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Giselle At the Kennedy Center - Feb 2011

116 posts in this topic

Did you catch Lopatkina dancing certain passages too quickly (including the ballottes in Act I)...way, WAY off the beat of the music? It's as if she were trying to signal to the conductor to speed up. I could see a dancer doing that once or even twice, but she did it many times. (And this is Mariinsky conductor, directing the KennCen Opera House Orch!)

I noticed it and found it distracting. I also thought the tempo on Saturday night was even slower and more ponderous than it had been earlier in the week, making Lopatkina's ability to really float and sail through the second act even more impressive.

And while I adore Kondaurova, in all three performances I saw with her, she also had a tendency to finish slightly behind the music, namely the pique attitudes in her first variation.

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..... positive opinions have been expressed, among others, by two different Ballet Directors of the Mariinsky (the current one and the previous one), .....

Of course they like her - they gave this dancer her job and have propped her up, despite overwhelmingly negative reviews from MOST critics of MOST appearances in the US and the UK. I don't have the hours required to begin to compile the long list of negative in-print reviews...but I vividly remember one from a NY critic (druing the 2008 City Center tour) who described her look as a praying mantis with stick-thin legs attached to her hips by a pin.

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[Admin beanie on]

Please tone down the rhetoric to civil.

[Admin beanie off]

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[Admin beanie on]

Please tone down the rhetoric to civil.

[Admin beanie off]

I hear you. "Abomination" is now "dancer"! :) The "praying mantis" bit came from a review by one of the top NYC in-print critics, during the 2008 City Center run, so I won't alter.

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Of course they like her - they gave this dancer her job and have propped her up, despite overwhelmingly negative reviews from MOST critics of MOST appearances in the US and the UK. I don't have the hours required to begin to compile the long list of negative in-print reviews...but I vividly remember one from a NY critic (druing the 2008 City Center tour) who described her look as a praying mantis with stick-thin legs attached to her hips by a pin.

A more generous view might be that they saw Ms. Somova's talent early on and invested a significant effort in developing it---a strategy which seems to be paying off in the form of more positive reviews of late as well as a major award. The 2008 NY reviews of her Balanchine performance were good, as opposed to the reviews of her performances of the classics. In any case, three years is a very long time in a young dancer's career, and she appears to have made a lot of progress.

By the way---my chiming in in defense of Ms. Somova is not meant to detract anything from the other performances. I watched all the other casts during the DC tour and immensely enjoyed watching all three other principal ballerinas (as well as many other dancers). I'm just a little surprised that Ms. Somova has generated so much ill will. Just trying to bring some balance to the discussion.

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In any case, three years is a very long time in a young dancer's career, and she appears to have made a lot of progress.

She improved a lot and keep improving. Not everyone has to like her style but in this moment refusing her musicality and acting skills is really unfair. I disliked her for a long time and two years ago I would completely agree with most of people here but after seeing her Nikiya and Juliet last year I was stunned. She's not the same Alina with nothing more than hyperextensions and glued smile. I think that some people just have to try watch her with less of ill will.

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It would have been great to know about this board before I went to the performances last week, what an enthusiastic group.

I went Tuesday night - Diana - Row H, Friday night - Alina - Row G and Saturday night - Ulyana - Row Q. I actually posted my opinion in Alina's thread before I knew about this thread so I won't repeat myself other than just what I thought:

Diana on Tuesday moved me so much with her emotion, she really was the character. Alina on Friday executed wonderfully and overall she was the most mind-blowing. Strangely I thought there was something off about Ulyana Saturday night in Act I but in Act II she was perfection. Now that I read comments posted here about the timing of the music I'm somewhat astonished that as a total newbie I was able to pick up on that.

I'm totally glad I went and feel super lucky to get to see these dancers, this company.

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Admin note:

The company forum review threads are for thoughts about performances that BalletAlertniks have seen. For discussing reviews of performances that you haven't seen, please post in the "Writings on Ballet" forum, where posts on the Macaulay review have been moved.

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Haven followed this board for some time, I didnt dare to write here because of perplexing and persistent ill will toward a certain dancer. Now that equilibrium is more or less restored I dare to express my own views on the last week performances at the Kennedy Center.

Friday night (the 11th ) was truly magical, especially the 2nd act. Always stellar corps de ballet provoked enthusiastic applause as the white clad lines of Willis were moving forward in small sautés. Alina Somova surprised me as I did not consider her to be Romantic material. Exceptionally soft quality of her dancing made her appear truly other worldly. Evgeny Ivanchenko was good, if not a particularly inspiring or aristocratic in the role of Albrecht.

I also have high praises for Tereshkina-Giselle and Shklyarov-Albrecht (matinee of February 12th) who lived and breathed their respective roles. Ekaterina Konaurova was beyond gorgeous as Myrtha, perhaps the best Myrtha I have seen. Valeria Martinyuk and Alexey Timofeev were better of the two casts of Peasant pdd. I believe that Mariinky has refreshed the production with new costumes for the first act, for the stage looked livelier than I remember from their last tour of Giselle. The orchestra was disappointedly uneven and when Tereshkina made a courtesy in the direction of the orchestra pit, there was hardly a sole there, as they promptly dashed out the minute music stopped. On the whole, I give Mariinsky 8.5 out of 10 this tour season and already looking foward towards the company's next year engagement at the Kennedy Center.

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I was at the Thursday performance, and although I thought that Tereshkina was a lovely Giselle and an ethereal Wili (which would have been enough on its own) it was truly the corps de ballet that blew me away, and that provided a sharp contrast to the renditions I have seen in the last few years from American and Canadian companies. This proved true both in the first act, with Giselle's friends, as well as of course Act II. Perhaps it seems self-evident that a Russian or European company with a state school (and in this case, where most of the corps dancers could probably come up with soloist contracts elsewhere if they wished to do so) would have a better corps de ballet than our American mix of dancers with varied training, but I was beyond stunned and blown away on Thursday - and perhaps the applause that came after the "swimming" makes up somewhat for the lack of repeated curtain calls, since I don't know that I've ever seen an audience applaud like that during corps dancing, although if you're going to, I suppose that is the classic moment. The corps was not at all robotic, and yet the incredible synchronicity with which they moved into B+ after a running entrance was something I had never seen before, not even at the Paris Opera, which I find to have a world class corps.

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I was at the Thursday performance, and although I thought that Tereshkina was a lovely Giselle and an ethereal Wili (which would have been enough on its own) it was truly the corps de ballet that blew me away, and that provided a sharp contrast to the renditions I have seen in the last few years from American and Canadian companies. This proved true both in the first act, with Giselle's friends, as well as of course Act II. Perhaps it seems self-evident that a Russian or European company with a state school (and in this case, where most of the corps dancers could probably come up with soloist contracts elsewhere if they wished to do so) would have a better corps de ballet than our American mix of dancers with varied training, but I was beyond stunned and blown away on Thursday - and perhaps the applause that came after the "swimming" makes up somewhat for the lack of repeated curtain calls, since I don't know that I've ever seen an audience applaud like that during corps dancing, although if you're going to, I suppose that is the classic moment. The corps was not at all robotic, and yet the incredible synchronicity with which they moved into B+ after a running entrance was something I had never seen before, not even at the Paris Opera, which I find to have a world class corps.

I totally agree about the quality of the corps on Thursday! I was simply blown away!

I also, unfortunately, noticed, not just at the Mariinsky performances, but at the past few ballets companies I've seen, the lightning speed at which the orchestra clears out of the pit. Ms. Tereshkina similarly acknowledged the all-but-empty pit in her bows on Thursday. It was embarrassing! Perhaps they don't realize that they aren't hidden from view, especially to the tiers. Or perhaps they're trying to beat the traffic rush? It is strange, because we as the audience are applauding the musicians and the dancers...

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Re: Orchestra members.

Perhaps they don't realize that they aren't hidden from view...?

Going a little :off topic: ...One time, while attending a not too memorable contemporary dancing performance with a less memorable score-(won't tell the name of the composer because he seems to be quite popular, but this was one of those works which looks like an uninterrupted, longer version of the pre-performance tuning routine)-I was seated in center orchestra, second row and so had a clear view of the last two lines of musicians from the back of the pit. A couple of them didn't have that much to play at one point, and so they engaged in a lively whispering/muffled laughing interchange. It was very amusing, and they provide me with the right entertainment I needed to get a bit away from the surrounding "music" and "dancing"... :tiphat:

But back to the broken heart doomed girl...

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I think the gesture to thank the orchestra can be symbolic as well as real :)

There have been a number of times I've raced to the exit of the parking garage with members of the ballet and opera orchestras ;) They've had a long night of work, where I've had a long night of pleasure. Why should they suffer the Mercer Mess to be polite?

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Haven followed this board for some time, I didn’t dare to write here because of perplexing and persistent ill will toward a certain dancer. Now that equilibrium is more or less restored I dare to express my own views on the last week performances at the Kennedy Center.

Not so much ill-will as truthfulness, but else where on the web it has been a different story as for years there has been a concerted effort by trolls to flood the internet with lavish praise and phoney reviews, the latter quickly removed on the more responsible sites when their provenance became apparent.

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Haven followed this board for some time, I didn’t dare to write here because of perplexing and persistent ill will toward a certain dancer. Now that equilibrium is more or less restored I dare to express my own views on the last week performances at the Kennedy Center.

Not so much ill-will as truthfulness, but else where on the web it has been a different story as for years there has been a concerted effort by trolls to flood the internet with lavish praise and phoney reviews, the latter quickly removed on the more responsible sites when their provenance became apparent.

One person's "phoney review" is another's heart-felt appreciation. One person's "truth" is another's "self-involved nastiness". That is why we encourage a wide range of views and discussion.

How much credibility is given to posters is based on the way they express their views. Over-the-top says more about the posters than the subject, usually, and we assume that readers with their eyes open are able to make distinctions.

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Alina Somova is currently vastly superior to ever star ballerina in the world and I recently spent several weeks at the Bolshoi Theatre, viewing company class, rehearsals and performances, so the Bolshoi has nobody at Alina's level and none of the current Mariinsky stars can approach her.

Are you seriously saying that a dancer considered by audiences and her peers as a bad joke is the world's best?

I have also seen classes by the Bolshoi (and Kirov) and watched both companies over a period of 37 years and in that time I have never seen in either company a principal dancer so lacking in line, musicality, technique, acting ability and artistic taste. The only ability she has over others is the ability to display her crotch at every opportunity no matter how inappropriate choreographically. She has become a byword for low standards and tasteless presentation and in her last London performances was greeted with a scarcity of applause that marked a nadir in the long-standing appreciation of Russian dancing in that city.

I want to confine my question to Mashinka concerning the acting ability issue. When, where and in what ballet was the last time you saw Alina perform? I and several of my very knowledgeable ballet friends have seen her perform recently at the Mariinsky Theatre and recently in Washington. I missed her Swan Lake on Saturday at the Mariinsky, but did see her Legend of Love prior to Washington. I saw all 3 Legends. I do not have one knowledgeable friend, who considers her acting ability, anything less than exceptional. I suspect that you have not seen her recent Mariinsky performances and definitely did not see her in Washington where she got many bravos. If your friend, Natalia, says she did not get many bravos, I have friends who heard all the bravos, many times. However, she does get more bravos at the Mariinsky than in Washington, but that can be said about every Mariinsky dancer in Washington. Also, anyone who is not sitting very close to the stage is not in a position to accurately comment on any dancer's acting ability because the expressions and emotions need to be seen close up. Alina's expressions and emotions are superior to every principal ballerina in the world. Friends, who have seen her close up in Saint Petersburg or in Washington, will agree. Anyone who has seen Alina acting from a distance has no right to make any comment on her acting. I happen to have friends that love her and you happen to have friends that hate her, but I and my friends have seen her recently and you and your friends boycott her.

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Everyone in every seat in a theater has the right to criticize any aspect of a dancer's performance. The great ones act with their bodies and their faces and manage to project to the back of the house as well as the first few rows, although it is a different experience.

I'm sure the Czars' guests in the center would have been surprised to know that they did not have the 2nd best seats in the house :wink:

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Everyone in every seat in a theater has the right to criticize any aspect of a dancer's performance. The great ones act with their bodies and their faces and manage to project to the back of the house as well as the first few rows, although it is a different experience.

I'm sure the Czars' guests in the center would have been surprised to know that they did not have the 2nd best seats in the house :wink:

However, even the Tsar did not have an adequate seat to evaluate Giselle's mad scene, but if the Tsar only watched a particular young ballerina, several years ago, he had no right to evaluate her in anything, when she has been improving greatly.

I will give a specific example from Washington. I saw opening night with Vishneva from close up and in act 1, her acting was not natural and she over emoted. In act 2, her acting was shockingly absent, as if only her body came out of the grave and her face with expressions and emotions was left in the grave. From close up, there were only two brief moments where her face changed in act 2 and the rest of the time, she had a fixed expression. This was a performance where the Washington Post critic raved about her acting, which was a big disappointment from close up. In contrast, I watched her closing performance from the back of the orchestra and her acting was much more convincing from far away, where I could not clearly see her expressions or emotions.

Yes, when it comes to acting, nobody watching from far away, can accurately judge that aspect. Technique, style, stage presentation(other than acting), use of arms and upper body, use of feet and legs, partnering ability, and more, can be accurately evaluated from the worst seat in the house, but few seats in the house are sufficient to adequately evaluate acting.

In Vishneva's case, her fame led people to think she was doing a great job acting and not what their eyes could clearly see. Most of my friends with close seats were shockingly disappointed with Vishneva, but a few of my die hard Vishenva fans were not willing to criticize her, with comments like she is doing an expressionless act 2, but I countered with her two instances of sudden expression/emotion in act 2. Her two moments were when she left Fadeyev to start her solo adagio for the main pas de deux; and after his variation, when she came with the white camellias, she suddenly showed emotion after she saw him.

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Since the question is asked of me, I will answer it.

I do not boycott Somova's performances as she frequently dances in mixed programmes and is occasionallly partnered by both Igor Kolb or Denis Matvienko, two dancers I greatly admire, however I would avoid her whenever possible. I last saw her dance about eighteen months ago, the last time she danced in London, when I watched the final act of Sleeping Beauty from the wings (close enough for you?)at Covent Garden. It was the closing performance of their season, a season she had opened to disastrous reviews and it was the only season I can recall when the now traditional ROH last night flower throw did not take place simply because no one chose to support it. I have actually watched this dancer from the beginning of her career and have been dismayed by her meteoric ascent within the Kirov ranks on the basis of so little talent, that she is hard working I will not deny as I have seen her dedication in class, but sadly hard work alone can't produce a great dancer.

If your friend, Natalia, ......................I happen to have friends that love her and you happen to have friends that hate her, but I and my friends have seen her recently and you and your friends boycott her.

This sounds to me like the language of the playground: Natalia is not my 'friend' simply because she has similar views to me. Indeed I do not know the lady, not even her surname, nor have I ever met her or corresponded with her, Natalia's opinions are her own just as mine are mine and I form my own opinions based on what I see. That so many ballet goers have formed an aversion to Alina Somova has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the 'product' on offer.

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I last saw her dance about eighteen months ago, the last time she danced in London, when I watched the final act of Sleeping Beauty from the wings

In the rare situation of Alina Somova, 18 months is a long time, where she has changed dramatically. Most likely you have tastes that will never allow you to enjoy her dancing ability, but acting is a different story. If you get a chance to see her from the wings or close to the stage, you should see her as Giselle or Nikiya and you might be shocked what a great actress she is and 100% natural, nothing artificial.

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It’s a given that unconventional manner of dancing is bound to provoke heated debates. Originality and boldness do not go hand in hand with classical ballet where tastes are set and die hard fans maintain their preference for a particular generation of dancers. Novelty comes at a price. But controversy in its own weird way ignites curiosity and helps to maintain public interest towards the art form which many consider archaic.

Old reviews and talk of Vishneva testify that some 10 years ago she was the one who was deforming classical line and destroying highly revered Kirov (then) style. Now Vishneva became almost conventional and it is Somova who is la fille mal gardée of Mariinky. I won’t presume predicting her future and after all, Somova is not more than 25 yo. All I can hope for is an opportunity to share my impressions about performances without fear of being bullied for no other reason than liking a particular artist. Having a box seat, I missed many finer aspects of Alina's acting in Act 1, yet sheer beauty of her line and sailing quality of her motion in the White act stopped my heartbeat on more than one occasion.

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It’s a given that unconventional manner of dancing is bound to provoke heated debates. Originality and boldness do not go hand in hand with classical ballet where tastes are set and die hard fans maintain their preference for a particular generation of dancers. Novelty comes at a price. But controversy in its own weird way ignites curiosity and helps to maintain public interest towards the art form which many consider archaic.

Are you saying that everyone who does not appreciate Somova is living in the past and applying old-fashioned and out-of-date standards towards her performances? That is how it reads to me.

In Vishneva's case, her fame led people to think she was doing a great job acting and not what their eyes could clearly see. Most of my friends with close seats were shockingly disappointed with Vishneva, but a few of my die hard Vishenva fans were not willing to criticize her, with comments like she is doing an expressionless act 2, but I countered with her two instances of sudden expression/emotion in act 2. Her two moments were when she left Fadeyev to start her solo adagio for the main pas de deux; and after his variation, when she came with the white camellias, she suddenly showed emotion after she saw him.

Perhaps the people who saw Vishneva from a distance saw something quite different, just as stage makeup and stage acting can look gaudy artificial from the first few rows, but the majority of the house sees another performance or look entirely.

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It’s a given that unconventional manner of dancing is bound to provoke heated debates. Originality and boldness do not go hand in hand with classical ballet where tastes are set and die hard fans maintain their preference for a particular generation of dancers. Novelty comes at a price. But controversy in its own weird way ignites curiosity and helps to maintain public interest towards the art form which many consider archaic.

Are you saying that everyone who does not appreciate Somova is living in the past and applying old-fashioned and out-of-date standards towards her performances?

I would not dream to speak of "everyone" regardless of which side of the divide one stands, regarding this or any other subject for that matter. In quoted text Somova is not even mentioned, as I was speaking in very general terms of classical ballet being conservative by definition.

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However, even the Tsar did not have an adequate seat to evaluate Giselle's mad scene, but if the Tsar only watched a particular young ballerina, several years ago, he had no right to evaluate her in anything, when she has been improving greatly.

I disagree strongly. I believe every person who sees a performance -- what is put on stage before him/her and not some future potential -- has the right to evaluate the performers in what they see.

The Mariinsky, just like New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Moscow Ballet Theatre and every other company that represents itself as a professional company -- i.e., not a student or amateur company -- is responsible for who and what it puts on stage for any given performance, and when it presents a new/younger dancer as the representative of the company style and/or quality, that is exactly how the audience should take it and react accordingly. Not all companies package themselves as representative of a particular style or long history -- many younger companies are glad to surpass their early days, especially when they have the home-grown dancers to do so -- but the Mariinsky does.

If Somova was presented as the equal of a long, historical line of dancers, then she should be judged that way. I think most of the vitriol about her is due to the great disservice that the company did by presenting her this way instead of allowing her adequate coaching and the careful development and presentation that many dancers with potential were given in the past.

It sounds, on the whole, taking a wide range of views here, that she, through new coaching, is slowly progressing towards fulfilling that potential.

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However, even the Tsar did not have an adequate seat to evaluate Giselle's mad scene, but if the Tsar only watched a particular young ballerina, several years ago, he had no right to evaluate her in anything, when she has been improving greatly.

I disagree strongly. I believe every person who sees a performance -- what is put on stage before him/her and not some future potential -- has the right to evaluate the performers in what they see.

Of course, and it shouldn't need to be said. Until the Kirov starts giving tickets away instead of selling them, dancers have a responsibility to every ticketholder, and no performance is a good one unless it's good from every seat.

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