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Giselle At the Kennedy Center - Feb 2011

116 posts in this topic

It's good to be respectful of others' opinions. The following thoughts are in no way meant to belittle others' positive opinions of Alina Somova's recent Giselle.

I have been following the Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet in person since the Paris tour in the early 80s. I adore and am an admirer of the Vaganova aesthetic as practiced by Vaganova's own students and the students of her great pupil, Mme. Dudinskaya. The coordination, counter-balancing of limbs, use of eyes, harmonious coordination, keen musicality, etc., are reasons why I choose to spend my time, money and energy in following and filling my soul with the great art of ballet, particularly the Kirov-Mariinsky/Vaganova variety. I happen to believe that the Leningrad/Petersburg style is incomparable in its elegance and restraint (despite incredible physical demands on the human body), although I certainly can enjoy ballet in other styles, such as Cechetti, Balanchine, and Bournonville. But I live for the beauty of watching Vaganova-style dancers, particularly from the 'mother company' at the Mariinsky.

I've been seeing Alina Somova dancing, in person, since she graduated from the Vaganova Academy in '03 until last week's Giselles at the Kennedy Center (hence my posting on this particular thread). While she has made some progress, particularly in toning-down her ultra-high extensions, she is still far from being an exponent of that glorious Mariinsky-Vaganova tradition. To see her in the midst of an elegant troupe is, to me, akin to somebody turning-on a boom box of rap music in the middle of a Mozart symphony. It is, frankly, offensive. (Just my own feelings here; I'm not trying to convince anyone that this is a sacred truth.) Yet, yet...I have continuously given Ms Somova chance after chance, through the eight years since she graduated into the company. I saw the greatest improvement -- the very game attempt to instill elegance and temper her extensions and other rococo-isms -- during her Nikiya in Bayadere at the Kennedy Center in January 2008. If you read my reports from that time, you will notice how I praised her new-found softening. Alas, that was her apogee; three months later, in NYC, I saw her dance the Shades scene from that same ballet and she was back on her unorthodox track, mugging to the audience, kicking up her legs, not listening to the music. But there was always hope. So I saw her again, in Don Q in DC in 2009 and at the '09 Int'l Ballet Festival in St P (Theme & Variations, Little HH, etc.). Again, she was the Alina of old: minimal turn-out, very little elevation (although she throws the front leg very high, in gnd jete, to try to achieve elevation), no musicality, and possessing the same old irksome mannerisms (such as thrusting out her pointed chin, mugging at the audience, trying too hard).

So why did I bother to go to last week's Friday night performance of Giselle with Somova? For one, I keep my mind open. I am still waiting for the small glimmer of progress that I spotted in her DC Nikiya in 2008. Secondly, I paid $29 for my 2nd Tier-Side ticket and wasn't about to lose the money...even though my main reason for buying tickets for all 4 nights was to ensure seeing the other three Giselles (Vishneva, Lopatkina, Terioshkina), as the Mariinsky often switches principals, which it did here. Thirdly, I wanted to be sure that I be there to report the truth, as I saw it, about all casts because I knew that my fellow 'old timers' refused to go to Somova's performances, so their opinions would not go into the mix. I did go - I reported. Alas, hard as I try, I see little progress and not much hope for this dancer. Thank goodness that she is not the only principal at the Mariinsky. Even in that Friday performance of Giselle, she was not the only dancer on stage -- I was happy to have attended to see the beauty fo Cheprassova/Timofeev's Peasant pas; to admire the very real progress of Somova's Albrecht, Ivanchenko; and to regale in the unity of the beautiful corps de ballet comprised of mostly graduates since 2006. So even the 'new' Mariinsky is full of hope. I did not waste those $29 after all.

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.... 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. ....

Just saw this - was out and am now catching up.

Alexaa1a, a couple of corrections here. (1) I do not know 'Mashinka' at all. (2) I too have been to St Petersburg many times since Somova's graduation and I can say that she receives good polite applause but nothing like the other female principals. She receives her biggest applause when she steps in front of the curtain with excellent male principals, such as Shklyarov and Sarafanov. She is a bit of a puzzlement among the regular balletomanes in the Bel Etage but is more appreciated by newer audiences who aren't weaned on traditional Vaganova aesthetics. So there's 'a little something for every taste' now at the Mariinsky! Thank goodness, audiences usually have a choice, unless the management switches casts at the last minute. Even so, there are others on the stage -- not just the leading ballerina, so it's never a total loss, if somebody ends up with a ballerina s/he doesn't care for (as per my description of the Friday-night Giselle at the KennCen, above).

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The "praying mantis" bit came from a review by one of the top NYC in-print critics...

:rofl:

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Alina's expressions and emotions are superior to every principal ballerina in the world.

Quite a bold statement... :sweatingbullets: -(italics are mine...)

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I can say that she receives good polite applause but nothing like the other female principals

In Friday night's performance, when the curtain was coming down at the end of the ballet ,with Ivanchenko next to her grave, the audience erupted with screams of bravos that did not happen in any other performance as the curtain was coming down. They definitely were screaming because of Somova and not for any of the other leads, Ivanchenko or Iosifidi. Somova was dancing with the weakest leads of all those performing, so these bravos as the curtain came down was in appreciation of Somova and solely Somova. The two ballerinas that received the greatest applause were Vishnveva and Somova. Somova received more applause than Tereshkina or Lopatkina, despite having the weakest principal male as her partner. Vishneva on opening night received tremendous applause, but it was not significantly more than Somova on the next night and Somova did not dance with a stronger Fadeyev and much stronger Kondaurova. However, on Friday night, Somova received more applause than she did on Wednesday and very close to the applause Vishneva got on opening night and more applause than Vishneva got on Sunday. It is irrelevant who got more applause, but the audience on both nights Somova danced, particularly on Friday night, yelled many bravos at different sections of her performance.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I know many knowledgeable ballet people, dancers, teachers and ex of both varieties, plus fans that adore Alina Somova. As others have mentioned, Ballet Alert seems to be plaqued by an anti-Somova movement that is blind to the remarkable improvement in every aspect of her being a ballerina and i hope that other Somova lovers will not be intimidated by the many Somova haters that discourage her many fans. Her Giselle on both nights was vastly superior in almost every section and every detail of the performance, except her grave entrance, where Vishneva was the clear champion. It is a tragedy how Somova haters have frightened Somova lovers from praising her because of fear of being insulted. Now some of these Somova lovers have come out of the woodwork and spoken their minds, despite getting insulted again with comments about phoney reviews and internet trolls that eventually get kicked out when their provenance is disclosed. People are not antiques or collectibles where provenance increases the value. I do not want any verbal battles, but I cannot be intimidated and will speak the truth, which is contrary to what has been said on Ballet Alert as the truth about Alina Somova. As far as I am concerned, we have grossly different opinions and you are entitled to hate her, just as much as anyone else is entitled to love her. When someone is severely criticized and frightened for stating their opinion, then that is seriously wrong.

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There are people who agree with you and people who won't, but we have policies against ad hominem attacks. I've said things good and bad about Somova, and I've never felt attacked. I understand that I've got a harder shell than most, being a Jersey girl, and I do understand not wanting one's opinion picked at and feeling like talking against a majority or vocal minority is not worth the effort, but everyone has the choice to take a stand, hopefully a well-reasoned one, even if it is met with opposition.

There's a general tendency to feel that last word has more weight, but for careful readers, it doesn't matter how much subsequent posts SCREAM and CLANG or beat a drum, if what comes before is valuable.

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..... Ballet Alert seems to be plaqued by an anti-Somova movement......grossly different opinions and you are entitled to hate her, .....

Just Ballet Alert, "alexaa1a"? Uh...I don't think so. Read the majority of in-print critics, over the years.

Please be careful when you use the word "hate." "Hate" is too strong and, speaking for myself, I hate nobody in this exquisite art. "Dislike" or "not to one's taste" is more in keeping with the overall gentility of being a lover of the ballet. Do you think that I and others who dislike Somova's baroque manner of dancing would not like to see her lose the quirks? I've been looking for improvements because I would dearly love to see them. I saw hope in 2008 at the KennCen's Bayadere but it evaporated when she was back to the old mannerisms in NYC. I wouldn't love the Mariinsky Ballet if I would want to hate anyone. For this recent Giselle, I wrote about her beautifully tapered hands and fingers because that was the only bit that I could truly love...because I keep looking for features to love. I simply cannot, hard as I try, admire her legs, feet, general port de bras, face (chin problem), tin ear, lack of turn-out, etc. She was making a real effort to present her legs and feet and torso in a more 'academic' manner during the 2008 Bayadere at the KennCen, as I said. Not sure why she hasn't really progressed much since then, as I see it. I was hoping that the switch to Terekhova as coach -- undoubtedly a reason for the Bayadere improvements in 2008 -- would have a lasting effect...then I saw her Kitri in Don Q in 2009 and it was back in the days of Chenchikova as her coach. Just too many 'quirks' and 'odd mannerisms' (what I meant by abomination - a huge departure from the norm) for me to enjoy her as a product of the usual elegant Mariinsky/Vaganova system.

Funny how in 30+ years of following this company, I've never felt this way about one of their dancers. Other hyper-elongated ballerinas, like Zakharova or Mesentzeva, weren't to my greatest taste, yet they had so many beautiful features and manners that appealed to my sensitivities. Only Somova has been the toughest nut to crack. Then again, my ideal 'ballerina' with the company, right now, is Evgenia Obraztsova, who is still a First Soloist. That is the 'standard look' that I've always had in my head for a true Vaganova Ballerina, which, of course, isn't the ideal of everyone. But 'hate' is not in the equation.

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Please be careful when you use the word "hate." "Hate" is too strong and, speaking for myself, I hate nobody in this exquisite art. "Dislike" or "not to one's taste" is more in keeping with the overall gentility of being a lover of the ballet.

Natalia, I find , more and more, that a lot of discussion on the internet uses this very polarized word. I agree "hate" is a very strong word and should be used with care. But many seem to disagree. Whether you are in a discussion setting or just responding to an online item, if you don't agree with a positive comment, you are often called a "hater". Or a "basher" to use another polarized term.

Whether it's coincidence or not I don't know, but a lot of people who express themselves in this kind of polarized fashion feel the need to include the rest of the audience, as if they weren't convinced that their own opinion could stand alone. Something to the effect that "I was reduced to sobbing, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty, and the rest of the audience was in tears too...." Except of course for those 3 members of the audience that were "haters".

It's sort of comical, the best solution is to simply ignore it, there doesn't seem to be any room for negotiation.

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Personally, Natalia, I don’t believe that Somova will, wants to or needs to change for that matter. Improve yes. She would not portray what she can’t understand or feel and heavens know, ballet is infused with not so subtle mime and decorum. She is a maverick and being one in ballet is hard. Is Somova strong or big enough to weather the storm and make her own mark? Or perhaps there is no such thing as bad publicity after all.

Much as I like Alina Somova, I find it a bit disheartening that many good discussions of Mariinsky inevitably lead to debates about her. I was very impressed with Tereshkina’s performance in the Mad Scene. It was more conventional than Samova’s, granted, but just as fine in its delivery and just as powerful in its effect. Shklyarov, what a big artist he developed into! And what about Kondaurova? She is bigger than life and I don’t mean her statue, rather broad and rich quality of her dancing. The past tour proved to me once more what a huge draw Mariinsky remains, to which "Sold Out" signs bore witness. After five plus years of regularly attending ballet, I remain Mariinsky’s most ardent fan, precisely because of diversity of its talent and unmatched quality of its corps ensemble. What brought me to ballet in the first place? It was Somova and Sarafanov performing on stage of the Kennedy Center.

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There are people who agree with you and people who won't, but we have policies against ad hominem attacks. I've said things good and bad about Somova, and I've never felt attacked. I understand that I've got a harder shell than most, being a Jersey girl, and I do understand not wanting one's opinion picked at and feeling like talking against a majority or vocal minority is not worth the effort, but everyone has the choice to take a stand, hopefully a well-reasoned one, even if it is met with opposition.

There's a general tendency to feel that last word has more weight, but for careful readers, it doesn't matter how much subsequent posts SCREAM and CLANG or beat a drum, if what comes before is valuable.

You are 100% correct in everything that you said, but it is obvious that some people have been afraid of speaking their opinion because they feel that they will be attacked and ridiculed. Every person has their own traits. Some love the color orange and others will make fun of their love of orange colors, but that should not exist in ballet forums. It is appropriate for someone to say that they completely disagree with someone's opinion, but it is definitely wrong to make comments that make this person feel ridiculed.

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What is right for you is right for you and what is right for me is right for me. I don't honestly care for her at all, and find myself wishing, with all her facility, that she were somehow more receptive to what her coaches appear to be trying to give her.

However! I don't think less of you because you like her. I don't understand where that came from. Such a debate can only go so far; once it becomes obvious that each side has their likes and dislikes, the only thing a reasonable person can do is leave the other to what they like, and that doesn't include disparaging the person that's expressed an opposite view to theirs. That's just not the culture here, and if and when that sort of thing rears its head, the point is firmly, though politely, made.

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What is right for you is right for you and what is right for me is right for me. I don't honestly care for her at all, and find myself wishing, with all her facility, that she were somehow more receptive to what her coaches appear to be trying to give her.

However! I don't think less of you because you like her. I don't understand where that came from. Such a debate can only go so far; once it becomes obvious that each side has their likes and dislikes, the only thing a reasonable person can do is leave the other to what they like, and that doesn't include disparaging the person that's expressed an opposite view to theirs. That's just not the culture here, and if and when that sort of thing rears its head, the point is firmly, though politely, made.

100% agree, except our opinions of her

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But we're moving off topic of the original thred. sorry. I love Mariinsky, and let someone kind come up with money for them to come EVERY year to some North East city (i'll take any NE city ;-))

Indeed. And although quite outside the titled topic, the side conversation above was most illuminating in more than one way. For one-er, I learnt that fora tend to be pro- or anti-Somova, as if it were outside the realm of possible for a group of intelligent adults to house a variety of opinions. But then again, if one could answer this question, there wouldn't be wars, would there? And goodness, yes, I am looking forward to Mariinsky’s visits on either coasts of North America and in Europe too.

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[Admin beanie on]

I just want to re-iterate a few rules about discussing other forums and linking to other forums, because I'm not sure I explained them clearly, and you might be wondering why a slew of posts just disappeared from this thread:

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There is, of course, nothing to stop people from having a rousing conversation about them via email or personal messenger. (Just to note, when using Ballet Alert! board email, the sender's email address is exposed to the receiver and not vice versa unless the receiver responds.)

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[Admin beanie off]

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