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Kirov/Mariinsky: the good and the bad?


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#1 bart

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:00 AM

There are more posts on Kirov-Mariinsky on Ballet Talk than any other non-U.S. company.

I assume that is because, like the old British Empire, the "sun never sets" on this company, which performs incessantly all over the globe. One consequence is that there seems to be an amazing amount of disagreement in the critical response to different tours and different performances, often by the SAME reviewer or poster.

Here, for instance, is Judith Flanders in the Times Literary Supplement, reviewing the latest visit of the company to London.

The Mariinsky is huge -- with more than 200 dancers it is twice the size of the Royal Ballet -- and there are manyu smaller companies within the company. What is displayed on any given tour therefore viaries in quality. But [referring to the most recent London visit] I have never seen such mixed messages -- a splendid corps and demi-soloists, thrilling principals; dead-eyed soloists thumping through the steps, staid principals deaf to nuance and style; wonderful orchestral playing alongside botched entries and missed cues. Which represents the real Mariinsky? Rather worryingly, I think they all do.



What is going on? Is the Mariinsky too big? Are its components involved in a kind of civil war over repertoire, favored dancers and musicians? Is "Mariinisky" a reliable Brand Name for ballet goers worldwide? What about quality control?

#2 carbro

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:33 AM

Tour fatigue? (Not to be confused with tour en l'air or tour jete. :tiphat: )

#3 richard53dog

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 04:25 PM

Well, without going into this thread too deeply, I feel that the relentless promotion of Alina Somova is a very strong sign of something very worrying going on in the management of the MT.

#4 kdubzz

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 06:13 PM

Tour fatigue? (Not to be confused with tour en l'air or tour jete. :) )


For anyone who missed it, on danceviewtimes Marc Haegman reviewed Kirov/Mariinsky's UK performances (in Salford) during their Spring '08 tour and cited 'tour fatigue', as you say, as well as bemoaning in some detail the company's perplexing habit of Somova in key principal roles:

http://www.danceview...sky-b.html#more

#5 kdubzz

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 06:14 PM

Tour fatigue? (Not to be confused with tour en l'air or tour jete. :) )


For anyone who missed it, on danceviewtimes Marc Haegman reviewed Kirov/Mariinsky's UK performances (in Salford) during their Spring '08 tour and cited 'tour fatigue', as you say, as well as bemoaning in some detail the company's perplexing habit of Somova in key principal roles:

http://www.danceview...sky-b.html#more


oops meant to write "perplexing habit of CASTING Somova in key principal roles"...

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 07:44 PM

The ever omnipresent Somova... :) If anything, she certainly has made the whole ballet world take a closer look of the Mariinsky...(What about that saying of "There's no such thing as bad publicity...?)

#7 bart

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 06:55 AM

It's probably a given on Ballet Talk that Alina Somova is ... how can I put this gently? ... not admired. :wink:

What intrigues me is the much broader and seemingly contradictory criticisms of this company's performances. "I loved it. I hated it." "He was good. She was dreadful. But she was good in the next work." "It was a beautiful production; it was a tawdry production." "The orchestra played X beautifully. The orchestra played Y dreadfully." Etc. etc.

After reading many reviews -- especially in the British press -- I get the impression of serious inconsistency. Is it time to wonder whether this company needs a bit more Quality Control? (I'm just asking ... :) )

Flanders, for example, praises corps and demi-solo work in Serenade, but finds the lead ballerina -- not Somova, but a dancer who has been praised on Ballet Talk -- to be "a principal in the old, eye-rolling school of dance, presentation in place like a mask, simperingly unaware of the Sturm und Drang of the work in which she was appearing." The same ballerina appears in Symphony in C, "giving a performance to Bizet that was identical to the one she had already given to Tchaikovsky." [My italics.] Another couple is accused of "mugging and vamping," The lead in the 2nd movement, on the other hand, receives real and thoughtful praise.

The Soviet Sleeping Beauty is said offer

tired sets and garish, synthetic-looking costumes and straw wigs ... The court world in the ballet has been reduced to an embarrassed token gesture; and because of this, the restoration of Beaty and her prince at the end cannot become a symbol of Petipa and Tchaikovsky's imagined triumph of courtly life.

The work of several excellent dancers was

diminished by the vast swaths of indifferent 1950s choreography interpolated among the original Petipa.



#8 richard53dog

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 08:03 AM

After reading many reviews -- especially in the British press -- I get the impression of serious inconsistency. Is it time to wonder whether this company needs a bit more Quality Control? (I'm just asking ... :) )



Well, I see your point but don't you think that a big issue is also the inconsistency in the reviewers themselves?
Think about the differences in their expectations, just for starters and also, and I think this is a biggie, in their frame of references. I'm not that familiar with Flanders as a writer but she seems to have a complex set of standards she's using from detailed points of reference.

Another reviewer, maybe with much less experience, may not even be aware of all the detail that Flanders is discussing
and might have much more of a surface view of things. Often this goes along the line of accepting "common knowledge";
i.e. the Mariinky Theater is the best ballet company in the world and sets the standards , ergo a certain level of "quality" is
taken on assumption.

But going back to your original point, it certainly seems to me that there is a lot of inconsistency these days in the MT, both on the ballet, and to go a bit OT, on the opera side

#9 canbelto

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 11:10 AM

The most bothersome to me is how the MT's repertoire has stagnated, especially since Fateev took over. All the old Soviet/Sergeyev warhorses are back, and many of the reconstructions are gone.

#10 papeetepatrick

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 11:27 AM

I've noticed that Maryinksky inspires far more passionate writing, both here at BT and elsewhere, than any other company. It's always been the Gold Standard, hasn't it? except maybe New York City Ballet from 1950-1980, maybe, and periods of the RB and POB (I know I'm leaving out some things, including great periods for ABT, a few others). But the Gold Standard when you take the long view, maybe.

Also, think it's important to point out that not nearly all of us at BT dislike Somova and there were dancers writing here that they thought she would fulfill her potential. I don't know whether she will, but the Somova-loathing is not all-pervasive. I thought her marvelous in 'Ballet Imperial', and I was expecting to hate her after reading all the reviews here and seeing awful clips, so I guess I might respectfully disagree with bart that Somova-dislike is a 'given' (not quite, even though there is much Somova-bashing here.)

I did find that people were more fierce in their feelings during the 2008 CCNY run than I have ever seen in any NYCB or ABT threads. Maybe Somova even provides some sort of 'modernizing dissonance', god knows she's exciting in one way or another.

#11 Cygnet

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 04:43 PM

Where to begin? Relentless touring is taking its toll. For the last decade the company has
become top heavy in the coryphee, 2nd and 1st soloist ranks. Within these ranks there are "pockets" of extremely talented dancers. Some of these have high potential, others have un-tapped potential, and then there are the neglected, those who sadly should have moved up to Principal rank, and now probably never will. Is the Maryinsky too big? Well, in Russia company size isn't an issue; and size shouldn't be an issue - if the management can "handle" the numbers. The Bolshoi is bigger and for all their former problems in the 80s and 90s, they've never ever "forgotten" how to develop promising dancers in their proper emploi.

At the MT, there is an almighty "They" who make the inexplicable casting decisions; and Fateev rubber stamps these decisions. During a season, the company has the A Team that tours the major capitols and venues. There's the B Team that tours remote parts of the world, and the C Team that stays home. The almighty "They" team is the A Team.
IMO I think the Maryinsky is going through another period where various in-house factions are vying for power, because there seems to be, IMO, no coherent artistic vision or as Bart stated, "quality control." The last time this happened was in the early and mid
70s before Vinogradov came on the scene. Vaziev's regime started this ecclectic paradigm we see today.

Also, there's a dissonance of style among the Principals: There are a number of them who are not Vaganova products. That's the norm now. This trend also started under Vaziev. There's alot of great work being done by some dancers, such as Tereshkina, Kondaurova, Obratzova, Shyklarov to name a few. But the Director "back up" just isn't there for them as much as others. Excellence with consistency used to be rewarded with more opportunities. Today, if one is known for producing comedies of error onstage, that person is rewarded with more opportunities.

The following is a good example of the factions at work. The 09-10 season opens with the Soviet redux "Shurale" on Sept 29. Golub will open the new season as Simbiuke. She
was second cast during the White Nights Festival, and didn't fare well. Obratzova danced
the revival premiere during the Festival and triumphed. Obratzova will be second
cast Sept 30. I suspect that the almighty "They" reasoned thus: 'Obratzova got the revival; so we'll give 2009-2010 opening night to Golub.' That - and the process of elimination based on who they had to choose from, *(see note above on top heavy ranks and undeveloped dancers). Naturally, it doesn't matter that Genichka has far more artistic and technical mileage than Irina, and to spare. Is there a Principal who has covered, (or) is covering Simbiuke? It doesn't seem to me that Fateev thinks ahead.

It would make sense to start with Obratzova. She, along with Vicky and Katya Kondaurova practically saved the London engagement. Obratzova was the Juliet and Aurora of the Covent Garden season, and is the best and most critically acclaimed Juliet and Aurora of her generation in the Maryinsky Theatre. She excelled in the role of Simbiuke at the Festival revival. Given these facts, why not reward her with the season opening in this ballet? Could it be that that would be too much like the right thing to do? Never fear: October 8 the first "Swan Lake" of the year is "TBA." "TBA" casting is another management affectation that shouldn't be the norm. They should announce the O/Os that captured London's imagingation: Kondaurova, Vicky, (or Dasha Pavlenko - a Principal who, btw, has never, ever opened a season at home in "Lake" or any other ballet). My educated guess is that Alina will be O/O on Oct 8, and eventually she'll essay Simbiuke; most likely this year. She's so ubiquitous, she's become inevitable. There's no other way to describe it.

#12 canbelto

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 07:56 AM

The extreme skeletal thinness of the dancers, from the corps de ballet to the principals, also alarms me. when I saw the Bolshoi I realized that it is possible for a corps de ballet to look thin, tapered, capable of making beautiful lines, without being positively skeletal. At a certain point the extreme thinness doesn't even look good anymore.

#13 richard53dog

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 09:19 AM

it is possible for a corps de ballet to look thin, tapered, capable of making beautiful lines, without being positively skeletal.



To sort of leapfrog off this statement, one of the issues I have with the current MT is that the effort for making these "beautiful lines" (some not so beautiful anyway in my eyes) sacrifices the actual movement itself for the quest for the beautiful position.

I see a lot of actual movement in which individual steps are bluntly obvious. There is often little sense in blending them to create a stunning sense of movement
or phrasing. It almost looks like a paint by numbers thing. Do this step. OK, do that step, do this....instead of a blended sequence of ....dancing....what a concept!

#14 Mashinka

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 08:01 AM

At around the time that the old Soviet Union was replaced by the New Russia, I complained bitterly to a young Russian woman whilst in Moscow about the standard of Russian/English translations. Whereas in the past any kind of error was an exception, almost overnight standards had plummeted with more and more material printed in English being either farcically funny or totally unreadable. The lady replied that there was a reason as to why it was happening; in the old days people were employed on the basis of competence but now they were employed on the basis of looks. Nubile young women were the favoured employees and in a head to head choice between, say, a bald elderly man in pebble glasses with a lifelong study of the English language and a cute girl in a short skirt who had remembered a few fundamentals from her English classes at secondary school, knowledge and experience would count for nothing.

I feel this attitude has spilled over into the field of ballet, with someone with a skewed sense of aesthetics in charge and calling the shots. The look is cat walk model meets Las Vegas with kick and pose replacing the standard classical vocabulary. They may not dance as well as they used to but they look good so who cares? Fine if you aspire to Forsythe repertoire but not so good in those dreary classics. Take for example the deconstructed Sleeping Beauty as danced by Ms Somova: in her hands Aurora is no longer the shy maiden but a new age sexually assertive woman displaying her charms in unambiguous terms. Up goes the leg in all its knicker–flashing glory in her Rose Adagio saying so unsubtly to those princes ‘here it is boys, come and get it’. The trouble is this doesn’t work well with audiences. Even allowing for the marked national differences in taste, the Kirov struggles to market Somova effectively and was rewarded with inevitable sparse applause and cool reviews in London.

What effect must this have on young dancers? Presumably they are now resigned to the acceptance of pretty faces, long legs and six o’clock extensions as the norm and I visualize a long line of Somova wannabes polluting international stages for years to come. The rot has started, how do we stop it?


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