Mathilde K

“Who is to dance at Mariinsky?”

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"revered" critics in Russia? who? I don't think that I could have missed so much especially while maintaining close ties to the Rusian ballet for so many years.

The article is not at all "Why isn't ____ dancing enough?". It is about the pathologies of the Acting Director's policies in one of the most distinguished ballet troupes in the World.

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The "monkey with the dart board would be better" argument has been made against Martins and McKenzie with equal enthusiasm, as it was rendered against the revolving door AD's of Royal Danish Ballet -- although Martins has never been accused of holding back young talent in general casting-wise, as that's not part of NYCB culture -- and casting favorites or perceived favorites in roles out-of-proportion to their talent is a familiar cry against just about every AD.

Russian ballet is still in the precarious position of trying to extend its rep and range while maintaining its old virtues and trying to navigate the tipping point where growth turns it into something else. Punctuated equilibrium was Vaganova's reality, as the ballets changed and she adjusted her pedagogy to respond, but people invoke her as if she were part of an unchanging orthodoxy. POB has almost formalized a schism in rep and the dancers who specialize in their two main categories, which was their response to the same problem.

The Bolshoi and Mariinsky tend to force what they consider a modernized dancer, too often physique-specific, on the classical rep. That's a common post-Guillem misunderstanding, but the Russian companies more than any others are dependent on touring income, especially during theater renos, and the Mariinsky AD's in particular, seem to have a perverse sense of what the "West" -- as if that's one thing -- wants to see.

There are a wide range of opinions on the most controversial dancers -- Guillem, Zakharova, Somova, Smirnova, Skorik, Obraztsova, von Aroldingen, Kistler, Ringer, Part, Watts, Borree, etc.-- from eminent, well-respected critics, venerable coaches, and ballet professionals, as well as on dancers they feel are being held back, miscast, etc. I don't assume that every critic who cries "wuzrobbed!" is paid off or personally connected to a dancer and/or a dancer's supporters or is somehow corrupt. I assume they are opinions.

In North America, audiences in general see a lot of young dancers who would be considered unfinished in Europe in roles that are a stretch for them, and our expectations can be very different. Many of us find it exciting to see performers at the edge of their abilities, even when the performances aren't completely successful, and are interested in seeing a dancer grow in a role or style over time. Others of us want more polished and detailed performances and for the growth to be almost exclusively at the high end of the range.

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I absolutely agree with you, Helene. Yet when the "deformations" of the Artistic Director's policies reach the pathological levels and this is combined with zero accountability, like in the case of Mariinsky's Ballet, that surely should be a concern.

I am much less inclined than others to cry over aggressive promotion of this or that, perhaps undeserving, dancer, if other, better qualified (in many cases much better), are at least given an opportunity to grow and are not locked up for years in the corps de ballet, so that glaring deficiencies of the "favorites" are less noticeable. The graduates within the last 10 years of one of the most distinguished ballet schools in the World, Vaganova Academy, whose very existence is intimately connected to the Mariinsky Theater, are denied opportunity to grow, all of them. We are not talking here about a few "pretenders" with too much self-esteem complaining about injustice. Actually the opposite: I don't recall any of those young ballerinas complaining in public. Partly because of how they were raised at the Vaganova Academy, partly because of fear.

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The Bolshoi and Mariinsky tend to force what they consider a modernized dancer, too often physique-specific, on the classical rep. That's a common post-Guillem misunderstanding, but the Russian companies more than any others are dependent on touring income, especially during theater renos, and the Mariinsky AD's in particular, seem to have a perverse sense of what the "West" as if that's one thing, wants to see.

I absolutely agree with you, Helene. Yet when the "deformations" of the Artistic Director's policies reach the pathological levels and this is combined with zero accountability, like in the case of Mariinsky's Ballet, that surely should be a concern.

While I agree with your main points, the problem in Mariinsky ballet seems indeed to be more intricated. Even if it is indeed mainly because of the need of "modernized" type of body, there are also many Vaganova graduates with slim bodies, long-limbs and legs and neck, and hyper extensions and beautiful feets who joined the company in the recent years (for the phenomenon of Guillem also influenced the aesthetic evaluation of the Vaganova academy, to a certain extent). There would have been less controversies if these dancers are pushed forward together with Skorik, Chebykina, etc..But the reality is, only those from other schools with certain kind of body-type is pushed, and the fact that the company is not getting in coaches from other schools, but insist in their acquiring "Vaganova" style (with more rehearsal time and excellent coaches) after joining the company raises further doubt about the reason behind it. For if it is indeed the artistic potential of those dancers that is recognized in the theatre, their former schools should be given credit for the creation and development of their capacity and style. If they want to reeducate those dancers to acquire the Vaganova style, why not sending them to train in the academy for one or two years before giving them big opportunities?

I am particularly curious why dancers like Pavlenko, Gumerova, Osmolkina are no longer being cast in major classical parts, they had certain the type of body favoured in the company, and partially because of this (the other part being their education and artistic capacity) they were frequently seen in leading parts when they were young. And wasn't the plea for more opportunities for older dancers one of the major official reasons for the departure of Vaziev? Fateyev seems to have slowed down the promotion of young dancers initially in order to meet this "requirement" of Gergiev, but now what is happening is that young dancers from other schools are placed in front of both the older dancers and the younger dancers who graduated from Vaganova. Skorik and Askerov are exemplary of this phenomenon, and there is also Kim Kimin, Zaleyev, Parish, Shirinkina, Chebykina, Keenan Kampa. I don't mean that these are all problematic dancers, but they are all placed in more advantageous position than Vaganova graduates upon joining the theatre. And graduates who joined the theatre between 2005 and 2010 are not really "young" anymore.

(I am running out of time so I will not find the source for Gergiev's words that older dancers should have more opportunities to appear on stage, but I am pretty sure there is evidence to be found in this regard, I will post them later)

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I would argue against the need for "modernized" bodies in the Classical and Romantic rep, but that's another story. The main issue is a misunderstanding of what Guillem brought to the table. It's not just about elongated bodies with long limbs and extreme extensions, which are inappropriate in the classical rep and distort the harmony, architecture, and purpose, because I've seen that from Lopatkina as Lilac Fairy (live) and Letestu (on DVD): it's about the distortions of core and alignment to get those positions, the technical weaknesses in the feet and turnout, and the loss of strength, which neither Lopatkina nor Letestu do, but many others I've seen do.

Because the standards of the school are so high, I think that it's just a matter of waiting until Tsiskaridze is made AD of the Mariinsky, and not "Acting" anything. He could make a big impression by accepting the title of "Ballet Master."

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I reread this whole thread, and if you go back to page 3 of this alexaa1a gives a history of what does seem like Skorik's meteoric rise, and when you compare it to Stepanova the two stories are completely different. This was fascinating reading, because it gives a lot of insight into what is going on,

Fascinating reading indeed, I don't know how I have missed it. Very valuable information. Should be attached to Zozulina's article as Exhibit #1.

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Fascinating reading indeed, I don't know how I have missed it. Very valuable information. Should be attached to Zozulina's article as Exhibit #1.

I was talking to a friend about Lopatkina's recent Nikiya on June 6. They told me that Lopatkina had not performed Nikiya at the Mariinsky Theatre in four years. I said that could not be possible and they were convinced it has been four years.

I went checking the Mariinsky website and looked at the schedules for every month since June 2010. On June 15, 2010, Lopatkina danced Nikiya. In between her 2010 Nikiya and her June 6, 2014 Nikiya, there have been 33 Bayadere performances and my friend was correct, none of those 33 were danced by Lopatkina.
What is very interesting is that after the June 10, 2012 Somova Nikiya and the July 8,2012 Tereshkina Nikiya, the two most used performing Mariinsky Nikiya ballerinas went on maternity leave with Lopatkina, Vishneva and Kondaurova being the only regular Nikiya ballerinas. Vishneva rarely performs classical ballets at the Mariinsky, reserving her classical performances for ABT. However, Lopatkina would have been the most obvious choice for Nikiya during those maternity absences and she danced no Nikiyas.That left only Kondaurova among regular Nikiya ballerinas and 2013 was very interesting. Fateyev was forced to make a Nikiya Mariinsky debut and on February 4, 2013, Skorik made her Mariinsky Nikiya debut. Beginning with Skorik's debut, Skorik danced 3 of the next 4 Mariinsky Nikiyas, with Kondaurova being the other Nikiya. After that, the situation was reversed with Kondaurova dancing 3 of the next 4 Nikiyas with Skorik being the other Nikiya.
With 8 consecutive Bayadere performances before Tereshkina came back from maternity leave to dance Nikiya again, only Skorik and Kondaurova danced Nikiya. We are not talking about my local ballet company where there is little depth of talent among ballerinas in the company. We are talking about the Mariinsky Ballet, which many consider as having the best wealth of talent among ballerinas. Fateyev was forced to give one debut, Skorik, or Kondaurova would have been forced to dance every Bayadere. With so many talented young ballerinas, why did all these talented girls not dance Nikiya? I would love to have seen Stepanova, Marchuk or Nikitina make a debut in some of them. I think they would be better than Skorik or Kondaurova in the role. And I am sure many people could find other ballerinas who they would love to see make a debut. Fateyev should not be stingy with roles, because then he would avoid the casting problems he has probably had scheduling in August.

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Lopatkina and Vishineva did dance Nikiya on Mariinsky Ballet's Japan tour in November 2012. They had 4 performances of Bayadere, and the others danced the role was Skorik (her role debut) and Kondaurova. (first, Somova and Tereshkina were announced but they went on maternity leave as mentioned above)

http://japanarts.co.jp/mariinsky_ballet2012/english.htm

Well, Lopatkina and Vishneva might have danced the role because they were on tour.

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Yes, I think the friend was talking about home performances.....just at the Mariinsky Theatre, not tours. So as you say Lopatkina probably danced Nikiya somewhere in the world but not at the Mariinsky Theatre for 4 years.

By the way, two friends have told me the recent June 6 Lopatkina Bayadere at the Mariinsky was the best one she's done. It seems a shame to limit her performances of this at her home theatre!

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Daria Pavlenko also has (used to have) Nikiya in her repertoire.. But she hasn't been dancing much for a very long time, I do not know what shape she is in.

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Yes, I think the friend was talking about home performances.....just at the Mariinsky Theatre, not tours. So as you say Lopatkina probably danced Nikiya somewhere in the world but not at the Mariinsky Theatre for 4 years.

By the way, two friends have told me the recent June 6 Lopatkina Bayadere at the Mariinsky was the best one she's done. It seems a shame to limit her performances of this at her home theatre!

Yes, that performance of Lopatkina's as Nikiya on 6th June was just wonderful - truly a privilege to see. I wish Mariinsky Theatre had thought fit to film this great performance instead of the Tereshkina/Shklyarov one.

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I was talking to a friend about Lopatkina's recent Nikiya on June 6. They told me that Lopatkina had not performed Nikiya at the Mariinsky Theatre in four years. I said that could not be possible and they were convinced it has been four years.

This is what I wrote about that outstanding performance myself:

Ulyana Lopatkina last night at Mariinsky as Nikiya was breathtaking. A "priestess" in the Temple of High Arts, like Ulanova and Pavlova before her. I often remind ballerinas with big aspirations that to become a truly great artist you cannot afford any moment of "prose" when you are on stage, that you must keep oneself as far as possible from banality in life, you must strive for and cultivate Beauty around yourself. That Beauty you will later show on stage. Even how you enter and leave the stage will set you apart from merely "dancers". These were my thoughts after watching Lopatkina yesterday.

A true paradox is that a dancer as truly outstanding and as unique as Lopatkina is not a favorite of the current management either. Add to this Novikova who is not even a prima.

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It's not a paradox at all: it's standard operating procedure for AD's. In what major or minor company have major talents not suffered or been undervalued because of the preferences of the AD and/or company politics, even if some great talents are prominent? Balanchine, for example, pushed aside Danilova, Tallchief, and Hayden. He seemed blind to everyone but Farrell before she left the Company.

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In the case of Balanchine, Helene, you can say that was his own company, he was its "god-creator", and he was literally falling in love with his female dancers. Mariinsky, like Bolshoi, like the Opéra, are companies with completely different character, history, and modus operandi. And none of them will ever be "just another company". Great Vaganova trained artists have really no other place to go — not in the sense that they would not be wanted — in the sense that Mariinsky is the only place where they really can show what they were so meticulously trained to do.

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There were never great talents at the Mariinsky, Paris Opera Ballet, or Bolshoi who were pushed aside because of who was running the company, or, during Soviet Times, to which generals the others were married? As great as Bessmertnova was, there weren't ever any dancers pushed aside because she was Grigorovich's wife? In Petipa's time, there were no formerly prominent dancers who languished because of the changes he made, the dancers who came from outside Russia, and the style and virtues he emphasized? When the Royal Ballet dismantled the Ashton legacy and replaced it with Macmillan's aesthetic while the School was still producing dancers honed for Ashton's work, were there no prominent and respected dancers who represented the legacy, but were set aside as the company went in another direction? Lifar, who learned at the knee of Diaghilev, never had favorites at the expense of established dancers?

Even before the breakup of the Soviet Union, where there was economic upheaval and reinvention, the standard brakes that institutions have on change failed, and the company decided to look outward for its aesthetic, there were the years leading to Vaganova's taking over the company and a shift in the company's aesthetic, based on the demands of the then-current choreographers. The pressure to change came from within rather than the West, but it was still great, and aesthetic changes push noted artists to the side, for better or worse.

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There were never great talents at the Mariinsky, Paris Opera Ballet, or Bolshoi who were pushed aside because of who was running the company,

Maybe in the past, but now at Mariinsky there are loads of talented dancers being pushed aside and rotting in the corps or in character roles, which never happened in Mariinsky history, even Soviet or Tsarist times..

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Bolshoi is lucky to have Zhiganshina. In my eyes she is the next Obratzova: beautifully musical and technically consistent. And those turns would make most principles jealous. Great potential, and another great loss for Mariinski.

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There were never great talents at the Mariinsky, Paris Opera Ballet, or Bolshoi who were pushed aside because of who was running the company,

Maybe in the past, but now at Mariinsky there are loads of talented dancers being pushed aside and rotting in the corps or in character roles, which never happened in Mariinsky history, even Soviet or Tsarist times..

Quoting Helene's whole sentence might be helpful here: "There were never great talents at the Mariinsky, Paris Opera Ballet, or Bolshoi who were pushed aside because of who was running the company, or, during Soviet Times, to which generals the others were married?"

If I understand correctly, then the rhetorical point of the question is that such things have happened in the past, though I also understand that you judge the situation at Mariinsky to be worse than in the past. I can't weigh in on that as an independent observer, though I too am puzzled by some recent casting decisions.

(None of us can really form independent opinions of what talented young dancers may have been pushed aside in Tsarist times, or even early Soviet times, for other than artistic reasons. We know careers in the Soviet era were damaged for reasons that had nothing to do with artistry. Add choreographers, librettists, and composers to the mix and it's even worse.)

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If I understand correctly, then the rhetorical point of the question is that such things have happened in the past, though I also understand that you judge the situation at Mariinsky to be worse than in the past. I can't weigh in on that as an independent observer, though I too am puzzled by some recent casting decisions.

I am not at all certain "that such things have happened in the past": the personnel policies of the Acting Director are so pathological they are far beyond any "I favor this ballerina over that one".

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Bolshoi is lucky to have Zhiganshina. In my eyes she is the next Obratzova: beautifully musical and technically consistent. And those turns would make most principles jealous. Great potential, and another great loss for Mariinski.

Indeed a loss for Mariinsky and gain for Bolshoi! I was quite surprised to notice on her Facebook page today that she listed Bolshoi as her employer as like many/most others I thought she would go directly into Mariinsky and on the fast track as well.

I suspect Zhiganshina had multiple offers from both inside and outside Russia and am curious as to what played into her decision to join Bolshoi over any and all other offers.

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I suspect Zhiganshina had multiple offers from both inside and outside Russia and am curious as to what played into her decision to join Bolshoi over any and all other offers.

She would have had in the U.S., not in Russia. Russian society is totally different. She had a "non-offer" from Mariinsky (i.e., an offer with humiliating terms), and later a real offer from Bolshoi. The choice was obvious (if one can even talk here about "choice").

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This is a perfect example of lack of insight on not just artistic but also practical matters by Fateyev's management.

Novikova is admittedly a favorite of mine but would be considered splendid (by I think most anyone's standards) and most certainly is a capable , experienced and seems to be particularly consistent ballerina too- something I feel any true Prima should have as a mastered skill.

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I suspect Zhiganshina had multiple offers from both inside and outside Russia and am curious as to what played into her decision to join Bolshoi over any and all other offers.

She would have had in the U.S., not in Russia. Russian society is totally different.

I find this confusing as she appears (at least from my perspective) to be much adored in her homeland. Is this not the case?

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She would have had in the U.S., not in Russia. Russian society is totally different. She had a "non-offer" from Mariinsky (i.e., an offer with humiliating terms), and later a real offer from Bolshoi. The choice was obvious (if one can even talk here about "choice").

Please provide the official source for the terms of the offer. If she was offered a starting position like many other Mariinsky grads, then "humilating" is an opinion. It also does not make sense that in Russia she would have received no other offers, if other dancers in the last few years have been offered and have accepted positions at the Mikhailovsky, for example.

If the Mariinsky did not make Zhiganshina an offer as good as the Bolshoi did and/or she looked at the preferences, casting policy, and career development approach of the AD, the political landscape, and/or the upcoming closure of the old theater and decided to go elsewhere, she'd be making the same choice that graduates of elite schools worldwide make when they juggle offers. Most are at the schools with the dream of joining the parent company. Others and those who decide the trade-offs make something else more attractive go elsewhere.

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She would have had in the U.S., not in Russia. Russian society is totally different. She had a "non-offer" from Mariinsky (i.e., an offer with humiliating terms), and later a real offer from Bolshoi. The choice was obvious (if one can even talk here about "choice").

Please provide the official source for the terms of the offer. If she was offered a starting position like many other Mariinsky grads, then "humilating" is an opinion. It also does not make sense that in Russia she would have received no other offers, if other dancers in the last few years have bern offered and have accepted positions at the Mikhailovsky, for example.

Helene, please reread the opening paragraphs of Zozulina's article.

To put things into perspective: Mikhailovsky compared to Mariinsky is like University of Michigan compared to Harvard, and Vaganova Academy's mission always was to prepare dancers for Mariinsky — only those who couldn't were going elsewhere. Combine this with the fact that Zhiganshina is not just a graduate of the Vaganova Academy: she is an outstanding graduate, highly accomplished, professional and with exceptional promise. In Russia such individuals don't get offers from lesser companies, it is considered to be a different league. Mikhailovsky in recent years was simply benefiting from disastrous policies of Fateev at Mariinsky and internal strife at Bolshoi.

If Zhiganshina's case was isolated... but it isn't, it follows a clear pattern.

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