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Mikhailovsky Ballet -- Leonid Sarafanov joins company

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"The renowned dancer Leonid Sarafanov has signed a contract, under which on 1 January 2011 he is coming to the Mikhailovsky Ballet Company as a principal dancer. His first appearance at the Mikhailovsky Theatre as a principal is planned for 22 January 2011."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv0kvzZFQXg

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This doesn't look good for the Mariinsky, especially after Lobukhin leaving for the Bolshoi earlier this year. I hope it doesn't backlash with the management negatively onto his wife's career.

Also the bit at the bottom of the description about Makhalina is a travesty.

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I'm shocked by this move, I somehow imagined Sarafanov was the company golden boy after his early promotion to the leading roles and never expected him to leave the company. Undoubtedly there is more to this than meets the eye and I dare say acting director Fateev had a hand in whatever forced Sarafanov to make this decision.

I wish him well in the new company, he would have been better off under the Mikhailovsky's previous director Messerer though. Won't his talents be rather going to waste under Duato?

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Who knows how this may be connected to other events but this seems to me one more sign that there is some kind of artistic unease inside the MT Ballet.

Perhaps it's not so unfortunate that their visit to NYC for next summer has been cancelled. Let's hope for some new, brighter artistic direction which will lead the company back to a place where it is more in line with their traditional reputation.

Right now I would say there is quite a gap between the company's day in and day out performances and the much more positive historical/traditional reputation that they have in the minds of many ballet goers.

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Now I'm wondering who his wife is, ksk04?

This sounds all really bad.. I also thought Sarafanov was 'golden boy' at the company (I don't really like his dancing, though)

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Now I'm wondering who his wife is, ksk04?

This sounds all really bad.. I also thought Sarafanov was 'golden boy' at the company (I don't really like his dancing, though)

His wife is Olesia Novikova

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What is the source of this information? I mean his departure to the land of Duato? (who by the way won't be fulltime in the theatre until Jan 2011 either).

I just have to say, you watch the a la seconde turns at the end of that clip, and the changing spot -- and it gives me chills. Any company is lucky to have him.

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"The renowned dancer Leonid Sarafanov has signed a contract, under which on 1 January 2011 he is coming to the Mikhailovsky Ballet Company as a principal dancer. His first appearance at the Mikhailovsky Theatre as a principal is planned for 22 January 2011."

This is huge. Something happened to prompt him to bail. He's enjoyed preferred casting for the past several years. My guess is that Mikhailovsky Theatre General Director, Vladimir "Banana King" Kehkman offered him far more money than he's being paid at the Mariinsky Theatre. Another factor may be that he's been assigned to Somova as her most frequent partner at home and abroad.

Someone asked whether this will effect Olesya Novikova. There's no telling how it will effect her career. It probably won't change her current situation. She's a 1st Soloist and pretty much a "house" 1st soloist. She's infrequently cast compared to others. I think that in two or more seasons Novikova may be consigned to "Dumchenko Land." If there are any promotions this season, I expect that Vladimir Shyklarov will be the strongest contender to take Sarafanov's place. MO.

Mashinka wrote,

I wish him well in the new company, he would have been better off under the Mikhailovsky's previous director Messerer though. Won't his talents be rather going to waste under Duato?
Exactly. His classical repertory will be curtailed if Duato decides to mount and push his own works and sideline the classics. It would be an excellent move for him if Misha Messerer was still the ballet director. How will Maestro Gergiev deal with Yuri Fateev regarding this high profile departure? That's the $1 Trillion question. Sarafanov's departure is to Fateev what Zakharova's departure was to Vaziev. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

*(Edited: Kehkman is the General Director not the AD).

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Ah thanks. I agree w/Cygnet regarding the potential effects on Sarafanov's career, given how strong his classical background is. But maybe he wants to branch into more modern works? Hopefully he will have the ability to guest externally more often in any case. Then too, with the Mikhailovksy's deep deep pockets, they tend to tour more than the Mariinsky -- that is going to be more exposure.

It will be an interesting move in any case.

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My guess is that Mikhailovsky Theatre Artistic Director, Vladimir "Banana King" Kehkman offered him far more money than he's being paid at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Um, I guess I'm ignorant, but why is he the "Banana King"? Sounds intriguing.

Regarding Sarafanov, I've only seen him a few times, when the Kirov visited New York's City Center a few years ago. He was incredible. I had hopes that ABT might invite him to be a guest, but unfortunately that has not happened. If memory serves, I believe I read that the Mikhailovsky Ballet will visit NYC in 2012.

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Abbatt wrote,

Um, I guess I'm ignorant, but why is he the "Banana King"? Sounds intriguing.
Kehkman is a billionaire. He made his fortune by importing bananas to Russia.

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My guess is that since Sarafanov is not typically placed alongside Vishneva at home, that this prevents him from guesting with ABT. There may be an unspoken quota on how many Mariinsky guest artists ABT can house per season, I have no idea.

And yes- the Mik in 2012 in NYC is planned.

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There may be an unspoken quota on how many Mariinsky guest artists ABT can house per season, I have no idea.

Not just Mariinsky but guest artists as a whole. ABT's guest star policy has ever been contentious. The artistic director has to balance the public's love of guest stars against the day-to-day dancers' feeling that the company should be promoting them (in terms of press and rank) instead of the guests. God bless ABT -- it never changes!

(That being said, if Sarafanov wants to dance w/ ABT, then now would be the time to put out feelers. With Carreno retiring, Corella hardly dancing with the company any more and certain older danseurs dancing less (Beloserkovsky, Steifel), there is a certain void at the top w/ only Stearns seemingly on the cusp of promotion.)

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Abbatt wrote,

Um, I guess I'm ignorant, but why is he the "Banana King"? Sounds intriguing.
Kehkman is a billionaire. He made his fortune by importing bananas to Russia.

True. He's also the classic "Biznizman" in more ways than one. Automobile advertisements at the entrance of the theater, anyone?

Who can blame Sarafanov for wanting to leave "The House of Blues" while he still has the physical prowess to command higher wages? Besides, he can still partner Obraztsova and other Mariinsky ballerinas who make frequent guest appearances at the Mikhailovsky. Anything to get away from Miss Hyperflex! :clapping:

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Mikhailovsky Ballet looked to be a second rate company to me, as its repertoire and dancers were not as fabulous as Mariinsky's. Why did Sarafanov sign such a contract?

Maybe things are going better ways after Ruzhimatov was sacked?

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Belated thanks to Rosa for posting the announcement from the Mikhailovsky website. The following paragraph is interesting. It addresses several of the questions raised earlier in this thread.:

Leonid Sarafanov: “My coming to the Mikhailovsky Theatre is my conscious decision. I feel I have some capabilities, which are difficult to enhance in traditional repertory. I expect that at the Mikhailovsky Ballet led by Nacho Duato. I’ll be able to experience some new artistic quality. I’ve always been interested in contemporary choreography, experimenting with new plastique and I’m inspired and encouraged by the perspectives I see at the Mikhailovsky Theatre.”

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Mikhailovsky Ballet looked to be a second rate company to me, as its repertoire and dancers were not as fabulous as Mariinsky's. Why did Sarafanov sign such a contract?

Maybe things are going better ways after Ruzhimatov was sacked?

Judging by the last two seasons in London, I'd hesitate to call the company 'second rate'. Their leading dancer, Irina Perren is actually very good and stands comparison with most of the featured Kirov girls. Denis Matvienko is undeniably world class and although no longer a regular company member he still guests with the Mikhailovsky. There are by the way, a number of former lower ranking Kirov dancers within the company who also felt they would be happier with St Petersburg's 'second company'. I imagine money was a factor in Sarafanov's decision to move, but he isn't the first to depart and I dare say he won't be the last. Merkuriev and Luboukin do very well at the Bolshoi, proving that jumping ship can be advantageous. The Kirov isn't what it was and had the Mikhailovsky continued down its former classical road, the company could in time have overtaken the Kirov, but the Duato decision probably means a change of direction along a route where classical ballet becomes secondary.

Mikhail Messerer was proving an inspired director at the Mikhailovsky, if Gergiev had any sense he would snap him up to replace the sorry 'acting' incumbent.

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The April/May 2011 issue of Pointe Magazine has an article on Duato's plans for the Mikhailovsky.

It's not available online, but here are a few highlights. (Please note the information on a visit to Lincoln Center in 2012, in the bottom quote box.)

"I know the news that I was moving to this company was completely bizarre," says Duato, who was offered the position by the Mikhailovsky's enterprising general director Vladimir Kekhman. " "Everyone thought, Is he mad? Is he crazy," says Duato. "And yes, I am crazy. But if you're not crazy, you don't move forward."
Although he has little classical experience himself, Duato isn't planning to do away with the company's recent focus [on traditional ballets]. "The classics are important, and the company dances them beautifully," he says. "I'll update the lighting and the decor a bit, but I'm going to preserve the current classical repertoire." In fact, he'll add it it: One of Duato's first major products is a new Sleeping Beauty, to premiere in February 2012, which he will stage after Petipa.
My goal is to bring the company into the present by creating a balance between classical and contemporary." He adds that eventually he'd like the Mikhailovsky to be comparable to an American Ballet Theatre or a Paris Opera Ballet -- yet his troupe's repertoire will, unsurprisingly, include a substantial collection of his own pieces. ... Though he will set some of his best-known pieces (Remanso and Jardi Tancat among them) on the company, this July he'll premiere a new ballet whose vocabulary will be significantly more classical. "I have all these beautiful dancers with incredible Russian schooling and technique, so why not take advantage of that?" he says. "The bodies are different, the city is different, so my inspirations are going to be different. My choreography will evolve.
Duato also plans to amp up the company's touring schedule in Europe and America to increase the Mikhailovsky's international presence ... Indeed, though just a year ago most American ballet fans had never heard of the Mikhailovsky, the company is already booked for a run at Lincoln Center in 2012. It will perform Duato's Sleeping Beauty and a program of three new contemporary works.

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While I'm glad that they're coming in 2012, I sure hope that it won't be "wall-to-wall Nacho"! How about the full-length Laurencia and Cipollino, two Soviet-era rarities that delighted London audiences last summer?

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