there was even a demotion from Soloist to Corps (Nikolai Zubkovsky, the grandson of Inna Zubkovskaya).

It would be extremely embarrassing (wrong) to demote a principal. What's happened with Somova has happened. Like her or not, at least she is dancing fairly often back home. Some female principals rarely appear in classical leading roles (Makhalina, Nioradze & Pavlenko). At least they aren't being let go.

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2. Once promoted, ballet does not generally "demote" dancers, unless to o them out to character roles, or to guest positions.

Or they stop casting them.

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