Birdsall

2014 White Nights Festival at the Mariinsky

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On Monday (Jan. 7) I was walking past the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg knowing the Yacobsen Ballet was doing Swan Lake but it had already started. I decided to see if I could still get a ticket at a discount since it already started and by my estimate I had already missed the first scene. The man I asked told me to follow him and let me in for free and let me scoot in as the first scene was still going on!

I report this because if anyone is ever in St. Petersburg with nothing playing at the Mariinsky, this troupe was nothing to laugh at. They were not as polished as the Mariinsky but better than American companies I have seen. The sets were not the best and leaps were not as high, and ballerinas were not quite as skinny as Mariinsky dancers, but to my eyes it looked like most of them were Vaganova trained. I really enjoyed it because I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. The audience was made up of Asians and Germans from what I could tell and huge buses waited outside, so this company caters mostly to tourists who simply want to say they saw "Russian Ballet ." Most of them probably have no idea that the Mariinsky is where you get the hard drug! LOL

BUT with that said if you are in SP for business with only one night to spare for a show and the Mariinsky has no ballet that night, this is not a bad company to see.

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On July 8 and 9 I saw the triple bill: Chopiniana, In the Night, and Ashton's Marguerite and Armand (premiere at the Mariinsky).

Seeing Chopiniana by the Mariinsky is like witnessing a fairytale kingdom. Those fluttery flowing arms with the corps in sync was so gorgeous. I would say I liked the second night best with Kolegova showing a very delightful and happy main sylph. Her balances were astonishing, and her happy sylph just made it a joy to watch. Ostreikovskaya was a more moody main sylph the first night. However, Xander Parish was better on the first night than Yaroslavl Pushkov who looked like he had a hard time lifting Kolegova.

In the Night is not my favorite ballet but the audience treated it like it was a masterpiece. I enjoyed all 3 couples both nights. This work has a very modern feel to it, yet it is grounded in ballet, so I suspect Russians crave these new works. I will say that Lopatkina (as the fighting woman) found a way to make the flailing arms work better than most. Usually it is ugly. She also blew Skorik's interpretation the night before out of the water.

And that brings me to Marguerite and Armand. The first night Lopatkina lived and breathed the main role timing her coughs and staggering on pointe perfectly to the music. Tereshkina who is a more extroverted performer was good but wasn't quite as "on"....both ballerinas were technically wonderful but you really forgot you were watching a ballet with Lopatkina because she was so smooth and alive in her acting.

Shklyarov (on the second night partnering Tereshkina) was much better than Askerov. So if you wanted a more well matched couple , the second night was better, but if you wanted an amazing performance by a ballerina with a partner who totally faded into the woodwork then the first night was better.

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An excellent report. Reflecting in the most faithful way what indeed took place on both nights. I would like to add a few words about Leonid Jakobson's troupe. It is a distinguished company, in fact. During the Summer it is understandable that they cater to busloads of tourists flocking to see «Swan Lake». During the regular season they present an interesting repertoire, you will meet there top Saint Petersburg ballet experts and critics.

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Thanks for the info, Mathilde K.! I am glad the Yacobsen Ballet is considered worth attending since I felt that way too!

Tonight I saw La Sylphide with an Effie who should have played the Sylph and a sylph who should have been a character dancer maybe Madge. I hate to be harsh but to me Nadezhda Gonchar does not seem like a Mariinsky dancer. From the waist down she is technically good which would make her decent for any other ballet company in the world, but from the waist up she is stiff and not flowing and fluttery like most in the company. Almost every corps member would have played a better flowing sylph and her lack of legato arms would be a little more hard to notice maybe in the corps. Although maybe she would stick out more placed with a corps that dances with the same style. I think the Sylph is the total opposite type role for her.

Maria Adzhamova played Effie, and she had the legato arms I love. I think she is labelled a "character dancer" at the Mariinsky but I feel she would have been an incredible sylph.

David Zaleyev made a great debut as James. He did really well in his first big role. Despite his petite frame he acted very masculine so I could buy him as a guy wanting to cheat and throw an old beggar woman out.

I had a great time despite a miscast Sylph (my opinion, of course). Maria Shirinkina was initially announced and her petite size and fluttery, legato arms would have made her a great Sylph. Despite not being Vaganova trained Shirinkina seems to have the upper body of someone who is Vaganova trained.

But even a miscast night at the Mariinsky can be enjoyable. After last night's bright flashy Bolshoi Theatre that almost requires sunglasses it is nice to return to the soft glow of the Mariinsky! This is my opinion once again. I know some people would disagree.

I am praying the soft glow will not be replaced with bright flashiness when the Mariinsky is renovated.

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Japanese ballet fans are among the most committed and knowledgeable I've encountered. However I would imagine it would be difficult, if not impossible, to score a big block of tickets for tour groups especially during the Festival.

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Being half Japanese I can complain about the Japanese in the Alexandrinsky Theatre's audience: lots of talking and picture taking with flashes!!!! At one point in the middle of performers dancing someone who was an administrator of either the ballet company or tour group got up and walked in front of the first row and chastised and shook his finger at a group of women who had been using flash photography! To their credit and professionalism the dancers kept right on dancing through this crazy scene!!!! LOL

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Maria Shirinkina was initially announced and her petite size and fluttery, legato arms would have made her a great Sylph. Despite not being Vaganova trained Shirinkina seems to have the upper body of someone who is Vaganova trained.

Shirinkina is expecting. Yuri Fateev has employed the best Mariinsky pedagogues to develop what she (and his other favorite), were missing.

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I like Shirinkina overall, but I think she is very limited in the roles she can play. In my mind she would be great as the Sylph, Masha, and various fairies in Sleeping Beauty but not sure what else I would want to see her in. She's like a delicate little doll and even though she could actually get through big roles, I am not sure anyone longs to see her in those major roles.

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You have a very good eye... I personally like her delicate "doll-like" qualities. This may be one of the reasons why she has been enjoying such a strong support from Yuri Fateev (Vladimir Shklyarov being her husband could be another reason).

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Thank you, Mathilde K. for the compliment!

Another ballerina with doll-like qualities is Oksana Marchuk. A friend pointed her out to me a couple of years ago. Her smile lights up the room! You can't help smiling when she comes on stage. She is still in the corps, but I hope she will be promoted to Coryphee soon. Her manu dance was delightful last night! I think unlike Shirinkina she may be able to do more rolls even though she is also doll-like. I suspect you know her. You can't miss her smile!

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Last night's Bayadere had a few surprises. Many costumes were different from previous times. For example, Nikiya had legging type pants under her skirt in Act 1 & 2. At first I thought Kolegova had forgotten to take her leggings off, but then I realized it was part of the costume. Also, the children playing African slaves were no where to be found during the Golden Idol dance. Instead girls dressed like the D'jampe dancers in Act 1 (with veils tied to their legs) accompanied the Golden Idol. This has been a source of controversy here on BA so many will be happy about that. Cameras were set up all over because they were taping it. A cameraman was in my box and many chairs had been removed.

Another costume change was in the Manu dance. The sweet Oksana Marchuk wore a red and white striped skirt and a blue top with white at the mid-section of her torso and the white part had a big X....I don't remember this being the costume. It looked almost like an American flag.

I am a huge fan of Anastasia Kolegova because she is such a solid ballerina. The only complaint people have is that she doesn't act much. Last night she put more emotion into Nikiya than I expected. However , sometimes I thought her interpretive choices to be a bit off. For example, she was dripping with haughtiness when she entered as if she had zero respect for the priest and held him in contempt. Maybe she was trying to imply he has been harassing her for a long time. Overall, I thought she was wonderful despite acting issues. She is a ballerina who gets better and better each time she plays a role, and I am pretty sure this was her debut as Nikiya, although the program did not list it as a debut.

Timur Askerov was more "on" than I have ever seen him. Not only have his dancing skills improved but he also had more passion than he usually does. I thought he was boring as Armand but he must love dancing Solor b/c he was more animated. Redzhepmyrat Abdyev applauded and bravo-ed him loudly in the coach's box next to the box I was in.

I was shocked by Yekaterina Chebykina as Gamzatti. She seemed to never dance in time to the music, her arms are stiff which is totally unlike the other Mariinsky dancers, and she just looked like an amateur when compared to the others.

When the two men lift Gamzatti up as she's standing up, as they came downstage with her, Chebykina's pelvis began to totally come forward and for a split second it looked like the men would drop her which caused huge gasps from the coaches' box. I mean they all gasped at the same time. I am sure everyone in the theatre heard them. But luckily the men set her down without dropping her!

Maybe it was seeing it live but I felt everyone dancing the Indian drum dance were on fire! Anastasia Petushkova never impressed me before, but she was great in this energetic dance!

I mentioned above that Oksana Marchuk was sweet in the Manu dance.

Fillip Stepin was a terrific Golden Idol. He has the body for such an almost naked dance like that!

Batoeva, Ivannikova, and Stepanova were the 3 shades, and all did an amazing job!

Gergiev conducted.

The thing I love about the Mariinsky's Bayadere is the Nikiya and Slave dance. I believe it is a Soviet interpolation, but it is so lovely. I also love the 32 shades (instead of 24 at ABT)! The scene is set in the Himalayas.

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Bart and Mathilde,

Thanks so much for the reviews! I am just getting caught up on the forum and was excited this morning to stumble across all of your updates from the festival. Great info and analysis!

Bart, I am so sorry about your ribs! I hope they're feeling better soon.

Sasha

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I was shocked by Yekaterina Chebykina as Gamzatti. She seemed to never dance in time to the music, her arms are stiff which is totally unlike the other Mariinsky dancers, and she just looked like an amateur when compared to the others.

Now you are discovering some well guarded secrets of Mariinsky Ballet.... Chebykina is a recent addition to the troupe. She graduated from the Kiev Ballet School. From the moment she arrived last year she has been on the fast track to Soloist despite all her obvious deficiencies. Oksana Marchuk, who is much better in every respect, unfortunately has been buried deep in the corps. Unless Yuri Fateev undergoes some miraculous conversion, her future in the troupe as well as of other Vaganova graduates, I am afraid, looks bleak.

Concerning Anastasia Kolegova — yes, this was her debut as Nikiya. She danced Gamzatti many times.

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Thanks, Sasark! My ribs are feeling better but I am also resting a lot during the day.

Mathilde K., it was shocking to see Chebykina dancing the way she did. I suspected she was not Vaganova trained. I know everyone asks this, but what is wrong with Fateyev????

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Anastasia Kolegova did dance Nikiya as a guest to Milhailovsky Ballet's Japan tour a few years ago (opposite to Igor Kolb who was also guesting). But maybe that was her debut at the Mariinsky.

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Naomikage, that might explain why the Mariinsky sometimes lists a new role as a debut and sometimes doesn't. I know some dancers guest and so their debut at the Mariinsky is not actually a debut in the role, just at the Mariinsky.

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The cameras were filming tonight again. I told the cameraman in my box to make sure to include legs and arms as much as possible, but I think it went in one ear and out the other!

Tonight Tereshkina was a very good Nikiya even thrilling with some unassisted balances. I am not sure how tall she is but she has a petite look, so I think she is not everyone's ideal Nikiya (I sense most people want tall, long limbs in this role ), but you can always count on her to give a good or even great performance that is solid, and she always has flowing Vaganova arms that I love. When you see Tereshkina on the playbill it usually means you will see a good or great performance with no huge mistakes. And that is what tonight's performance was like. A very good night at the Mariinsky.

Shklyarov reminded me what a great male dancer is like. Yesterday I gave Askerov credit b/c he was better than usual, but then tonight Shklyarov blew Askerov away. His back bending cambres are amazing! You can 't believe he didn't just break his back!!!

Anastasia Matvienko seems really good at turns, and after last night's Chernobyl disaster...I mean Chebykina disaster, it was nice to see a Gamzatti who actually danced to the music!!!

Petushkova was electric again as the Indian girl. I never liked her until I saw her in this role .

Marchuk was sweet as pie in the Manu dance again.

Kimin Kim wowed us with his Golden Idol...such leaps!

Batoeva, Ivannikova , and Stepanova reprised the 3 shades. I think all 3 are on the rise!

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Tonight Tereshkina was a very good Nikiya even thrilling with some unassisted balances. I am not sure how tall she is but she has a petite look, so I think she is not everyone's ideal Nikiya (I sense most people want tall, long limbs in this role ),

I want a dancer whose movement radiates from her core. I don't care how long her legs are or how close to her ear she can place her toe shoe.

Many thanks for all of your reports, Birdsall!

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Tereshkina is always a sure bet that you will get a good performance, and I think she is often partnered with Shklyarov. I think it is a good partnership b/c they are both strong dancers who could overshadow a partner who isn't strong.

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I also am grateful for these reports...

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Hello there everyone, how do you do? My name's Amy and I'm new to this forum; pleasure to be here. smile.png

I like Shirinkina overall, but I think she is very limited in the roles she can play. In my mind she would be great as the Sylph, Masha, and various fairies in Sleeping Beauty but not sure what else I would want to see her in. She's like a delicate little doll and even though she could actually get through big roles, I am not sure anyone longs to see her in those major roles.

I also like Maria Shirinkina; she's got such a charming presence on-stage and she's certainly a great example of a lyrical ballerina. You're not sure if anybody longs to see her in major roles, well I would like to see her in some major roles. For one thing, I would really like to see her dance Odette/Odile one day; I do think she would be better as Odette than Odile, but I certainly think she'd get through it, especially if she was being partnered by her husband - Vladimir Shklyarov did say himself that he would like to dance more with his wife.

But I would actually like to see Shirinkina dancing Petipa and Ivanov's original 1895 choreography for Odette/Odile - I am a big Petipa fan and I am very much in favour of the reconstructions. I would really like it if someone did a Swan Lake reconstruction and I really think Shirinkina would do really well at the original choreography. And I am aware of how some of the Mariinsky dancers reacted to the reconstructions of Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere, which I found absolutely appalling, but I wonder how Shirinkina would react if she was picked to dance the lead in a reconstruction because another thing I like about her is that she actually respects the ballets she dances in.

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The reconstruction of «Sleeping Beauty» was seriously flawed, with arbitrary decisions falsely presented as "returning to the original". The main critics were, in fact, competent ballet historians. Are you aware of this?

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There aren't that many people who can read the notation. From what sources was this criticism based?

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Hello Mathilde K, how do you do? Am I right in assuming that your username is after Mathilde Kschessinskaya?

The reconstruction of «Sleeping Beauty» was seriously flawed, with arbitrary decisions falsely presented as "returning to the original". The main critics were, in fact, competent ballet historians. Are you aware of this?

And are you referring to the fact that Sergei Vikharev wasn't allowed to restore the choreography documented in the Stepanov notation 100%? Because that is certainly something I am aware of, which I am not at all happy about.

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I am not "referring to the fact that Sergei Vikharev wasn't allowed to restore the choreography documented in the Stepanov notation 100%". (Not allowed by whom?)

If you are interested in the issues surrounding the reconstructions and Stepanov notation, it is best to study the works written by professionals on the subject. Start from articles by Doug Fullington who has been a prime authority on the Sergeev Harvard Collection. Detailed critical analyses appeared in Russian balletological publications.

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