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Giselle At the Kennedy Center - Feb 2011


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#91 alexaa1a

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 08:24 PM

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.

#92 Helene

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 08:40 PM

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:

#93 alexaa1a

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 02:10 AM

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.

#94 Mashinka

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 03:00 AM

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.

#95 alexaa1a

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 05:34 AM

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.

#96 Angelique

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 06:53 AM

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.

#97 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 07:57 AM

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.

#98 Angelique

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 08:14 AM


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.

#99 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 08:38 AM

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.

#100 kfw

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 08:57 AM


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.

#101 Natalia

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 09:49 AM

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.

#102 Natalia

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 11:02 AM

.... 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).

#103 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 12:38 PM

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


:rofl:

#104 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 01:28 PM

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


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

#105 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 03:28 PM

Admin note: I've moved several posts to a new thread called The Future of the Mariinsky Ballet at the Kennedy Center. The topic is important enough for a separate thread.


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