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Alina Somova's Performances Highlight of 2008?!


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#16 EAW

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 06:07 AM

Conspiracy for or against what, may I ask? While Somova is clearly - as Colin Powell recently said about Sarah Palin - a polarizing figure, I think a more balanced approach is necessary. I was horrified by her at first, both in some video clips (especially an awkward, messy Aurora) and onstage in a cold, hard, brutal Don Q pas de deux, the one performance of hers I caught during the company's last New York season. Having heard reports of her doing better in Ballet Imperial from reliable sources, I decided not to write her off completely. Watching further videos (including excerpts from a complete Don Quixote, Balanchine's Diamonds and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux), I see her differently now. There's a tendency to gawkiness and going for extremes that may or may not diminish over time, but I think in the right roles she can be charming. The Tchaikovsky adagio, in particular, is bold, free, fluid and really lovely. She may not be a fully finished dancer - yet - but major talent, potential and an undeniable degree of accomplishment are already there. (Plus, I have to hand it to her for even attempting, in the Tchaik Pas coda, Suzanne Farrell's sequence alternating fouette turns and rapid pique steps - not a complete success but, again, a bold and winning move.)

#17 abatt

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 06:18 AM

Conspiracy for or against what, may I ask?



Perhaps a "vast right wing conspiracy" that Senator Clinton used to refer to when they investigated former President Clinton. I think the poster above who allued to a "conspiracy" or "Ponzi" scheme may be questioning how Somova could have been promoted to principal under the circumstances. Unfortunately, we all know that the advancement of certain people within large organizations, including ballet companies, is often based on considerations other than merit.

#18 rg

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 07:32 AM

idly, i wonder how many of Somov's detractors have actually seen her dance 'live' - i.e. not on some scrappy youtube clip.
my first glimpse of her was on a dvd, which led me to a not very positive reaction.
seeing her at city center was happily different.
what didn't come across on video, besides the full dimension of her dancing, was the charm and sweetness she exuded in the perfs i saw, nor the power and thrill of her manege of coupe/jetes on the confining city center stage in ETUDES - in particular this is moment i will not soon forget. similar power and ease touched moments of her BALLET IMPERIAL.
full disclosure: these were my ONLY experiences with her performances. i have not seen her since; have not seen her on her home stage, nor for that matter on a stage that really suited the Kirov repertory - which in most cases city center did not in this past season.
i'm sure any number of people in the audience of city center found much of what they dislike in Somov in these same performances. but at least they were making their judgements on her actual performing and not on crude, 2 dimensional records posted on youtube.

#19 abatt

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:10 AM

My only experience w. Somova was at the City Center performances. I attended very frequently (trust me, it added up to mucho $$$$). I saw most of her performances during that engagement. I would agree w. you that there were certain things she did very well; however, certain performances were very bad, and utterly lacking in grace or refinement. As Alistair Macaulay astutely wrote in one of his reviews in the NY Times, Somova "skews her pelvis sideways to achieve high extensions, even though the angle of her tutu ... shows just how much this distorts her line." She does this repeatedly. One of the elements of beauty in ballet is line. Somova seems to be determined to turn an element of beauty into an element of ugliness- a freak show designed to show us all how flexible she is. Her habit of hyper-extending her legs is a big problem. That's why I found it surprising that a NY Times reviewer would single her out as a best of 2008.

#20 Helene

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:27 AM

I did see her at City Center, and had the same impression of her in the classical rep as I did from film. However, I did think that she was convincing as a lyrical dancer in the lyrical parts of "Ballet Imperial". My reservation even in this is that her facial expression turned from radiant to blank after several minutes of dancing. (In the smaller City Center venue, what has been described as her "deer in the headlights" look was fairly obvious.)

I thought she was a talented soloist-level dancer with potential, who did exude a sunny presence when she did not look dazed -- and I do not underestimate the ability to shine and connect to an audience -- who needs coaching to curb her competition-like excesses and try to find her inner plastique, and who needs to work very hard on her technical weaknesses, since given the exposure and prominence in casting she has, everything she is, flaws and all, are up front and center. Again, the parallel to Farrell and what Kistler described in "6 Ballerinas', where she said something like, "You had to do your growing onstage."

There are many great dancers who worked very hard to compensate for weaknesses for which they were criticized early: Fonteyn, Farrell, and Ashley come to mind, having worked very hard on their feet, for example, and Ashley, by then considered a technical virtuoso, on her turns. What is Somova does not have that Farrell and Kistler had was an artistic genius and choreographer to mold their careers, Kistler for a very short period of time, or what Fonteyn, Farrell, and Kistler had in the iron-willed founder of a company who took an interest in their development; Fonteyn had the outside influence of Volkova and was later creative muse to Ashton.

My question is whether she will grow. I don't see the underlying teaching or creative forces to push her, and given the Kirov's touring schedule, it's not condusive to shoring up technique.

#21 rg

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:41 AM

it would indeed be surprising if Macaulay put Somov on HIS list of highlights.
but why is it surprising that a different writer, with a mind of her own, would have a different opinion?
i don't think this is the first instance when a TIMES critic put a highlight on a year-end list that went contrary to what a colleague critic may have said during the year.
as i recall Dunning had been known to single out something or someone that was at odds with some of the opinions filed by Kisselgoff or Anderson.
i don't think any department in culture at the NYT has a 'lock-step' policy behind its first-string critic.

#22 abatt

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:46 AM

.
i don't think any department in culture at the NYT has a 'lock-step' policy behind its first-string critic.



Of course 2 critics can disagree, even if they work for the same paper. It was surprising that Gia K put Somova on her list not because it is a divergent view from A. Macaulay. Rather, it was surprising because of the numerous deficiencies in Ms. Somova's technique.

#23 rg

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 08:52 AM

'numerous deficiencies' to whom? probably not to Kourlas.

#24 Helene

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 09:08 AM

I think it's perfectly reasonable for a critic to say, "Yes, Dancer X's technique is lacking, but his/her performance transcended that for me, and s/he caught my eye every time, while Ms./Mr. Technical Perfection over there put me to sleep", but I think it's questionable not to admit to the underlying flaws. I don't think Somova's technical flaws are all that difficult to see, especially when she danced with a corps, who behind her, for example, put her feet to shame. That contrast was the most jarring thing I found about her dancing.

#25 rg

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 09:22 AM

highlights tend to be short and succinct and about a general, overall impression.
one could have, say, highlighted Fonteyn's first seasons with the Sadler's Wells Ballet for their overall effect w/o pausing to say she had 'problem feet' etc. ('soft' as 'pats of butter' to quote ashton.)
it's possible that when Somova danced with a corps de ballet behind her, one was so taken w/ the overall effect she was making that one didn't bother to dwell much on who was dancing how behind her.


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