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#226 Helene

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 02:59 PM

Almost all of the Mariinsky ballerinas look inferior to the corps at NYCB when they dance Balanchine.

I'd much rather see Dupont in anything than Novikova, whose opinion means nothing to me.

My issue with Paris is the Nureyev stagings of the classics, not the dancers.

Were I to got to Russia to see ballet, I'd prefer to go to Moscow.

#227 Drew

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 03:56 PM

Almost all of the Mariinsky ballerinas look inferior to the corps at NYCB when they dance Balanchine.

I'd much rather see Dupont in anything than Novikova, whose opinion means nothing to me.

My issue with Paris is the Nureyev stagings of the classics, not the dancers.

Were I to got to Russia to see ballet, I'd prefer to go to Moscow.


My experience of Balanchine with the Mariinsky is similar to Helene's. And while I have never seen the Mariinsky dance Bournonville, I don't think anyone would opt for their Bournonville over the Danes'! (Even today when the Danes are probably not dancing it quite as they once did...another thread.)

I have never seen Dupont or Novikova, but the line Tiara quotes as famously said by Novikova - that a woman in the corps of the Mariinsky would be a soloist anywhere else - is an old chestnut that I was hearing repeated by my mother (as already a familiar 'saying') more decades ago than I will admit to on the internet. The fact that Novikova or any other Mariinsky dancer believes it/says it -- while perhaps very fine testimony to their faith in the company and its traditions -- is hardly evidence that it's true.

Indeed it might be read negatively as evidence of a certain insularity, though in this case I personally am not sure I would mind insularity all that much if it really were helping to preserve a great ballet style in all its greatness.

Certainly, even in its home repertory the company has competition in a way that perhaps did not always used to be the case. Is it, with all its problems, a great company? One of the greatest in the world? For myself, I don't doubt it for a moment.

#228 Birdsall

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:53 PM

I think the Mariinsky (Vaganova) style is an acquired taste for some. I happen to love what I have seen. I had a discussion with one friend who thinks it is "too much" (too ethereal) when it comes to the famous Mariinsky arms. But I am amazed at someone like Tereshkina who moves her arms almost like they are strands of seaweed undulating in the water (and all this movement seems so natural to many Mariinsky ballerinas) during performances. It is almost as if these dancers aren't even thinking about it, because the arm movements have been taught to them since they were children. Now that I have grown to love this, I miss it when I see other companies. That doesn't mean other companies aren't terrific in their own way. I think some people find these Mariinsky arms "too much" and feel it doesn't fit in other repertoire. I have to say that I can't get enough of this style.

A good example is the La Scala Raymonda. To me Novikova has the true Mariinsky arms when she dances while the rest of the dancers have much stiffer arms. Somehow it changes the whole experience. When all the principals and the corps are flowing in a particular style altogether it is magical.

When the Mariinsky corps dances together with their ocean flowing arms I am in Heaven, to tell you the truth. And it seems to be the only company who stresses the arms to this extent. I mentioned once before that the Sergeyev Sleeping Beauty has the fairies all come out with these slowly undulating arms and it fits the music, and it is simply a gorgeous moment. Almost every other entrance of the fairies disappoints me, b/c I have fallen in love with that particular entrance (choreography). And the Canary Fairy is always a joy in that production.

I actually think the big star of the Mariinsky, however, is the corps. Seeing the corps dance together and staying together even often swaying arms and wrists and fingertips.....it really is a jewel of a company, and I know that the anxiety that comes up when discussing the Mariinsky and casting decisions tends to be linked to the fact that this company is such a unique company that has a style all its own. Most people don't want that to change.

I had a friend tell me that the Jewels dvd has several problematic casting choices, otherwise that release would be much better (and the camera angles are also terrible and messed up).

#229 angelica

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:30 PM

It used to be said, in the 60s and 70s if I remember correctly, that if you took only the corps de ballet of the Kirov (now Mariinsky), you would have the best ballet company in the world.

#230 angelica

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:47 PM

Let us also not forget that both Makarova and Baryshnikov were trained at the Vaganova School. As was Kolpakova. For me, Veronika Part is the dancer who, today, embodies the best of the Vaganova training. It isn't so much in the arms as it is the fluency of the back and the torso. Not to speak of her exquisite feet. Who cares if she can't do quadruple pirouettes? Not I. Give me Veronika in anything--to me she is a true Mariinsky ballerina at the Mariinsky's best. (However, my understanding is that when her coach in St. Petersburg died, there was no one who came forward to support and promote her, leading to her immigration to the West, which perhaps reflects the more recent history of the Mariinsky Ballet, as others have mentioned in previous posts.)

#231 Fosca

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 01:48 AM

I actually think the big star of the Mariinsky, however, is the corps. Seeing the corps dance together and staying together even often swaying arms and wrists and fingertips.....it really is a jewel of a company

This is SO true! The corps makes up for every soloist you may not like, and the magic always works...

#232 Tiara

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 04:58 AM

Almost all of the Mariinsky ballerinas look inferior to the corps at NYCB when they dance Balanchine.

I'd much rather see Dupont in anything than Novikova, whose opinion means nothing to me.

My issue with Paris is the Nureyev stagings of the classics, not the dancers.

Were I to got to Russia to see ballet, I'd prefer to go to Moscow.

I would say the reverse - there is not one dancer at NYCB, except any Vaganova trained dancers, who would be fit to dance for the Mariinsky. I think if Balanchine were alive today, he would say himself that the Mariinsky dancing his ballets is far preferable to NYCB. They give wonderful renditions of the Balanchine they have in their repertoire, and enhanced by their wonderful unanimity of style, which no other company in the world has, and certainly not NYCB. Technically and artistically they are superior in every way, with their superb upper bodies and fluid arms, which are unique to them. Their superb training enables them to dance any style wonderfully. Jewels, Symphony in C, Serenade, Ballet Imperial, Scotch Symphony - in these and many other Balanchine ballets they are unsurpassed imo. As for principals, I recently saw Ashley Bouder dancing in Tarentella, and she is far from what I consider to be a classical ballerina, both physically and as regards technique. She has no refinement whatsoever. All the Mariinsky ballerinas I have seen in this role are by far better. Mariinsky ballerinas are the best in the world, and better than Bolshoi ballerinas because of their refinement of technique, and the unique Vaganova training, which gives artistry, meaning and soul to every movement, rather than the reliance on bravura technique and bold effects emphasized by Bolshoi ballerinas. St Petersburg does have the best company in the world - the Mariinsky - and their dancers imo are the best in the world.

#233 canbelto

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 07:16 AM


Almost all of the Mariinsky ballerinas look inferior to the corps at NYCB when they dance Balanchine.

I'd much rather see Dupont in anything than Novikova, whose opinion means nothing to me.

My issue with Paris is the Nureyev stagings of the classics, not the dancers.

Were I to got to Russia to see ballet, I'd prefer to go to Moscow.

I would say the reverse - there is not one dancer at NYCB, except any Vaganova trained dancers, who would be fit to dance for the Mariinsky. I think if Balanchine were alive today, he would say himself that the Mariinsky dancing his ballets is far preferable to NYCB. They give wonderful renditions of the Balanchine they have in their repertoire, and enhanced by their wonderful unanimity of style, which no other company in the world has, and certainly not NYCB. Technically and artistically they are superior in every way, with their superb upper bodies and fluid arms, which are unique to them. Their superb training enables them to dance any style wonderfully. Jewels, Symphony in C, Serenade, Ballet Imperial, Scotch Symphony - in these and many other Balanchine ballets they are unsurpassed imo. As for principals, I recently saw Ashley Bouder dancing in Tarentella, and she is far from what I consider to be a classical ballerina, both physically and as regards technique. She has no refinement whatsoever. All the Mariinsky ballerinas I have seen in this role are by far better. Mariinsky ballerinas are the best in the world, and better than Bolshoi ballerinas because of their refinement of technique, and the unique Vaganova training, which gives artistry, meaning and soul to every movement, rather than the reliance on bravura technique and bold effects emphasized by Bolshoi ballerinas. St Petersburg does have the best company in the world - the Mariinsky - and their dancers imo are the best in the world.


I disagree. I have seen the Mariinksky dance Balanchine and they don't have the fast footwork and speedy attack that is the hallmark of the NYCB. Not to say they aren't great dancers but that thy haven't quite captured the Balanchine style yet.

#234 Shirabyoshi

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 07:34 AM

I came back to answer the replies to my last post... only to find the discussion has moved far ahead in my absence, and its new direction is much more interesting! I do have something to add here, I hope not entirely without interest or worth.

When I first began to cultivate an interest in ballet earlier this year, I went through a(n admittedly brief) period of thinking that I couldn't quite understand what the fuss was about Balanchine. The first recordings I saw, from the meagre selection available commercially, contained some pieces I admired in the abstract, but nothing at all to touch my heart -- hard to believe, if you consider how susceptible I was at the time, how eager to be moved, how thoroughly primed by all the reading I'd been doing about Balanchine this, Balanchine that.

My last-ditch attempt to connect with his work was the Mariinsky's recording of "Jewels". I thought I might possibly like it better than the POB version, which had failed in every way to live up to my expectations. In truth I fell in love. Not with "Rubies", but "Emeralds" and especially "Diamonds" changed everything for me. I finally felt I could comprehend the reverence for Balanchine. I finally felt I'd seen works that could stand next to Petipa's. I finally felt that a thread of genius had brushed across my life. I don't think such a revelation can come by choreography alone: it comes when said choreography is given life by dancers of remarkable training and sensibility, each one herself a jewel polished to perfection, each facet of her beauty reflected by those around her.

But then I came to Ballet Alert and read here many comments, like Helene's above, saying that when it comes to dancing Balanchine the Mariinsky is vastly inferior to the NYCB.

I didn't know what to think. Could my taste really be that bad? I needed a third opinion; so when the opportunity came I tentatively consulted with a friend of a friend, someone who had studied at the School of American Ballet and went on to dance at the NYCB along with a lot of people whose names meant nothing to me when I first heard them, but which now cause my eyes to widen: Farrell, McBride, Hayden.

This person told me (I paraphrase), "When I first saw the Russian companies in the 1960s, I thought the Bolshoi was better than the NYCB, and the Kirov even better than the Bolshoi," which opinion has since been bolstered by many visits to Russia (some including company classes with the Mariinsky). This person, who knew Balanchine, agreed with me absolutely that the Mariinsky's recent performances of Balanchine's most classical pieces have been wonderful (especially "Ballet Imperial" and "Theme and Variations"; I'm now even more upset about not being able to see them!), and added that Balanchine himself would surely have been pleased by such performances.

We also agreed about the lacklustre nature of the POB "Jewels", and that the stiffness and flatness of Paris-trained dancers is a far cry from the flowing arms and gorgeous epaulement of Vaganova ballerinas. I was much relieved to know that I wasn't barking up the wrong tree in the wrong forest, that there WERE people in the world deeply knowledgeable about ballet who felt as I did.

It's true there are some French dancers I like for their particular classical lines, but I would take, for instance, Olesya Novikova, or Evgenia Obraztsova, over any of them any day. I felt there was something missing from the POB recordings I saw before I had seen *anything* of the Mariinsky, and now I know what it was. Mariinsky ballerinas have a style and a perfume beyond compare.

#235 rg

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 07:47 AM

There's no telling, really, what Balanchine, where he speaking today, would say about dance or dancing, so anyone's guess is just that.
We do know however, regarding the schooling that followed the imperial school training he more or less grew up with and that he then saw evolve into the Soviet system in Soviet Russia as he was staffing and overseeing his school and company in the US, that he had a more or less dim view of the latter - when questioned about this in a teachers' seminar in the 1960s he said, and i can only paraphrase here, my copy of the transcript is not handy, that while the beautiful training and schooling that was, that is, that existed in his early youth, went something like: "all that beautiful dancing stopped, and I don't want to tell what happened since..." implying that he had little admiration for Soviet ballet system.
So, presuming Balanchine would prefer today's Mariinsky dancers to those out of his School of American Ballet and in NYCB, despite any/all changes since his death, is still something of stretch.

#236 Tiara

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 10:17 AM

I have seen the Mariinksky dance Balanchine and they don't have the fast footwork and speedy attack that is the hallmark of the NYCB. Not to say they aren't great dancers but that thy haven't quite captured the Balanchine style yet.

Mariinsky does have dancers with very fast, brilliant footwork - Valeria Martynyuk, Olesya Novikova, Nadia Batoeva, Viktoria Tereshkina and many more. All of these dancers have the speed and attack for Balanchine, and in addition they have the hallmark beautiful Vaganova arms that give added beauty to the Balanchine choreography and which American dancers lack imo.

#237 Drew

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 03:34 PM

Someone who loves the way the Mariinsky dances may well love the way they dance Balanchine. Or not. I often love the way they dance, but not usually the way they dance Balanchine. (I quite llked Pankova in Scotch Symphony back in the day.) Either way, that doesn't make it great Balanchine.

Balanchine in the 1960's? Greeted on his arrival in the Soviet Union as having come to Russia, the "home" of classical ballet, Balanchine responded that it was rather the home of the "romantic" ballet and that the United States was now the home of classical ballet. (By which presumably he meant his own work.)

But I could not agree more with rg when s/he says that speculating on what Balanchine may or may not have liked/approved is a dubious business--I would add: including when it comes to NYCB today. Of course, there can be great interpretations of a work that the original artist might not have intended or planned or even liked. Then again, there can be interpretations that some audience members happen to like that really have nothing to do with how the ballets are supposed to look. I myself loved Lopatkina's beautiful port de bras in the second movement of Symphony in C as she last danced it in New York two summers ago, but beautiful port de bras are not the essence of that choreography and I have seen that movement danced more effectively by others.

What we do know is that Balanchine did not look down on American mores and style. Or on American dancers. He cultivated and assimilated all of these things into his art. We also know that he made deliberate choices about the port de bras of his company--choices that people have been criticizing/debating for decades (since long before his death). Would he have done differently had he stayed in the Soviet Union and somehow avoided the fate of Lopukhov or worse? Well, the point is that that is exactly what he didn't do. And as an artist he never looked back without also looking forward.

As for what many of us miss in the Mariinsky's Balanchine, it's not just whether this or that dancer has "footwork, speed, and attack" -- even if they did have it and a lot of them don't -- it's putting those things ahead of other things -- letting them shine through "transparently" as it were--and, just as importantly, it's a certain relation to the music, so that it appears as if the musical impulse is driving through the movement. It's an ability to dance off-center that makes off-center look natural not "distorted" (something I definitely miss when Mariinsky corps dancers jut out their hips as if to say 'look we're being jazzy'); it's a quality of spontaneity on stage. Can some Mariinsky dancers pull this off? from what I've seen one or two here and there; some of them some of these qualities and not others etc. But the company qua company? That's not how they dance.

And who wants them to dance that way or needs them to dance that way? Not me. That's not who they are. That is, they aren't a Balanchine company.

(New York City Ballet doesn't pull everything off all the time either: but they get the style as a matter of course. It's their "home" even when the housekeeping gets a little slovenly. Jewels, by the by, which has come to be an international banner for "Balanchine" is not one of his greatest or most important works. I notice that the Mariinsky has -- perhaps wisely -- not tried to stage Balanchine's most substantive modernist works, say Agon or Symphony in Three movements: Stravinsky ballets that are to Rubies as -- to steal from Croce -- an authentic ruby necklace is to one skillfully made of paste.)

But, in my opinion, the greatness of the Mariinsky does not depend on whether or not it can dance "every" style of ballet equally convincingly or even on whether one finds their version of classicism the most beautiful in the world or not. It depends, I should have thought, primarily on the stamp they put on their home repertory: the nineteenth-century works, however Sovietized, along with the works created for them especially when the latter have more than local currency. (There are not a huge number of the latter, but perhaps recently something like Ratmansky's Little Humpbacked Horse.)

I think it's also important they be able to work in other idioms, including Balanchine, even if one allows those idioms will not necessarily be their greatest strength. But insisting that the case for the company as the "best" in the world includes the way they dance Balanchine seems far-fetched to me.

#238 Helene

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 04:00 PM

As for what many of us miss in the Mariinsky's Balanchine, it's not just whether this or that dancer has "footwork, speed, and attack" -- even if they did have it and a lot of them don't -- it's putting those things ahead of other things -- letting them shine through "transparently" as it were--and, just as importantly, it's a certain relation to the music, so that it appears as if the musical impulse is driving through the movement. It's an ability to dance off-center that makes off-center look natural not "distorted" (something I definitely miss when Mariinsky jut out their hips as if to say 'look we're jazzy'); it's a quality of spontaneity on stage. Can some Mariinsky dancers pull this off: from what I've seen one or two here and there; some of them some of these qualities and not others etc. But the company qua company? That's not how they dance.

I agree with you wholeheartedly here. There's little more mannered than coy little hip juts in Balanchine. It's like when non-Mariinsky-trained dancers do exaggerated things with their arms and back, as if this embodies the Mariinsky spine, which, my Feldenkrais teacher reminds our class constantly about spines, goes from the base of the neck to the tailbone.

(Jewels, by the by, which has come to be an international banner for "Balanchine" is not really one of his greatest or most important works. I notice too that the Mariinsky has -- perhaps wisely -- not tried to stage Balanchine's most substantive modernist works, say Agon or Symphony in Three movements: Stravinsky ballets that are to Rubies as -- to steal from Croce -- an authentic ruby necklace is to one skillfully made of paste.)

"Jewels" might not be Balanchine's greatest work or set of works, but it's one of the great tests of how a company dances Balanchine, because of the shifts in style, rhythm, and structure in the ballets, and the corps is kept hopping throughout all of them in very different ways. (Croce re-examined her initial dismissal of "Rubies": on December 19, 1983 in a long "New Yorker" review devoted to "Jewels", she wrote, "'Rubies' refracts instead of reflecting; it does its job in the total scheme of things, and it may be the evening's masterwork.")

Not surprisingly, when other companies perform his tutu works, they cast their Odettes in "Diamonds" and their Romantic ballerinas in "Emeralds" and the performances are informed by what they know. The "Diamonds" Pas de Deux especially gets the Odette treatment, and in the Mariinsky's hands, it's often prettified, and some people find this hybrid an improvement on the original. (To me it's like Renee Fleming singing jazz.) The first two Balanchine works to be staged at the Mariinsky post-glasnost were "Theme and Variations," staged by Francia Russell and "Scotch Symphony" staged by Suzanne Farrell, and Pankova's success in "Scotch Symphony" and Obraztsova's in "Emeralds" might have been saying the same thing that Balanchine did about the difference between classical (his neo-classical) and Romantic ballet.

#239 leonid

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 04:05 PM

I am a great fan of the Mariinsky Ballet performing Balanchine.

Of course its quite different to how NYCB perform his works today which in turn is quite different to how the NYCB danced Balanchine in the 1960s.

The most important thing to be considered is that NYCB had some kind of Neo-Classical (a ghastly, cheap and vulgar coarse expression) Style and the Kirov/Mariinsky has a more complete Academic Classical Ballet Style arriving from a higher form of both teaching, coaching and of course a higher aesthetic.

The fact is the Trust allows the current Mariinsky Company to perform Balanchine's works and is obviously happy with the results and not merely money-grabbing as I feel some posters have been seen, to imply.

Regarding

It used to be said, in the 60s and 70s if I remember correctly, that if you took only the corps de ballet of the Kirov (now Mariinsky), you would have the best ballet company in the world.


I never heard that said anywhere in Europe. The superiority of the Kirov in terms principal dancers in the 60's and 70's has not been equalled since those decades.

Find me the equal of Alla Sizova, Alla Osipenko, Irina Kolpakhova (generally considered among the greatest classicist of the 20th century) that alone Gabriella Komleva, Inna Zubkovskaya, and Xenia Ter-Stepanova.

Find me a more stylish prince than Vladilen Semyenov, or more perfectly trained dancer than Yuri Soloviev and what about the character dancers of that era etc.etc.

#240 Helene

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 04:13 PM

I'd never seen the Russian companies in the 50's, 60's, or 70's or the Royal Ballet when Fonteyn, Nerina, Sibley, or Beriosova were dancing, but friends of mine who saw both companies during this time considered them as great as the Mariinsky ballerinas. I've only seen these dancers on film, which is hard to judge, although Kolpakova in "Raymonda" is my all-time favorite DVD.

They broke the mold when they made Soloviev.


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