Few more impressions from the Petipa Gala. I always treat the Bolshoi's in-house ballet star galas with suspicion, since they are often poorly produced and lack a coherent concept, basically offering a hastily thrown together hodge-podge of dance pieces. For this reason, in the last several years I had tried to avoid them, but this year I let my curiosity get the better of me and I was seduced by the star pull of the names promised, ignoring the obvious signs that the lack of concept problem would still be there, even more so, because for an event supposedly dedicated to Petipa, the program had little to do with Petipa.
I should have trusted my instincts and judgment. This event would be best described by the Russian word khaltura (халтура). Its English equivalents slapdash or hack-work do not adequalty communicate its connotation. Rather than just poorly done work, khaltura means work that could have been done well, but was not not for lack of ability, but simply because no one cared. I feel very sorry about having squandered away the steep price of a Bolshoi ticket, because even talented international stars were powerless to rescue such a poor production. The few bright spots that came mainly from the local ballet artists were not enough to compensate for the producers' overall poverty of thought.
Impressions one by one.
Kovaleva/Tissi in Balanchine's Diamonds: A performance worthy of a high-school talent show. It was a shame to see such good looking dancers having such a subpar outing. This time Kovaleva did not show her trademark confidence, and Tissi looked more confused than usual. I especially noted, to my dismay, how bad Alena's arms were becoming. They looked neither like Balanchine arms, nor Vaganova arms, I would call them Chenchikova arms: listless and flaccid, with uneven, disinterested and unfinished movements, lacking expression. She is not blessed with the most exquisite hands, they are too large even for her proportions, and the way she so carelessly places them as if they were brooms emphasizes this flaw, whereas she and her tutor must figure something out to extenuate it. The girl has a lot of promise, but I fear she encountered the wrong tutor in Chenchikova. Hope she realizes this soon enough and is saved the fate of a Somova by working with someone who can help her develop more gracefulness and expressiveness, someone like Adyrkhaeva or Semenyaka.
Khokhlova/Belyakov in the Bluebird pdd: technically Khokhlova did everything well, but showed litte character, while Belaykov was too tentative in a part that would otherwise be a showstopper in the right set of hands (or, better said, legs). Overall impression: okay, but unremarkable
Kretova/Ovcharenko in the Margot/Rudolf duet from Possokhov's Nureyev: The duet does not really resonate as a standalone piece, and in my view the dancers did not invest enough psychologically into it to make it memorable. I wonder how Lantratov and Alexandrova perform this work, they probably add more substance to it.
Kondaurova/Smekalov in the duet Preljocaj's Le Park: Solidly executed, but offered nothing new to a piece that is so often performed that I have become numbed to it.
Stashkevich/Lopatin in the pdd from Talisman: Now this is where things started getting alive and exciting. The pair were true to their nature as engaging, impactful and charismatic dancers with superb technical skills, distinctive bodily plastics and feathery jumps. One of the high notes of the evening.
Smirnova/Vogel in the bedroom scene from Cranko's Onegin: Now, I understand that Vogel is an international star, brought, I'm sure, at no small expense, to impress and educate the Russian masses on how the Onegin part should be danced in the enlightened and progressive West. I may be uncouth and unwashed, but breaking up the strong, well-established and well-rehearsed connection between Smirnova and Lantratov in this work was a major mistake, since Vogel showed nothing to justify the trouble and the expense of bringing him in over the legitimate home-grown superstar that is Lantratov. Smirnova probably knows no equals as the most authentic embodiment of Pushkin's Tatiana, but without an authentic Onegin it was pointless.
Lacarra/Dino in white pdd from Swan Lake: Whimsical to the point of bizarre. Instead of showing swan wings, Lacarra intensely twisted her wrists in the best flamenco traditions and did small steps en pointe with such violent tapping against the floor, that left no doubt that her Odette escaped from some town in Andalucia. Dino was an effective partner-holder, but not much else
Osipova/Kittelberger in Cherkaoui's Qutb: Other than that Osipova does not look good in rolled up jeans and there was little grace in this ultra-modern opus, I really cannot say much, best to withhold judgment. I understand that this is an excerpt from a larger work, which might leave a very different impression if seen complete.
Guerin/Legris in Petit's Le Rendez-Vous: Manuel's passion and movement are incredible, but otherwise the work did not engage, looked monotonous and boring, the most anti-climactic on-stage murder I can recall.
Pagliero/Heymann in Nureyev's Don Quixote pdd: Placing Kitri and Basilio on the set from Marco Spada was plain goofy. While a town piazza somewhere outside Rome could pass for a Spanish landscape with some imagination, seeing a pair in such an energetic pdd on a deserted sun-flooded town square set the wrong mood. They looked as if they were a couple of village idiots dancing away on their own while the rest of the town was taking a happy siesta nap. The dancers from Paris looked markedly weaker than their Russian counterparts, though from seeing them before I believe that they are capable of a much better showing. In my view, their biggest handicap was Nureyev's choreography, which is as unsightly as it is complicated, so as to leave the dancers' effort and skill unappreciated by anyone except experienced ballet professionals.
Tereshkina/Shklyarov in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky pdd: Dynamite! Tereshkina showed her usual steely technique, while Shklyarov was the most loveable ballet rascal in what was probably a very un-Balanchine demonstration of bold and irreverent virtuoso jumps and turns.
Lacarra/Dino in Twisted Spiral: Back in their own element, they were mesmerizing. I find the continuous movement of Lacarra's delicate weightless body and limbs captivating, and the contrast with Dino's manly powerful build striking. Beauty in motion.
Ferri/Gomes in After the Rain: I found it somewhat similar to the preceding work, except without the same aesthetic quality. Ferri's physical shape is very commendable for her age, but she is no Lacarra. If there was any meaning in this work, it completely escaped me. Felt like the audience was dozing off to this long and boring piece. It would have lost nothing if danced by lesser talents, so the expense of bringing such renowned names to dance something like this feels like money ill-spent.
Shrayner/Tsvirko in pdd from Flames of Paris: A welcome pick up from the previous work. Both artists danced very well, but showed no fiery revolutionary drive and devil-may-care attitude, without which this pdd turns into just an assembly of neat tricks.
Novikova/Sarafanov in pdd from Sleeping Beauty: Performed as brilliantly as one could ever perform it. But also felt that these two had mastered this pdd so thoroughly, that hey were dancing it almost in auto-pilot mode, without putting much feeling into it. Still, one of the best showings that night. During applause someone from the audience shouted out "Khaltura!", but I am sure they were not referring to these two dancers.
Sae Eun Park/Ovcharenko in Grand Pas Classique: Was looking forward to Ms. Park giving a master class in how to dance GPC as a worthy heiress to the French greats of the past. Turned out okay, but lacked the brilliance and sparkle that I expected. She had some trouble in the first part, tipping off balance a bit and not landing on one knee synchronously with Ovcharenko. Her solo bit was decent, but I wanted to see more of a grand dame there. I would have probably preferred Hannah O'Neill in this piece because of her more marked stage presence. Ovcharenko did admirably as well, though I wish he were a bit less restrained.
Legris/Guerin in the de Bana's Farwell Waltz: I found it similar to the Petit work that the pair danced earlier, except Guerin traded high heels for pointe shoes, while Legris might have stayed in the same white shirt. I enjoyed this work more than Petit's, because there was more beauty and passion, but it also felt somewhat overlong, probably the late hour and the excessive length of the gala started getting to me at that moment.
Zakharova/Lobukhin in Tristan and Isolde: I could never get tired of admiring Zakharova's long chiseled legs and her slender willowed body being framed by the sexy masculine Mikhail Lobukhin in Tristan and Isolde. Set against a screen with a blue sky with white clouds, this duet looked heavenly. For a moment I forgot that I was on earth, it was like flying through the stratosphere!
Smirnova/Chudin in the grand pas from Raymonda: What's to say, this was classical ballet in its finest and purest form! Gorgeous, aristocratic and noble Olga and Semyon set the standard on how to dance in Raymonda. Shrayner's showing in a solo variation was clean, sharp and eye-catching. Her Coppelia yesterday would have benefited if she had a similar sharpness and sparkle. One drawback: the piece was set to a background from Marco Spada, with its Italian neo-classical arches and columns not being even remotely related to the chivalrous era of Raymonda. But other than showing a crisis with basic cultural knowledge at the Bolshoi, this anachronism did not detract too much from the performance.