mussel

Summer 2014 NYC & Saratoga Tour

369 posts in this topic

Catching up on this thread I can't help but giggle and be glad that I decided NOT to fly to New York this time round.


Instead, I'll be in Saratoga next week -- Alexandrova, Krysanova, and Kretova as Kitri -- with any luck, Tikhomirova and Turazashvili (the latter captivated me nine months ago, and her name has been ever on my lips since then) in the lesser roles -- a more joyous and diverting Bolshoi experience than one could have hoped to enjoy with Grigorovich's excreable Swan Lake... I've seen recordings of that AND their Spartacus, and what is bearable with a fast forward button I wouldn't have liked to pay top dollar to sit through in a theatre.


I'd like to thank each and every person who has posted his or her impressions here; they've been a delight to read. My special gratitude to those who had something nice to say about Alexandrova's only Kitri in NYC. Last year's injury and whatever toll it has taken upon her jumps does nothing to diminish my pleasure at the thought of seeing on stage, for the first time, the Bolshoi's true prima ballerina: and with that thought in mind I've sent flowers.


Who else is going to Saratoga...?


Edited to add a question which slipped my mind: are full cast lists for those four Saratoga performances available anywhere...?

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My optimal cast for Spartacus would be Rodkin, Vinogradova, Zakharova and Lantratov. All of these dancers possess a beautiful physique, athleticism, tremendous acting skills and literally look their part. Alas, the Bolshoi casting directors would not let us gorge on all four of them at once!

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I saw Spartacus last night for the first, and probably the last, time. Two words come immediately to mind: testosterone and narcissism. The ballet seemed to me a grand spectacle--a combination of powerful dancing, circus acrobatics, and Broadway kitsch. While admittedly Nikulina has a great deal to develop in the drama department (her grief at the end of the ballet seemed to be made up of choreographed gestures), I seem to be one of the few people on this board who find her dancing beautiful. In my eyes she has perfect proportions and reliable technique, coupled with a gorgeous line, fluidity of movement, and a genuineness that was a strong contrast to the blatant flaunting that characterized Zakharova. For me, the most beautiful sections were the adagios with Nikulina and Lobukhin.

I found the choreography stylized and repetitious. I wish I would have counted how many times Aegina stood with her front foot planted on the floor on pointe in front of her with her back leg straightened to show off her long leg with hyperextended knee (I know that that's a virtue in some quarters). It was way too many.

I found Lobukhin to be a marvel of both drama and technique. His leaps and turns were phenomenal, his body was gorgeous to watch. The stamina required to dance this ballet from Spartacus down through the corps members was mind-boggling. I sat in the second row of the orchestra and could see the dancers heaving to take in air, but they never did anything less than the maximum, except for the fact of the smaller stage of the Koch Theater, which required them to contain their movements to fit the available space. At one point in the choreography Spartacus took three grand jete leaps in a row across the stage and you could see him holding back in order to keep himself from flying into the wings.

Overall, I'm glad I saw this ballet, if only for my education and for its significance as a showpiece of the Bolshoi at a certain time in its history.

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I was at last night's Spartacus. I had seen this ballet live before. For me, it's a mixture of sublime beauty in some passages and hilarious excess in other passages. The romantic pdd are quite beautiful. The choreography for the corps of men stomping around is boring and repetitive. The biggest laugh for me was Zakharova's pole dance in the last act. Aegina suits her perfectly. I liked Nikulina as Phyrigia. Maybe not the greatest actress but she executed the choreography very well. The lead men were impressive in physically daunting roles. However, I still recall seeing Ivan Vasiliev at the KC a few years ago as Spartacus, and I thought he was more consistently exciting and intense than Lobukhin.

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I am thinking of going to Saratoga, how's the sightline in the orchestra section? How raked is it?

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the rake is not bad and the seats are quite well staggered. I sat in the third row for NYCB and had a good view of the stage so long as the two people in front of me weren't putting their heads together to compare notes on what they thought of the proceedings!

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Well tonight's Spartacus was a letdown after Friday night. Rodkin simply isn't as thrilling a dancer or actor as Lobukhin. Although he is strong ( you have to be to do this part) he isn't as strong as Lobukhin. His jumps and turns were all great but when it came to the Act 3 PDD. I felt myself praying he was going to get through it. He did (though in the 1handed lift he made a smaller circle than Lobukhin) he even ended with what I like to think of as "a Vasiliev" (an arabesque, and one that was about 70 degrees!). But I didn't feel he danced it with the same confidence and security Lobukhin did on Friday.

As for Krysanova, she was a big disappointment as Aegina. She is a perfectly competent dancer but in this role she is simply not in the same league as Zakharova (and I'm not usually a fan of hers). First, Zakharova has amazing physical gifts: very long legs and arms, long beautifully arched feet (really gorgeous feet!) unusually great flexibity and extensions and here, an ability to make stunning shapes and poses. But more impressive to me was how this usually cold dancer took complete command of the stage Friday night with her strong stage presence. When she was onstage, Zakharova was riveting; you couldn't take your eyes off her. In comparison, Krysanova seemed dull and never held my attention. I found it hard to believe she was the sexy, cunning courtesan to the Roman leader. Aside from having lots of solo choreography, she didn't really distinguish herself from the other courtesans onstage.

I did like both Lantratov (Crassus) and Vinogradova (Phrygia). I was very impressed by Lantratov's strong gestures, acting and dancing (those triple tours) in Act 1. At that point, I felt he was stronger than Volchkov from Friday night. I think Lantratov began to run out of steam a bit as the ballet progressed (who wouldn't?) but I found him every bit as believable as Volchkov in the role of Crassus. Generally, I think Lantratov has strong stage presence and is a good dancer. I also liked Vinogradova much better than Nikulina. First, she is a better actress and was more soulful (and effective) about communicating her despair. I also prefer her as a dancer. She has a great jump, good flexibity and a nicer line than Nikulina. Both dancers are clearly strong and, again tonight, when Vinogradova lifted her lower leg in passé, at the end of the Act 3 PDD, the audience gasped as they had Friday night when Nikulina did it.

I have to say that despite my complaints or reservations about certain performers or the choreography, this ballet is tremendously physical and the sheer amount of great athleticism it requires is phenomenal. I feel like every dancer deserves a shoutout simply for having performed the ballet and gotten through it with great skill (and no falls, slips, botched lifts or any one of a number of things that can go wrong). I can only imagine the fatigue and pain each of these dancers feel after three hours of such brutally demanding choreography. So kudos to all of them, from the corps to the principals, both night's cast. Bravo Bolshoi!!!

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That Rodkin was less confident/secure may also owe to the less experience he has with the role.

On the other hand I had mostly surmised Krysanova would make a poor Aegina without even seeing it. Taken to an extreme, it would be like casting David Hallberg as Crassus or Alina Cojocaru as Aegina, could you imagine?

Zakharova on the other hand is a natural for that role, her narcissism adding rather than detracting from the characterization. Maria Allash does great as well as Aegina but did not come on tour.

Lantratov had some pretty outrageously exaggerated expressions in the cinecast which wasn't very convincing, I don't know how he was live. I'm happy to hear Vinogradova did well as Phrygia.

In any case, I have no desire to see this ballet again, and as beautiful as some of the romantic pdd are, the vulgar moments are so over-the-top they are a major turn-off. It didn't bother me so much on video with clear facial expressions and the focus on Aegina, but now I still cannot get that pole dance with the demi-circle of evenly distributed "writhing" corps out of my head, especially seen from the vertigo-inducing high angle of the 4th ring I was almost nauseous from the puke-yellow and blood-red lighting straight out of hell.

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The lighting last night was much better than on Friday. On Friday there was too much red-orange, which was hurting my eyes. Last night the lighting was less harsh, I thought. Agree that Kryssanova was miscast as Aegina. I thought all the other leads did very well and I enjoyed their performances.

I assume that by the next tour to NY (whenever that may be), both Vinogradova and Tikhamerova will have risen to new heights within the company. They are two standouts that I was not previously aware of before this tour. Smirnova is already a star, and I assume her stardom will grow in the coming years. All the lead men I saw during the tour were impressive.

This Bolshoi tour, including the wonderful Tsar's Bride two weeks ago, has made this a very memorable summer.

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I assume that by the next tour to NY (whenever that may be), both Vinogradova and Tikhamerova will have risen to new heights within the company. They are two standouts that I was not previously aware of before this tour./quote]

I was aware of Tikhomirova because she competed on the Russian ballet version of SYTYCD, called Big Ballet (Bolshoi Ballet). Artem Ovcharenko was her partner. Oga Smirnova also competed (and won!) and her partner was Lantratov. Sergei Polunin won on the men's side ans was partnered with Kristina Shapran. It was a really fun TV show to watch. I think it's probably still up on YT.

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I attended this afternoon's performance.



The four leads in this afternoon's performance exemplified what I call the "Spartacus spirit." Mikhail Lobukhin was originally from the Mariinsky but he completely transformed himself into Bolshoi Soviet Superman. He was beefy, he was strong, he was tireless. In Act Three he drew a huge ovation for lifting Phrygia (Anna Nikulina) over his head with one arm, then circling the entire stage while Nikulina changed positions several times. First she was in the classic curtain drape lift (. Then she was sort of in an overhead split. Then she somehow turned her body completely upside down and her legs were in the air as her head was facing the ground. I bet Lobukhin could bench press with the best of the Olympians. As for Nikulina, there were murmurs among the audience that she's one of the Bolshoi's weaker ballerinas, but all I can say is: she certainly knows how to stick her legs in the air while being lifted. She also knows how to catch her foot while being wrapped around Spartacus's shoulders. And really, that's all the role requires.




The "evil" couple of Crassus and Aegina was even more fun. Alexander Volchkov looked like the stereotypical spoiled Roman emperor. I even loved his slightly boyish look -- it made him resemble King Joffrey. But beneath those pretty locks and baby face was so much typical Bolshoi horsepower. He was amazing. Even more stunning was Svetlana Zakharova as Aegina. Zakharova has unusually long limbs, with highly arched feet, and a careful, controlled way of dancing that often leads to her being labeled "cold." However she was absolutely riveting as the Roman courtesan. Her legs and feet became sexual objects. She danced with the full awareness of her own sexiness. She often walked all the way downstage to the footlights, and stood with a pointed foot forward at the audience, and then shimmied. In the Act Three pole dance, a weaker dancer might have looked ridiculous. But she contorted herself around that pole like a Vegas showgirl. It was completely believable that a bunch of slaves started crawling on the ground to grab her legs. She was the definite star of the performance.


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I assume that by the next tour to NY (whenever that may be), both Vinogradova and Tikhamerova will have risen to new heights within the company. They are two standouts that I was not previously aware of before this tour.

I was aware of Tikhomirova because she competed on the Russian ballet version of SYTYCD, called Big Ballet (Bolshoi Ballet). Artem Ovcharenko was her partner. Oga Smirnova also competed (and won!) and her partner was Lantratov. Sergei Polunin won on the men's side ans was partnered with Kristina Shapran. It was a really fun TV show to watch. I think it's probably still up on YT.

Vinogradova and especially Tikhomirova have appeared with the Bolshoi on the big screen more than once. Tikhomirova was filmed in solo and small ensemble parts in Flames of Paris, Class Concert, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, The Bright Stream, Romeo and Juliet, Spartacus and Marco Spada, and most notably in the Mimi Paul role in 'Emeralds,' in the pas de trois and as the Spanish Bride in Swan Lake, Folie in Coppélia, the Third Odalisque in Le Corsaire, in Raymonda dancing the second variation in Raymonda's dream, as the Lead Sylph in La Sylphide, the Guadalquivir in The Pharaoh's Daughter and the Second Shade in La Bayadère. Vinogradova has appeared as one of Fleur-de-Lys' girlfriends in Esmeralda and the Fisherman's Wife in The Pharaoh's Daugher and also in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, La Bayadère, Romeo and Juliet, 'Rubies' and 'Diamonds.'

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This afternoon the Bolshoi Ballet's marvelous artists made Spartacus look like a great masterpiece. What a way to end the NYC tour!

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I'll also add that I'm surprised some of the choreography made it through the Soviet censorship. For instance during the pole dance at one point Aegina takes the pole and rubs it between her legs. At another point she lies down, legs spread eagle, and pumps her hips into the air. Also Crassus appears to uh, take her from behind. I was outside the stage door and there were a bunch of teenagers who were talking about how they were shocked at "all that sex" onstage.

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This afternoon the Bolshoi Ballet's marvelous artists made Spartacus look like a great masterpiece. What a way to end the NYC tour!

Glad I saw it. Now I never have to see it again! Grigorovich knows five steps. Rond verse' (everyone gets to do these! It's Mr. G's default step), Grand jete' (both with straight legs and bent begs), Tour jete' (again with straight legs and bent), Developpe' a' la seconde (and watch me catch my foot!), Attitude a' derriere (also watch me catch my foot). Oh, and the few odd hops, skips, stomps, and runs interspersed among the afore mentioned five steps. Throw in a few lifts straight out of SYTYCD, throw your arms out to the side as you run, pose a million times with your very pretty foot in fourth croisse' and you've got yourself a ballet! Well, sort of. There were moments that looked straight out of Busby Berkley (without the tap shoes). And who knew that those shepherds with their sticks hitting each other were the fore runners of Morris Dancing? You saw it here first, folks in Ancient Rome! And then they started twirling those sticks like batons! While they did chainees! The Ohio State Marching Band should have a look at these guys! I guess those shepherds were just too tuckered out from stick twirling to help defend poor Spartacus. And yes, as someone mentioned above, there indeed was a Pole Dance! On and on and on and on and on..........They say Rome wasn't built in a day, but did this have to go on for sooooo long? The dancers (especially Spartacus) all looked like they were taking part in an endless Grand Allegro exercise in class. One that wouldn't end, but looped forever and forever around itself. But I did kind of dig the costumes and props. Now I know where all those stolen hub caps go off our parked cars. Why, they become Roman shields!! And did anyone catch the moments in the music where it actually sounded like "Road Runner" and "Wily Coyote"? Now THERE would be a theme for a ballet we could all really love! BEEP! BEEP!

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Kretova showed us lots of long, long amazing balances. In one especially long pose in the PdD in Act III, Lobukhin was at the ready to put hand on waist, but she kept holding that balance. He shrugged his shoulders, looked at the audience, as if to say: "how amazing is she!" That got a laugh. I don't know if that was spontaneous or rehearsed, but it was great fun.

I agree with the previous posts. I especially was fond of Kretova's "go for it attitude". Her extraordinary balances aside (and they were pretty amazing!), I found her to be the sunniest, just happy to be dancing for you gal in this role. possibly a comer. This is a joyous production of this war horse! Speaking of which, I see "Spartacus " on Sunday!

I wanted to be the one to get the credit for drawing you out about Spartacus, mimsyb! thanks.GIF

Kretova's balances were I think without exception wobbly; she stayed up there but you could see her working to do so.

I thought that Kristina Kretova's balances in Don Quixote were "extraordinary" and "pretty amazing" too, although one was indeed "wobbly". But we cannot all agree about even a number of balances during a performance! That reminds me, I have to check out Rashomon again.

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I saw Spartacus for the first and last time Friday night. I'm relieved to discover I'm not the only person who found it appalling. (Thank you, mimsyb and angelica, for your candor!) Yes, there are some "guilty pleasures" - especially the PdD in the 2d and 3rd acts. And we do see some amazingly athletic and versatile show-off solos, especially for the men.

But overall this is Soviet (not Russian) ballet at its worst. All those soldiers, blood, guts, killings, battles in silly encounters, storming around to that relentless movie score by Khatchadourian. I am glad I saw it, as it reflects the Soviet mentality in the 1960s, when they crushed the Prague Spring in 1968 and the communist world descended even further into brutal oppression that lasted until the 1980s and glasnost/perestroika. I don't want to go too far with this, but I had flashbacks during those battle scenes of Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, with battalions of Nazi soldiers showing us how powerful and dominant they were.

Like canbelto, I'm amazed the Soviet censors let that pole dance sequence through. It wasn't just the principal with her embarrassing antics, but also the writhing couples all around the stage, reminiscent of a drunken frat house. Perhaps the dark lighting made it tolerable to the censors, as you had to strain to see much of what they were doing.

Swan Lake from the 80s -- when the Soviets were first allowed to study Freud -- reflected their naïve excesses in trying to incorporate him into their classic masterpiece. Both of these pieces tell us a lot about how the arts can reflect the culture of their times, for better or worse. Most troubling and sobering to me is that 22+ years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians still love these ballets. Putin has said that the single worst event of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union (not WWII, when millions of his fellow Russians were slaughtered by the Nazis?). He must love Spartacus.

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Agree that the ballet vocabulary for Spartacus was very limited. I'm ready for some brilliant Balanchine now.

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Well I thought I would hate it but I found it very enjoyable in a kitschy schlocky kind of way. It reminded me of those Cecil B. DeMille Biblical epics -- campy and over the top. I think the Sunday afternoon casting was amazing -- they really sold this ballet, and the partnering of Lobukhin was spectacular. Would I run to see it again? Probably not, but for one afternoon, it was a lot of fun.

Also a big hand to the Bolshoi Orchestra. It was such a delight to hear them play Minkus and Khatchuturian as if it were Mahler -- I'm not used to hearing such quality sounds from the pit when I go to the ballet.

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Well I thought I would hate it but I found it very enjoyable in a kitschy schlocky kind of way. It reminded me of those Cecil B. DeMille Biblical epics -- campy and over the top. I think the Sunday afternoon casting was amazing -- they really sold this ballet, and the partnering of Lobukhin was spectacular. Would I run to see it again? Probably not, but for one afternoon, it was a lot of fun.

Also a big hand to the Bolshoi Orchestra. It was such a delight to hear them play Minkus and Khatchuturian as if it were Mahler -- I'm not used to hearing such quality sounds from the pit when I go to the ballet.

Riding a Merry -Go- Round is fun. Like California above, I found it troubling that this work is still considered to be a "signature" ballet of this company. How very sad. I too will not go into the "politics" of it all, but to keep this ballet at the forefront of this company's rep. is astonishing. The many fine dancers of the Bolshoi surely deserve better than these lesser attempts of Grigorovich. And we, the audience, also deserve to see better examples of choreography and production. The World of Dance has moved on, but it would seem the Russians are still caught in some time warp, unable or unwilling to step into this new World.

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I don't mind Spartacus. It has its place in Soviet history and the Bolshoi is the only company who can pull this work off.

I really mind the fact that the ugly, reworked Grigorovich versions of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere, Nutcracker, Raymonda, etc. are still untouchable. Not to mention his atrocious R&J which meant the Bolshoi dropped the Lavrovsky version. Ugh.

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The best thing I can say about Spartacus (seen Friday evening), and I'm not faulting the dancers, is to quote Pauline Kael on the 1935 version of She: "Hilarious, terrible, essential....Camp like this is a rarity."

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The best thing I can say about Spartacus (seen Friday evening), and I'm not faulting the dancers, is to quote Pauline Kael on the 1935 version of She: "Hilarious, terrible, essential....Camp like this is a rarity."

And one can only hope that the "Trocks" might find it in them to really make this ballet into a true romp!

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"Spartacus" is so over-the-top and so far on its way to parody that while the Trocks would dance it spectacularly, the only way they could send it up would be to do a 180 and turn it into "La Sylphide."

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