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Posts posted by Roma

  1. This is not exactly recent but I wanted to post it anyway. I went to St. Petersburg for New Year’s, and though not much was going on there during the first week of January (balletwise or otherwise), I did catch two casts of Swan Lake (Pavlenko/Kolb and Zakharova/Korsuntsov. The third cast in this run was Gumerova/someone, but it was on the day before I had to leave, so I decided to pack instead)

    I have to say that ever since this summer, when Zakharova replaced Pavlenko in “Swan Lake” at the Met (something I am still peeved about), it’s been an idée fixe of mine to see Pavlenko in the role. To say that she did not disappoint would be a major understatement.

    To my mind, her Odette might need a little rethinking but it was certainly the most original and unorthodox interpretation I’ve seen to date. Clearly, she had put a lot of thought into the role. It was a very intelligent, I almost want to say intellectual, performance. No rubber arms here. Her Odette was like an abyss, completely devoid of any feeling, or beyond it rather. There was no fear, only a muted sort of grief, and as Seigfried approached her, she didn’t tremble (though perhaps he should have). The drama and the warmth so inherent in her dancing were subdued as much as possible. Completely inward looking--she didn’t once lift her eyes from the floor in the adagio and act 4 (it didn’t help that Kolb, much as I like him, needs an urgent personality injection), and it seemed to me that to her mind, a part and parcel of the whole swan slash maiden deal is that Rothbart is in control of Odette’s femininity and, dare I say it, sexuality (yes, I know;)). Because once "evil" had its wing ripped off and did an appropriate amount writhing about (and it was evil indeed—Ivan Popov’s Rothbart got so into character that he apparently tried to kill Pavlenko in the final act by nearly dropping her on the head, not once, not twice, but three times!!!), Daria gave us a triumphant smile of full-blooded womanhood awakened in the final tableau. All this was and is a month later completely fascinating, but unfortunately when the music is not given its due, the dancing itself is not all that interesting to watch. Pavlenko has such an unfailing dramatic instinct, I was surprised that this time she didn’t make the most of the choreography, and decided to sacrifice some of the singing quality in the movement to characterization. Still it was highly gratifying to see a dancer make actual artistic choices and carry them out (very successfully and bravely, I might add).

    As for her Odile… Stunning is the word that seems to be used most frequently to describe Pavlenko, and that’s exactly what she was—absolutely stunning. It was a truly astounding, mesmerizing, and incredible performance. Every movement was imbued with meaning and drama, but there was nothing extraneous in the performance—you couldn’t take anything away from it, nor could you wish for anything more either. There were no tricks, no balances held past the point at which the music would support them, no doubles or triples in the fouettes (though they were taken at a break neck speed, and moved not an inch), no wrists flicks;), and her tutu didn’t flip over her head once! Her Odile was not only a complete opposite and complement to her Odette (and I don’t think I've ever seen THAT shown as well Pavlenko did), she is not just a flirt or femme fatale, she was like a happening in nature-- it looked like a completely spontaneous performance—the music, the dance, the seduction pouring out of her body. I was utterly enthralled by her, and would like at this point to steal Robert Gottlieb’s line, and say “What an artist!” Who said that there are no ballerinas? Pavlenko is a ballerina and an actress of the highest caliber. On top of it all, her dancing is supremely classical. There is a plastique, a three-dimensionality, and a sculptural effect to her movement that looks back to Osipenko and Sizova, there is a magnetic stage presence, and a rare artistic intelligence, which is what ultimately makes a performance like that possible. Why she is still only a soloist (a second soloist at that) is beyond my comprehension.

    Kolb was very nice though blank, and like all the Kirov men he takes the first act variation at a snail or at best a turtle pace.

    Irina Zhelonkina was beautiful in the pas de trois, showing off her Kirov training to wonderful effect. Nadezhda Gonchar showed that she can can-can with the best of them, and Vasiliy Scherbakov, the only man on the stage who looked like he actually enjoyed what he was doing, performed his variation in a heroic Spartacus-like manner. (He did it again with the Zakharova/Korsuntsov cast, but this time he was poetic and wistful. In both performances, he showed far more charisma and presence then either of the princes)

    Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, who was a company workhorse during the Met season, is the company workhorse at home. She was a demi in the first act, a bride in the third, and one of the two “large” swans in the fourth. What I like about her is that she dances everything in character, and that even in a minor part, she does it with absolute commitment. You should have seen the “who the hell does he think he is?!” sneer she gave the prince when he passed her over as a prospective wife! And sitting on the bench with the rest of the would be wives, she stared at Pavlenko with such a deadly look in her eyes (the “who the hell is she?!” look) that it sent chills through my spine (I don’t know if it was acting, but it was mighty scary).

    The audience was as frigid as the temperature outside (and that was, oh, about –25 degrees). They were just comatose, and if not dead already, they must have thought that it would kill them to show the dancers a minimum amount of respect, if not appreciation. I have never seen such a rude (cameras flashing every second, talking amongst themselves), cold audience. The only person who was called out for a solo bow (twice) was Zavalishin—the Jester (and Pavlenko once, after the fouettes). There were no curtain calls.

    La Zakharova.

    The January 8th performance was dedicated to Ulanova and so Vaziev, Kurgapkina, and Vasiliev came out in front of the curtain and gave a short improvised speech about her merits as a dancer, friend, colleague, etc. Vasiliev said something to the effect that today’s artists have a spiritual obligation to Ulanova and must try to be worthy of what she was like on the stage. Well, they did try. Act 2 was nicely done. Zakharova controlled herself as well as could be expected, she was elegant and vulnerable, though perhaps more studied than musical. Except for a couple of genuinely beautiful moments when that gorgeous leg unfurled not quite skyward, it was generally speaking a bit of a dance-by-numbers performance. For all her astonishing physical gifts, she seems to do that quite a bit. By the time act 3 rolled around, Ulanova had clearly left the building. A pasted on smile, the leg as baseball bat, the underside of the tutu flashing at every turn. The audience seemed to approve in their small way, but I was a little bored. She was just going from one trick to the next trick, there was no phrasing or shaping at all, and whatever it was that she was doing didn’t seem to be directed at anyone in particular, least of all the prince (not that he would have noticed anyway)

    Tatiana Tkachenko who was such a phenomenal Street Dancer at the Met, was lovely in the pas de trois. Beautiful arms and head, a regal bearing of the upper body, and an amazing batterie. In the entrechat six (it seemed more like dix to me), her feet looked like hummingbird wings beating in the air.

    Korsuntsov (who, according to the program, was the prince of the evening) had a gaze completely devoid of any human feeling and the aforementioned gaze did not blink or change throughout the course of the ballet. I would have liked to see Scherbakov do the role. He might not be as pretty, but at least he was THERE.

    Can’t say enough good things about the Kirov corps. Each and every one of the women in it deserves the highest accolades for maintaining the purity of style and for the care with which they perform. They were a tremendous joy and a privilege to watch, especially in their own home.

  2. The announcement ended with the request that, "however much you love the songs, please refrain from singing along." This should be adapted for ballet purposes to, "please do not hum along."

    Excellent idea! I was at a recent Kirov performance of Swan Lake, and as the Little Swans music began, the woman directly behind me exclaimed, "Oh, I know this!", and proceeded to hum along loudly and off key through the remainder of it.

    They may yet succeed in getting people to turn off their cell phones, but how do you turn off THAT?

  3. Originally posted by Estelle

    I agree that seeing Legris is quite something- well, that was the main reason why I attended that performance!

    Same here! I have to say, that even in the complete and utter c... that is Neumeier's Sylvia, Legris was mesmerizing.

    Perhaps we can meet the next time we go to Paris .

  4. Well, I just returned from a trip to St.Petersburg and Paris. Saw Pavlenko in Swan Lake which pretty much made the whole trip worth it, too me. In Paris we weren’t as lucky. It was under a Neumeier occupation (Nijinsky at Garnier, Sylvia at the Bastille), but seeing Legris dance was quite something. (During Sylvia, my gaze wondered, and I saw Estelle sitting a few rows in front of me! I called after her at the end, but she didn’t hear me ) Even off- season, hotels in Paris aren’t cheap, though it is possible to find something very reasonable. We stayed at Hotel St. Roch (on rue St. Roch in the 1st arrd.) a block away from Tuilleries and a ten-minute walk from the Opera (from 60-100 euros, everything else in that area is upwards $150). It was simple, but very clean and very quiet (great little restaurant right across the street—La Cordonnerie). Right next to it is its “sister” Hotel St.Honore. (I found www.123france.com extremely helpful in planning this trip). Airfare is probably cheapest in the winter, and there are NO TOURISTS, so you don’t have to stand in line for anything.

    As for Russia… it’s a bit more complicated. It really does need to be well planned way in advance (since the Mariinsky only posts its schedule two months in advance, and casting, for all intents and purposes, not at all, it’s difficult to know what you’ll be seeing at the time when tickets should already be ordered—definite downside) Airfare is 450- 600 in the winter, 700-900 in the summer, and the earlier you buy, the cheaper it is (if you are going to Russia only—from the States-- Finnair is probably best)

    Getting a visa can be a hassle. You need a visa support letter (an invitation) from either a person or a tourist agency in Russia. If you get it from a tourist agency or a hostel (I am not sure if a hotel can issue one), find out at the Russian Consulate whether they will accept a support letter issued by that particular agency or hostel BEFORE you buy it (in most cases you do need to pay for it). I had a “slight” problem this time around when I came to the Consulate, oh, about two weeks before our trip, and was told that the hostel that issued my invite is no loner recognized as a legal entity. That was a nice surprise for me, and apparently for the hostel :) (International Hostel Holiday). Anyhow, once you are inside the country, you have to get yourself registered with a local OVIR branch (they keep track of foreigners), but if you are staying at a hostel/hotel, they should take care of that for you. If you are there for at least a couple of weeks, it’s viable to rent an apartment (last time I did that, I paid about $250-a month- for a studio in the city center), but then you are completely on your own, and if you don’t speak any Russian at all, it can get complicated. In fact, if you’ve never been to St. Petersburg, have no friends there, going for just a few days, and don’t know the language, it might be easier to go with a group or to stay in an American style hotel (like the Sheraton, a.k.a. Nevsky Palace). It ain’t cheap, but it’s less hairy.

    Theater tickets can be bought from a scalper (they deliver or can be found in front of the Mariinsky before any performance). If you don’t want the hassle, get the tickets at the box office (or though your concierge), but keep in mind that there is a separate (higher) rate for tourists (tickets for natives are blue, yellow for foreigners).

    Once you get there, pick up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times (it’s free), it comes out once a week and has all the pertinent theater, movies, restaurant, etc, information. That’s pretty much it. Oh, end of May, June—best weather, white nights:)

  5. In no particular order.

    Kowroski's thrilling Firebird.

    Ananiashvili's Adagio of Symphony in C was a complete revelation for me each time she danced it.

    Pavlenko's Nykia and Diamonds.

    La Fille Mal Gardee and the Dream.

    Kirov's corps :)

    I have to say, looking back on it, it was a very, very good year.

  6. I think, that when it's done in moderation, guest stars can do wonders for company moral. Last year the Bolshoi invited Carreno, Kobborg, and Malakhov for two perfomances each (although, Carreno might have gotten just one), and what I heard from people afterwards was how much better the Bolshoi's male roster was suddenely dancing :D.

    I agree, Alexandra, Malakhov with his "it's not how many, it's how" is ceratainly an example worth emulating. I almost wish he was a "guest star" with ABT;)

  7. Beriosova is dancing the Black Swan pdd and "Diana and Acteon" pdd with Nureyev on the new "Bruhn/Nureyev" DVD. It was my first look at her, ever, and I thought she was just astonishing--witty and intelligent, and so beautiful. Kind of reminded me of Diana Adams. Actually, all of the women on this particular collection are exceptional, and made me wish I could have seen all of them dance. Fracci's Sylphide was especially fine--she somehow created the illusion of complete weightlessness and flight. I don't think, I've ever seen it danced quite that way before (sigh).

    P.S. Farrell Fan:) The flower that Kent was holding throughout Belle's film was an iris, not a lily:)--a sly reference to her real name, I think.

  8. Ina, thank you so much for the casting preview!:D I am really curious, though, as to what Malakhov's "Bayadere" is like. If it's possible, could you give us some details about the production and the performance you saw?

  9. "What should the true character of Nikiya be?"

    One of the many reasons I loved Pavlenko's portrayal so much when she danced the role in New York was how well she was able to articulate that Nykia is really a Chosen one. There was something deeply spiritual and dignified about her... Because if Nykia is just another vamp (which is the way Vishneva did it, “modulating” a Kitriesque interpretation with a “sad face” now and again), then the “Shades” act, which can and should be danced on a fairly high spiritual plateau, doesn’t really work as well.

  10. The Kirov and The Bolshoi are both doing it this season.

    The Kirov's version was staged in 1981 by Elsa-Marianna fon Rosen (sp?) and was then transferred (with amendments/excisions?) to Moscow by Vinogradov

    Ayupova is a wonderful Sylph, but I haven't seen many others, so it's hard to tell.

  11. "it opened in 1933 on the fourth floor of an old building on 59th & Madison."

    I remember reading that it was also Isadora Duncan's studio at one time.

    (One critic/dance historian, who shall remain nameless, even wrote (and published!) that he thought that Serenade, having been created more or less in that space, was obviously very much influenced by Duncan's dancing by way of the lurking spirit (or was it the actual ghost?) of Duncan herself. Apparently, for some minds, too much history is not a healthy thing)

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