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#1 Calliope

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 05:32 AM

Last night I went and saw La Bayadere. I forgot to bring my program, so I'm going to have either get some help with names or fill them in later. And I have to preface this review by saying the only other Bayadere I've seen is ABT's and I barely remember it.

The Kirov went back to the original 1900 Petipa version. The most notable (for me, b/c my memory is fading) difference was the absence of the Golden Idol's variation, which was noted in the program as being added (I think it said the 40's or 50's)

My overall impression was where is the dancing (and why are there so many intermissions - 3 20 minute ones, it ended at 11:40)

Zakharova was Nikiya and Kolb was Solor and I can't remember the woman's name who danced Gamzatti. There wasn't much "ballet" in the first 2 acts and I don't think we saw Kolb take a jump until the third act, just before the Shades.


Zakharova was stunning. The most beautifully arched feet I've ever seen, whose placement echoed a well played (despite blah score by Minkus) Her hands were a beautiful extension of just an exiquisite dancer. But there were a few murmurs that you could count how many ribs she had in the first couple of acts. It didn't really bother me, but when she came out in a tutu, voila, a truly graceful, gorgeous dancer. And did she ever whip off turns! Just an absolute joy to watch and had she not been in it, I would have left like most others did after the 3rd intermission. I just have to rave about her a little more, just absolutely an extension of the music, it was quite breathtaking to watch her. And she acted very well too, something I never thought the Russians grasped. There's a scene with Nikiya sitting in a window playing an instrument (the name escapes me) and I was just waiting for her to start singing "Moon River".
But back to the ballet.
Kolb was a fine Solor, he didn't have too much dancing to do and I think his makeup bothered the heck out of me (a little too bronze) but he was a solid partner.
The woman who danced Gamzatti also didn't have much dancing until the 4th act when she came out with pointe shoes on. Her turning wasn't as clean as Zakharova's but she her emoting was better. And she actually smiled during her difficult solos.
The costuming was interesting. I'm not sure if they went back to the 1900 versions on these or not. The shades tutus were white with a subtle beige underneath the tutu and a stripe of it on the bodice. My only complaint was the veil like contraptions from their headpieces connected to their arms, it broke the line in the Shades and made it difficult to see their arms. it came down to the wrist, so it really took away the line and for me that was disappointing. but the corps looked wonderful and I was amazed how many turned (together too) left with such ease.

Overall a nice, albeit long, performance. Looking forward to some of the other performances.

#2 Manhattnik

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 06:46 AM

Gamzatti was Elvira Tarasova. I liked her quite a bit.

I have a hard time with Zakharova.

When I started watching Wendy Whelan, I had difficulty getting past her sometimes-alarming physique, and, in some ways, it's much the same with Zakharova. She just looks freakish to me, like she's the culmination of some last-gasp Soviet genetics project. "Comrades, Gorbachev says there is no money to continue with the super-soldier project. No matter -- we shall instead create the Ultimate Ballerina, and end for all time the Extension Gap created by those arrogant French and their Sylvie Guillem! Let the ballet world cower before the might of Soviet science!"

OK, maybe that's not how it happened, but dear God! All those curves. Hyperextended eyelids. An entire French Curve's worth of arcs, just from her ankle down. And skinny? Yikes. As Calliope mentioned, you could count her ribs in the first couple of acts with no trouble at all. In fact, the entire corps is reed-thin, even more so than I recall from 1999. But none more so than Zakharova.

And I really do have a problem with all those sky-high extensions. Except in rare instances, I really don't like seeing a competition between a dancers's hands and foot to see which can reach higher in an a la seconde pose. And even simple steps like a renverse take on an entirely different character when the working leg sweeps up so high it almost smacks into a dancer's upraised arm. Not to mention the tremendous distortion in her hips and lower back when she stretches her foot up so high. Flexible she certainly is.

I spent most of the first act trying to figure out what on earth was going on with her placement: pelvis tilted back, those aforementioned ribs thrust out forward, and an astonishing assemblage of curves and cantilevers in her lower back somehow connecting the two. Even though it was a bit painful to watch, I couldn't take my eyes off of it -- even her back is made of Turkish Taffy, I guess.

I half-expected at some point to see a fakir come out with a bigger version of the wicker basket which held the dancing cobra from Act III (ah, yes, this is a very colorful ballet!), and announce "And now, for her next trick, Ms. Zakharova will entirely fold herself in half until she fits entirely in this itty-bitty basket!"

(As was noted quite a bit during the Kirov's last visit, it seems a bit incongruous to "recreate" a century-old Petipa production, but dance it with the kind of modern hyper-extensions which certainly would've given Petipa a stroke had he seen them anyplace other than a circus. And I couldn't get the point of NOT having the Golden Idol's solo [so why trot him out for two seconds in the second act?] because it wasn't "original," but keeping the Chabukiani solos for Solor? And am I to understand from Kolb's manege of double saute de basques that Chabukiana didn't do the [in]famous double assemble turns? As a stage character from a slightly different part of Asia would've said, "it's a puzzlement." But I digress.)

I am sure there's at least one BA regular who wouldn't mind if Zakharova did indeed bend and fold herself into a basket and never came out. I sometimes have felt that way, but one thing I've learned from watching dance is that it's often very easy to become so involved and invested with noticing the things a dancer isn't doing that you can miss what she is doing, and Zakharova isn't without her strengths and charms. Someday I may write about them in a spare moment.

It's funny how this reconstituted Bayadere has so many reminders of predecessors: Solor (I really liked Kolb -- what a jump!) sinks to one knee in Act III, waiting for the ghost of the girl he jilted to materialize next to him. Where have we seen that before? And in Act IV, where have we seen a man's wedding constantly interrupted by the flittings in and out of his semi-corporeal beloved?

Anyway, the production is gorgeous, and, aside from a bad case of the wobbles in the Dreaded Ecarte, the Kirov corps was magnificent in Kingom of the Shades. I thought the veils, attached to the wrists and to the back of the wigs the Shades wore (Almost everyone wore wigs -- it made for quite a uniform look. Even the kids in the cute garland dance in Act IV wore wigs!) looked gorgeous, particularly how they'd drape over the dancers' shoulders and frame their faces when they held their arms low in front.

Well, they're paying me to work, so I'd better get back to it....

#3 Natalia

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 09:22 AM

I was there too...now back in office in DC after delayed departure from LaGuardia Airport early this am...so I best get my poh-poh back to work quickly! Following were quick-notes that I wrote to a friend this morning, describing differences between the may 31 White Nights premiere of this new-old production (which I attended) and last night's *true premiere* in NYC:

General Comment -

MUCH, MUCH improved from May 31 'dress-rehearsal' White Nights opener.

Plusses -

+ ALL-new, seemingly-authentic chor'phy for Act I, e.g., first adagio of Solor-Nikiya....new 'Fire-Circle Dance' for 8 bayaderes, now in gold sandals (we saw Soviet versions of all this, in Soviet-era costumes, on May 31)

+ Excision of Golden Idol & other obviously-Soviet additions (not that I don't enjoy Golden Idol...but it's not 1900). However, Solor's modern solos by Chabukiani remain....so not "100% 1900" yet.

+ Zakharova sort-of managed to keep her legs at between 90 & 180 degrees. Gasp! - she didn't 'cut loose' to her old hyper-extended self until 'Kingdom of the Shades' (at least not with the arabesques; her torso was, as always, hyper-extended, though...ugh...).

+ The lute is shorter-necked...the one of May 31 was L-O-N-GGGG!!!!! This one is easier to manipulate.

+ Elephant has GROWN since May 31 but still smaller than the Soviet one...I think that they added a bunch of plumes to make it appear bigger (tiger is still FAO Schwartz-ish, though...I heard snickers from the audience as he was first carried onto the stage...)

+ The Indian Drum Dance of Act II, sc ii, has regained the 'oomph' that was missing in May 31. Galina Rakhmanova & the guys gave it their all.

+ The Act IV Pas d'Action is even nicer now than at the May 31 premiere, with Zakharova in place of Daria Pavlenko of the St Petes premiere. (I love DP in other ballets; May 31 was not her night.)

Minuses -

- LOCAL KIDS RUINED IMPACT OF LOTUS-BLOSSOMS WALTZ in Act IV!!!! Are the students from SAB? I would find that hard to believe. Perhaps there was not enough rehearsal time? Whatever, they managed to break the Kirovian spell; ditto the two little girls who accompanied Manu. (Sorry to sound so hard-hearted but you should see the Vaganova Academy students dance Lotus Blossoms. They use 24 Vaganova Acad older students (ages 15-16-17) of equal height whereas, in NYC, half the kids are tall, half short.)

- They omitted the gorgeous dance of the 12 Thai (Balinese?) Girls from the Act II, sc ii divertissements!!!! What??? Why??? It was one of the rediscovered treasures of May 31. At the Met, we *did* see 4-6 Thai girls (in yellow saris, with peaked golden caps) during the initial parade...just as we saw Golden Idol carried on stage just for the procession.

- Except in their passion for Zakharova & Kolb & the corps of shades, the audience at the Met was as 'blasse' about this production, in general, as were the Petersburgers on May 31.

Soloists -

Igor Kolb displayed incredible balon, just as he did in St Petes. Elvira Tarassova (Gamzatti) was exquisite in both her mime & dancing passages. Zakharova wowed the audience as Nikiya and, in fact, showed more 'soul' and acting ability than I recall seeing from her in the past...but it was Vladimir Ponomariev's High Brahmin who wowed me to no end. He must be the world's finest mime artist of the moment - crystal-clear acting that keeps my eyes fixated on him. The story of 'Bayadere' suddenly made much more sense, with Ponomariev's performance.

On the other hand...all three of the solo shades were off...especially the 3rd one. Yikes! - first the Bolshoi, now the Kirov, deliver sub-par Solo Shades on a US tour. Not a vintage year for Solo Shades, I'm afraid.

Those are just quick notes, working from memory. My entire review of this production (the May 31 premiere in St Petes) may be found within my White Nights Diary on the "Int'l Ballet Companies - Kirov Ballet" forum.

- Jeannie Szoradi

#4 Calliope

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 09:37 AM

Yeah, the kids were a bit under rehearsed.
I thought the audience seemed rather blah too, I think people are so used to crazy pyrotechnics and the ballet really didn't have much dancing. The people behind me thought so poorly of it, they thought people were going to throw things on stage, and not flowers.
The only other thing that I found odd, was the Baydere's dancing with parrots. i don't remember that before.
Jeannie, you might know this. Were the costumes from the 1900 version as well?

#5 Natalia

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 09:44 AM

Calliope - Yes, these were the 1900 costumes, sets & props, reproduced in all their glory. The parrots/parrot-girls have been around in the Kirov-Mariinsky's verious productions since the 1870s. For the Soviet-1941 version, the parrots were multi-colored & were strapped to the wrists of the dancers. In the 1900 version (what we saw last night) the parrots are all in tones of blue/aquamarine and are held by hand. (See what details we Kirov Nuts can remember through the years? :cool: We're getting down to the nitty-gritty details here. )

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 09:46 AM

In the Bolshoi version we just saw down here, the parrots looked like they were made of rubber and had been begun life as prizes in giant boxes of cereal several decades ago. As I remember them, the ones in the Paris production (which I like very much generally) were quite beautiful, with real, not painted or stamped, feathers, and bounced on the dancers' wrists.

#7 Natalia

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 09:51 AM

The parrots in last night's Kirov-1900 version looked like they were made in El Salvador...do any of you know those 'Angelitos' stuffed toy-birds? Colorful stuff.

p.s. on the Lotus Blossoms children -

Perhaps the Met & Kirov managers had a reason to cast the Act IV Lotus Blossoms with local children? Half the remaining audience (following 3rd long intermission around 11 pm) appeared to have been related to them...proud dads around me were heard yelling 'bravo!' I am not joking. [Who can blame proud dads, bless 'em! It's just that...ugh...'nuff said.]

Some of the most beautiful choreography is in Act IV (e.g., the Grand Pas d'Action, after which much of the 1941 Act II 'Grand Pas Classique' for Gamzatti/Solor/friends is patterned), so 'tis a shame that so many folks ran off during the 3rd intermission. Real shame.

#8 Manhattnik

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 10:41 AM

I noticed that in Vinogradov's staging, as presented by the Universal Ballet last summer, the gal in that interminable dance with the bucket on her head appeared to have it affixed in place in some manner. At least I remember she had to give it a good, solid yank before it finally came off (rather ruined the illusion!). Last night with the Kirov the bucket (urn, vase?) was only held in place by gravity. What do they do at home, Jeannie?

While in general I rather like mime, if I'd seen one more person in Act I mime "Go get (or here comes) the temple dancer!" I might've thrown something at the stage myself!

I liked the tom-tom dance last night very much, but nothing can surpass the Universal Ballet dancer who hurled herself into the fray in what appeared to be a short feathered skirt and fishnet stockings.

#9 Calliope

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 10:46 AM

I thought there was something holding the vase on her head, I was sitting in the 3rd row and when she took it off she still had a piece of plastic on her head.

#10 Natalia

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 11:05 AM

Bucket???

I believe that Manu 'balances' her water-vase with the aid of velcro afixed to her wig. Did velcro exist in 1900?

re. the mime - I enjoyed the part when, during the Act I Ritual of Fire, Nikiya joins in the ceremony , then forgets what to do as she dreams of Solor. She is left standing to the side with arms upheld, as the rest of the bayaderes continue the ritual around the fire. I don't recall ever seeing that in any of the modern versions. As I wrote above, the story is much more compelling & makes greater sense, thanks to the restoration of the mime. I'm not so sure that 90% of last night's audience would agree with me...they missed the Golden Idol and other 'dancey' passages.

#11 Jane Simpson

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 01:03 PM

I was really hoping that they'd start the Shades scene with 'the tulles' which Karsavina described - lots of grey tulle 'clouds' which gradually dispersed to show the Shades already descending the ramp. No-one's mentioned it, so I guess I'm going to be disappointed?

#12 cargill

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 01:41 PM

Jane I didn't notice any tulle but the shades scene took place in the mountains, and there were big boulders in front of the path (it zig zagged once), so the shades went in and out of view, ver effective I thought. It started out dark and then got quite light, and the sets looked a bit like John Ford's Monument Valley or somewhere on the back of the moon. The shades all had little brown Gibson girlish wigs on and bell-shaped tutus, which was charming. However, I don't think the sets for this act were a real high point in Russian stage design.

#13 dancermom2

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 04:19 PM

The kids answered an open call audition last week Tuesday (7-2). They chose 20 kids and 6 understudies. They had one 2 hour rehearsal that day, 4 hours on Wednesday, 4 hours on Thursday for the kids trying for the Manu dance, 4 hours on Friday, 4 hours on Saturday. 2 hours on Sunday, run through with company on Sunday. Dress rehearsal on Monday and then voila, time to appear on stage ready or not. I think you can see that there was not a lot of time to rehearse the kids. Considering the time that they had to rehearse I have to say that they did a remarkable job.

I think that saying that they were obviously not Vaganova trained and or my gosh are some of them (*gasp*) SAB kids like that is the end of the world is unfair to the children who did work and did as good a job as can be expected considering the rehearsal time and the fact that they are not all from Vaganova based schools. While there is an argument that they should be Vaganova trained to be on the stage at all with the ultimate in Russian ballet companies should have been addressed at the audition. The Kirov did choose children afterall. There was also the communication issue...Russian ballet master and english speaking kids with an interpreter who tried to help bridge the gap.

The kids are having a wonderful time and feel privileged to be on stage with the members of the Kirov. I know because one of the children is my daughter who is SAB trained and is used to having 3 times as much rehearsal time to get ready for a part like the bugs in Midsummer or the Garland Waltz in Sleeping Beauty which is more comparable to the Lotus Blossom dance. And no, I was not one of the wildly cheering out of proportion parents at the end of a marathon of a ballet although I did clap. I would have mortified my other daughter who was watching with me if I had.

The length of the ballet was intense. I thought that ABT's Giselle started out slowly but this meandered to set the story with a sprinkling of dancing in the first 2 Acts and the real dancing did not commence until the Shades. It was an operatic ballet without the singing. There were 3 intermissions and they could have shortened it by cutting out the first intermission but my daughter informed her mother it was a scene change so they had to have an intermission to change the scenery. Oh well...but getting out at 11:45pm for a ballet is a little too exhausting regardless of how beautiful the dancing is...which it was. I am still tired today from getting to bed at 1am!

Just our of curiosity...are there any other ballets out there that have as long a running time or is this the longest ballet out there?

#14 Juliet

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 04:56 PM

Running times have a lot to do with tempi set by directors and/or conductors. Unions. Etc.

The Kirov Sleeping Beauty is also long...

I think this is one reason why they have the curtain at 7, no?

When these ballets were created, the pace was considerably different than now......
no television, video games, etc....people had different expectations, not to mention attention spans!

#15 Michael

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Posted 09 July 2002 - 07:36 PM

I really must mention the orchestra (and the conductor) and the acoustics in that house (particularly when you sit up in the rings) which sounded amazing tonight (Tuesday). I'm not used to hearing a ballet orchestra sound so overwhelmingly powerful, in tune and in time.

I thought the company, however, looked quite sloppy tonight, way off of its form of three years ago. They were weak in the principal roles and, though stronger at the soloist level. still lacking in clarity and precision in the Petipa variations.

There were so many cast substitutions that you needed a concordance to work out the cast. Elvira Tarasova replaced Golub as Gamzatti and struck me as a very interesting and talented dancer (beautiful little runs on point and quick movement on top of it) but was seriously miscast. I can in no event imagine her slipping a poisonous snake to a rival. Andrian Fadeyev danced Solor and was stiff -- big jump into arabesque but no pliee coming down. The less I say about Diana Vishneyva's Nikiya the better, though I know others love her and I liked her in Beauty three years ago -- Tonight, however, extremely mannered, not moving well, everything tilted to the left, falling out of her turns, and with stage affects -- coming to the front of the stage repeatedly for applause with hand over her heart, etc. -- that make Irina Dvorovenko look natural and sincere. The overdevelopment of her shoulders is also IMO as extreme as Zacharova's hyperextensions.

Also, just what makes us so sure that the 1900 production really truly looked like this?


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