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Yulia Stepanova

321 posts in this topic

Just so I understand, a comparison of dancers is now a contest between the way they handle one specific detail of the choreography in one performance?

Hear, hear...I do think the experience of video--and easily replayed video as is now available on youtube--is very different from the experience of theatrical performances and increases the tendency to make this kind of comparison. Of course, one can compare details based on live theater going as well, but video has really heightened the tendency and I think sometimes gets in the way of the big picture, which is the real picture, of classical ballet. (I don't think there is much disagreement about that even among people who love studying videos of performance.)

Goodness knows I would never judge a Swan Lake on whether the ballerina did double or single fouettes in Act III, though I might certainly enjoy seeing doubles or other variants. (Now the dust has settled on the Bolshoi's trip to NY I realize one of the most vivid and lasting memories I carry is of Krysanova's fouettes which began with doubles (I think) and had 'Bolshoi' complications of arms and leg that were new to me and concluded with a speed that I have probably never seen -- maybe Semenyaka and maybe, too, at least once Kirkland in a different ballet, but maybe not -- though sacrificing leg height to achieve it. The sequence was thoroughly dazzling and greeted by a gigantic ROAR from the audience that seemed exactly right at that moment. But still, I don't think Krysanova gave what I would call a great performance as Odette-Odile.)

However, I did think it was unfair of one of the British critics to compare ENB debuts in Coppelia to the Stepanova/Parish performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House. Coppelia is a classic and Swanilda a major role and I think I understand the point that was being made, but even allowing for differences of genre etc., Swan Lake is just a far higher mountain for a dancer to climb, for the ballerina especially. I don't think I have ever seen a young dancer just beginning to dance Odette-Odile that I thought genuinely mastered the role--including Smirnova whom I liked very much. I also think Stepanova and Parish were under a lot of extraordinary pressure, pressure of different kinds, but still pressure; it can't be an "excuse"--no-one dancing principal parts at the Mariinsky should need excuses--but it's a reality. Of course, those who unequivocally admired their performances feel they rose above that pressure, which is great, but there is obviously no consensus.

I can at least say from everything I have seen of Stepanova on video, including parts of her second Swan Lake performance in Petersburg--and bare glimpses of her in tertiary parts that I have seen live such as the Spanish dance in Swan Lake--that I would be happy to have the chance to see her dance Odette-Odile in the theater. I don't need to believe that she is already the peer or superior of Lopatkina to believe that she is worth seeing. My profound admiration of Lopatkina's Swan Queen is on record on this website...ad nauseam I suppose.

Stepanova will be dancing Firebird later in the tour -- a role she has danced more often I think -- and it will be interesting to see how that performance is received across the spectrum. I hope it's a huge success!

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Ok well another point of comparison at 3:50 in the Lopatkina video she looks weightless and with the more extreme flap of the arms, she looks more like a bird almost flying out of Siegfried's hold before being caught again. Whereas at 9:10 in the Stepanova video the same movement doesn't look as wild and she can't quite pull off the illusion of weightlessness. This has nothing to do with actual weight (in fact Lopatkina is taller), but more about Lopatkina having perfected the timing of everything. Lopatkina's arms, hands, wrists, and legs all seem to be working together so when Siegfried lifts her, she looks like a bird about to fly out of his arms, replete with an extravagant flap of the swan wings.

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Compare the second «Swan Lake» of Lopatkina with the second one of Stepanova, if you must -- not the 50-th.

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Stepanova will be dancing Firebird later in the tour -- a role she has danced more often I think -- and it will be interesting to see how that performance is received across the spectrum. I hope it's a huge success!

I don't expect this to be any different from what happened on Saturday: a raucous reception by the audience and reviews saying 'nervous', 'lack of confidence in her technique', and similar nonsense.

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Why? They're dancing together on the same tour. If Lopatkina is still dancing, and considered a standard of Mariinsky Odette/Odiles, that means London audiences can see them back to back on different nights. So it's not unreasonable to compare them and point out areas where Stepanova's interpretation is still lacking compared to Lopatkina's. This goes both ways. If Lopatkina's fouettes are not as strong as Stepanova's audiences can compare them too and prefer Stepanova. And some things are just a matter of aesthetics. For instance Lopatkina prefers a bent wrist in places where Stepanova prefers a stretched wrist. Those are all fair areas of comparison.

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If you are making comparisons to prove that one ballerina is "better" than another one, then it is an established practice to compare dancers at the same stage in their development. In the case of Lopatkina and Stepanova this will be in any case problematic, since Lopatkina had the full support of the company in her first years at Mariinsky -- something Gergiev liked to boast about, while Stepanova has been experiencing the opposite of it.

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Is the ticket to see Stepanova on Monday cheaper than the ticket to see Lopatkina on Wednesday? Are the audiences who see Stepanova expected to see less than they'll see from Lopatkina for their GBP?

If a company presents two or five ballerinas on tour, and all other things are equal -- no one is injured or dancing a last-minute back-to-back performance -- then audiences who see the entire performances in the same run have every right to compare them, even if one just graduated from the Academy and the other is a Prima. That works both ways.

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Ok here's a video from 1996, when Lopatkina was 23, which is about the same age as Stepanova now (might be slightly younger).

A lot of the features of Lopatkina's Odette are there in 1996, especially the use of the arms and wrists to create the illusion of a flying bird.

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Drew, I am glad you wrote what you did.

I have been an opera lover for many more years than I have loved ballet (now I seem to be an opera hater LOL), so I can say that I have seen a lot of the big names, and they ALL have their flaws, and they ALL have their good points. Every artist has pros and cons. And if you nitpick at whether Netrebko's trill was good or not in the cabaletta of Anna Bolena (and it is something I have commented....I am guilty of it)....well, it does lose sight sometimes of a bigger picture. I saw a pirated video of Anna Netrebko's Vienna debut as Anna Bolena and thought she was not right for the part. Then, she sang it at the Met and I went to the cinema screening out of curiosity, and she blew my socks off even with weak trilling (although pretty good for her....the ascending trills in that final cabaletta are actually pretty important). Her overall temperament and dramatic portrayal was light years better than her debut in the role. I was astounded, and I went from being a Netrebko naysayer to an actual fan. Then, I went recently to her Eugene Onegin (was it this past year? I actually went to something operatic this year?????) live transmission and loved her in that also.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that in the end all of us should be happy if someone has found a little part of ecstasy in art that makes them thrilled. We shouldn't be angry that someone loves and raves over a favorite. And I am not sure naysayers mean to insult anyone personally either, so we shouldn't be angry if someone disagrees.

I think anyone who spends anytime on a ballet forum or an opera forum is an art addict. We all come here to discuss our love and new discoveries and wonder. We aren't content to just watch (live and also on video). It is an escape from the hell of life and we want to share it with people. Opera saved me from my sister's death by being my crazy meds. I don't know what I would have done if I had not found opera. I was a frozen zombie until opera. Then, it betrayed me and stopped working when I was out of work for 3 years and ballet saved me. These art forms literally save lives. I mean this: they saved my life! Therefore, they are so meaningful to us, and although I do think it is normal and healthy to disagree, and am not saying everyone should stop, but I also think none of us should take it so personally if others don't love our same divas or divos, and no one should really want to spoil another person's ecstasy. Let's just keep it in perspective.

With that said I saw Yulia Stepanova's Swan Lake in St. Petersburg on July 6, and I thought she did a great job especially being a 2nd time! I try to picture the feeling of dancing Swan Lake at the Mariinsky with all its history......it takes a lot of guts to get out there and then do a good job. And then going to London (a very high profile international assignment!) I can't imagine how high pressure that is and then to be composed about it. Frankly, I don't really know how they can get out on the world's stages and do that when it is so easy to fall down! I have been having dreams of slipping on steps and falling due to having been knocked off my feet by dogs and flying and crashing on my back (3 ribs and 2 vertebrae fractured 4 days before I flew 20 hours to Russia, by the way). So you can imagine I am in awe of dancers who seem to not fall (most of the time). It is like magic!!!

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Luke Jennings in Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/aug/10/mariinsky-ballet-swan-lake-review-skorik-parish/print

Quote:

"The following day Yulia Stepanova performed the same ballet with Yorkshire-born Xander Parish. Stepanova is a smaller-scale dancer than Skorik, and without the same grandeur of line, but she is gorgeously sleek, and her work has a very appealing musicality. Like Skorik, Stepanova is much more engaging as Odile than Odette. Her white swan has its joyful moments following the Act 2 adagio she gives Parish a look of the sheerest rapture but she is too reliant, at moments of high emotion, on the knitted brow and the General Pained Expression. In the role of Odile, Stepanova cuts loose both dramatically and physically, delivering her steps with the creamy exultancy of a cat in a dairy."

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That reviewer uses very interesting imagery "cat in a dairy." Although I agree with his assessment of her Odile, I think he underestimates her Odette with "General Pained Expression." Originally I thought her look may have been nervousness when I first saw, but after watching her Act 1 Scene 2 Odette over and over from an underground recording I actually think it was the pain and interpretation I was watching. And when you view her Act 1 Odette and Act 3 Odette it all comes together b/c in Act 3 she is absolutely crushed and worn out but then after Rothbart is defeated, there is relief and radiant joy. So I think her Odette is an interpretation of great power, but I think many people including myself at first think it is nerves, when it is really her interpretation and it is actually pretty precise and not "general pain".....this is my own opinion, of course.

But he is right her Odile is also good, b/c her arms take on a predatory look to me. Her body language totally changes.

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When reading Jennings one at least understands what he is talking about.

Very telling are the words Jennings uses comparing the scale of the interpretations of Skoryk and Stepanova. Instead of 'grandeur' I would say bolder but simpler, and instead of 'smaller-scale' I would say - vastly more intimate. Unlike Jennings, I saw both dancers many times and have no axe to grind against Skoryk.

Still, I understand Jennings' reservation vis-a-vis Stepanova's rendering of Odette: in London the reciprocity of feelings wasn't sufficiently articulated in the duets of Odette and Siegfried. She was too preoccupied with grief, he was attentive but not particularly loving (unlike on July 6 when the Prince was visibly in love with Odette and she was visibly grateful for his love). That would be the main complaint of mine. It didn't detract from my overall enjoyment due to utmost gracefulness and finesse of Stepanova's movement and poses. I understand, however, the source of Jennings' reservations.

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Stepanova danced Helena in yesterday's matinee Midsummer Night's Dream. Skorik was Titania

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Yulia's bio page on the Mariinsky website shows two October performances - a debut as the Mare in Little Humped Back Horse on 10th October, and another performance of Sylvia on 25th October. While at least the role of Mare is a debut, it is a shame she could not have had a debut as Zarema in the other ballet heavily featured at the beginning of the month - Fountain of Bakhchisaria. This would be a wonderful role for her dramatic, expressive qualities and also would show off her jumps, back flexibility and those amazing arms. I hope so much this season she can have many more principal role debuts, including her most desired role of Giselle. It seems extraordinary to think that this wonderful dancer has not every classical principal role already in her repertoire, and that this thread only runs to five pages. If Yulia's thread had pages equal to her talent, Ballet Alert might spontaneously combust from overload!

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Zarema is a great idea. She would be great in that role. I think she would also be great in Legend of Love as Mekhmeneh Bahnu with Oksana Marchuk as Shyrin!

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Yes - I absolutely agree!

Yulia Stepanova as Zarema and Oksana Marchuk as Maria

Yulia Stepanova as Mekhmene Banu and Oksana Marchuk as Shyrin

Two of my dream castings for Yulia/Oksana!

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I had the privilege of seeing Stepanova's Firebird and my only regret is that I couldn't watch her on stage all night. She is simply mesmerizing, the kind of ballerina that makes you forget about everything else in the world and not even notice if a technical mistake happens, because her presence and performance are so captivating. Enormous talent!

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Hurrah hurrah! Another thing I love about this dancer is that she seems so very gracious. If you look around on her Instagram linked to above, you can see that she is very sweet in the way she thanks her supporters for their appreciation. I hope that her star will rise this season.

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What does anyone make of this: http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/news1/ ? Mariinsky website congratulates Xander Parish and conductor Pavel Bubelnikov for winning Taglioni awards,, but does not mention Yulia Stepanova at all. Could anyone be contesting her award? Not Mariinsky, surely! She still appears on the Mariinsky website, but she was to dance in Rubies and Humpbacked Horse in October and these two appearances have been deleted, leaving only her Queen of the Dryads and Sylvia. What is going on??

I've sent an email to press@mariinsky.ru requesting correction of the "error" in the press release.

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Yulia just won the Taglioni European ballet award. http://instagram.com/p/td10Zst4rD/

The Taglioni European Ballet Award site gives a nice write up about her:

Best Female Young Dancer

Yulia Stepanova

Yulia Stepanova is a remarkable female dancer from the new generation. She represents the best of the developing Vaganova tradition. She already dances the most prestigious roles in ’Swan Lake’, ’La Bayadère’, and ’Sylvia’. Her lines are gorgeous, and she is a very lyrical dancer. She is a natural classical ballerina.

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What does anyone make of this: http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/news1/ ? Mariinsky website congratulates Xander Parish and conductor Pavel Bubelnikov for winning Taglioni awards,, but does not mention Yulia Stepanova at all. Could anyone be contesting her award? Not Mariinsky, surely! She still appears on the Mariinsky website, but she was to dance in Rubies and Humpbacked Horse in October and these two appearances have been deleted, leaving only her Queen of the Dryads and Sylvia. What is going on??

I've sent an email to press@mariinsky.ru requesting correction of the "error" in the press release.

Sometimes I wonder if they do things like this just to spite zealous Stepanova fans.

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Yes they do seem rather..........................zealous.

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Response to my email:

"Of course we know about Julia's win and we are glad that our ballet dancers become better from year to year and honored to have those great awards. But according to the fact that Julia have decided to leave Mariinsky ballet troupe in nearest future we can't print this information on our web-site.
I hope Julia will have a lot of awards in future and you will stay an admirer of her talent!
Have a nice day and best regards,

Kate Ordovskaya
Press-office of the Mariinsky theatre
Tel: +7 812 714 4164
Fax: +7 812 314 17 44
http://www.mariinsky.ru
mailto:ordovskaya@mariinsky.ru"

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