Marc Haegeman

Bolshoi versus Kirov -- once more ?

33 posts in this topic

Just a short reaction to the article by Debra Craine in The Times (linked by Dirac) looking ahead at the coming Bolshoi and Kirov engagements in London.

It’s fine with me that the British press is trying very hard to present this whole thing as a duel between the Russian companies, but what I find less plausible is that between (or in) the lines one can perceive a certain tendency against the Bolshoi.

OK, a program 'Stars of'-style with highlights and pas de deux may not be the best way to appreciate a company like the Bolshoi, but is it really necessary to emphasize the negative sides in such a way? Do we need to remind again that under Fadeyechev and Vasiliev the Bolshoi was restoring its classics, was dancing among others "Agon", "Symphony in C" and "Mozartiana", was acquiring contemporary works, was in other words 'broadening its vision' as much as the Kirov? Vasiliev’s "Swan Lake" was a costly mistake, but I really fail to see what 'this critical hostility' during the Bolshoi’s 1999 London stint was about? Aren’t we forgetting that we were seeing a company again in glowing form, full of good spirit and with (old and new) talent aplenty?

The Bolshoi has been going through unwelcome and regrettable times, but is that a reason to blame the company for this or to forget about its (near) past? If (heaven forbid!!) similar events should occur at the Mariinsky, Jewels or Manons notwithstanding, the result would be the same: they, too, would be in deep....

Any comments?

[ 04-23-2001: Message edited by: Marc Haegeman ]

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I have felt the same thing Marc did while reading the London critics. There really does seem to be a real anti-Bolshoi slant. It seems especially odd because the Bolshoi looked so very good last summer in the US, with some wonderful young women (they seemed, like the Kirov, to have stronger women than men). Last summer the Bolshoi was so fresh and unmannered, especially in Symphony in C. Granted, the excerpt from Spartacus didn't look great, and Vasiliev's Giselle was pretty bad, but they had some wonderful dancers, and seemed very cohesive--even in that peculiar Giselle, I felt they were trying to dance together. It is too bad the London critics seem to have to have winners and losers, especially when the Russian companies are having so much trouble.

I would think that they would be pleased that London got a chance to see so much. Anyway, if they go in with a grudge against the Bolshoi, they will miss some fine dancers--I was absolutely charmed by Goriacheva in Symphony in C, and would love to see much more of her.

But I guess winning and losing makes for better copy and snappier headlines.

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But the problem is, Cargill, that we won't be seeing 'Symphony in C'. The Bolshoi are presenting a tired old rag-bag of gala pieces which is really disappointing, and does no favours to its dancers. I will be going, of course, because I do want to see those Bolshi dancers, but you have to admit that the Kirov's programme is far jucier - another chance to see their wonderful dancers in 'Jewels', and the thrilling prospect of seeing what they'll make of MacMillan's 'Manon'.

It's no contest, I fear, but I expect that, like me, the real balletomanes will be seeing both these great Russian companies.

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It's not the Bolshoi that's coming to London, rather it's group of Bolshoi dancers calling themselves "the Stars of Bolshoi" that's going to dance in a theater in the West End. It's a complete different story. People get confused and thinks it's the real McCoy but it's not. That's why they can't bring sets and sceneries with them to stage full-length ballets. It happened before in the US in the early 90's and that's what gave Bolshoi the bad reputation.

What Bolshoi needs to do is to hire a law firm specializing in trademark law to restrict the use of the name "Bolshoi" in the West. There'd be no more "the Stars of...."

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I guess we can’t prevent stars of the Bolshoi to appear under the name "Stars of the Bolshoi" :). But I understand what you mean, Mussel. We had them too, these small, indifferent Russian or Eastern European touring companies, often led by a few (sometimes former) members of Kirov or Bolshoi, profiteering from the name and fame of the big ones and giving everyone concerned a rough time. But let's not confuse things, that's something completely different we're talking about.

This is the real Bolshoi Ballet appearing at Drury Lane Theatre, soloists, corps and orchestra (they even have backdrops). I fail to see why they should be stopped from using the name Bolshoi, simply because they don’t bring full length ballets, and I don't understand what the British press is trying to prove by opposing the two companies (or the tour organizers for that matter) to such extent. The Bolshoi soloists now appearing at Drury Lane are the same they were raving about in 1999: Lunkina, Alexandrova, Antonicheva, Filin, Uvarov... And they are as least as worthwile as those untouchable Kirov favourites. But you are right, Mary, winning and losing makes for better copy and snappier headlines.

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The sensationalist and nasty attitude is typical of the British press at the moment, that why I don't even read newspapers now, let alone reviews!

I'm afraid I can't understand the attitudes of some of the English ballet-goers, all they ever do is moan. The Kirov price are too high but they are bringing large sets and a huge company for full length works, the Bolshoi are bring less dancers, less scenery, presenting short works and charging lower prices but still they moan, you can't have it both ways. I also cannot understand this obsession with full length works being 'proper ballet' and short works and divertissements being 'rubbish', nearly all the programs presented by Diaghilev contained short works and a good share of 'fun' pieces such as the Polovtsian Dances, the same goes for many of the programmes performed by Fonteyn and Nureyev, a typical one being 'Diversions, Divertissement from Napoli, Pas de deux from Flower Festival at Genzano and Le Corsaire, and The Firebird, 3 April 1963. If we look at the forthcoming Bolshoi season what do we see but Chopiniana, Flower Festival at Genzano and Le Corsaire, and with some of the worlds finest dancers. Do you really consider Narcissus and Spectre de la Rose to be 'tired' and 'old'?

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Don't be so hard on us, Salome!

I assume you are referring to my posting in your final para. so I'd have to say I have never actually seen 'Narcissus' and I actually love 'Spectre' so maybe I was a bit unfair in saying what I did, but I hope you understood what I meant; that obviously the Kirov's programme of full-length ballets is more asttractive than the Bolshoi's programme of short pieces. The important thing was my final point; that like every serious ballet lover I would be seeing both companies.

I can't explain the British media's obssession with creating a 'feud' between the two companies' promoters; I think it's some sort of journalistic laziness - a useful tie-up between the two companies which saves the necessity to write separately about each company, perhaps?

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The Stars of the Bolshoi are mainly dancing PDDs. I am not sure about all these Russians and have just booked for the San Fransisco visit to Covent Garden in August.

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Welcome to Ballet Alert, Robert. You have a lot to choose from this summer in London.

Ann, I think you nailed it when you wrote: "I can't explain the British media's obssession with creating a 'feud' between the two companies' promoters; I think it's some sort of journalistic laziness - a useful tie-up between the two companies which saves the necessity to write separately about each company, perhaps?"

When I first saw this story, my instincts said "this was the editor," or a writer trying to guess what an editor wants (this is a total guess on my part, of course, and I may well be wrong). Newspaper editors, even arts editors, love controversy, and the chances of getting "what a lovely company is coming to town" in print is low to nil.

I also agree with those who've pointed out that comparing the Kirov with a Stars of the Bolshoi group is apples-to-oranges. On the positive side, it's an article about dance and will let people know it exists. :)

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Sorry Anne! It just seems that everyone I’ve spoken to recently has been moaning about something, prices, booking etc., they are members of the particular group of balletomanes who seem never to be satisfied by anything (and there are lots of them), if the Bolshoi were bringing Swan Lake you can bet they would be complaining bitterly that the only thing they ever see is full-length classics, they would of course still go to see it, so that they could have a jibe about falling standards and insult the sets, the very sets they are currently bemoaning the loss of. They seem to regard going to ballet as a military exercise rather that enjoyment.

I too would probably much rather see the Bolshoi perform some full length works but financially I don’t think this would currently be possible for them in London. I’d much rather see the ‘Stars of the Bolshoi’ perform a few bits and pieces rather that see no Bolshoi at all! ;)

I would also rather they perform a more assessable programme at relatively reasonable prices and sell out, rather than bring full-length works with full scenery, be forced to charge higher prices due to the extra cost that entails and lose money. They are having a troubled time, but hopefully once (or if) they are back on their feet again we will see some works that are new to them.

Someone may also be interested in this sensible and balanced article by Clement Crisp about the Kirov and Bolshoi

Clement Crisp Ariticle

[ 04-25-2001: Message edited by: Salome ]

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I belong to that group of balletomanes who will cheerfully attend any companies productions, good, bad or indifferent. I just adore ballet and often think that I have seen a different performance than the critics. Yes, I will be attending both the Bolshoi and the Kirov in London. The Bolshoi have one huge plus for me - they are going to tour the provinces. A week after booking for the London performance I discovered that they will be dancing some 20 minutes from where I live in the North of England. At last ballet enthusiasts (of all variants) will have a chance to see these Russian dancers locally.

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Recently it appears British press has forcused more and more on the 'substitute war' between the two giant impresarios - rather than artistic debates. I personally do not take this, let alone useless comparison between the two companies, seriously (though I must admit it can be fun - just for a light reading!)

Having seen the first night of 'Stars of Bolshoi', all I could think of was how lucky we were to have a chance to see this outstanding company in such a great form. Already by the end of the opening piece (Act II of 'Swan Lake') all the off-stage noise evaporated - Exquisite line of the Corps simply made me sigh; sincere acting and secure dancing by Antonicheva and Filin impressed (especially Filin; he was great in Giselle pdd too). As the evening proceeded, I found myself in an utter joy - convinced that what we were seeing was a bunch of the exceptionally talented dancers truly devoted to their art.

For this very reason I found the programme rather weak and frustrating. I mean, after having seen what Lunkina did to Giselle pdd, is it a crime to ask for more - wish to see the entire production? Another disadvantage may be the fact that in general the same dancers are supposed to appear in the same piece every day for a 7 consecutive days (OK Sunday is off!). Repetition can kill the artistry - I won't be surprised if opinions/impressions for Lunkina will differ between myself and someone who will have seen her on the 5th/6th/7th night. I may be a bit too greedy, but cannot help but wish if they could bring one/two full length ballet...

Anyway this is unmissable; what struck me on that evening was the fact that whatever the chaos/ordeals they have gone through, their artistry has survived; intact. I'd say this is a truly amazing achievement. What a paradox this is, but this experience endorsed unpublished views of mine - that chaos and hardship may be the ingredient absolutely necessary to keep this particular form of art alive...! I'm not being ironical, no way political, but just feel the general fact that the companies/dancers from economy-stricken countries do much more to me than their affluent counterparts must dictate something. (You may call it a simple difference in taste. Maybe true - I still to find an answer myself.)

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I saw a performance last week. My favourite items were the Flower Festival pas de deux which was stylishly danced by Goriacheva and Gudanov. I also adored Svetlana Lunkina in the Giselle pas de deux, with the noble Andrei Uvarov. And I look forward to seeing Lunkina again when she makes her debut in La Sylphide pas de deux in the second programme later this week.

[ 04-30-2001: Message edited by: Kevin Ng ]

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A question -- is Nina Ananiashvili currently dancing or scheduled to dance in Bolshoi programs? I have been hearing rumours that she will be dancing more in NY and wonder what's going on.

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Sadly it seems to be the younger generation of London critics who are engaging in this 'one good, therefore the other must be bad'game. Neither Clement Crisp in the Financial Times or John Percival in The Independent, both of whom have been watching the Russian companies from their first tours to the West, are indulging in these silly games.

I gather that the Bolshoi proposed the programmes currently being given at Dury Lane. I enjoyed the first one enormously and I'm looking forward to seeing the others, just as much as I'm looking forward to the Kirov performances. And how often do you get to see even a pas de deux from Flames of Paris, or the Gorsky Fille Mal Gardee?

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Michael, as we know Nina Ananiashvili has many engagements outside the Bolshoi, and she is merely fulfilling them.

Thanks for some positive sounds from the London front :).

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A bit in the margin of this thread, but it struck me that in several articles looking ahead at the Kirov tour the name of Altynai Asylmuratova is mentioned. Scheduled months ago to appear just once in London, in the final "Manon", Asylmuratova’s performance is still presented as the major event of the whole engagement. I gather the evening is nearly sold out on the strength of her name, and I hate to disappoint anyone, but according to a very reliable source Altynai Asylmuratova will NOT be in London for this tour.

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Originally posted by Marc Haegeman:

Just a short reaction to the article by Debra Craine in The Times (linked by Dirac) looking ahead at the coming Bolshoi and Kirov engagements in London.

It’s fine with me that the British press is trying very hard to present this whole thing as a duel between the Russian companies, but what I find less plausible is that between (or in) the lines one can perceive a certain tendency against the Bolshoi.

OK, a program 'Stars of'-style with highlights and pas de deux may not be the best way to appreciate a company like the Bolshoi, but is it really necessary to emphasize the negative sides in such a way?  Do we need to remind again that under Fadeyechev and Vasiliev the Bolshoi was restoring its classics, was dancing among others "Agon", "Symphony in C" and "Mozartiana", was acquiring contemporary works, was in other words 'broadening its vision' as much as the Kirov?  Vasiliev’s "Swan Lake" was a costly mistake, but I really fail to see what 'this critical hostility' during the Bolshoi’s 1999 London stint was about?  Aren’t we forgetting that we were seeing a company again in glowing form, full of good spirit and with (old and new) talent aplenty?

The Bolshoi has been going through unwelcome and regrettable times, but is that a reason to blame the company for this or to forget about its (near) past? If (heaven forbid!!) similar events should occur at the Mariinsky, Jewels or Manons notwithstanding, the result would be the same: they, too, would be in deep....

Any comments?

[ 04-23-2001: Message edited by: Marc Haegeman ]

Hi marc i think u are right, there is clear bias against Bolshoi and my experience today at the Drury lane theatre goes to show the company has worked v hard to restore its credibility.. their mixed bills are an excelent introduction to newcomers to classical dance with "bite sized" excerpts and also hugely enjoyable for those of us who know and love these works. go and enjoy. nutkin

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Marc

If it is really true that Asylmuratova will not be in London to appear in 'Manon' as advertised in the printed programme for the Kirov season, then it is extremely irresponsible of Victor Hochauser (who is presenting the Kirov season)not to announce this fact, given the popularity of both the ballet and the ballerina. Many people (tho' not me) will have booked for this particular performance purely to see Asylmuratova.

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That's very true, Ann, but they know what they are doing. And it's not the first time Asylmuratova's name is used for box-office appeal.

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Isn't this similar to what happened in New York a few seasons back? Ayupova, who at the time was more of a "draw" here than the younger ballerinas who weren't yet known, was announced, though I don't believe she appeared. And Asylmuratove was said to be too injured to dance, drat, and then suddenly appeared.

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Something like that, yes.

We had it back in 1993 too, when Asylmuratova was announced for the Kirov tour in London, months ahead, while she gave birth to her baby in the first week of that tour. As if they didn't know...

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With the London season coming to an end, the discussion about the Bolshoi Ballet has quieted down, but I just wanted to add that I enjoyed watching a few performances of the second and third program at Drury Lane Theatre a lot. In fact, I haven't enjoyed Russian ballet this much in ages. The company is in good shape, the spirit seems to be fine, the soloists (women and men) and corps remain truly first rate, and (no matter what was said about the bits and pieces) the programs were good fun.

Among the many memorable moments I’d like to single out the appearances of Anastasia Goriacheva, a young soubrette-type dancer, excellent in "Flower Festival of Genzano", but quite unforgettable in the dazzling "Flames of Paris" pas de deux; Maria Alexandrova, whose steely strength and amazing jumps paid off in the "Don Quixote" and "Le Corsaire" pas de deux; and the stylish Andrei Uvarov, a beautiful danseur noble who never danced better then during this engagement.

Director Boris Akimov said they will come back to London in Summer 2002, and this time in full force and to Covent Garden. I sure hope they will.

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Marc, I am so glad to hear that Goriacheva has made such an impression in London. She was a last minute substitute for Lunkina in the first movement in Symphony in C in New York last year, and I thought she was a lovely dancer, so fresh and joyful. Her smile during the curtain calls would have melted a stone.

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I agree, Goriacheva is an interesting type of dancer, too. Short, sparkling and swift, a very fluent way of moving. Her variation in "Flames of Paris" every time brought the house down (and for one not even half full, that's quite something). Great virtuoso dancing combined with irresistible girlish charm (Maximova is not far away).

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