To call Shipulina 'a mediocre dancer' is very harsh.
I would say based solely on her sunday afternoon performance, that Shipulina is mediocre, but I am sure that she would have danced much better had it not been her 5th or 6th Medora in a week. This might sound harsh, but I feel obligated to hold the Bolshoi to an extremely high standard. She had trouble with virtually every double pirouette, never completing two full rotations. She had some of the least attractive feet I've seen. And although she has a beautiful arabesque, she simply does not have the star-quality one comes to expect from a Bolshoi leading lady. I agree with other reviewers that she is far better suited as a soloist, and was completely out-shined by Kaptsova as Gulnare, who showed no signs of exhaustion after dancing in EVERY performance. Kaptsova was exquisite!
When I think back, Shipulina's Medora was the most "blah" starring role I've seen from a Russian ballerina. I would prefer Osipova, Alexandrova, Zakharova, Tereshkina, Lopatkina, Vishneva, even Somova!
Having said all the negatives, I truly am thankful that she was willing to step up and fill in for Osipova on Sunday. Like others, I do not fault Shipulina for the lack-luster situation. I wish the Bolshoi would have made wiser decisions.
That the Bolshoi was short on Medora's for Washington is a regrettable thing. It isn't the first time this happens in touring situations, and it won't be the last time either. As mentioned here Zakharova is busy in Milan, Lunkina is on maternity leave, the scheduled Nikulina was injured, Alexandrova left after opening night, and it was undoubtedly a mistake to cast Osipova so soon after her New York/ABT outing. Some posters here make it sound as if audiences in Washington DC were victim of some special treatment. Really they were not!
Moreover, one doesn't judge a dancer on a sole sunday afternoon performance, as you know quite well, mariinskyfan. How anybody can call a ballerina "mediocre" when she has the bad luck to appear in successive performances of a ballet of this scale is beyond me. If she was really mediocre then she wouldn't even have been able to tackle them all. We had a similar situation in Paris last year also with the Bolshoi's Corsaire when Svetlana Lunkina danced three successive performances of Medora. Of course the third effort wasn't as sharp as the first and showed severe signs of fatigue - how could it be? But is that a reason to condemn her as a "mediocre" ballerina ?
Shipulina has always proven an extremely reliable artist, regardless of the number of times she had to perform, the shape of her feet, or of the pointes she is wearing. Natalia, I find it completely gratuitous to link her to Alina Somova (and the fact that they are both wearing pointes of a certain label is really of no further consequence here). We all know by now that you don't like this artist, and it is your good right to do so, but with all respect you do sound like a broken record with your ad nauseam derogatory remarks against her.