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Maria Alexandrova

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I'm curious to know how Bolshoi followers view Maria Alexandrova. She's very popular in America, and one of the most frequently asked questions about the current company is "why is Alexandrova not a principal?" I think we like her straightforward style and her technical power. I'm quite a fan of hers. I've seen both a Gamzatti and a Kitri that I liked very much -- beautiful turns, but more than that, she can build a role and change its dynamics. Her coldness worked very well as Gamzatti.

I'm curious to know how this dancer is regarded in Russia? And for personal opinions, too, of course.

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Alexandrova has been highly regarded here as a dancer of great promise since her graduation...1997, I believe? (Sorry - working from memory.) She received a Golden Mask as 'ballerina of the year' for her performance in the year 2000 as Aspicia's Slave -- not the lead role of Aspicia! -- in the Bolshoi's 'Pharaoh's Daughter.' The award was bestowed the following year -- in April 2001 -- after the regime-changes at the Bolshoi (and in Russia :( ). Curiously, since then, she has remained in the second-echelon of soloist dancers. I don't know why; she remains a wonderful dancer, lovely Myrta, in addition to the roles cited by Alexandra. One of the very few lead roles I've seen her dance at the Bolshoi is that of Catherine the Great at the premiere of Eifman's 'Russian Hamlet', where she was able to show her dramatic capabilities to the fullest; she debuted the role.

I have my theory (non-political :) ) as to why she is not-quite-prima-ballerina. It is the old issue of 'emploi' and pure looks. Perhaps Alexandrova is lacking a certain 'angelic face look' that seems to be favored in the Russian aesthetic, for the classical female leads? Alexandrova has a very powerful, 'strong woman' face...more Sandra Bullock than Kate Winslet. This is totally my theory & you can take it as 'bunk'! Perhaps Ina or other Muskovite lurkers can enlighten me/us?

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I think your Sandra Bullock theory may have merit, Jeannie. Often, I think, people like the dancers who look the most like what they're used to seeing. Alexandrova is more like American dancers than others in that company, in face, body and approach. The flip side of that is that Russians may well be looking for something else.

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Maria Alexandrova graduated in 1996 from the Moscow Choreographic Academy (pupil of Sofia Golovkina) and won a Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow the following year. However, as far as I know she was only nominated for the Golden Mask for her role of Ramze - the ballet was taken out of out of competition before the Golden Masks were awarded. She did receive the "Soul of Dance" award in the category "Rising stars" from the dance magazine "Balet" in 1999, though.

Interesting point you make, Jeannie, about the looks - it could well be that Maria Alexandrova was born a few decades too late, however it is also clear that the Bolshoi isn't making much of an issue on matters of emploi, as Alexandrova danced "La Sylphide" as well as Aegina in "Spartacus" last year. It think it is a rather simple problem so to speak: she may have been adored by the previous management and given a lot of opportunities by Alexei Fadeyechev, yet the current one doesn't like her and now it's a daily fight to get a role.

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Marc, I read about the prize in 'Balet' magazine & I'm pretty sure it's not the same as 'Duxa Tanza' (Soul of Dance); I remember that she won that, too. I am 100% sure that Alexandrova won some top prize specifically for the slave...and that all of us were bowled over that a secondary role would be so honored (they don't have prizes for 'Best Supporting Actress' a-la Oscars in ballet world :(. I'll go through my back-issues of 'Balet' to see exactly which prize it was...maybe Benois de la Danse?

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Maria Alexandrova is very popular with the Moscow balletlovers, she apparently is the most popular ballerina of the young generation.

As far as I know “Masha”, as her fans call her, is principal soloist since 2000 but she dance just a few leading parts. Her repertoire include The Empress in Eifman’s Russian Hamlet, 3d movement in Symphony C (both ballets is not danced by the Bolshoi any more), Kitri in Don Quixotte, Aegina in Spartacus, main part in La Sylphide, but she rarely perform the roles. In Bolshoi she usually dance second roles like Myrta, Gamzatti, Swan Lake pas de trois and so on.

Last season society of the Friends Of The Bolshoi Ballet organized a fan meeting with Boris Akimov, artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. On the meeting Mr Akimov was asked about Masha and said that he “dont see” her in the leading roles. Some people think that Alexandrova cannot dance leading parts in Petipa ballets because of her appearance – she is not as slender and long-legged as most part of the Bolshoi ballerinas. It supposed that in long skirt like that of Myrta, Kitry or Syphide her body looks better than in tutu. I cannot agree with it because spectators usually dont go into the theatre with a ruler to measure a dancer’s legs, and Alexandrova have a lot of qualities that make her real star.

I am also a fan of Alexandrova. I like her magnetic stage presence and strong personality. Till the last times she was considered rather as heroic ballerina than as lyrical one but last autumn she made her debut in the main part in La Sylphide and showed that she can master romantic style as well. It’s really sad that she waste her talent.

Jeannie, I sure that Alexandrova never received Golden Mask for Ramze because the ballet was out of the repertoire. For 2000 the Golden Mask was given to Diana Vishneva.

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Thank you, Inga, for this clarification :(

I agree that for a ballerina of her age she has quite an amazing stage presence and artistic maturity.

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Thanks, all. But, darn it, I wish I could quote what I read...she won something for that little role. :( Where's my library when I need it most?

By the way, Aegina would qualify as a 'dark lady' role, in keeping with her emploi. However, I cant for a moment imagine her as the Sylph!

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It's true that Masha Alexandrova was only nominated for the Golden Mask and never got it since the administration of the Bolshoi was not willing to show the ballet at the Golden Mask Festival (which is obligatory to participate in the competition). As a result both "Pharaoh's Daughter" and Masha were stroke off the list of the nominees. Now Alexandrova is preparing the leading part (Aspiccia) in the same ballet. Her debut is scheduled for twenty something of March. Since Aspiccia has a lot of rather difficult and diverse dancing in this old-new ballet, it is a great chance for a young ballerina to make a show-off of her abilities. Somehow I am sure Alexandrova will be able to take advantage of this. The sad point of the situation is that her partner is not announced yet. The premiers of the Bolshoi are not enthusiastic to spend their precious time and efforts for a tiresome ballet which is performed not more than a couple of times in a season and seems to be unfit ( from the administration's point of view!) for foreign tours.

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As Alexandra said, Alexandrova has a lot of American fans, including me. I'm thankful for the comments about her. I saw her only in three things - Sym. in C, 3rd movement; one of the soloists surrounding the Don Q pas de deux; and as Myrta - but she had tremendous impact. I had never seen a big dancer do the third movement in the Bizet and now, having seen her, I long to see another grand dancer soar through those jumps. I can understand the comments several of you made about her looks, but she seems just fine and pretty enough in the pictures on Marc's site. And her legs look quite long. In addition, I found her musical and tasteful.

Is Agon still a part of the Bolshoi's rep.? Because she'd be fabulous in either the 2nd pas de trois or the pas de deux. It's a shame she's not popular with the current administration.

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"Agon" as well as "Symphony in C" and "Mozartiana", which formed Balanachine tripple-bill in the Bolshoi, was exiled from the repertory after the change of the administration in the autumn 2000. Eifman's "Russian Hamlet" had the same fate. So two really succesful major roles, performed by Alexandrova, are stored now.

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Jeannie, I saw Masha Alexandrova in La Sylphide two times and was really impressed. Her stage presence always magnetic and her technique very strong – that’s important in every role. On the debut performance she was more eagle than sylph, she called James to be free, to do what he always wanted but never dare, to realize his wild dreams. She looked rather like big beautiful woman than like air maiden but it was not important, she was just great! On her second performance several weeks later she changed her interpretation. Her movements became more soft and light and she looked like playful innocent child that dont understand how dangerous it is to interfere in human matters. That child became adult but too late… To my opinion Masha in La Sylphide is better than in Don Quixotte but I saw her Kitry last time in September 2001 (with guest star Jose Manuel Carreno), she is more matured now.

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Greetings to the forum.

The main feature I want to point out in Maria Alexandrova is her devotion to ballet, her eagerness to dance. Watching her on stage one immediately notes that she really enjoys to perform, moreover that she must be impatient in having a new role, just like a kid unwrapping a birthday present. At the same time she is intelligent enough to learn not only the steps but also any materials concerning the ballet she is preparing to dance in. That’s why each of her roles is richly decorated with nuances. Ramze in “La Fille du Pharaon” was already mentioned here, and this is really a good example. Two variations, each lasting not more than one minute, a bit of dancing with Aspicia in the first act and only mime scenes later on. But Masha was so brilliant that was nominated for the prestigious Golden Mask.

Alexandra is completely right saying that Masha `can build a role and change its dynamics’.

I will add that each of them have her personal unique stamp. The role may fit her more or less but you are guaranteed that you will never be bored with Alexandrova on stage. Thus, her determination to dance “La Sylphide” seemed too challenging. And she wasn’t conventional Sylph, but 100% convincing. Inga mentioned the eagle – for me Masha created a parallel with a swallow when she crossed the huge stage of the Bolshoi in three lightest jumps. I was a bit anxious that she may excessively use her jumping abilities in the 2nd act. But she was OK, never flying but fluttering in the Sylph forest. Somebody remarked after the premiere: “Well, sylphs are daughters of the air but Mr. Air has many daughters and who told that all of them should be similar?”

She danced Aegina in “Spartacus” last spring. In a provocative red wig, which shocked even her fans, Masha danced a woman who can look at men with such a challenge that they put their eyes down in confusion. Her brave and impudent courtesan captured the audience, inspired Marc Crass (who wasn’t the best match for her in this performance) and saved ancient Rome. Two Moscow newspapers mentioned her debut among the most interesting ballet events of the season (ballet critics in Russia are not aimed at routine debuts, paying attention mostly to premieres).

`Why is Alexandrova not a principal’? Well, Masha has the second position from above – she is leading soloist - as well as Maria Allash, Svetlana Lunkina, Elena Andrienko, Nina Kaptsova. But the problem is not in the position she holds and certainly not the fees. The problem is that she has incredibly few main roles for a ballerina of her rank and qualities. Why? I can only answer “Because”. She is one of the most favorite dancers of Moscow public. She always has perfect press on tours. Nevertheless I can readily count her performances: Kitri (twice) and Aegina (once) the last season, the Sylph (twice) the current season. Of course, she dances second and even coryphée roles: Myrtha, Hamzatti, Spanish fiancée and Siegfried’s friend, Street Dancer and the interpolated variation in the 2nd act of DQ. So she often appears in the ballet performances. But this February, for instance, Masha was engaged only in two performances - “Giselle” (Myrtha) and “Dreams on Japan” (1 act ballet by Ratmansky). Esmeralda in Petit’s “Notre-Dame” was to my wonder also considered not a role for Alexandrova.

Sorry for the long post. But Masha Alexandrova is worth a novel:).

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Greetings to you, Mikhail, and welcome! More novels, please ;)

Seriously, I read your comments with interest, and I'm sure others will as well. It's so frustrating to see a dancer who interests you when a company is on tour, and then have them disappear back home, and you don't know what they're dancing, or how they're viewed in their own country. So it's been very interesting to read how Alexandrova dances in a wide variety of roles.

I hope you'll post often about what you're seeing at the Bolshoi, and please feel free to join in our general discussions as well. We also have a Recent Performances forum, if you see a visiting company, or another ballet company that isn't the Bolshoi.

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Thank you Mikhail for your impressions. Is Alexandrova not considered Odette-Odile material in Russia? Since learning about how she is viewed in Russia by her public and by her bosses, I was thinking of roles that she could do and came up with Swan Lake. I don't know what is considered usual in Moscow, but I've seen many taller, more robust ballerinas dance the lead and found them to be wonderful, such as Martine van Hamel and Monique Meunier. Or is it a matter of finding a partner? That has been a problem for many a tall dancer, yet I saw many tall men when the Bolshoi last came to New York.

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Thank you for posting, Mikhail. Keep those "long posts" coming!

It's not a problem of partners, besides Alexandrova is not that exceptional or extravagant when it comes to physique. As far as I understand (provided a case like this can be understood), the current Bolshoi management just doesn't want to give her the proper chances. They will have their reasons, I'm sure. But if you grant Volochkova opening nights of "Swan Lake" and continue to ignore somebody like Alexandrova, something is really wrong.

Perhaps Mikhail, or anybody else, could say something more about that.

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Dale,

Surprisingly you are completely right in your conclusions. Alexandrova herself dreams about Odette/Odille, as far as I know. This is her weak point:). She was preparing the role - at least the part of Odille was ready a long ago. She was even nominated in some document to the third cast at the premiere of the Grigorovitch's version two years ago (Anastasia Volochkova was in the first cast, Galina Stepanenko - in the second) but never appeared on stage, neither at the Bolshoi nor in tours. Although during that time we watched at least four debuts (Antonicheva, Shipulina, Andrienko and recently Lunkina) and none of these beautiful ladies danced better than Nina Ananiashvili or Nadezhda Gracheva (my personal point of view, of course). Why not to try Masha? I really don't know. All this is one of the great mysteries of life, as was formulated here.

Some people cannot imagine Alexandrova as a classical romantic ballerina. So what? Let her try and prove, please! To my taste, I would prefer Masha's stormy temperament to any cold fishlike dancer even having perfect lines. The problem is to convince Mr. Akimov, and Masha will try to convince the audience:). I see no difficulties with a partner. Masha is not a miniature girl, but she is not so tall and heavy as some ballerinas of the Kirov-Mariinsky, for instance, or Ms. Volochkova, the "main" Swan of the Bolshoi. Masha danced already with all male-dancers of the Bolshoi (Tsiskaridze, Uvarov, Filin, Belogolovcev, Gudanov, etc.) including those who are not so tall or extremely strong. She danced Kitri with Carreno who is not tall as well.

I guess Alexandrova's debut in SL becomes just a fantasy. At least it seems to be impossible now at the Bolshoi - only somewhere in the West or in another Russian company. May be, the following statistics will be of interest at the forum. The last season there were 15 performances of SL at the Bolshoi, and the distribution of ballerinas was as follows: Volochkova - 6, Stepanenko - 3, Antonicheva - 2, Ananiashvili, Gracheva, Shipulina and Andrienko - 1.

More probable are Masha's debuts this season in La Fille du Pharaon (the performances will be in a month but the administration still did not tell her the name of a partner so she cannot rehearse duets) and in Legend of Love in June (the role of Mekhmene Banu was ready a few years ago but at that time the ballet was excluded from the Bolshoi's repertory). May be she will be chosen to dance in a new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky - The Limpid Stream on music by Shostakovitch. We will see soon - the premiere is supposed to be in April. I am dreaming about her Raimonda but this is also just a fantasy. Alas! :(

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Sorry, Marc,

I did not see your post sending mine. Besides of probable prejudices there exists a problem of the repertory policy at the Bolshoi. Many young ballerinas are in the same position as Alexandrova and Masha understands this quite well - she mentioned the problem in her interview by TV. In short. I think the Bolshoi keeps too many ballets for the two-three soloists (say, La Fille Mal Garde, ballets by Roland Petit and all that). I am not going to say that they are bad or not interesting for the audience. But such a great company as the Bolshoi should have more Grand Ballets of the past. Here is again the statistics of the last season, the number of performances: Giselle - 18, SL - 15, Nutcracker - 10, DQ - 10, La Bayadere - 8, Sleeping Beauty - 5, La Sylphide - 5. In total - 71 performances of the classical ballets, that is 52%. Everybody can count how many pdd, pdt and solo variations are in these ballets besides of the main roles. May be this explains something.

The distribution of ballerinas in the mentioned ballets. The numbers are not official, they are taken from the data at the official Bolshoi's site but not all sudden changes in the casts were taken into account there. Nevertheless: Volochkova - 16, Ryzhkina - 8, Gracheva - 7, Antonicheva - 6, Goryacheva - 6, Lunkina - 6, Stepanenko - 6, Ananiashvili - 5, Petrova - 3,

Andrienko - 3, Alexandrova - 2, Kaptsova - 2, Shipulina - 1.

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Thank you for those interesting comments. It is always a relief to read that people in Russia are still so concerned about the "apparently irrelevant" matters of art.

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Thank you, Mikhail for your explanations and for the statistics. Just a question on the side of this topic - what is it that makes Anastasia Volochkova so popular at the Bolshoi?

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Marc,

everybody knows that Ms. Volochkova is the most beautiful woman at the Bolshoi company and... what to add? Well, she is beautiful, isn't it enough for so many of us? Some crazy people as ballet critics and balletgoers are not satisfied with the quality of her dance last 5 years, but nobody cares. Should one consider seriously the opinion of such a minor part of the society? To be popular nowadays means to appear often at TV screens and on covers of glamor journals. So she IS popular.

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I'd like to echo Katharine's remark, and explain it a bit for those reading this forum who perhaps aren't used to American and English ballet criticism (in print or on message boards). Often, reviews are very concentrated on technique (in America) or on acting, as if the ballet were a play (in Europe) -- yes, I'm generalizing! -- and it's nice to read another approach, which gives one an idea of the qualities of the dancer, both technical and emotional, and also gets to the soul of a performance, what really matters. So thank you both!

Mikhail, it might interest you to hear that when the Bolshoi was last in Washington, Volochkova had an effect on the audience, especially, it seemed, the men, that I haven't observed before, and I've been attending performances at the Kennedy Center for nearly 30 years. She did "Swan Lake" and "Bayadere" (Nikiya) and both were rather cold performances, yet people were excited. There had been no advance publicity; they didn't know a thing about her. The man sitting in front of me appeared to be one of those American husbands who's there only to please his wife, and he woke up at Volochkova's entrance. At intermission, he said, "She's nice. Is she dancing next week?" And I heard similar remarks. It was a most unusual reaction.

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Alexandra, thank you. Your remark becomes even more interesting because I had a similar experience at the Bolshoi during the performance of "La Bayadere". A gentleman was sleeping in a chair nearby emitting a smell of a good cognac. He revealed no evident interest when Anastasia wore a long dress but waked up when she appeared in a tutu in The Kingdom of Shades. It is difficult to describe our conversation and his further reaction, I could only imagine the sea of his boiling hormones. Probably, there are men and men. I do not understand these guys and find Ms. Volochkova being cold, mincing, not inspiring and the same in different roles. May be I am wrong.

Will we change the title of this thread:)?

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I agree with you on the boiling hormones -- excellent phrase! I found her cold as well, which made the reaction -- which one could actually feel -- very strange to me. We often have demonstrative audiences, but usually, these days, they are cheering for male technicians.

I didn't mean to divert the thread -- back to Alexandrova! (But if anyone wants to start a thread on Volochkova, please feel free.)

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