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Mariinsky's Raymonda To the KC in Feb 2016

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ITA, Amy. At the end of the day, it's all a matter of personal taste & preferences. However, photos & films don't lie..."the proof is in the pudding," as they say. If a ballerina falters in her one solo variation of G-P Classique, then how can she make it through the six (6) solo variations of RAYMONDA? The sad thing is that the best RAYMONDA that I've seen live is Olesya Novikova at La Scala, even though she remains a First Soloist on the Mariinsky roster, yet I hold no hope of her inclusion in the DC tour (recently had 3rd child with her husband Sarafanov).

As for versions of RAYMONDA, I love the Vikharev recon of the Petipa original at La Scala...but the Mariinsky is much closer to the original than is the Bolshoi-Grigorovich edition. At least we can see in the Soviet-KSergeyev version a complete Valse Fantastique (AI, sc2) with a full corps in various layers (including a male corps, demisoloist ladies in tutus, other ladies in longer skirts), then three "Dream solo variations" closer to the 1898 Petipa originals than in the Bolshoi version. To me, that Dream Scene (in AI, sc2) is the crown jewel of this ballet, even though all three acts contain magnificent classical highlights.

Despite not having stumbled in any of her Raymonda variations, Somova did not look very comfortable performing any of them, especially the entrechats en pointe diagonal in the Act 2 variation. I'm not sure it was the best decision for her to perform them.

I'm not a fan of Novikova either; she may have better technique than Somova, but she's bland, boring and sinfully unmusical, as shown in her performance in the Raymonda reconstruction. She was a really bad choice of casting and her atrociously slow tempi in both the Act 1 pizzicato and the Act 3 variation was unforgivable. I know some people like Novikova's extreme fluidity, but in reality, it doesn't do her any favours. A friend of mine attended the second performance of the Raymonda reconstruction at La Scala in 2011, where the title role was danced by Marta Romanga and he said that she was a phenomenal Raymonda and much better than Novikova. If I was to give La Scala some advise, I would advise them to re-record and re-release the Raymonda reconstruction on DVD with Nicoletta Manni in the title role.

I don't like Sergeyev's Raymonda revival, especially his version of the "Visions" scene because he completely butchered the whole thing, just like he butchered many of Petipa's masterpieces; not to mention the poor staging the ballet got as a whole with all that ugly scenery and those boring costumes. As Alexei Ratmansky said, the original version is so much better than the versions we're all so familiar with today.

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You have every right to your opinion (everyone does), but I find it shocking how anyone can dislike Novikova in anything. I do not find her bland or boring or unmusical in any way. In my personal opinion there is no La Scala ballerina who would satisfy me in place of Novikova. The only thing I like about the La Scala Raymonda are the sets and Novikova. Vikharev probably chose her perosnally, because his Mariinsky coach page says he's been working with Novikova. He probably works hard to get the La Scala dancers to work with more fluid upper bodies, because to me they look so stiff and after heavy doses of Mariinsky dancers I just don't like stiff upper bodied like I see in the La Scala Raymonda. Despite the sets being fabulous and Novikova being fabulous I never watch that dvd, b/c I prefer to watch my many Mariinsky Raymonda videos that I have.

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You have every right to your opinion (everyone does), but I find it shocking how anyone can dislike Novikova in anything. I do not find her bland or boring or unmusical in any way. In my personal opinion there is no La Scala ballerina who would satisfy me in place of Novikova. The only thing I like about the La Scala Raymonda are the sets and Novikova. Vikharev probably chose her perosnally, because his Mariinsky coach page says he's been working with Novikova. He probably works hard to get the La Scala dancers to work with more fluid upper bodies, because to me they look so stiff and after heavy doses of Mariinsky dancers I just don't like stiff upper bodied like I see in the La Scala Raymonda. Despite the sets being fabulous and Novikova being fabulous I never watch that dvd, b/c I prefer to watch my many Mariinsky Raymonda videos that I have.

Well I am sorry to shock you, Birdsall, but I am just one of a number of a people who are not fans of Novikova; in my opinion, she's one of the most overrated dancers of this generation.

For the record, to suggest that Vikharev would try and get the La Scala dancers to have fluid upper bodies is really ridiculous - if anything, it's because the La Scala dancers don't have extreme Vaganova fluid upper bodies that they're great dancers. As I have said before, you cannot afford to have a really fluid upper body for Petipa's choreography because what's most important is the footwork, not the upper body. What you need is petite allegro technique and if Vikharev did try to make the La Scala dancers be more fluid in their upper bodies, that would've been very bad coaching on his part, but having said that, he was very wrong to allow Novikova to dance to such slow tempi. In fact, he's been wrong to let ANY dancer dance Petipa's choreography to atrociously slow tempi; that's a big sign of bad coaching.

Can you imagine someone teaching Petipa's choreography to a group of dancers and the coach tells them to put more emphasis on their upper bodies than their footwork? The whole thing would be an absolute disaster, though to be fair, this scenario did happen when Vikharev staged his reconstructions at the Mariinsky... Petipa must've been turning in his grave.

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I found her more charming in Little Humpbacked horse, and if she does dance Raymonda in D.C. am hopeful some of that charm may come through.

I wish I had been able to see Somova's LHH at the Met, but I had to leave mid-week after the first two performances :( I've always thought of Somova as a lyric neoclassical ballerina, but of the big classical roles, I think she's most suited temperamentally to "Raymonda." She has a softness and charm that would be especially appropriate in the first two acts.

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I agree that Raymonda seems a potentially good temperamental fit for Somova. I would be happy to see her.

But...casting zen as I say. (Well, not as regards Lopatkina dancing opening night...I would have to be the Buddha reincarnate to pull that off.)

For all those who love the 'Vaganova' upper body in Petipa, a short video I enjoy a lot -- Lezhnina in Pacquita. For all those who don't, at any rate it will give you a very good idea of what I would be sad to see lost to ballet tradition. In fact, my problem with the Mariinsky is not that they still dance like this, but they don't--at least not as much as they used to:

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Drew, thanks for the video. Yes, once you "get" the Vaganova style (and some do not like it) and, if by chance, you fall in love with that particular style, no other type of dancer fulfills you. At least that is what I find personally.

I saw Oksana Marchuk, a corps dancer, dance that very variation in DC last winter and loved her in it.

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In fact, my problem with the Mariinsky is not that they still dance like this, but they don't--at least not as much as they used to:

Yes that's my problem too, Drew and it really is very sad; it all comes down to bad training and how the Vaganova method has changed since Vaganova's death. The teachers at the Vaganova Academy will probably deny that the method has changed, but they would do. I don't mean to pin all the blame on the dancers or at least come across as if I do because it's not really their fault; it's clearly a sign of bad training and lack of artistic direction. I really hope someone deals with all these issues very soon... the funny thing is, the male Vaganova graduates seem to be okay, it's the girls who are emerging in quite a state...

But anyway, those of you who will be going to see the Mariinsky in DC, I hope you enjoy yourselves. :)

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ITA, Amy. At the end of the day, it's all a matter of personal taste & preferences. However, photos & films don't lie..."the proof is in the pudding," as they say. If a ballerina falters in her one solo variation of G-P Classique, then how can she make it through the six (6) solo variations of RAYMONDA? The sad thing is that the best RAYMONDA that I've seen live is Olesya Novikova at La Scala, even though she remains a First Soloist on the Mariinsky roster, yet I hold no hope of her inclusion in the DC tour (recently had 3rd child with her husband Sarafanov).

As for versions of RAYMONDA, I love the Vikharev recon of the Petipa original at La Scala...but the Mariinsky is much closer to the original than is the Bolshoi-Grigorovich edition. At least we can see in the Soviet-KSergeyev version a complete Valse Fantastique (AI, sc2) with a full corps in various layers (including a male corps, demisoloist ladies in tutus, other ladies in longer skirts), then three "Dream solo variations" closer to the 1898 Petipa originals than in the Bolshoi version. To me, that Dream Scene (in AI, sc2) is the crown jewel of this ballet, even though all three acts contain magnificent classical highlights.

The proof is in the pudding? Unfortunately, I do not have a full length video of Somova's Raymonda to upload here, as presumably that would be the only proof that anyone would accept. HOWEVER, I WAS present in St Petersburg at Somova's Raymonda debut as I indicated above, and each variation was technically wonderful. Whether or not anyone personally LIKES Somova is a question of their own taste, but to say she could not perform the role of Raymonda to a technically high standard, is patently WRONG. I SAW it. And not just technique, but artistry there was in abundance, a fact that was appreciated by the whole Mariinsky audience, who gave her a huge ovation. Her dream scene was just exquisite in particular, with beautiful floating arms and lyrical upper body. Her "blue" variation was crisply articulated with strong footwork - basically each variation was differentiated, which is one of the hallmarks of a great Raymonda, since it is so difficult for any one ballerina to dance EACH variation to the same level of excellence. I have also seen in person on the Mariinsky stage most of the other ballerinas who currently have the role in their repertoire, and she was certainly the best of them. I say this objectively, as personally I love Novikova's Raymonda also as well as Lopatkina's Raymonda. Kolegova and Matvienko also are lovely Raymondas, both very strong technically and professional. We can all prefer certain ballerinas, but anyone judging Somova's Raymonda objectively could NEVER say it was anything other than excellent, both technically and artistically.

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Yes that's my problem too, Drew and it really is very sad; it all comes down to bad training and how the Vaganova method has changed since Vaganova's death. The teachers at the Vaganova Academy will probably deny that the method has changed, but they would do. I don't mean to pin all the blame on the dancers or at least come across as if I do because it's not really their fault; it's clearly a sign of bad training and lack of artistic direction. I really hope someone deals with all these issues very soon... the funny thing is, the male Vaganova graduates seem to be okay, it's the girls who are emerging in quite a state...

But anyway, those of you who will be going to see the Mariinsky in DC, I hope you enjoy yourselves. :)

I am astonished to read this. I think Mesdames Kovaleva, Udalenkova, all the senior teachers, as well as those just joined as well as their artistic director, Zhanna Ayupova, would be frankly disbelieving and insulted by this comment. Perhaps you could clarify which points of technique you think they with their collective centuries of experience, are lacking in the ability to transmit to their students with their "bad training?"

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I am astonished to read this. I think Mesdames Kovaleva, Udalenkova, all the senior teachers, as well as those just joined as well as their artistic director, Zhanna Ayupova, would be frankly disbelieving and insulted by this comment. Perhaps you could clarify which points of technique you think they with their collective centuries of experience, are lacking in the ability to transmit to their students with their "bad training?"

Unfortunately, what's happened to Vaganova's method is that many of her core tenants are not being taught and respected today. I have seen a few people saying that only Russian-Vaganova-trained ballerinas can master authentic Petipa choreography, but that statement is really up for debate because the method that is being taught today in Vaganova's name no longer consists of "Petipa aesthetics" like it once did - these aesthetics are fast footwork, petite allegro technique, etc.

When Vaganova codified her teaching method, she did so by taking elements from the French, Danish and Italian schools and combined them into an amalgamation of what became a Russian teaching style. What made Vaganova's method different from that of the Imperial Ballet School is that it emphasises on the whole body, hence the fluidity in the arms and upper body - in the nineteenth century, the most important part of dancing was always the feet/leg work; the arms and upper body were not as important. Vaganova's method originally contained good allegro work because she believed allegro to be the essence of dance - she writes this in her book; she makes it very clear that allegro is much more important than adagio. During Vaganova's lifetime, her method produced some of the greatest dancers the world had ever seen, such as the great Galina Ulanova and Natalia Dudinskaya, who were two of her best students.

Unfortunately, in the years that followed Vaganova's death, things started to go wrong. Natalia Dudinskaya was one of the best teachers of the Vaganova method after Vaganova's death and she preserved the method as best as she could, but then in the 1960s, many young Kirov dancers rebelled against what they considered was Dudinskaya's "old adherence to Vaganova's teachings and influences" and a real break started to drift away from Vaganova's core tenants, true Vaganova teachings and ideas. A different approach to the method was taken and it began to be taught differently from how it should've been taught and as a result of this break, the training began to change and not for the better.

According to Elena Tchernikova, these issues began to come to light in the 1980s because she said that there were differences in lower body technique between Kirov dancers of the 80s compared to earlier Kirov dancers. So as time went on, the method was passed on through the years like Chinese whispers and now, what's being taught today in Vaganova's name is miles away from what she actually codified into methodology. Today at the academy, they put a lot of emphasis on adagio, flexibility and extensions and as a result, many important elements are being overshadowed such as port de bras, epaulement and most importantly, allegro. This becomes very obvious when you look at many of today's Vaganova graduates because what we see today are many Vaganova graduates with weak pointe work, lack of strength in the core, unproportionally long limbs and little to no petite allegro technique.

Now, to be fair, not all Vaganova graduates of recent years have emerged with all these issues - ballerinas like Yulia Stepanova and Tatiana Tkachenko are both wonderful, but Tkachenko especially is a prime example of what the Vaganova method is supposed to achieve. Clearly, she received excellent coaching from her late coach, Ninel Kurgapkina, who was obviously an excellent Vaganova teacher. The funny thing is, it's the girls who are suffering the most from of all these issues of today's Vaganova training; the boys, however, are alright as shown through the likes of Vladimir Shklyarov and Kimin Kim, who, in my opinion, are the best male dancers in the current Mariinsky troupe.

So yes, it really is so unfortunate what has happened over the last five to six decades to what was once a great teaching method that produced some of the most technically and artistically accomplished dancers. I also heard that even Tatiana Terekova has complained about these issues because apparently, she said that she has had to do extra work with the dancers she coaches to correct problems with petite allegro, which should've been focused on at the Vaganova Academy. So yes, many of the dancers are suffering as a result of how the method has been handed down over the years and Somova is a prime example of how bad the training has become; to her credit, she can win the audience over with a warm stage presence in certain roles, but it's never hard to miss her technical errors and unfortunately, I think it's fair to say that the damage has been done. Her fast promotion to principal has only made her an easy target for people to criticise and it is unfair; poor Alina.

I hope all this answers your question, MadameP and regarding the senior teachers who you mentioned, ask yourself this - if they read my comments, would they be angry because they'd feel insulted or because I'm commenting on things that they don't want everybody to know about?

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I agree that Raymonda seems a potentially good temperamental fit for Somova. I would be happy to see her.

But...casting zen as I say. (Well, not as regards Lopatkina dancing opening night...I would have to be the Buddha reincarnate to pull that off.)

For all those who love the 'Vaganova' upper body in Petipa, a short video I enjoy a lot -- Lezhnina in Pacquita. For all those who don't, at any rate it will give you a very good idea of what I would be sad to see lost to ballet tradition. In fact, my problem with the Mariinsky is not that they still dance like this, but they don't--at least not as much as they used to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGAo0yTgmLo

I love Larissa. It's a shame she left the Mariinsky. Dutch National Ballet gained a gem of a dancer.

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For me, a good Raymonda is a crisp, sharp technician, who can perform those infamous six variations with aplomb, exactly to the beat of the music. It is hardly a loosy-goosed 'interpretative' role. Hence, my concern when a potential Raymonda cannot even deliver a crisp, sharp Grand-Pas Classique diagonal in her one solo in that work. Perhaps my years of enjoying sharp technicians like Guillem, Pontois, Wiles, Komleva, Paly, Loudieres (especially Loudieres!) in this pdd has spoiled me so that loosy-goosies like A.S. do not satisfy...not to say that the loosies can't be good interpreters of, say, Ratmansky's Cinderella or Tsar Maiden in LHH, which A.S. certainly is. I simply prefer sharp technicians in icy tech roles like Ray and GP Classique.

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Per Kennedy Center Website:

RINCIPAL CASTING (subject to change)
2/23 eve. | 2/26 eve. | 2/28 mat.
Raymonda: Oxana Skorik
Countess Sibilla: Elena Bazhenova
Jean de Brienne: Timur Askerov
Abderakhman: Konstantin Zverev
René de Brienne: Soslan Kulaev
Ali: Islom Baimuradow
Henrietta: Nadezhda Batoeva (2/23 & 28); Nadezhda Gonchar (2/26)
Clémence: Kristina Shapran (2/23 & 28); Yekaterina Chebykina (2/26)

2/24 eve. | 2/27 eve.
Raymonda: Yekaterina Kondaurova
Countess Sibilla: Elena Bazhenova
Jean de Brienne: Daniil Korsuntsev
Abderakhman: Yuri Smekalov
René de Brienne: Soslan Kulaev
Ali: Islom Baimuradow
Henrietta: Nadezhda Gonchar
Clémence: Yekaterina Chebykina

2/25 eve. | 2/27 mat.
Raymonda: Anastasia Kolegova
Countess Sibilla: Elena Bazhenova
Jean de Brienne: Yevgeny Ivanchenko
Abderakhman: Yuri Smekalov (2/25); Konstantin Zverev (2/27)
René de Brienne: Soslan Kulaev
Ali: Islom Baimuradow
Henrietta: Nadezhda Batoeva
Clémence: Kristina Shapran

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Thank you for posting the cast information. I'm looking forward to seeing ALL of these dancers, and extremely excited to be seeing the ballet. Basically could not be happier that Mariinsky is touring Raymonda. But I am still a wee bit disappointed in some of the casting. The two Jean De Brienne's I was most looking forward to having a chance to see--Yermakov and Shklyarov--not coming. No Lopatkina even though she is dancing in NY later the same week and is an admired Raymonda (!!!) and no Tereshkina who opened the California run. And for myself, too, I would have preferred seeing Somova to Kolegova...

That said, just reading all the different parts has me very excited about seeing the production.

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Thanks...and GREAT! :)

"No-fly zone!"...the next-best thing to winning Powerball! I'm now free to "move about the cabin" and purchase tix to the remaining performances.

Drew, those two missing Jean de Briennes (Ermakov & Schklyarov) will be in Brooklyn at this time, performing with Lopatkina et al at the MT Orch galas mentioned elsewhere.

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Thanks for the casting. I'm kind of disappointed in not seeing Somova, as I wanted to see her live, to come up with an opinion on her.

I don't know much about the cast I'm seeing (Kolegova cast), so at least I'll be exposed to some unfamiliar dancers.

I, too, wish Shklyarov was coming to DC.

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Cygnet wrote a detailed review of Kolegova's Raymonda during one of the California tours but I can't locate it now. Anyway, our Cygnet recommends Anastasia Kolegova in the Petipa classics. I've seen her as Gamzatti at the Mariinsky but as Aurora & Kitri at the Maly before the changes. She was fabulous...dark/haired and glamorous face...she'll bring the 'snoot' to Ray, I bet.

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...she'll bring the 'snoot' to Ray, I bet.

My thoughts exactly. I've seen Kolegova as Aurora & O/O with the Mariinsky, also with them in Les Sylphides. I have absolutely no recollection of her in the Fokine but I didn't like her in the other two. Strong technique, beautiful face with those amazing slavic cheekbones but I thought her Aurora was cold and her O/O dull and unfocused. Raymonda is a role that I think may fit her to a tee, I can only imagine the hauteur she'll bring to the Grand Pas Hongrois!

I can live with the KC casting. I didn't think we'd get Lopatkina but I was looking forward to seeing Tereshkina, so thats a disappointment. I'm out there Thurs - Sat and then rushing back to NY for Lopatkina's last night at BAM. So if the casting holds I'll see Skorik & Kondaurova each once and Kolegova twice. Very excited to see Big Red's Raymonda and also Bateova and Shapran as Henriette.

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I would love to see Kolegova's Raymonda, I think she may prove the perfect fit for the role. She's a dancer who I've noticed seems to fall between two stools with a lot of people, not the favourite interpreter of roles, but not falling into the disliked category either. A few weeks ago I saw her dance Medora in Baden Baden and although she had to compete with Tereshkina's near definitive performance the night before, Kolegova was quite beautiful, though giving a more lyrical rendition of the part, a more vulnerable Medora than the feisty pirate girl I usually prefer. After that performance I felt she had risen substantially in my appreciation of her.

For me the definitive Raymonda will always be Fonteyn, full of glamour and drama in the third act she also had that turn of speed that I agree with with other posters is being ignored at the Kirov as they concentrate on adage at the expense of allegro. Again at Baden Baden, I was troubled by the slowness in of all things the Don Q. pas de deux in the gala programme, the friend I was with thought so too and asked one of the coaches for an opinion: all the fault of the maestro apparently. So now you know.

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I have seen Kolegova live in person at the Mariinsky Theatre as Odette/Odile, Aurora, Medora, Nikiya, Tsar Maiden (Ratmansky's Humpbacked Horse), and Chopiniana....maybe something else that I have forgotten. I have also seen her in those very roles in multiple performances on video as well as La Sylphide, Giselle, Raymonda, Gamzatti, Juliet.

I have read many reviews in the past few years of her as cold but I am very surprised, because I find her acting to be exactly how I would act. Maybe because she is an Aquarius like me I "get" her personality and acting. To me her reactions to characters and how she acts is subtle but exactly how I would respond in real life to the characters she responds to.....I do think she is subtle, so maybe if you sit far up in the balcony you might miss some of her acting, but I have always been up close and have always felt her acting was better than many others. I know that even world renowned critics have said she was cold. I disagree. I find her erotic when she needs to be erotic, sweet when she needs to be sweet, frightened when she needs to be frightened, etc.

The only role where I felt she missed the mark was Nikiya because she came onto the stage almost furious at the High Priest from the moment she entered, before he grabbed at her. Literally when he removed the veil she looked like she wanted to kill him. It was too angry. I don't think she has had many chances at Nikiya and that is the reason why. She tends to dance Gamzatti in Bayadere.

Her Raymonda is technically great with wonderful Vaganova arms and daintiness and her beauty does not hurt at all. She is an absolute delight coming out on stage to pick up the flowers.

I met her in St. Petersburg this summer and she actually told me she was coming to DC, but I did not want to say that because I wasn't sure if it was considered "inside information." This is a ballerina who comes out after Swan Lake and simply acts like she is leaving a Pilates class and was so down-to-earth and friendly like it is no big deal that she just danced Swan Lake. Her look (when she is dressed up) is intimidating because of her beauty (I saw her in the audience at other performances and I can imagine how some might think she was unapproachable), but she is just the opposite. She called me by name each time I saw her even though she only met me once. She is super down-to-earth and very sweet. Total opposite of a diva. I got the impression dancing Swan Lake was just like another night at the gym and she was finished and ready to just go get a shake.

Personally I think she will be the best out of the three. I think Kondaurova might be decent in many ways, but in the past times I have seen her recently she was prone to many little mistakes (falling off pointe or some other mistake). Each time is no big deal but all of the little mess ups start to add up. I had heard she was injured (seriously) for a while. I hope she is back in good form for the Raymondas, but I also think Kondaurova seems more suited to the Bolshoi's Raymonda where strength is a plus. The Mariinsky's Raymonda has the character of Raymonda much more delicate and dainty until the end after experiencing Abderakhman's attentions and death and her final act variation tends to be haughty because she is no longer a "girl," rather a woman of the world (my personal interpretation). I think Kondaurova is best in the final variation but lacks the sweetness and daintiness for the first act. I like Kondaurova in things like Carmen Suite and Street Dancer. She is good at strong women and therefore her final Raymonda variation is actually very haughty.

Skorik has improved but I have seen her live and she has a tendency to look like she is in a rehearsal concentrating very much on the steps. There is a general jerkiness to her dancing (can't put my finger on it.....maybe linking steps are not smooth). She is no longer a disaster, no longer making mistakes, but she has a way to go to live up to her status as Principal, in my personal opinion.

I will still enjoy seeing this beautiful work many times in DC. You will have to view the sets as almost like pop up book cut outs. They evoke the middle ages but are not heavy duty sets. To me it is like a fairytale pop up book (the sets).

Highlights for me are Raymonda's entrance picking up the flowers and the big waltz in Act 1 with Raymonda dancing her first variation in the middle of it.

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Birdsall, you have made me very excited to see Kolegova now! Thanks for all of the information, I can't wait till February!

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Birdsall, could you please analyze the three Jean de Briennes for us, assuming you've seen them all as Jean....Askerov, Korsuntsev & Ivanchenko? Who is your fave?

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