Helene

Bolshoi: London 2013 (29 July-17 Aug) @ Royal Opera House

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Swan Lake, August 15

Odette/Odile: Olga Smirnova

Prince Siegfried: Semyon Chudin

Evil Genius: Artem Belyakov

Jester: Alexei Matrakhov

pas de trois: Kristina Kretova, Anastasia Stashkevich

Dowager: Kristina Karasyova

Tutor: Alexei Loparevich

Master of Ceremonies: Alexander Fadeyechev

Waltz demi-soloists: Anna Okuneva, Anna Rebetskaya, Anna Leonova, Ana Turazashvili, Karim Abdullin, Denis Rodkin, Mikhail Kryuchkov, Yuri Baranov

Cygnets: Svetlana Pavlova, Margarita Shrainer, Anna Voronkova, Yulia Lunkina

Big Swans: Olga Marchenkova, Yulia Grebenshchikova, Ana Turazashvili

Hungarian Bride: Angelina Vlashinets

Russian Bride: Maria Vinogradova

Spanish Bride: Anna Tikhomirova

Neapolitan Bride: Daria Khokhlova

Polish Bride: Yanina Parienko

conductor: Pavel Sorokin

How you feel about Olga Smirnova’s Odette-Odile will probably depend very much on the way you respond to her port de bras. Do you think Odette’s arms ought to be very wing-like, or only occasionally so? Do you find Smirnova’s upper body to be flexible and fluid, or angular and hyperextended? Are you bowled over by her physical expressiveness, or do you find her mannered and exaggerated? For now, Smirnova’s interpretation lies mostly in her upper body, and in doing so, she is working to her strengths because, for one thing, she cannot compete with Alexandrova, Shipulina or Krysanova where jumps and turns are concerned. The hovering balances and slow, smooth descents from pointe are not there yet, and the battu at the end of the ‘white swan’ adage are glossed over. That said, her balance in her variation and the coda was very good; there were no technical slips in these solo passages. For now some of the others things, like the couple of sticky partnering moments that happened in the adage, have yet to be worked out. Matters were not helped by the poor playing of the violin soloist (Dmitri Khakhamov?). Her transformation back into a swan at the end of the act is anticlimactic, perhaps because she already undulates her arms so much that this doesn’t look any different. The applause immediately after the adage and her variation was not especially prolonged, but the audience responded more vociferously during the bows at the end of the act.

Smirnova did not look entirely comfortable as Odile, but she endeavored to dance as big as she could, though this occasionally looked a little awkward and forced in the adage. She got through her variation without difficulty, and despite slipping off pointe on about her third fouetté, she was able to complete the sequence of singles. Again, I’d have to note that the applause following the adage and variations was not as prolonged as it had been the evening before.

She has been paired with him quite a bit, but I do not think Semyon Chudin is the best partner for her. For one thing, she is more musical than he is. Unfortunately, he has a strong tendency toward posing, she exaggerates her port de bras, and together I think they are at risk of getting stuck in their particular exaggerations; mannerisms tend to get worse, not better, over time. A partner with a warmer and more direct style might be better equipped to help her open up emotionally and perhaps dance more freely.

It’s a much simpler part, but I came away most satisfied by the Evil Genius of Artem Belyakov, who danced it big and danced it strong, and that’s what his role really needs. No fuss.

Alexei Matrakhov’s Jester, filling in for Denis Medvedev, was cloying in the extreme, and I wanted to strangle him. (My kingdom for a BB gun!) But the audience reacted very positively.

For the first time the first-act waltz looked ragged in spots, but Kristina Kretova and especially Anastasia Stashkevich were both excellent in the pas de trois.

The cygnet quartet of Svetlana Pavlova, Margarita Shrainer, Yulia Lunkina and Anna Voronkova was unchanged at all five performances that I saw, and it’s entirely possible that they danced all eight Swan Lakes, so for that I give them a deep bow of respect. The corps of swans was as fine as ever, which was obvious from my overhead view from the amphitheater.

Maria Vinogradova tried to inject some spice into the Russian dance, though she was also severely undermined by the solo violinist. Anna Tikhomirova flew higher than ever in the Spanish dance (the trumpets didn’t begin that one well either), and Daria Khokhlova delivered a lovely and musical Neapolitan dance.

Chudin was at his best in the final scene. If earlier in the ballet his soliloquizing had been posey and frustratingly devoid of longing, here he came bursting out as though someone had finally lit a fire under him. I would hope that he could transfer some of that reaching dynamism to earlier scenes. I can’t blame him for not having figured out the ending yet.

There were two curtain calls, first for Smirnova, Chudin and Belyakov, and then a somewhat shorter bow for Smirnova and Chudin. The loudest applause of all was reserved for the orchestra.

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The Russian arms undulation is certainly over used. Sometimes you even see Giselles that seem to be turning into Odettes, particularly during the "initiation" scene in Act II.

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I think one of the moments I enjoyed the most, choreographically wise, was the structure of the national dances in the ballroom act, which the Bolshoi show as variations for the foreign princesses. Usually the national dances tend to be a bit boring, the audience just wanting them to be over to get to the pas de deux. I liked the idea of the pointe women here-(I'm a sucker of pointework, I know, even loving Dudinskaya's black pointes in the Sizova Sleeping Beauty! ;-) ). Anyway, I think this idea honors pretty much the original scheme of the '77 version and the deleted Grand Pas de Six for the princesses, which leads me to another detail I liked in the Bolshoi production, which is the showing of some of this Petipa-discarded music, like the beautiful "Andante con Moto", which is used here for a Pas de trois between Rothbart, Odile and Siegfried right after the evil couple shows up in the ballroom-(I think this pas de trois works, even if it looks a bit modern at times compared to the traditional choreo), Then there is the "Allegro" variation-(number four in the '77 pas de six)-used as a variation for Rothbart-(lots of pirouettes a la seconde, as usually with Grigorovich!)- and some silly black swans in the background-(please, no more black swans other than Odile...). The one substitution I did not like was that of the traditional '95 Drigo orchestrated Tchaikovsly's "L'espiegle", which is used in every other modern staging of the ballet for Odile's variation for the '77 Pas de Six "Moderato, Allegro Semplice"-(the "oboe variation"). The '77 Karpakova's "Danse Russe" for the ballroom scene is used here as an extra variation for one of the princesses-(whereas ABT uses it as a Rothbart's solo).

I wish someone would dare at one point to stage the ballet to the '77 score, using as much of the '95 Petipa choreo. That score is superior as the revised Drigo one.

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regarding black swans in SWAN LAKE - originally, i.e. in 1895 for Petipa and Ivanov, there were black swan maidens in last act, Vera Trefilova was one, and Odile was not dressed in black.

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I think one of the moments I enjoyed the most, choreographically wise, was the structure of the national dances in the ballroom act, which the Bolshoi show as variations for the foreign princesses. Usually the national dances tend to be a bit boring, the audience just wanting them to be over to get to the pas de deux.

Not the least bit boring when done well--which admitedly is almost never by 'western' companies. But certainly not boring with the Mariinsky and, as I recall, not boring in years past with the Bolshoi. Of course, there is still a sense of anticipation waiting for the pas de deux but that would be the case no matter what was going on...(NYCB's version has some of the national dances on pointe though not, as I recall, by the princesses. Someone else may remember better than I.)

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regarding black swans in SWAN LAKE - originally, i.e. in 1895 for Petipa and Ivanov, there were black swan maidens in last act, Vera Trefilova was one, and Odile was not dressed in black.

I know about the multicolored number supposedly worn back then, but I'm thinking more about the effectiveness of having just the one femme fatale in the black tutu. Seeing all this dancers wearing black diminished somehow the uniqueness of Odile.

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(This was written at an altitude of 36,000 feet in a state of extreme sleep deprivation, so I beg your indulgence if I’ve forgotten half of what I wanted to write. It’s too long as it is.)

Flames of Paris

Jeanne - Natalia Osipova (16), Ekaterina Shipulina (17m), Ekaterina Krysanova (17e)
Philippe - Ivan Vasiliev (16, 17e), Vladislav Lantratov (17m)
Jérôme - Andrei Merkuriev (16), Denis Savin (17m, 17e)
Adeline - Anastasia Stashkevich (16), Anna Rebetskaya (17m, 17e)
Marquis de Beauregard - Ruslan Skvortsov
Mireille de Poitiers - Kristina Kretova (16, 17e), Anna Tikhomirova (17m)
Antoine Mistral - Artem Ovcharenko (16, 17e), Denis Rodkin (17m)
Jarcasse - Irina Zibrova
Gilbert - Vitaly Biktimirov (16, 17e), Alexander Vodopetov (17m)
Sutler - Anastasia Vinokur
Gaspard - Alexander Petukhov
Lucille - Lyudmila Ermakova
Hunstmen - Batyr Annadurdyev, Yuri Baranov, Karim Abdullin, Evgeny Golovin (16, 17e), Maxim Surov (17m)
King Louis XVI - Denis Medvedev
Marie Antoinette - Elena Bukanova (16, 17e), Olga Tubalova (17m)
Amour - Chinara Alizade (16, 17e), Daria Khokhlova (17m)
Apparition of Rinaldo’s Bride - Yulia Lunkina
Armida’s Friends - Maria Zharkova, Yulia Grebenshchikova, Olga Marchenkova, Angelina Vlashinets (16, 17e), Ana Turazashvili (17m)
Furies - Maria Vinogradova, Anna Okuneva, Yanina Parienko, Viktoria Litvinova, Anna Leonova, Anna Tikhomirova (16, 17e), Xenia Sorokina (17m)
Master of Ceremonies - Alexei Loparevich
Auvergnese - Anna Antropova, Anna Rebetskaya (16), Kristina Karasyova (17m, 17e), Alexander Vodopetov (16, 17e), Vitaly Biktimirov (17m), Anton Savichev (16, 17e), Ivan Alexeyev (17m)
Marseillaise - Igor Tsvirko, Alexei Matrakhov, Maxim Surov
President of the Convention - Alexander Fadeyechev
Jacques-Louis David - Yuri Ostrovsky

conductor - Pavel Sorokin

The best way to summarize the opening night of Flames of Paris would be to say “veniit, vidit, vicit,” because it felt a lot like Natalia Osipova’s coronation. With her spark and one-of-a-kind jump, she effectively overshadowed everyone else on stage. I barely even noticed Ivan Vasiliev until the pas de deux. Nevertheless, it was obvious that Osipova and Vasiliev had been away from the Bolshoi for a while, not because they no longer fit in stylistically (they did), but because what was presumably a fairly short rehearsal period was not enough to overcome Osipova’s synchronization problems with Andrei Merkuriev’s Jerome and even Vasiliev’s Philippe. I also have to note that in the Dance of the Basques, it was not Vasiliev and Merkuriev, but rather Vitaly Biktimirov’s dashing captain who put the dance over the top, which certainly helped me understand why Vassily Vainonen had originally given the lead in the piece to a character dancer.

The audience was beside itself during the pas de deux, and when Vasiliev got whoops and hollers during his variation and coda, which included things like triple revolutions in the air and his proclivity for ending sequences of pirouettes very, very slowly, I didn’t mind in the slightest. That’s the nature of the beast.

Nevertheless, Flames of Paris suddenly seemed like a much better ballet the following afternoon when Ekaterina Shipulina and Vladislav Lantratov took over the leads. Instead of being the Vanya and Natasha Show with a few extra bits thrown in, the ballet now came across as an integrated whole.

Given her height, Shipulina is not an obvious ingenue, but she and Denis Savin as Jerome were entirely synchronized, and so was everyone else on stage. I did not find Shipulina to an inferior Jeanne in any way, She is not exactly earthbound, has just as much Bolshoi style and there were many moments when took full advantage of the length of her legs to drive the choreographic point home.

Lantratov can’t do a macho strut anywhere near as plausibly as Vasiliev, but his dancing has greater beauty. He does not have Vasiliev’s bag of tricks in the pas de deux, but frankly Shipulina has the better fouettés. Perhaps because he’d been dealing with an injury during the tour, Lantratov looked visibly pumped up by his own performance of the pas de deux, not quite like the footballer who had just scored a goal, but perhaps like a fan who had just watched his team score. Since Vasiliev is not exactly a model of balletic decorum, I couldn’t blame Lantratov for taking his own liberties.

Lantratov’s Philippe is also a nicer guy. Unlike Vasiliev, he does not crow over those being led to the guillotine, though Vasiliev’s reading gives him a dramatic opportunity when he realizes how much distress his behavior has caused Adeline. I can certainly understand what Vasiliev is trying to do, because otherwise Philippe’s character has no dramatic development to speak of.

Ekaterina Krysanova and Savin did not have the eerie synchronization he had with Shipulina, but they were by far the most convincing pair of siblings. In many ways, Krysanova was the most persuasive heroine. She looked the youngest, her character underwent the most clearly delineated development, and every jump and turn was there. Her variation was also the best of the three, the hops on pointe and rapid turns being most compatible with her technique.

On Friday Andrei Merkuriev as Jerome was largely overshadowed by Osipova, but the following day Denis Savin effectively made him the ballet’s dominant character. Nearly all of Jerome’s choreography is by Ratmansky, and since Savin is a self-described contemporary ballet specialist within the Bolshoi, he was at ease with Ratmansky’s shifts of balance and quirks for hands and feet, all danced with gorgeous flow and, to borrow a modern dance image, a fall-catch-and-suspend dynamic. (Ditto for Shipulina.) He was completely persuasive as a good and innocent teenager, all heart and hope, who endures unbearable tragedy. And Savin’s finale is devastating. At the end of the ballet the stage is crammed with movement and action, but I could see only Savin’s desolation. Having watched the afternoon performance from the seventh row of the orchestra, where every dramatic detail was visible in high resolution, so to speak, I was crushed by his performance and could barely bring myself to applaud when the curtain came down. And then he did it to me a second time in the evening!

Ratmansky has both his heroines change footwear during the course of the ballet. If Jeanne spends most of the ballet in pointe shoes, excepting the scene of character dances in Act 2, during which Osipova and Krysanova wore low-heeled shoes and Shipulina wore boots, Adeline wears heeled shoes for most of the ballet until her duet on pointe with Jerome, which is effectively her only passage of what we’d call “real” ballet dancing.

At the first performance Anastasia Stashkevich was luminous as Adeline, her expansive dancing punctuated by high extensions and deep swooning backbends. All of changing realities of Adeline’s world registered on Stashkevich’s face, and in the end she was stoic in the face of death. Anna Rebetskaya’s dancing was perhaps not as vivid or individual, but her character was delicately drawn, and she was very touching in her interactions with Savin. She and Ruslan Skvortsov looked sufficiently alike to be plausible as a daughter and father, even if she is actually older.

In the absence of Dmitry Gudanov, Skvortsov danced all the performances as the Marquis, though the printed programs would have us believe that he wasn’t scheduled to do any. He was delightfully dastardly, a rapacious predator whose alpha-maleness is expressed through deep, wide strides and dazzling batterie. With merciless, surgical precision he skewered the man of power who abuses it to prey on women. (I’m sure he’s never run across those in the theater. innocent.gif ) Ratmansky has the Marquis observe his rivals, studying their methods and weaknesses, and then outdazzle them choreographically. Even when seemingly paying tribute to the King, the Marquis is really showing him up. Skvortsov’s dancing was especially satisfying because it’s rare to see a six-footer excel at such rapid and intricate footwork, and each performance was stronger and more forceful than the one before.

It’s a shame Skvortsov was not able to do at least one performance as Antoine Mistral/Rinaldo because neither Artem Ovcharenko nor Denis Rodkin quite had his droll wit, musicality or grasp of the style. Too often Ovcharenko and his partner Kristina Kretova played fast and loose with the music, while Rodkin needed reminding that he was dancing an enervated Rinaldo and not Conrad. His determination to dance everything as big and as strong as possible negated any chances of conveying the pseudo-Baroque style. As for Rodkin’s potential danseur credentials, he is tall and strong, but in the coda he performed royales rather than entrechats six, and in a spetacular display of ungentlemanliness, he elected to out-jump and out-split Daria Khokhlova’s Amour as they performed what was supposed to be a series of small, rapid flick jetés. In an instant Rodkin managed to negate about three-quarters of the positive impressions he may have made on me during the tour. Evidently his coaching sessions with Nikolai Tsiskaridze did not include lessons on good stage manners. For his part, Ovcharenko did perform entrechats six, but spread out three of them over music that called for four.

As Mireille de Poitiers/Armida, Kristina Kretova showed admirable Baroque port de bras, even while dealing with completely anachronistic elements of choreography, such as pointe shoes. Even though she has extremely flexible feet, Kretova hopped and hopped and hopped on pointe perfectly. She and Yulia Lunkina as the Apparition of the Bride engaged in a Dynasty-worthy struggle over the hapless Rinaldo, and she clearly relished every minute of her melodramatic revenge. At her second performance she perhaps elected to ham it up excessively, but she was charming. In her republican incarnation she was more of a hard sell and less attractive as a result.

Anna Tikhomirova was somewhat less convincing as a period stylist. Her performance was a 21st-century allusion to the style rather than an attempt to recreate it, and this is, after all, Vainonen’s choreography, not Ratmansky’s. (That said, on the basis of her performance I would very much like to see her take a crack at Balanchine’s Chaconne.) Unlike Kretova, her Armida actually seemed to derive sadistic pleasure from destroying Rinaldo. Tikhomirova was the better and more appealing dancer in her second-act duet, her rhythmic accuracy resulting in each of her movements coinciding with the appropriate musical accent. Tikhomirova recognizes that cymbal crashes are there for a reason and uses them.

Both Chinara Alizade and Khokhlova were in fine Amours, Alizade a bit flashier, Khokhlova subtler and charming. Alexei Loparevich as the Master of Ceremonies and Denis Medvedev as Louis XVI were very funny. Medvedev was especially vivid as an alternately cynical, bored, petulant and jealous king.

In Vainonen’s character dances, all those who performed the Auvergnese dance gave it verve and personality, and the Marseillaise trio was bursting with both virtuosity and fun, particularly Igor Tsvirko, who overflows with vitality.

At the final performance there were some end-of-tour “shenanigans,” for example, one of the Marseillaise dancers wore a thick red beard, and the first of the corps of “Mariannes” carried a small French flag.

On the whole I found Ratmansky’s first act more persuasive. The drama flows easily, and the choreography is interesting in its unconventional use of the pas de deux: brother-sister, father-daughter, assailant-victim. In the second act I got the impression that the imperative to preserve as much Vainonen as possible, especially the flashy pas de deux, interfered with the story Ratmansky wanted to tell, and which he had been telling persuasively up to that point.

My honest advice to anyone who’s interested in it is to grab any opportunity to see Osipova and Vasiliev perform the pas de deux in a concert or gala setting. But if you’re going to see the whole ballet, choose a different cast. Overall the theatrical experience will be more satisfying and feel less like a circus. The ballet is also probably best seen from a slightly elevated position. There is a lot of stuff going on around the stage, so the ballet benefits from a panoramic view.

Audience response was very enthusiastic and there were lots of curtain calls, since all three couples would take them in turn, and then come out together before going separately a second time around. Even though I didn’t record an exact tally, my impression is that the greatest number may have taken place at the last performance, during which Vasiliev had worked very hard to sell himself to the London audience, and they ate it up.

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Thanks so much Volcanohunter for yet another BRILLIANT review. Bless you for ALL.

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Thanks so much Volcanohunter for yet another BRILLIANT review. Bless you for ALL.

Definitely add me to this THANK YOU. I am 4,400 miles away from the Royal Opera House, but I feel -- thanks to the detail and immediacy of your observations -- as though I were there.

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I also very much appreciate the detailed reviews we have been receiving from London.

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She has been paired with him quite a bit, but I do not think Semyon Chudin is the best partner for her. For one thing, she is more musical than he is. Unfortunately, he has a strong tendency toward posing, she exaggerates her port de bras, and together I think they are at risk of getting stuck in their particular exaggerations; mannerisms tend to get worse, not better, over time. A partner with a warmer and more direct style might be better equipped to help her open up emotionally and perhaps dance more freely.

Interesting ....... who you think would be a better partner for Smirnova ?

Your Flames review was fascinating - I wish I had even half your powers of observation :)

I only saw the Friday evening & Saturday matinee and I agree with your comment that the ballet came across as more of an integrated whole at the matinee although I also loved the Vasipova show !

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Interesting ....... who you think would be a better partner for Smirnova ?

Last summer when they appeared together on the "Big Ballet" television program I thought she and Vladislav Lantratov did well together, so that could be one possibility.

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David!

I wouldn't actually. I am sure they would be beautiful but I think they would have the same icy coldness he does with semionova.

I find him much more interesting with Osipova. She brings out his emotions, and he's a good stylistic influence on her.

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David!

I wouldn't actually. I am sure they would be beautiful but I think they would have the same icy coldness he does with semionova.

I find him much more interesting with Osipova. She brings out his emotions, and he's a good stylistic influence on her.

I actually like Semionova a great deal, but agree that Hallberg is not an ideal partner for her and wouldn't be for Smirnova either. I would be curious to see Smirnova pair with Ruslan Skvortsov: I loved his Siegfried in London and think that he could be the dancer to draw more emotion out of her.

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David!

I wouldn't actually. I am sure they would be beautiful but I think they would have the same icy coldness he does with semionova.

I find him much more interesting with Osipova. She brings out his emotions, and he's a good stylistic influence on her.

I actually like Semionova a great deal, but agree that Hallberg is not an ideal partner for her and wouldn't be for Smirnova either. I would be curious to see Smirnova pair with Ruslan Skvortsov: I loved his Siegfried in London and think that he could be the dancer to draw more emotion out of her.

I like Semionova too. They just don't seem to bring much out of each other emotionally when paired.

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Interesting ....... who you think would be a better partner for Smirnova ?

Last summer when they appeared together on the "Big Ballet" television program I thought she and Vladislav Lantratov did well together, so that could be one possibility.

Yes I remember watching some clips on YT and I agree they seemed a good partnership. I am going to Moscow in October to see Onegin so I am hoping they will dance that together again.

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I would be curious to see Smirnova pair with Ruslan Skvortsov: I loved his Siegfried in London and think that he could be the dancer to draw more emotion out of her.

Yes, certainly. On stage he gives his ballerina heart and soul, and he is very musical. He typically partners the biggest and tallest, but looking over the Bolshoi's archive of cast lists, I see that he has danced full-length ballets with all of the company's primas, from Kaptsova and Obraztsova to Alexandrova, Zakharova and Shipulina.

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I would be curious to see Smirnova pair with Ruslan Skvortsov: I loved his Siegfried in London and think that he could be the dancer to draw more emotion out of her.

Yes, certainly. On stage he gives his ballerina heart and soul, and he is very musical. He typically partners the biggest and tallest, but looking over the Bolshoi's archive of cast lists, I see that he has danced full-length ballets with all of the company's primas, from Kaptsova and Obraztsova to Alexandrova, Zakharova and Shipulina.

from his performance in the russian streams, i have realized he is very dramatic. he can play serious, funny, lyrical, cute, good, bad, ..., all kind of roles.

BTW, i think smirnova should try the street dancer in D.Q., which can help her to open up.

tiphat.gif

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Anyone in London knows how to order flowers to deliver to the ballerinas on stage? Last night Obraztsova & Smirnova both got big baskets of flowers. Why no any flower for Krysanova after Rubies? flowers.gif

In my view Krysanova was the most deserving of flowers last night, a pity she never received any. You may be interested to know though, that last time the Bolshoi danced in London she was the recipient of one of the biggest flower throws I've ever seen at Covent Garden with the stage absolutely carpeted in blooms. When a ballerina gets that kind of attention in London she knows the audience is in love with her.

I guess it's worth noting that during the Bolshoi's live broadcast of Jewels Krysanova received far and away the most bouquets, twice as many flowers as she could hold. I suppose we now know where the sympathies of Muscovite audiences lie.

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I guess it's worth noting that during the Bolshoi's live broadcast of Jewels Krysanova received far and away the most bouquets, twice as many flowers as she could hold. I suppose we now know where the sympathies of Muscovite audiences lie.

I was soooooooo happy to see that "Krysanova received far and away the most bouquets, twice as many flowers as she could hold."yahoo.gif

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