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Bolshoi's "Raymonda" live in cinemas


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#31 Herman Stevens

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 11:23 AM

I'm intrigued by Bessmertnova being regarded as pretty much the gold standard in Raymonda. She's a wonderful dancer, obviously, but by the time her Raymonda was filmed she was well past her prime and in the 3d Act she looks very tired and, occasionally, bored. Saying Alexandrova, in comparison, looks like a "Soviet apparatchik" is a really weird counterhistorical joke (?), since the Grigorovitches were just about the consummate USSR ballet power couple. Alexandrova was 11 years old when the Berlin Wall came down.

Maybe Alexandrova doesn't do "passive suffering" as convincingly as Bessmertnova. Over the years I have gotten the feeling Bessmertnova didn't do anything else, but that may be the distortion of what's been recorded on video. However I'm not sure "passive suffering" is what Raymonda is about. From what I've seen Alexandrova does a splendid 3d Act.

#32 Birdsall

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 11:44 AM

I'm intrigued by Bessmertnova being regarded as pretty much the gold standard in Raymonda. She's a wonderful dancer, obviously, but by the time her Raymonda was filmed she was well past her prime and in the 3d Act she looks very tired and, occasionally, bored. Saying Alexandrova, in comparison, looks like a "Soviet apparatchik" is a really weird counterhistorical joke (?), since the Grigorovitches were just about the consummate USSR ballet power couple. Alexandrova was 11 years old when the Berlin Wall came down.

Maybe Alexandrova doesn't do "passive suffering" as convincingly as Bessmertnova. Over the years I have gotten the feeling Bessmertnova didn't do anything else, but that may be the distortion of what's been recorded on video. However I'm not sure "passive suffering" is what Raymonda is about. From what I've seen Alexandrova does a splendid 3d Act.


I loved Alexandrova in every act. And, no, she's not passive at all. That is not part of her make up from what I can tell. I usually like Raymonda to be like a little sweet princess in the first act, and Lopatkina actually conveys that very well.....sort of the untouchable, young, sweet, rich girl everyone would love to have. And I would say that Lopatkina's Raymonda (which I love) is actually sort of passive. So I think her third act is less "on" but Alexandrova's stage persona is a lot more "active" (for lack of a better word), so I think her last act is maybe her best.

#33 bart

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 11:54 AM

i was typing at the same time as Birdsall. In what follows, my focus is on the Third Act primarily --

Thanks, Herman, for putting these performances in historical context. My reference to "apparatchik" was not so much a literal historical judgment as an allusion to the image of uber-serious, uber-competent Soviet bureaucrats that one can see in films like Ninochka (before Garbo falls in love.) The clappling variation is an example: beautifully formed, emotionally dead, with no sense of mystery, joy, or the exotic. The problem is not just facial expression. I can't put my finger on it, but this was (for me) a very unsatisfying account of an iconic variation.

I don't look for "passive suffering" in Raymonda. On the contrary. Act III should have some of the quality of an "Aurora finale"" it seems to me. The conflicts of the earlier part of the ballet need to be resolved with some sense of triumph, majesty, joy. You can't care if the protagonists don't seem to care.

I acknowledge that Bessmertova in the dvd is more physically stressed by the role than a number of younger ballerinas. But I could not take my eyes from her. Alexandrova is a gorgeously formed dancer in an attractively old fashioned way. Somehow, however,my mind wandered and my eyelids occasionally drifted to the shut position as I watched her move beautiful step-by-beautiful step through this particular role.

#34 canbelto

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 12:01 PM

I think it's more like Alexandrova's body shape. She is tall with a block like torso and shoulders and arms that don't really have that soft tapered look so prized by balletomanes. She's an excellent dancer but her look is somewhat stern. Strangely I think it might be her relatively tall but compact body shape that allows her to excel in the terre a terre parts of the role. She also has a very good jump. A lot of the Cuban ballerinas I've also noticed to have this shape and they are great terre a terre dancers.

#35 Herman Stevens

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 12:58 PM

Act III should have some of the quality of an "Aurora finale"" it seems to me. The conflicts of the earlier part of the ballet need to be resolved with some sense of triumph, majesty, joy. You can't care if the protagonists don't seem to care.


Well, all I can say is it is possible to look at it in a different way. I think her clapping variation is terrific, conveying this sense she's looking back and realizes she has the power to destroy men just like that. And she is okay with that. She's that kind of princess. Not the Aurora type. Next, in the galop, the way she stops the music and then revs it up again, with this exuberant shake of her head. This De Brienne is going to have to be very careful around her.

Another detail that struck me in the exotic dance with the Saracen (I'm trying to avoid typos), the way she puts the back of her hand over her mouth, as if she's trying to stop herself. I have to say though that Bessmertnova conveyed more fascination with this exotic intruder than Alexandrova does.

I would like to watch this video one more time, but there's a note saying their pulling it after 24 hours.

#36 bart

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 02:28 PM

Well, all I can say is it is possible to look at it in a different way.

I agree completely and sincerely with this, Herman. Sometimes I think that my responses to things are depressingly dependent on what I have liked and seen before. (Like doing endless chaine turns in a long, deep, narrow trench..) Will have to take another look at this Act III, and especially the clapping variation, and bring a more open mind to it.

... I think it might be her relatively tall but compact body shape that allows her to excel in the terre a terre parts of the role. She also has a very good jump. A lot of the Cuban ballerinas I've also noticed to have this shape and they are great terre a terre dancers.

canbelto, you've just given me something additional to look for when I re-visit the video. It's a body type I happen to like and one which one saw more frequently in both New York City Ballet and Ballet Theater in the 50s and 60s. The issue of different body types has been popping up on our current thread on Misty Copeland. Thanks for pointing me in a direction I hadn't thought about before.

#37 Birdsall

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 03:13 PM

One thing I really do like about Grigorovich's version of Raymonda is that the "Danse Orientale" in the score becomes a sort of dance for Raymonda and for Abderakham. The music has that sexy Arabian sound to it, and it is Abderakham trying to win her over, and I interpret it as Raymonda TRYING to see value in him and his culture (making an attempt). I don't think any other version uses this music (except La Scala and it is used for miming and is apparently what it was originally used for, but I think the music screams for some dancing).

#38 Helene

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 03:30 PM

A beautiful photo by Marc Haegeman, posted to the For Ballet Lovers Only Facebook group:

https://www.facebook...&type=1

#39 canbelto

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 06:15 PM

Another thing about Alexandrova is that although there is no footage of her dancing, the pictures and descriptions of Pierina Legnani (the original Raymonda) would lead me to believe that she was a similar dancer as Alexandrova. Of course Legnani was probably shorter, but she was kind of "sturdy" looking as well, with a block-like torso, broad shoulders, and "strong" legs. Not aesthetically the most pleasing even in her day, I suspect, but she must have been an excellent terre a terre dancer, considering the kind of choreography Petipa designed for her.

With regards to the production values, I agree that there's a certain Soviet "look" to it that is very dated. Colors are that combo of gray/beige/pastel, there's really no attempt to make the guys' costumes look nice at all, flapping sets. I THINK that that particular aesthetic was probably a result of wanting ballets to be more accessible to people waiting in the bread lines.

Hell, since the Olympics are coming up, I've been looking at old footage of Soviet gymnasts, and I notice that their leotards/makeup have that same look. Very beige and dull, girls wore very little makeup and hair was pulled in a rather child-like pony-tail. It's strange that the poverty aesthetic added to the Soviet gymnasts' appeal in the West. A lot of the commentators I've noticed made comments about how "child-like" and "doll-like" the girls looked, even if some of them were older than you'd expect. It's very different from the gymnasts of today, who compete, it seems, with the world's supply of eye-shadow, glitter, bronzer, and hairspray.

#40 Birdsall

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 06:43 PM

It's very different from the gymnasts of today, who compete, it seems, with the world's supply of eye-shadow, glitter, bronzer, and hairspray.



OMG! Sounds very Jean Benet Ramsay!!!!! LOL

#41 Helene

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 12:47 PM

Marc Haegeman has published a group of photos from the day before --Allash, Tsiskaridze, Lobukhin -- and the day of the HD performance -- Alexandrova, Skvortsov, Dmitrichenko:

http://www.for-balle...monda-2012.html

#42 Paul Parish

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 11:18 PM

The trailer made me like this more than I did when I saw it, on the day it was broadcast.

What Alexandrova says, especially about Abderakhman, I found more moving than I did her behavior in the ballet itself -- and Abderakhman I thought was the only one of the principals who danced with enough soul to keep it alive.

I'm with Bart and Christian -- Alexandrova is just not right for the role, however much she may feel it in her heart, she's not built to make this ballet expressive. Her cheekbones are too big, her eyes are too close together -- she's a wonderful dancer, but she does not look the part. Actually, she just doesn't have a clue about Raymonda -- what she says about Abederakman is interesting in the abstract, but it's not in character. Alexandrova is too healthy, boringly normal. She does the moves, but they don't mean anything. Even the Hungarian solo, she's impatient with hte wrist things -- Semenyaka made amazing drama out of rotating the upperarm bone, taking it from a parallel line into full turn-out. Alexandrova is not interested in this at all. it's like "Whatever -- sure I CAN turn my wrist over as I take it back from my head. Here, I'll show you. idiot." .on top of that, DeBrienne cannot do his pirouettes, and though his jumps are showy, he's just spindly, and lacks lacks majesty.

Everybody ELSE is excellent -- especially Shipulina, and the two men -- the pas-de-bourree dance to the harp is out of this world beautiful -- and Virsaladze's sets are beautiful in this light, the dream is wonderful, the 2 soloists in the dream are fantastic. If only Semenyaka had had this level of production values behind her version!

For me the great Raymondas are Plitsetskaya's, Bessmertnova's, and Semenyaka's. Kolpakova is glorious, also.

And Novikova is extraordinary in her version -- and yes, I'd rather see her pick up the flowers!

#43 canbelto

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 03:12 PM

I saw the HD transmission and I don't think I'm being overly PC when I say I was HORRIFIED by what Grigorovich has done to the character of Abderakhman. This version makes him more clownish, more ridiculous, more offensive, than any other version I've seen. Every offensive stereotype is thrown in, and Abderakhman doesn't even get to dance any classical steps -- he comes onstage doing aerial carthweels, and for the rest of the time spazzes out. No other word for the "choreography" Grigorovich gives him. I understand that Raymonda is an old-fashioned ballet and that Abderakhman is the villain, but seeing so many racial stereotypes all concentrated in one character made me cringe.

I've seen the 1898 reconstruction and the character is not nearly so cartoonish. I'm also really surprised Grigorovich would make these artistic choices, since Russia/USSR was/is ethnically and religiously diverse, with many many famous dancers of Muslim heritage.

#44 Birdsall

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 03:59 PM

I saw the HD transmission and I don't think I'm being overly PC when I say I was HORRIFIED by what Grigorovich has done to the character of Abderakhman. This version makes him more clownish, more ridiculous, more offensive, than any other version I've seen. Every offensive stereotype is thrown in, and Abderakhman doesn't even get to dance any classical steps -- he comes onstage doing aerial carthweels, and for the rest of the time spazzes out. No other word for the "choreography" Grigorovich gives him. I understand that Raymonda is an old-fashioned ballet and that Abderakhman is the villain, but seeing so many racial stereotypes all concentrated in one character made me cringe.

I've seen the 1898 reconstruction and the character is not nearly so cartoonish. I'm also really surprised Grigorovich would make these artistic choices, since Russia/USSR was/is ethnically and religiously diverse, with many many famous dancers of Muslim heritage.


I see your point, although I think the Bolshoi's version is the one that gives Abderakhman actual dancing. I was corrected and reminded that Nureyev's version does too. But This Grigorovich version is on the two 1980s videos too. If you haven't seen Taranda dance this role in the Grigorovich version on those two versions, you might want to check it out. He is so outstanding that I think most of us have shrugged off the stereotype (not saying that is good or bad, but we love Taranda's performance so much that we didn't stop and think about it). Actually, I find the entire ballet Raymonda sort of not PC at all.....European girl scared of Eastern guy and prefers Western guy and then at the end after killing off the inconvenient Eastern guy they celebrate European culture by dancing Hungarian style dances. So by today's standards Raymonda is about the least PC ballet that exists. But for some reason I still love it to death. I re-interpret it for myself as our Western culture being intrigued by Eastern culture but still not comfortable with it, and that is where we still are in today's world still, so it actually still reflects today's world pretty well. That is my take on it.

#45 canbelto

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 04:15 PM

The entire storyline of Raymonda has some inherently un-PC aspects to it -- Christian = good, Muslim = bad, Muslim men are a threat to European women, etc. That's built into the storyline and nothing can be done about it, short of not performing the ballet. That being said, I still felt as if Grigorovich went way over the top in his depiction of Abderakhman. The costume, the brownface, the wild gestures and crazy kookypants dancing. Also, maybe I'm reading the story wrong but isn't Raymonda supposed to be sort of intrigued by this exotic foreigner? In the Bolshoi production she's 100% disgusted all the time. And I would be too, if Abderakhman is as crazy as he is in the Grigorovich production. Ugh, I just didn't like it, especially considering the former USSR/present day Russia's large Muslim population, some of which became world-famous ballet dancers. To me, it's as offensive as blackface.


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