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Manhattnik

Kirov Don Q

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I'm too pooped to write much, but in a word, "Wow!"

Amazing energy and character dancing. Just amazing...

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I'll second that. It was just more fun than a barrel of Russo-Spanish Monkeys. Although the principals were very fine, it was the corps that made the evening for me. I've not seen this ballet ever look as vibrant; (especially in the crowd and character sections) I've never had so much fun watching Don Q - the production is tight and the dancers performed it with verve and love.

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Thanks you two - can't wait til tomorrow night! I'm glad I took the advice to choose Don Q.!:D

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I'm sure it's the Second Coming of "The Greatest Show on Earth." And I'm just amazed by how this company will suddenly trot out a dancer from the Corps whom you've never heard of … Who then proceeds to peform beyond anything you could ever wish to see. (I'm not surprised that Katya Shelkanova, a former corps girl here, reached soloist at ABT and a fine one at that).

For example. Who is this Tatiana Tkachenko, who performed the Street Dance in Act I, and where can she come from? Is she even human? My God, What an incredible performance. The archetypal soubrette pushed beyond the boundaries. That step where she whips out of a chainee turn by extending her perfectly pointed right foot to the limit and then tombees into the broadest fourth position in history before reversing on a dime and then back across the stage the other way . . . I'm not sure if it's classical but it sure is wonderful.

And all the unnamed in the program Corps girls who dance those beautiful pure variations leading up to Kitri's and in between the pieces of the Grand Pas in the last act and the fireworks elsewhere. And the groups of pastel costumed corps dancers who entertain at the wedding banquet. And the dance for the entire corps at the end of the first scene.

I'm struck by how the choreography in so many of those pure variations for the female corps dancers are a lesson in how "less steps are often more" -- in how two beats or entrechats and a perfect landing in fifth position can be so much visually clearer than six beats (or whatever number) and a rushed landing. The simpler choregraphy allows you time to see the steps. I loved it. I don't ever remember a company that made me really "SEE" poses like attitude en avant like this company lets me see them. There are a host of phrases, such as ending a diagonal with a soft pliee in tendu front, the arms gesturing down, before taking off the other way -- of which I can say the same.

Interesting that, with Vishneyva, the female roles were such a range of emploi. In ABT's Don Q, Kitri is a soubrette. Not here. Here it's the Street Dancer and the flower girls (Xenia Dubrovina and Yana Serbriakova -- stunning dancers both of them) who are the soubrettes. While Kirti, as danced by Vishneyva (who is taller) is more of a Classique role. She gets the grand pas. Then you have Natalia Sologub's beautiful performance as Queen of the Dryads (also Classique, and cleaner lines then Vishneyva, her performance appropriately brought down the house) and Elena Chmil (demicharacter) as Amour.

By the conclusion, the people sitting to my left were laughing out loud in sheer good spirits, as I was. This may well have been the best thing the Kirov has done here.

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I'm in the midst of packing up for a long sojourn...but let me sum-up last night:

WOWWEEEEEE!!!!! The culmination of 40-plus years of watching ballets. Simply spectacular. The ultimate. And the Divine Diana was just the tip of the iceberg. If I get run over by an Al-Qaida tank tomorrow I can say that I died a happy camper. That's all I have to write.

Da svidanya!

- Jeannie

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I truly enjoyed the Kirov's performance of Don Q. Before I say my impressions, I have a comment to make. The Kirov is not perfect. They are wonderful, but they have their shortcomings just like the rest of the world. I wonder why so many are quick to criticize most companies but think that there is something about the Kirov that makes it perfect. The performance last night did not make my life worth living, surpass everything else I have ever seen put together, or make me unappreciative of the NYCB performances I have been seeing and will see over the next two weeks.

Here are my comments about the performance, starting with the negative:

The dancers were not always turned out. Often they landed a jump or finished something with their back feet not turned out at all. Their fifth positions were not perfect. The women's shoes made too much sound when they landed and the noise was distracting. Also, I like the idea of the corps getting some recognition. They were wonderful, but not only were their names not listed in the program but they didn't even get any kind of curtain call. They just stood in the back as though they were part of the scenery.

The positive- Diana Vishneva's fouttes were amazing, the most precise I have ever seen. The men had incredible elevation and they all landed softly. The corps was always in unison, and like everyone else, their extension was amazing. Also, their character dancing was joyful and they were always fun to watch. They were also very fast. I have been watching NYCB my entire life and they are known for their speed, but they certainly didn't invent it! Plus, the Kirov was extremely precise.

I am lucky to have seen the Kirov perform and I hope to see them again (maybe in Russia if I ever get there!). They were truly wonderful.

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Dear nycbound,

I don't think anyone says, thinks or implies that the Kirov is perfect....if you follow or research the history of posts on this board, you will find that this is very definitely the case!!!! All companies have their strengths, their lapses, their runs of not-so-great matches between repertory and dancers.

What I think has been stated here, emphatically, is that the performances we have been seeing in New York are so refreshing and yes, uplifting, because of the calibre of the dancing in the repertory they performed. It is a difference in training and a difference in emphasis--equally valid, but different.

I must beg to differ with you on the issue of placement--I thought that, as a whole, the line and placement of the dancers was exemplary--usually the very *last* thing the Kirov dancers are criticised for is lack of turnout!!!

The Met stage is notorious for noisy shoes--unfortunate, but true. There was an amusing thread here last year on the thundering Wilis in Giselle.....;)

I think it is great that we have such an enthusiastic reception for the company---it doesn't negate the accomplishment of dancers in other companies or imply criticism of other types of training---the cadre of SAB summer program students there for Don Q last night were shrieking as loudly as anyone---

it is GOOD to see other styles, other treatments, other dancers---more power to them: that is one of the aims of art--a heightened awareness through a shared experience.

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Michael, Tatiana Tkachenko was the prize winner of the International Ballet Competition. I think it's Vaganova-Prix 2000.

I saw her last year in St Petes during the 1st Mariinsky Ballet Festival. She was quite good and the audience loved her especially in Suite from Laurencia.

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I wonder which version of DQ is being disputed here - nobody mentioned Basil. :) Who was partnering Vishneva? By the way, did she do any manipulations with her fan while doing foettes? I've heard that in May, while she was dancing this part with Paris Opera company( a rare occasion for foreign dancers!), she brought the house down with this trick.

And again speaking of male dancers - who was Espada? Once I saw Islom Baymuradov in this role and he was wonderful.

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The fan? Single, single, double snapping the fan open over her head, single, single, double with fan, etc. Much as we've seen Irina Dvorovenko do with ABT, but, well, snappier. After doing this a few times (with fast, rock-solid turns), she held the open fan tightly to her chest, and finished her run of fouettes without using her arms at all.

Yes, it brought the house down.

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Ina - Andrei Merkuriev was Espada. He brought down the house with his tavern-scene solo! The highest, airiest leaps I've ever seen in that solo. I actually preferred his overall performance to that of the Basil, Vyacheslav Samodurov, who is no slouch & had a huge following of fans in the upper galleries (quite vocal).

And the Gypsy Leader was stupendous - Nikolai Zubkovsky. My goodness, I could go on and on. It was a performance for the ages, truly.

After the giddiness...I find one tiny complaint: too bad that the Kirov could not bring over the Vaganova Academy kids. The Act II 'marionettes episode' - the row of little cupids - the kids in the Act I toreador scene - ALL were cut. But it is preferable to cut those performances than to bring in under-rehearsed local children & try to plop them into the scenes. But I did miss that heavenly line of Little Cupids in the Dryad Scene!!! One has to go to the Mariinsky Theater to see this.

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I guess it is a matter of de gustibus, but I was not overwhelmed (at least artistically) by the Kirov's Don Q. I found Vishneva quite one note--very loud and strident and without charm. Samodurov was charming in the comedy, but had trouble with the dancing, cranking out those supported pirouettes and putting his hand down from some extraneously difficult jump. The whole performance (except for some of the side roles) seemed designed only to impress the audience, not to tell the story, and I felt like I was being smacked on the head. That said, the production is gorgeous, and the character dancing is really terrific.

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Well, I know what you mean...

"The whole performance (except for some of the side roles) seemed designed only to impress the audience, not to tell the story, and I felt like I was being smacked on the head."

But this is how I generally view Don Q, and it is not a ballet in which I ever find much depth--not that I expect it...I go for the circus. (Which means that I seldom see it willingly)--however, I was sorry to miss this as I am sure the character dancing was wonderful.....

in any case, it seems to have been a popular choice for presentation on this tour

;)

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It seems we mostly saw the same details, but added them up differently. I'd agree with Mary that the production ruthlessly shaved the story to the point where we essentially had three acts of set-pieces and character dancing. I also agree with her comments about the principals; Samodurov had some trouble with partnering and bobbled a jump, and Vishneva wasn't particularly clean with her lines (especially compared to Sologub doing the Dryad Queen)

However, I've never seen a 1000-volt performance of Don Q before. I've only seen tepid Spaniards and miserable, uncomfortable Gypsies. The Kirov makes a real case for the Gorsky production - they look like they love every moment of it, and it shows. I was more than willing to forgive the issues with both principals, because I think they might have been a by-product of the emotional "pitch" of the evening. In a crazy way, it reminded me of a completely fierce Drag performance; there's meticulous professionalism underneath, but the magic seemed to be all about belief in oneself and in the material. The character dancers particularly the male gypsy and Mercedes (Galina Rakhmanova, I think) exemplified this; they hurled themselves into every step.

Mercedes in this version is reduced to a cameo role in the Inn scene in Act III; in other versions she might also do the pointework the Street Dancer does in Act I. Instead of acting as if she had a diminished part, though, Rakhmanova made it into a show-stopping number. She's got one trick, which she also used as one of the Spanish dancers in Swan Lake, which is the ability to practically fold herself in half to the back, but it's a doozy. And she uses it. And when Espada lifts her up on the table, she performs some sort of Flamenco/Character/Who-knows-what freakout that was a dance of the joyously possessed. I really loved the excessive nature of the production.

To consider our discussion of mime and story in full-length ballets, it's interesting to note that the Kirov brought two mid-century productions as well as the Bayadere. In Swan Lake and in Don Q, the mime is pared out. I miss it tremendously in Swan Lake, but I think they make a better case for the deletion of the story in Don Q, perhaps because the Don is a peripheral character to the action of the ballet. For me, in Swan Lake the deletion of the mime made Siegfried and Odette opaque. In Don Q, I don't feel like I'd get a different picture of Kitri and Basilio, and part of the energy of the production was the wave of one dance after another and the energy of the crowds.

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Apropos of nothing, I suppose, I couldn't help but notice how nicely the Kirov dancers make use of various accoutrements to their dancing. So I think perhaps we should be seeing them doing doing Emeralds with fans, Rubies with whips or perhaps castanets (or both), and Diamonds with spurs and capes.

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Sorry to disappoint you, but spurs and tutus do not mix.

I rather was wishiing for the spurs in Swan Lake's mazurka and czardas...I missed hearing them--I don't "think" they were on the men's boots.....:)

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You know, I almost don't want to say this but I really was not that "in love" with tonight's performance of Don Q. :) I was prepared to love it...and wonder if that added to my disappointment. It's not that it was "bad" - far from it, however, it just didn't knock my socks off. I think my feelings are more along the lines of cargill's.

Tonight's Kitri was Elvira Tarasova who was quite good but I would have preferred seeing Tatiana Tkachenko in this role - she was the spitfire! Not that Ms. Tarasova wasn't accomplished - it's more of an appearance thing for me. Basil was danced by Andrian Fadeyev... Now what I'm about to say is probably blasphemy but there was something about him that reminded me of Rudolph Nureyev. Now, that you've all either swooned or choked on your drinks, just let me say that I have only seen Nureyev on video tape! Maybe it was the fellow's face - and general appearance?

The costumes were great - the atmosphere was there. I, too, really got a kick out of the character dancing.... I wish I could say exactly what it was about the performance that just didn't astound me. :( I have to say that I have enjoyed ABT's performances this past spring much more.

Maybe it's that there was sooooo much extraneous activity - I don't know.:confused: :rolleyes:

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Or maybe the expectations generated by reading the prior reactions were too high. One thing that helped me to respond so well was that, going to theater Monday night, I was expecting nothing or less than nothing. I have usually loathed this ballet. Also, so much of the reaction Monday had to do with the energy,the excitement in the house, and nothing is more subjective than that.

With the benefit of a couple of days to think about it, and 350 miles distance between myself and the theater, a couple of things have hit me regarding the wonderful stagecraft of the Kirov.

First, is how good Sancho Panza was -- I don't have my program and don't know the name of the dancer. But the blindfold dance, and the scene where he is tossed in the air -- neither of which do I remember in the ABT version -- were superb. And Sancho himself has a nice prominence in this production. In fact, both Sancho and Don Q have more to do in the Kirov Don Q, it is more about them and closer to the Cervantes in its plot, than in the ABT Don Q which is really just the tale of Basil and Kitri. Here, to be sure, Basil and Kitri still predominate -- But because of the scenes for Sancho in particular -- Don Q and his sidekick give them a run for their money and the ballet book is closer to the action in the novel. And didn't you love that superbly groomed horse?

The second is the lovely dramatic timing of the conductor at the very end. Again, I'm not sure of his name, but surely much of the praise for the orchestra this week is due to the conductors. Here what struck me was how the conductor slowed the production down at the conclusion of the Grand Pas, allowing lots of time for numerous bows for Visnneyva and Samodurov, milking it as usual (they over do this, and have you ever seen more time taken between acts?) but then, just as they were going into the same shtick in the Grand Pas coda, coming to the front of the stage for more curtain calls, while the natural applause was still swelling ... The Conductor suddenly and surely puts the production right into third gear as it were, and over and through the applause the drama moves swiftly to its conclusion, creating just the right emotionally satisfying climax to the resounding chords of the music. It was a beautiful example of dramatic timing and of how a conductor's timing can manage the emotional effect on the audience. A Bravo all week long to the great coordination between this orchestra, its conductors and the dancing. It's something I've never seen better done.

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I remember feeling blissfully secure sitting in the Bolshoi Theatre. I had a sense that the music would be good, the curtain would go out on time, and of course the dancing would be impeccable. The theatre reeked of tradition, of people doing their job for years which was a different feeling than I had felt in the USA.

I know dancers are simply better today. That is what happens with time. Bodies change, technique improves. It's funny to look at the bodies of Hollywood's sex symbols of the 50s as compared to today's bodies.

Did any of you Ballet Alert posters see Kirkland and Baryshnikov in the Baryshnikov production of 'DonQ' for ABT back in the 80s?

Did you consider it dull? It seemed quite exciting at that time, to me.

Some of the reviews I have read of this recent Kirov production have been so ecstatic that it seems like the dancers came from Mars.

It's so hard to imagine this current production and crop of dancers. I've several times wanted to get on a plane and come back to NYC. :)

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Well, for leads, I think it would be very hard for anyone, of any generation, to top Kirkland and Baryshnikov. However, the Kirov's ensemble and character dancing, as well as the orchestra, simply blows away ABT's -- now or then.

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I didn't make myself clear - I didn't mean I like ABT's production of Don Q.! I've actually never seen it! What I meant is that last night's performance, for me was not as enjoyable as some of ABT's story ballets that I've seen.

I really didn't mean to compare the two - although I guess I did.:eek: It was more some out loud cyber thinking...trying to figure out why it didn't "Wow!" me as much as I expected. I think Michael has hit on it in his first line. :)

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Both the Don Q performances yesterday were more polished than the opening performance on Monday. The character dances were superbly danced, as usual, by the Kirov. The younger cast yesterday afternoon - Golub and Korsakov (both in the same year in the Vaganova Academy before joining the Kirov) - was probably more satisfying than the evening cast of Elvira Tarasova and Andrian Fadeyev.

Irina Golub's Kitri was fresh, exhilarating and a sheer joy to watch. Golub danced with more spontaneity and ease than Vishneva on Monday. Her equlibre in the grand pas de deux was rock steady. Anton Korsakov managed the 2 one-handed lifts in Act 1 better than Samodurov on Monday, and his 'death' scene in was hilarious. He was impressive in the grand pas de deux. In the evening, Andrian Fadeyev, whose acting as Basilio was better and who had a more dazzling virtuosity, did a different version of the solo in the grand pas de deux - a series of double tours en l'air followed by single pirouette. Natalia Sologub's solo of the Queen of the Dryads was perfectly danced.

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I saw kirov's don q wednesday evening and loved it. It was the first time that i had seen the ballet live ( i had seen the barishnikov/kirkland video mentioned before as well as another one in school, and countless excerpts and variations). The whole thing live on stage was amazing. All of the crowds of people on stage and the character scenes really made the ballet fascinating. Much more interesting than just seeing the variations. I am still amazed by how strong the corps is, they all seem to have gorgeous extensions, placement, and performance quality. It must be very hard to decide who gets promoted and who doesn't. I have now absolutly fallen in love with the kirov :)

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Ok, I'm trying to catch up here...

I fall in with those who had a grand time Monday. Ever since Vishneva made a splash in London in 1997 in this ballet, I had wanted to see her dance Kitri. For some reason, I felt I was not seeing her or Viacheslav Samodurov at their best, but it was dazzling enough for me. At the beginning, I think Vishneva was maybe a bit tired from those La Bayaderes over the weekend and, thankfully, kept her leg kicks from hitting her in the nose, but then went back to the 12 o'clock mark in the last act. However, my enjoyment was not marred by three slips by Vishneva, who slid on a humid stage. And she did, indeed, bring the house down with her variations in Act III.

I like Samodurov -- he's likeable, nice looking and possess pretty decent technique -- but he would be better off not to force things. And, he can get a little lax in partnering -- he didn't hold the one-handed lifts very long.

Although all the character dancing was fine, one of the highlights for me was the vision scene with Vishneva, Natalia Sologub, and Elena Chmil. I was particularly impressed with Sologub, who has filled out nicely since we saw her as a fairy in Sleeping Beauty in 1999. She was lovely, calm and musically at ease during her solo -- using her now full, long legs to great effect.

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