Posted 08 June 2009 - 04:33 PM
Any time Alexandrova is in the cast, here as Nikiya, my expectations are very high, but I was sadly disappointed.
Alexandrova is lovely in poses -- tall and regal -- like when she appears at the top of the ramp during Solor's vision, her arms in second arabesque. For the most part, though, she gave a very "leggy" lower body performance, whipping her long legs into positions, which were beautiful in themselves, but without a sense of fullness or intent, except in the Act III coda entrance, during the huge supported jumps, in which her entire body was engaged and spectacular. There was almost no shading in her upper body -- epaulement was practically non-existent -- or roundness in her arms and her head was relatively immobile on her neck. The logic of most of her variations -- why the change of speed and character -- was missing, and while she is far too great to ever just be a dancer doing the steps, her performance was missing dramatic impulse.
The exception was the Act II solo. Although she didn't have (or show) the flexibility in her back in some of the big sweeping choreography, the entire solo from end to end, through its three or four dramatic shifts, including a ravishing adagio opening, showed a dance logic that was a story in itself. She's not a shrinking violet Nikiya -- her other great moment was when she pulled out the dagger and threw herself towards Gamzatti -- and she showed drama by darkening the expression on her face, not wild emoting: what her Nikiya thinks are Solor's flowers may be reassuring to her, but the hurt is too deep for her to recover quickly. Temperamentally, she is my type, but the overall performance wasn't fully realized the way this solo was. In the future when it is, watch out.
In the evening performance, Svetlana Zakharova danced Nikiya. On video her extensions can dominate; seeing her live gave a different sense of proportion. She was a more feminine, traditional Nikiya, and her upper body was extraordinarily rich and varied. If it weren't for her beautiful feet, apart from some jarring extreme extensions to the side, it would have been as much an above-the-waist performance as Alexandrova's was below-the-waist. Her allegro work looked a bit forced, while her adagio phrasing was lovely. Why, why, why the hyper-extended jetes (constant) and the hit-the-ear extensions (however occasional)? She doesn't need them to make an impact, because she can tell a story and make an audience care about her character.
In the matinee Alexander Volchkov, who danced Solor, had beautiful, light, airy jumps and jumping turns, with soft supple landings and beautiful stretch, and whipping fast chaine turns out of nowhere, but dramatically, for the first two Acts at least, he was a stick in the mud. He was a bit like Ashley in "Gone with the Wind": why were these women fighting over him? In Act III he perked up quite a bit, and his variation was a dream itself. Nikolay Tsiskaridze danced in the evening and portrayed an arrogant warrior. (I'm wondering whether Zakharova's back leg in jetes, which wasn't quite bent and wasn't quite straight, was meant to mimic Tsiskaridze's.) There's a Dugmanta in his future; Tsiskaridze's Solor was already the junior version of him. Although he had more verve than Volchkov, Volchkov's line more than compensated.
Ekaterina Shipulina danced Gamzatti to Alexandrova's Nikiya. She had a great set of Madonna-like (singer, not saint) expressions, which were fun, but she was another leggy performer, leading a lot from the chin, and while in absolute terms, her dancing didn't turn crude the more the choreography demanded virtuosity, in relative terms it did. Her expressions were smug and one-note -- this was an Amneris-like Gamzatti, all spoiled rich girl with a huge sense of entitlement -- and she rivaled NYCB dancers at their most broken-wristed. Alexandrova knows where 90 degrees is, even if she doesn't always use it. If Shipulina does, she didn't much show it.
The drop-dead knockout performance of the two I saw was Ekaterina Krysanova's Gamzatti. Dramatically she was far and away the most rich and complex character. When her father came to tell her that he was marrying her off to the equivalent of Prince William, she showed a touchingly modest surprise -- "Really, I'm going to marry the guy I've had a crush on since I was 12?!" -- and finding out that he was in love with Nikiya shattered her dream much more than her sense of birthright. She showed a sense of desperation that would drive her to kill her rival, and was, if not exactly sympathetic, part of a tragedy, not a segment of Maury Povich.
Her dancing was clear, luminous, balanced, and mostly modern classical in proportion. She was equally adept in adagio and allegro, and a master of speed change with imperceptible preparation, all used to build the dramatic arc. The Zellerbach stage usually amplifies the sound of landings, yet I could not hear her toe shoes. It was a triumph, itself worth the entire trip.
(From here on, I'm going by the program, and if there were any substitutions, I wouldn't have recognized them.)
I very much enjoyed Viacheslav Lopatin's Golden Idol, which used every inch of the stage, dancing with buoyancy and lovely form. (He was also the first featured dancer that I didn't want to force feed.) I always thought that Ivan Vasiliev was a slender man, much like Daniil Simkin, but he was all differentiated, plated/plaited muscle and danced with beautiful ballon.
In the afternoon, Anastasia Stashkevich's Manu was delightful in tone and accent, and she really knows how to keep the jug on her head. Chinara Alizade in the evening was less risk-taking with the jug, but she had extra charm and delicacy. Both drum trios were a maelstrom of energy, danced by Ksenia Sorokina (a flaming redhead), Pavel Dmitrichenko, and Alexander Vodopetrov in the matinee and Anna Antropova, Vitaly Bitimirov, and Denis Medvedev in the evening. Since they seem to be listed alphabetically, it was the shorter dancer with the drum in the evening, who gave the drum tosses even extra pizazz with his shoulder shimmies. Anton Savichev's Magedaveya was terrific as the fakir who has all of the messenger stage business when he's not leading rituals or leaping across the stage. He would make a wonderful Puck; he kept his energy and concentration through long stretches onstage when he wasn't part of the central action.
Should I assume that the High Brahmin is a cartoonish role, since it was danced similarly by Alexander Fadeechev (matinee) and Andrey Sitnikov (evening)? It looked different in person than in the videos I have. This takes away from the power of the confrontation with Dugmanta, especially when compared to Alexei Loparevich's proud, aristocratic rajah, which was right out of Indian historical cinema. His was a great character performance, perfectly sustained. Perhaps Taranda could have been a worthy opponent.
The costumes for the men were great; I don't think there's anything more flattering than a choice between formal Indian men's dress and bare midriffs with narrow harem pants.
Among the soloists, the highlights for me were two of the shades. In the matinee Anna Tikhomirova as Second Shade used her arms and hands so beautifully down to her fingertips, I was so transfixed by her upper body that I'm not sure what her lower body was doing. Nelli Kobakhidze as the Third Shade was softness incarnate; hers were full-bodied, stellar performances in the matinee and evening.
The corps had great energy in the first two acts, and were a joy to watch. The Act II earthquake came with a crowded stage of dancers in full swing; there were shock and murmurs in my section, too -- at the back of the orchestra, we looked up to see whether the mezzanine that extended above us was going to collapse on our heads, and then decided, "Nah." It sounded like stage thunder, and I suspect the dancers did know that something was up from the odd sound.
In the Shades scene, though, they had not agreed beforehand how high they were going to raise the working leg in the entrance, and each dancer had a different alignment in her back to achieve the individual leg height, which broke the trance. Once onstage in lines, though, the corps redeemed itself.
Every Russian-speaker in the Bay Area must have been there, and the standing ovation at the matinee was immediate.