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NYC Season


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#106 Amour

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 07:45 AM


I thought Carmen Suite was trash. The "choreography", if it can be called that, consists mainly of Vishneva wiggling her hips and standing in sexy poses. It looked like a strip tease act, not a ballet. Why would a virile man like Don Jose wear a hot pink shirt with red polka dots? I don't have my program, but the man who danced the bull fighter role did not have an ounce of charisma. He looked very uncomfortable executing the choreography. Bizet must be turning in his grave. The arrangement of the score butchered it. Awful in every way.

Lopatkina was a dream in the second movement of Symphony in C. She was exquisite and riveting. In fact, the entire cast was wonderful, although Somova lapsed into some of her bad old habits in the first movement with hyperextension of her leg. I thought the tutus were too wide in diameter, and I prefer the all white tutus used at NYCB.


I agree on both counts. Carmen was the worst ballet I've seen in a long time - worse than Anna Karenina and even Vishneva couldn't save it. The music was awful , the story muddled (and how is that possible, really?) the choreography banal. The dancing was mostly wonderful but Ivanchenko looked really silly as Escamellio.

if you're unfamiliar with a ballet, why not check it out on YouTube or a DVD beforehand? That way you can save money and avoid seeing a ballet that you disliike and will call "trash"(personally I'd save that adjective for a Millepied ballet). As for Symphony in C, Balanchine's dancing is almost a style and not one that can be readily picked up. I think the Mariinsky did an admirable job with this work and what it lacked in speed and attack it made up for in elegant carriage of upper bodies and technical refinement, something not always seen in NYCB dancers.

#107 canbelto

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 10:57 AM

I wouldn't call Carmen trash so much as just a really bad ballet. Familiarity with the opera makes it hard for me to appreciate this kind of tripe.

I thought Symphony in C had its moments (the second and third movement) but overall it lacked the snap and rigor that this ballet should have. The first and fourth movements were very off. The Mariinsky dancers seemed either ahead or behind the music, never on the beat. Lopatkina was excellent in the second movement though, and even did the knee-grazing penchee. Obraztsova and Shklyarov were also excellent in the third movement, both of them are great allegro dancers.

#108 Ceeszi

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 06:20 PM

I attended two performances - the Friday evening of Carmen and Symphony in C and the Saturday matinee of The Little Humpbacked Horse.

I liked Carmen. Yes - there were moments during the performance that felt like it was the muzak version of Carmen (way too much marimba and xylophone), but I found the ballet very dramatic and exciting. I will agree that a lot of the choreography seemed to be more posing and wiggling than actual dancing. Yet, Vishneva's passion and command of the stage kept me very engrossed.

[Off-topic sidebar - This version of Carmen is very, very familiar to me, because of multiple watchings of Katarina Witt's gold-medal winning performance in ladies figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Interestingly enough - Katarina was criticized for doing nothing but posing for one minute and fifteen seconds in the middle of her program during the Habanera part. - end of off-topic sidebar].

As much as I liked Carmen, I really loved Symphony in C. First of all, what a lineup - Somova and Fadeyev, Lopatkina and Korsuntsev, Obraztsova and Shklyarov, and Shirinkina and Timofeyev. I have not seen Somova in three years (when the Mariinsky was at City Center in 2008), but it seems to me that she has refined her style and turned down the "ear-whacking" that she was famous for. If she was behind the music, I did not notice it at all. Fadeyev was wonderful in his solo number. Lopatkina was the outstanding member of this all-star lineup - just enchanting throughout the second movement. In the third movement - I have to confess that I watched Shklyarov more than Obrazstova. The last time that I saw Shklyarov was when the Mariinsky came to Washington DC in February of 2010 for Sleeping Beauty (he was Prince Desiree to Viktoria Tereshkina's Aurora). He really did not make much of an impression on my memory, but it is obvious that he has matured and has aquired a greater command of the stage. Of the four male soloists, I thought he gave the outstanding performance (I would put Fadeyev second). Then, I completely fell in love with Shirinkina. First of all, she is absolutley gorgeous and second her movements were so light and quick. She more than held her own when the four leading ballerinas danced together at the end. Symphony in C received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Today, was a different story. I thought that The Little Humpbacked Horse was ok. I preferred the second act to the first act, but I am very happy that I went to see it. As someone else posted, I thought that some of the costumes and scenery were a little on the cheap side. I also did not care for the music - some of the score was downright unpleasant to listen to. Yet, our three leads - Somova, Sergeyev, and Popov (who replaced Smekalov) were outstanding. Somova was lovely and had great comic timing. Sergeyev did several triple turns in the air like they were nothing and Popov (who I saw three years ago as the Bronze Idol in La Bayadere) was incredible, especially when he did the splits in the air in front of the cauldron while Ivan was turning into a prince.

My only regret is that I missed Anna Karenina.

#109 Amy Reusch

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 09:17 PM

I saw the Friday evening performance from the nosebleeds (and this show was truly sold out was it not? I saw people in seats who could not have seen much of the dancing). The Carmen? Count me with those who thought the choreography was not top shelf. I liked the percussion in the sc ore but thought it was over-miked or at least over amplified. The stage design was very sticking but then the choreography never quite fulfilled that early promise. I need to read Maya's autobiography... I suspect she was very collaborative in the PDF choreography... Is there any discussion of this?

What a treat for my first Symphony in C! I expected not to like Samova having seen her on video and in Ballerina, but when those long limbs streaked out it took my breath away way up in the Family circle. Perhaps some subtlties of her line were lost, but from that distance her unique line was stunning.

The men were wonderful too, though something seemed off pairing tall principal between less tall demisoloist... It did a weird disservice to the shorter men as if height was what defined a principal.

What is with the Russian tutus lately? I've been noticing this on you tube... They are like folded over paper circles... No flounce at times when flounce is important. Beautifully trimmed but something looks cheap in the structure. What is it?

I though the corps looked beautiful, with feet that looked drawn in, the line so beautifully obvious... The principals to dream for... But the demi-soloist women looked a bit clunky...from the distance I couldn't see what the problem was... Was it just a matter of the costumes? It was dissonant.

Balanchine's genius glinted through the intricacies up to the top ring so beautifully it again made me sad that NYCB is closing it off in the State Theater. (yes, I hear the space has a new name, but you know, we still call it that road the West Side Highway and Joe DiMaggio was a much better man than Mr K.)

#110 richard53dog

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 06:21 AM

I saw the Saturday evening program and all in all was very glad I went despite a number of reservations.

Alonso's Carmen???? I have trouble understanding why this was resurrected. I saw it a number of times back in the 70s, first with Plisetskaya and then later with Alonso. It's a vehicle, pure and simple, for a powerful, charismatic stage personality.
The overall style is a very dated, 1960s "hip". Mostly Carmen just strikes dramatic poses all over the stage. It's a silly, mostly empty piece.

At the center was Lopatkina and ,while rather remote, she truly did dominate the stage which is the purpose of the piece. Very striking and glamorous, with her long shimmering legs. The men were much less effective, but that is due in a big part to the requirement to the piece itself.

It was a delight to see Symphony in C although the MT really doesn't convince me in Balanchine. Overall, the piece was a bit slow and a bit less clear than ideal. A sense of musicality and truly capturing the beautiful sense of the movement of the piece was at best intermittent.

Many of the individual components were very nice. Tereshkina is a beautifully schooled dancer but breaks phrases into steps, which she then executes well. But mostly the flow of movement is not there. Kondaurova seems to me a similar case. There was a lovely languid quality to her dancing and it has a bit more flow (crucial in second movement) but again, the real sense of phrasing and large scale movement was fragmented.

Of all the lead dancers, the one really outstanding performance was Shklyrov in third movement. He had the energy, the definition of phrasing, the articulation of the steps to make up a really great performance.

I had never seen either Obratszova or Shirinkina before although I'd heard much about their dancing. I really thought both were pretty unsuccessful, both tried to go for speed and ended up with a lot of jerky, blurry movements, some almost frantic. But neither was negligible and both had their moments.

The corp was mostly good although a lot of the footwork was very sketchy to saw the least. Yes, the upper bodies are lovely, but ladies you need to articulate both the steps and the movement more clearly and LISTEN to the music you are dancing to.

I'd never seen the piece before with the colored tutus for the lead and soloist women and really liked the effect the costumes made. It served a purpose of defining the different movements.

A number of people have complained of Schedrin arrangement of Bizet's tunes. Really, it has never bothered me and all in all I sort of enjoy hearing it. The orchestra then played well in the Bizet symphony, the quality of playing very high for an orchestra in a ballet performance. This is another of the MT Ballet's strengths; they share the orchestra with the opera company and as a result, the level of playing is much higher than the pickup orchestras other companies use. If only the dancers would listen to it more!!!!

All in all, with a number of reservations, a very good performance of a wonderful ballet. Just seeing the piece performed is a treat.

#111 abatt

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 06:51 AM

I attended both performances on Saturday. I thought Somova did a wonderful job in LHH. The role suited her very well. Carmen Suite was even more tedious for me on the second viewing. Lopatkina has gorgeous limbs that go on forever, and wonderful technique. However, she is so regal in her demeanor that I couldn't believe her as the flirtatious slut Carmen. Escamillo was once again wooden. Tereshkina was so much better (and musical) than Somova in the first movement in Symphony in C. I liked Kondaurova very much in the second movement, but for me Lopatkina's performance was breathtaking.

The thing I dislike about the tutus in Symphony in C is that they are too wide. For example, in the opening of the second movement, the demi-soloist ballerinas are promenaded by their partners past a line of six corps ballerinas. The tutus are so wide that as the demisoloist passes the corps girls, the tutus of both are crushed out of shape. It's distracting and lacking in elegance. This problem recurred in numerous spots in the ballet on both nights. Did the person who designed the tutus ever see the choreography before he/she designed the costume? Apparently not.


Although the rep they brought to NY was not exactly top tier ballets (except Symphony in C), it was wonderful to see the company. Unfortunaely, their visits to NY have become much less frequent than they used to be.

#112 canbelto

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 09:28 AM

I attended last night's performance as well. I thought Lopatkina was a better Carmen than Vishneva, partly because so much of the ballet is really just showing off how great a ballerina's legs look, and Lopatkina has a better body line than Vishneva. Lopatkina's legs are mile-long and she enhanced this look by dancing without tights. Vishneva, much more petite, with a more compact frame, looked less comfortable in the endlessly repeated move of having Carmen kick up her legs to Don Jose's shoulders and then being dragged across the stage. The elegant Yevgany Ivanchenko looked mortified both nights preening and prancing as the Toreador,

Last night's Symphony in C was also stronger. Tereshkina was a huge improvement over Somova in the first movement. I also liked Kondaurova's second movement better -- it wasn't taken at such a funereal pace as Lopatkina, and the overall approach was softer and I thought more musical, although Lopatkina was good too. Vladimir Shklyarov was the highlight of the piece -- he really *does* have the non-stop energy for Balanchine, and incredible elevation. I thought he and Obraztsova weren't really coordinated in the third movement though -- she seemed unable to keep up with him. The fourth movement still had some synchronization problems between the corps de ballet and the orchestra, although less than last night. Still, a great end to what was a very successful week for the Mariinsky.

#113 OneSwan

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 09:50 AM

I saw three Mariisnky performances this past week: the Tuesday evening Little Humpbacked Horse with Tereshkina and Shyklarov, the Thursday evening Anna Karenina with Kondaurova, and the Friday evening mixed bill of Carmen and Symphony in C.

Friday:

I had mixed feelings about Carmen. I really liked the simple, starkly dramatic set of a bull ring and high backed chairs looming ominously above it. And I liked some of the choreography and felt it articulated the characters well: for example, the oft-repeated step where Vishneva would raise her right leg in front of her and point her foot out, making her leg into a kind of saber...sexy and appropriately combative for Vishneva's very glamorous, imperious Carmen. But I thought the story was really muddied, and Vishneva and her three partners (Smekalov, Ivanchenko, I can't remember who subbed in for Pykhachov) had pretty tepid chemistry. Vishneva lacked the passion and fire I've seen her bring to other roles. Not a bad performance by any means, but I expected more from her.

Lopatkina gave the performance of the night in Symphony in C, in which she was truly glorious. Seeing her after Somova in the first allegro was a real study in contrasts. I saw Somova last in 2008 when the Mariinsky were at City Center and thought she was less awkward Friday than she was then, but the level of her dancing is still noticeably sub par in comparison to every other Mariinsky ballerina I've seen in a principal role (and that includes dancers like Shirinkina who are still ranked with the corps). I don't dislike extreme extensions in and of themselves, but she still doesn't seem fully in control of her long, super-flexible limbs: she snaps in and out of these extreme poses instead of gracefully developing her arabesque. She did show a lightness and fleetness which could be compelling, if it didn't so often feel rushed and insubstantial due to her poor timing and sense of the music. Lopatkina, on the other hand, danced with such an amazingly regal gravity. Her steps seem to blossom as she dances them; they just unfurl in the most beautiful way. I wish I could articulate it better. My favorite moment of her performance was the section where Korsuntsev was standing behind her and they did a series of steps where his arms would be in first position while hers were in fifth, and then vice versa. It was so simple but so very, very exquisite.

I really loved Shklyarov in the third section of Symphony in C and was happy to get to see him again after enjoying him so much in the LHH. And Obraztsova and Shirinkina held their own, particularly Shirinkina, who seems like one to watch.

Thursday:

I went in with very low expectations after having read the pretty disappointed posts here about the Monday performance by Vishneva. But I thought Kondaurova was great! She is really a true artist in the way that she can develop a character and then manifest her through every little gesture and step she makes on stage. Batuschan said that Lopatkina's Anna was like Madame Bovary, and I felt there were elements of that character in Kondaurova's Anna as well. Kondaurova played Anna at first as an almost nervously restless, bored woman who wanted more from life than what marriage with Karenin and her position in society gave to her. She didn't seem to love Vronsky himself (who was danced by Yermakov as very aggressive, demanding, almost predatory) so much as want desperately to love and feel loved. In her pas de deux with Yermakov Kondaurova's arms were often reaching past him: it was as though even when her Anna was with Vronsky she was still reaching for more and never felt fully satisfied and secure in his love. I loved how after she and Yermakov danced the first pas de deux that represented the consummation of their affair Kondaurova brought her arms around herself and slowly caressed them while she was sitting on the floor next to the prone Yermakov: it was as though even after experiencing passion with Vronsky her Anna still felt cold and alone and craving connection. These scenes made a heartbreaking contrast with how she was with the boy playing her son, who she totally curled herself around and enveloped in her arms.

The final moments of the performance were some of the most emotionally wrenching and intense I've ever seen in a ballet. I left the performance having been completely blown away by Kondaurova.

Tuesday:

Shyklarov was such a delight, and Tereshkina was a fun, gutsy, playful Tsar Maiden. Kondaurova was lovely in her two all too brief appearances as the Young Mare and Sea Princess. Strong performances all around, but I hated the production itself. LHH showed me that there is, in fact, a ballet with uglier costumes than ABT's Sleeping Beauty. The sets were equally awful. The ballet itself is pretty charming, though there are some places where it feels disjointed, like the detour into dancing-birch-tree-people land while Ivan and the horse are on their way to the Tsar.

All in all, I so very much enjoyed the Mariisnky's residence at the Met. I wish they came to NYC more often!

#114 rg

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 09:59 AM

in CARMEN SUITE on Fri. eve. the Corregidor was danced, according to a cast-change slip, by Alexander Klimov.

#115 Drew

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:10 AM



I thought Carmen Suite was trash. The "choreography", if it can be called that, consists mainly of Vishneva wiggling her hips and standing in sexy poses. It looked like a strip tease act, not a ballet. Why would a virile man like Don Jose wear a hot pink shirt with red polka dots? I don't have my program, but the man who danced the bull fighter role did not have an ounce of charisma. He looked very uncomfortable executing the choreography. Bizet must be turning in his grave. The arrangement of the score butchered it. Awful in every way.

Lopatkina was a dream in the second movement of Symphony in C. She was exquisite and riveting. In fact, the entire cast was wonderful, although Somova lapsed into some of her bad old habits in the first movement with hyperextension of her leg. I thought the tutus were too wide in diameter, and I prefer the all white tutus used at NYCB.


I agree on both counts. Carmen was the worst ballet I've seen in a long time - worse than Anna Karenina and even Vishneva couldn't save it. The music was awful , the story muddled (and how is that possible, really?) the choreography banal. The dancing was mostly wonderful but Ivanchenko looked really silly as Escamellio.

if you're unfamiliar with a ballet, why not check it out on YouTube or a DVD beforehand? That way you can save money and avoid seeing a ballet that you disliike and will call "trash"(personally I'd save that adjective for a Millepied ballet). As for Symphony in C, Balanchine's dancing is almost a style and not one that can be readily picked up. I think the Mariinsky did an admirable job with this work and what it lacked in speed and attack it made up for in elegant carriage of upper bodies and technical refinement, something not always seen in NYCB dancers.


Youtube is not the best way to make a determination about the quality of choreography, but in any case, if one wants to see the Mariinsky on tour, one does not typically have a huge choice of ballets. I myself was able to get to NY from Thursday through Saturday and essentially planned to see whatever they were dancing. In fact, people go all the time to see ballets they don't care for--even people with lots of opportunities to see performances--perhaps because they want to see a particular dancer, check out the development of a company or, for that matter, give the choreography another chance etc.

For myself, I doubt "trash" is too strong a term for Carmen, but I will just say Carmen seems to me a ballet of little substance. Vishneva could not save it--rather, despite the beauty of much of her dancing, it seemed to bring her down with it. From where I was sitting, her Carmen was a one note sex-vamp/seductress.

Much to my surprise, the next night Lopatkina spun this...let's call it "straw"...into gold. That is, she could not make Carmen a great ballet, but somehow when she was dancing it did not matter because SHE was so great. Every move was riveting; I even found her characterization compelling -- her Carmen was complex and independent with sexuality the expression of something more troubled or troubling inside of her rather than the full sum of her character. And Lopatkina's legs are surely the most beautiful legs in all of classical ballet (and beyond). In short, when she was on stage, I was transfixed...

#116 angelica

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 12:18 PM

Don't mean to add fuel to the fire, but I would see Lopatkina. She's a living legend and you will spend many-many hours telling your grand-children about that time you saw her live.

Waelsung, you are so right about that! I saw Carmen last night and found the ballet dated, as if it had been created for its shock value in another era. But Lopatkina was a marvel. The geometric perfection of her body, the long limbs, the line, the fluidity of her movements, the extensions, everything done to the max. I'm so glad I was there to see her. I enjoyed Symphony in C, but wasn't swept away by any of the star ballerinas. Lopatkina has raised the bar (barre?) to a standard almost impossible to attain.

#117 Waelsung

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 12:28 PM

Don't mean to add fuel to the fire, but I would see Lopatkina. She's a living legend and you will spend many-many hours telling your grand-children about that time you saw her live.

Waelsung, you are so right about that! I saw Carmen last night and found the ballet dated, as if it had been created for its shock value in another era. But Lopatkina was a marvel. The geometric perfection of her body, the long limbs, the line, the fluidity of her movements, the extensions, everything done to the max. I'm so glad I was there to see her. I enjoyed Symphony in C, but wasn't swept away by any of the star ballerinas. Lopatkina has raised the bar (barre?) to a standard almost impossible to attain.


I was there last night too and I fully agree. Carmen is an acquired taste, so to speak, but the way Lopatkina danced it made much more sense than all the other versions I had seen previously.

And of course, she is in a class by herself, nobody can even begin to compare.

We are truly blessed to have a chance to witness her art on stage. :clapping:

#118 Helene

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 02:41 PM

And Lopatkina's legs are surely the most beautiful legs in all of classical ballet (and beyond). In short, when she was on stage, I was transfixed...

When I saw her in the excerpts last year during the Cultural Olympiad, I couldn't stop watching her legs and feet.

#119 Goldfish17

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Posted 18 July 2011 - 06:26 AM

I loved Uliana Lopatkina’s Carmen!
She is still dancing before my eyes.

#120 Batsuchan

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 06:26 PM

I attended the Friday and Saturday night performances of “Carmen Suite” and “Symphony in C,” as well as the Sat matinee “Little Humpbacked Horse” for a clean sweep of the Mariinsky week. I’m still pretty exhausted so it’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts.

First, as a general comment, I was struck anew by how much one’s preconceptions and expectations of a piece can influence one’s reactions, and how you only get one “first viewing.” I also noticed that my own enjoyment of a performance is highly dependent on where I am sitting (the closer the better, it seems) and other extraneous factors (like the person sitting behind me whose cellphone rang in the middle of the adagio section in “Carmen”).

Prior to Friday, I had seen neither Alonso’s “Carmen” (nor Balanchine’s “Symphony in C”). I have also never seen the opera, and my only exposure to the music has been through snippets of other Carmen ballets and 3-4 minute clips in figure skating programs. I had a vague notion that Carmen was kind of sexy character who gets involved in a love triangle and is killed, and that’s about it.

So I personally had no qualms with the music arrangement, and while the story and characterizations may have been simplistic compared to the opera, to me they seemed appropriate to the piece at hand. The ballet itself felt very stylized; it’s stripped down to only a few essential elements and a limited range of steps.

On Friday, I enjoyed it as one might enjoy some chips and salsa—not really filling fare, but tasty and spicy. And I thought Vishneva provided all the requisite heat—to me, she looked stunning and was terribly seductive. She seemed to embrace all the non-balletic steps/movements as evidence of her character’s defiance of convention—she jutted her hips out and brought attention to a flexed foot as she suggestively slid it down the back of her other leg. To me, she seemed irresistible, and it was no wonder that she and Smekalov seemed to have that chemistry which was lacking on Monday in “Anna Karenina.”

However, I will agree with other posters that her movements were lacking a bit of that effortlessness that I am used to seeing in her other roles. And there was little in the choreography in which she could show off her virtuoso technique. I also agree that Ivanchenko was disappointing as the torero—while watching him, I kept thinking “dough boy”—because of the white costume, the lack of sharpness in his execution and movement, and general blandness. But overall, I enjoyed the ballet for what it was, and so did my friends.

On Saturday, Lopatkina played Carmen very differently. Whereas Vishneva’s movement had a very sensuous, slinky quality, Lopatkina’s movements were very sharp and powerful, emphasizing Carmen’s strength. Unlike Vishneva, who seemed to revel in the non-classical poses, Lopatkina kept the movements very classically correct—in fact, the arabesque pose where she had her arm straight up by her head as well as a supported backbend with Korsuntsev looked like they could have been straight out of “Swan Lake.” Although the images she created were striking—those lines!!—I felt like I did when I saw David Hallberg in “Don Quixote.” Gorgeous dancing, gorgeous lines, but not for a second did I believe the Spanish flair. Lopatkina’s Carmen felt a little too cold and regal for my tastes, but my friend, who saw both Vishneva and Lopatkina, put it this way: “One is fire, one is ice, and both can burn you.”

**
I heartily enjoyed “Symphony in C” on both nights, but again, I had no reference for comparison. Seeing the entire cast in perfect harmony at the end of the piece was exhilarating!

Shklyarov was again a standout for me as he has been all week. That smile, that charm! And where did he get those front extensions? Wow! I love Obraztsova (and they continue to look so cute together), but he outshined her here, in my opinion. Lopatkina and Korsuntsev looked impeccable in the second movement, but I might have preferred Kondaurova by a hair. She has a luscious quality to her movement, and that seems to be something I personally adore. I would love to see her in anything. Fadeyev, Shirinkina and Timofeev were all great too.

On Saturday, it was a pleasure to see the brilliant Tereshkina in the first movement. I had noticed this on Tuesday in the “Little Humpbacked Horse,” and my impression was confirmed on Saturday: she just seems to radiate warmth and an easy-going confidence—she looks like she’s having a great time. Like Kondaurova, I would also love to see her in anything I can. What a difference from Friday night!

**

And that brings me to Alina Somova. I had seen clips of her in the “Ballerina” documentary a few years back and read about her in detail in reviews and on this forum, but this was my first time seeing her live. And for me, personally, it was pretty horrifying.

Friday’s “Symphony in C” gave me the initial unfavorable impression. First, at every possible opportunity, she seemed to stretch the front of her neck as far as it would go, leading with her chin—instead of lengthening the back of the neck, like I have been taught. And when Fadeyev lifted her vertically and she beat her legs, her feet were like 10 inches apart instead of tightly crossed in front and in back of each other.

But most of all it was the quality of the movement that offended me. I read a great description of “plastique” in a dance review recently—the “coalescence of softness, flexion and tempered steel that gives movement its flow.” But when Somova danced, all I saw was softness and flexion and no steel, kind of like silly putty—sure, it is stretchy, but that’s it!

Still, this was only a very short performance. Others suggested she might do better as the Tsar Maiden, so I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt in the Saturday matinee.

And at first, all was good. She certainly is very pretty and made a picture-perfect princess. I found nothing wrong with her initial solo. With the slow music, she was able to control her movements, show some flow. I was even somewhat touched by her lonely, yearning expression.

…And then it went all downhill from there for me. The tempo picked up and it became a floppy mess of limbs flung all over the place with little connection to the rest of the body. I suspect that she is just so naturally flexible (maybe even double-jointed?) that she really needs to think about controlling her movements, and she can do this when the music is slower but not when it is fast.

My friend and I were discussing this odd quality of her dancing by comparing a picture of Somova and Tereshkina in basically the same mid-air pose.

When I saw this picture on the promo posters, I felt that it looked “wrong.” Somova’s body feels very static to me and lacks a sense of movement. She looks like a wooden puppet whose arms and legs have been pinned onto her torso; there is no sense of connection between the parts.
http://www.theballet...ked-Horse-4.jpg

On the other hand, with Tereshkina, everything looks connected, and energy seems to emanate from the core through the limbs. The impression I get is that of strength (but not of effort).
http://graphics8.nyt...rticleLarge.jpg

It’s a very subtle difference, and I admit that I am extremely picky about these things because it’s something I’ve been taught to see and correct in my own dancing. Our ballet teacher is constantly reminding us “don’t lift your leg; push down through the ground” and let the weight/energy flow down and through it. So that is instinctively what I look for.

But it wasn’t just the technique (or lack thereof) that bothered me with Somova, it was also her characterization. Both Tereshkina and Obraztsova seemed to find the humor in the role and played it a tad tongue-in-cheek, but Somova played her Tsar Maiden very “straight”—very much a sugar-sweet Barbie doll princess. That would be fine since the “Little Humpbacked Horse” is a fairy tale, not heavy drama, but her facial expressions were surprisingly amateur. My friend wondered how young she was/how long she’d been dancing, because her expressions seemed very inexperienced and immature. Once Ivan arrived, she glued this awful fake smile on her face and resumed with the neck-stretching. I think it would have worked much better if she hadn’t tried so hard with the face-pulling—when she left her face neutral (or when she forgot that she was supposed to be “emoting”), she looked so much more comfortable and believable.

The rest of the cast was somewhat mixed for me as well. Alexander Sergeyev was not as incandescently charming as Shklyarov, and his humpbacked horse, Grigory Popov, outshined him technically, in my opinion, whereas Shklyarov looked better than his horses. In fact, Popov was almost a little too technically strong (those jumps!) and polished for me—a little goofiness or roughness in the movements seemed appropriate to the offbeat, humpbacked horse character.

I noticed several small changes to the choreography versus the other two performances. In the first scene, when Ivan is interacting with his brothers, there is a movement where he lunges forward in an arabesque and is pulled by the leg by his brother—here Shklyarov kept his leg fully extended and his foot pointed, whereas Sergeyev kept his leg bent and foot flexed. And again, when his brothers hold his arms and he does these sideways split jumps, Shklyarov kept his feet pointed while Sergeyev flexed his. At the end of the ballet, Sergeyev did his solo starting on the opposite side (he did a mirror image of the steps), and he finished with a series of pirouettes instead of the high-flying center-split leaps that Shklyarov did. (Popov did them instead.)

However, despite the less-than-ideal Tsar Maiden, and despite the slightly less scintillating Ivan, I still enjoyed “The Little Humpbacked Horse.” For me, it’s one of those ballets that you can’t really go wrong with; it’s so much fun.

**

All in all, though I didn’t really love most of the ballets that were performed, I was oh so glad to have seen the Mariinsky perform.

Though perhaps the greatest excitement of the whole week came from going to the stage door on Friday night! I don’t normally do that, but it was so fun to see so many of the Mariinsky stars come out. Shklyarov was an absolute sweetheart, even more adorable in person (if that is possible), and I will treasure the photo I got with him. :wub:

But the greatest pleasure of the week for me was getting to meet several of you in person! It made my ballet-going experience extra-enjoyable. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing you in the fall!


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