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Everything posted by delibes

  1. Translation of Kommersant obituary May 12: ‘Dance’s female lion-tamer’ On 8 May in the outskirts of St P Ninel Kurgapkina’s life was tragically ended under the wheels of a car. She was a People’s Artist of the USSR, renowned Soviet ballierna and leading teacher-coach at the Mariinsky Theatre. Only two months ago at a jubilee evening in honour of her 80th birthday, she appeared in a long pink gown with fur trimmings over her naked shoulders, on the Mariinsky stage, where she thanked her pupils, “My dear girls, who long ago stopped being girls”. All applauded, her numerous students and her stage partners and colleagues and friends, all acclaiming this shapely miniature person, in high heeled shoes, with her wild curls, lively black eyes and loud voice (she was hard of hearing) . A student of Agrippina Vaganova’s post-war generation, Ninel Kurgapkina entered the Kirov theatre in 1947. Like her great teacher, she made her journey to ballerina status step by step, and left the stage in 1981, having worked almost 14 years past the usual retirement for ballet artists. though in her 50s shewas dancing in such form that many people thought she left too early. Recalling Ninel Kurgapkina’s dancing, everyone, both professionals and public, noted her speed, attack and energy. They spoke of her life-enhancing talent. About cleanness and exactness, a purposeful perfectionism without which she could not take a step. Among her roles only one was created specially for her - Anna Andreevna in the Oleg Vinogradov ballet Revisor, a hilariously funny provincial lady. This joyful ballerina never incarnated dry-spirited aristocrats of refined, fastidious manners. Better for her such characters as the combative Frenchwoman Jeanne in Flames of Paris and the spirited Spaniard Kitri in Don Quixote. Both are ordinary girls with a realistic view of life, firmly rooted on the ground. She herself was that sort of personality, she loved a good joke, had the exact retort ready. She could tame even Rudolf Nureyev. That restless lad was given to her as partner when he graduated from the school into the company. At their joint rehearsals the conceited Rudik would curse without restraining his language, but he would still repeat lifts 20 or 30 times, as many times as his demanding partner required. On tours he would drag boxes of apricots into the carriage for her, presents from her fans delivered to the railway stops on the way. In 1989, when he made his one visit to Leningrd following his famous defection, Nureyev stayed in Kurgapkina’s flat not far from Palace Square, and for his partner in that historic performance of La Sylphide he chose Ninel’s leading pupil, Zhanna Ayupova, then only beginning her solo career. Three years later, the terminally ill Nureyev invited Kurgapkina to Paris as his assistent on his last production at the Paris Opera, and they created La Bayadere together, just as 30 years earlier they had created their roles. On one of the viedo recordings of the rehearsals the old friends sit side by side, chuckling and swearing colourfully, evidently recalling a rich past. Kurgapkina’s gift for coaching appeared the instant she began teaching in 1969 inside the theatre, and after her theatre retirement, at the Leningrad’s Vaganova ballet academy. In 1989 she graduated a particularly phenomenal class of her “girls”. True, not one of them today remains in Russia; all are successfully dancing in Europe and America. But in her native theatre many ballerinas owe their professional reputation to Kurgapkina. For example she almost literally gave Uliyana Lopatkina’s career legs - after her graduation from school, the young dancer had no special gift for ballerina virtuosity. To her last day Ninel Kurgapkina taught in the Mariinsky theatre, and several generations of stars were her work. And her life ended suddenly, in an instant - not after a hard and prolonged illness. Ninel Kurgapkina’s farewell is being held today in the Mariinsky Theatre.
  2. That TV is too quick for me to get all of it, but it and the original report from the Mariinsky say she died on Friday May 8, not Saturday. The latest Izvestia report says she was hit by a car in the countryside near her dacha. They say the details are not yet released. Awful
  3. Gergiev's interview in Rossiskaya Gazeta, June 4: Headline: Crisis in choreography: Yuri Fateev will lead the Mariinsky ballet. An introduction outlines the on-off saga of Vaziev offering his resignation in March but it not being ratified, his non-appearance in the US tour, and Fateev's being deputed to lead that. It says that Gergiev has been reconsidering the ballet management, and Vaziev "undoubtedly" hoped that there might be a last-ditch offer to recognize by retitling him "artistic director" his sterling work in overhauling the Kirov's repertoire and world ranking, through adding mastery of 20th and 21st-century styles, Balanchine and Forsythe, as well as the 19th century reconstructions of academic classicism to their core repertoire. In the interview itself, Gergiev was first asked why the Vaziev problem had dragged out for two months. Gergiev: There was no problem whatever. Our company's manager gave notice of his leaving, perhaps under pressure from some nervous overload or tiredness, since recently he was not giving his all. We had these big spring tours to New York, Britain, and performances in Moscow. I gave Vaziev time for thought, but on the other hand the theatre is no place for wavering to and fro: yes, I will, no I won't, yes I want to, no I don't want to. Why upset the collective before an important tour in New York? That is what you might expect of an inexperienced or unwise director. Of course I also had to consider whether in principle the structure of the ballet directorship was right in our theatre. This structure appeared in years of heavy crisis and perhaps has by now run its course. It's in relation to that history that people spoke of some crisis or other in the Mariinsky. But there is not the slightest crisis. No one blames Vaziev because Russia has produced no brilliant choreographers of the middle or younger generations. We noted Ratmansky at that time, when indeed, no one else knew of him; he was a 27yo dancer in Denmark. The choreographic crisis is not a Mariinsky problem, but a general one. As regards the structure and organisation of work in the Mariinsky ballet company, with such an evident problem with finding a leading choreographer, I had to consider the best possible formula which would allow us to guard the highest standards of the company and also create new productions. Q: Resulting from your reflections, what have you decided to keep of old? Or are you now going to operate in line with Western troupes- Covent Garden, Paris, La Scala, where in general there isn't an artistic leader, but just a ballet director [in Russian they have several ways of differentiating the top job; what we call artistic director in a ballet company is usually called "chief balletmaster" acknowldging an essential choreographic core to the job, while leaving the administrative job to the "ballet director" or company manager, which is what Vaziev is. By reverse, in English "balletmaster" means classroom coach, not as important even as the company manager. The term "artistic director" in Russian seems currently to be applied only to Gergiev, as the overall strategic artistic chief of the theatre] A: In our theatre the structure of ballet directorship has continually altered under the influence of circumstance. In Soviet times when the chief balletmaster was Igor Belsky or Konstantin Sergeev, or Oleg Vinogradov, their superiority over everyone else was obvious, like that of Yuri Grigorovich in the Bolshoi Theatre. Productions were seen as landmark events. And in those days there was a clarity of style. I remember how people argued whether to allow Vinogradov into the Kirov, because he was from Malegot [Maly Ballet, or Mikhailovsky] and had no connection at all with the Kirov. Now it's all changed, but in a great country there is hardly one choreographer apart from Ratmansky of whom one can seriously talk as an artistic leader. To whom in reality can one entrust a company like the Mariinsky? Q: How did Yuri Fateev figure, given your assessment of this situation? A: Yuri Fateev is our balletmaster-repetiteur, knows the company exceptionally well and has worked in this theatre all his life, so he is a predictable person. Imagine, you are on tour, you have 200 people. They must know what they're rehearsing tomorrow. It was said that the company manager had given notice; peple kept asking me about why I had not signed off Vaziev's declaration. I say: please, let the man work. No, Vaziev doesn't want to work. I say, okay, let him write me a two-page assessment of the situation. It doesn't come. He is a complex character: makes things hard with Uliyana Lopatkina, who is a world-class artist, and has problems with Diana Vishnëva. There were also more difficulties than was necessary with Svetlana Zakharova, which is why she left. Why must we lose our best people? Why don't I have issues with Vladimir Galuzin even though he's an outstanding singer? Because I know he is a great artist. I need everybody, Olga Borodina, Anna Netrebko, Larisa Dyadkova, Galuzin. Therefore for entirely pragmatic reasons I decided to look for a person who can construct precise working processes and normal relationships: which people will rehearse, which ones perform, when technicians will be needed, or orchestral rehearsals. Apart from that, there's a need to support the younger ones. I say frankly that in two days of talks with Fateev that I got more firm grounds for action than in the past three to five years working with Vaziev. I never intended and I don't intend now to drive anyone out or remove them. I simply want that our chief should occupy himself calmly and steadily with the company, without shouting and fuss: rehearse, put up the casts. So I don't suddenly discover that our artists are running off to dance at the Mikhailovsky theatre. And if suddenly I should sound out Ratmansky about the job of chief guest choreographer, he should know he would encounter no organisational difficulties here, and concern himself entirely with creativity. Yuri Fateev can fix this kind of thing. Yuri Fateev CV: Born Aug 21 1964 Leningrad. Graduated Leningrad's Vaganova Academy. 1982 taking into the Kirov ballet. Appeared on stage up until 2003. As coach prepared productions by Balanchine, Roland Petit, John Neumeier, at the Kirov. Has taught at the Royal Swedish Ballet, Pacific North-West Ballet, where he staged the Mariinsky productions of 'Raymonda' and 'Le Corsair'. Assisted in the staging of 'Le Corsaire' at the Royal Danish Ballet.
  4. This sounds like a very odd, intriguing new creation. A report in Kommersant, June 2 2008. BALLET PREMIERE: In Rostov took place the premiere of the ballet Hamlet on Shostakovich music in a production by Alexsei Fadeechev with participation from Bolshoi theatre performers. Tatyana Kuznetsova could not make out whether this Rostovian Shakespeare was comedy or tragedy. The Rostov Musical Theatre ballet company, formed in the new millennium, is scarcely out of babyhood in age, and yet already includes the grown-up classics Swan Lake and Giselle in its repertoire. Understandably the company, its members selected at random, doesn't dance classics at a world-class level, but the city wants its own ballet troupe and it has one. It goes without saying that Rostov 'classicism' scarcely deserves serious attention, however its entirely original 'Hamlet' is another matter. Aleksei Fadeechev, its creator, is a People's Artist of Russia, ex -artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet company -- the same man to whom the Moscow theatre owed its breakthrough in repertoire, in the form of Balanchine ballets and Pharaoh's Daughter, and its first international successes for a long time. In 2000, not finding a common language with the new conductor of the Bolshoi Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Mr Fadeechev was scandalously dismissed from the theatre in which he had worked all his life. This is the fourth year that he has directed the Rostov ballet, but the first original ballet under him. He used for his score a kind of jigsaw puzzle of chunks of Shostakovich; there are sections of the 1st, 5th and 10th symphonies, music for the famous comedic Hamlet put on by Nikolai Akimov in 1932 in the Vakhtangov theatr, fragments from Bright Stream and The Bolt and much else, as much for the musical ear, as for the balletic ear. The libretto was done by the Rostovian lawyer Nikolai Oganesov, author of popular detective fiction. He confronts Shakespeare's chief question full-on: to take revenge or not. Not going into details like Hamlet's exile to England or the Yorick's skull, the librettist has edited out some of the action, timing the events of the last three acts of the play with the palace's celebration of the New Year. The set and costume designer Vyacheslav Okunev brought up the action to the totalitarian 1930s, constructing on stage three turrets from gleaming metal panels (this one Stalinesque ramparts, that one a Palace council chamber) and painted them with tubby imperial eagles. He arrays the castle guard in black full uniform and high-crowned peaked caps. Claudius is in white military jacket with award ribbons, the women are in evening dresses while Hamlet is in shirt and breeches, the timeless uniform of the intelligent man. As distinct from the play and operas, having pretty well worn out the device of updating historical plays to modern times, this home-grown ballet doesn't venture so far . The theatre's artistic director Vyacheslav Kushchev (who is also a deputy on the state Duma) took the risk of abandoning a seditious interpretation, and it was the right decision since in the production's choreography, putting it mildly, there was nothing innovative. There are two dynamic acts 45 minutes long -- like a ballet comic book in a way. A reader's digest translation of 'Hamlet' arranged by the librettist Oganesov is read by a voice on tape in heartfelt emotional 1950s pathos. Speedy and lively, the act sketches events: here's the grave with the body of old Hamlet, here's the sorrowing procession of courtiers, here's the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude, here's son Hamlet, interrupting the newly-weds' kiss. The mocking predictive steps, staging and gestures pass by suspiciously smoothly; Fadeechev is a writer in "Classical'' style without pretending to the laurels of a true choreography, he simply strings together competent academic combinations. His assistant, the Bolshoi principal Yuri Klevtsov, playing a handsome, villainous Claudius, gives himself character steps in the style of Grigorovich. Hamlet, created for Alexsandr Smolyaninov, from the Bolshoi, slim and nervy, does all that Hamlet is provided; he jumps depairingly, turns miserably and rolls on the ground, and plays rough with Ophelia; now he clasps her, now he repulses her. The enchanting Ophelia (Victoria Litvinova also of the Bolshoi) is gentle in an adagio that's neurasthenic in its own way, and goes prettily mad, stumbling on numb legs. The cow-eyed, supple Gertrude (Polina Shakhanova) behaves like the typical vamp. The company, given a task within their capabilities, dance precisely and with pleasure. But all this banal-naive easy-watching covers a second, parodic layer to the ballet. The authors, with trusting expression, have in their pockets a very large fig, and indeed it's the cliches that allow them to get away with distraction. This tale turns out to be for grownups who are capable of seeing jokes in the most unexpected places. An obvious passage is a sports parade in honour of the coronation; the chief personages of stage stand high on a staircase and in front of them proceed files of happy citizens while children rush to the leaders with bouquets of flowers in their hands. Less obvious is the Ghost's appearance: clothes fluttering, he stands, stretching out his hand, on a pillar inside the sliding walls of the "Palace council chamber" tower, like an exact replica of Lenin. And this round space, framing the castle like a crater, resembles the cannon in the film "Tsirk" ("Circus"), at the muzzle of which Lyubov Orlova banged out a tap dance; and when the witless Ophelia climbs the stairs to a noose, to swing high aloft, in one's memory surfaces inevitably "Tigi, tigi, du -- I'll go to heaven from a cannon". There is purely balletic mockery in a tango danced by Claudius and Gertrude with the sort of rough jerkiness that's in Grigorovich's ballet Golden Age, and their brutish guards freeze in the pose of the notorious "Kissing policemen" [for information, this I think refers to a contemporary picture that very recently caused legal action between the Tretyakov Art Gallery and the culture Minister who said it was pronographic]. In that sequence there is a reckless optimistic duet with devil-may-care overhead lifts, in which Hamlet tosses the apparition of the newly hanged Ophelia, at once a parody of both the well-known Moshkovsky Valse (symbol of ballet in the 30s) and of all ghostly reunions. Hamlet's duel with Laertes -- with the duellists wearing gigantic fencers' masks, the clash of rapiers, blood spots on their shirts, a growing mountain of corpses (at the end, all the courtiers too fall onto the general pile) -- resolves in a kind of clown-like guignol, particularly the finale, in which the dying Hamlet climbs up the staircase to the embrace of his father's monument.
  5. delibes

    Igor Zelensky

    Marina Shabanova, Vedomosti, May 23 2008 Igor Zelensky interview: "Novosibirsk will be a capital city of dance" Ballet lovers expect large-scale events. The 1st Siberian international festival of ballet opens on May 26, and concludes with a gala concert on May 31. The fact that to the Siberian Grand Theatre travelled top dancers of today is largely to the credit of the artistic director of Novosibirsk Ballet, People's Artist of Russia Igor Zelensky. His international contacts are the consequence of his extended work abroad and a glittering artistic life. Today, by his own admission, he is experiencing a new phase of his life, mastering the job of artistic directorship while continuing to dance. Q: Igor, what are you expecting from the 1st Siberian Festival? A: Similar festival take place in all great cities and capitals of the world. May is the month of the Mariinsky's White Nights, premieres are happening on stages in Paris and London, ballet artists are gathered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. And we have all the right conditions to mount our own ballet festival. An excellent building, a theatre stage of world standard (our floor is actually better, more up-to-date, than at the Bolshoi, the equal, apparently, of New York or Paris). The artists who are coming to our festival, despite its youth, today occupy the top places in world ballet. And thank the Lord, they've agreed to participate in our festival despite their busy schedules. We won't deceive anyone that to these people my name carries weight, many of them are coming here for the first time without knowing our theatre, but trusting my word. I hope our festival will please them. The main point is that everything will be done for our public, this town's inhabitants. And even today you won't find a single spare ticket, even though they were more expensive than usual. Q: Will our artists meet the standard set by the festival? A: We have outstanding ballerinas: Anna Zharova, Natalya Ershova, Elenva Lytkina, Anna Odintsova, the young generation Olga Telyupa, Maria Kuzmina, and our leading soloists Roman Polkovnikov, Vitaliy Polovnikov, Andrey Matvienko. They could work on any world stage, but luckily they trust in their theatre. Ballet festivals like this are not unimportant to our artists. Q: The festival programme has all the best productions of the theatre. A: Yes, nothing is too much for us. We will show what we are capable of. Of course, we don't have a corps de ballet of 300, as it seems they have at the Mariinsky, where they have such choice (one troupe on tour, another appears at the home theatre, the third prepares new productions). The way above all to support the standard of the corps de ballet is to support the level of finances. Today I can't invite people here, this brings too many difficulties. It's necessary to achieve a level where people don't just not leave, but actually come to us to work. Each artist who quits the theatre is a great loss. Unfortunately, Semyon Chudin left, and now dances in the west. Roman Polkovnikov also had a contract in London, but thank God, he stayed. This year eight people are being discharged, and not one of them intends to leave. This is a very good trend. So the state devotes a lot of money for the training of the dancer of the future for eight years, and then he leaves... Why? Because it's essential to provide him conditions to work. Nowadays we are struggling with the question of why they take our young people into the army. Ballet is a young person's business; for a 15-year career it's necessary to accomplish a huge task, to collect one's interior physical and emotional being, form oneself into an artist. What army work equals that? Q: I know that you nurture ambitious plans to make Novosibirsk a capital of ballet. Seriously? A: Otherwise, the theatre is hardly of major importance to the city, is it? If everything is organised right, there is no reason why in Novosibirsk should not become Siberia's centre for ballet. Here this festival can gather together the students of many ballet schools, arrange professional congresses, educate our personnel. In order to convert Novosibirsk into the capital of Siberian ballet, the priority honestly is to organise financing. I rate sport very highly, it's correctly financed, but really they could expend equal kopeeks on our theatre too. It has different funding, patrons, in the end. This is what people come to me and say: How good your new ballet "Whispers in the dark" is! Fine, it will mean a lot to us, above all, if our state responds and helps us. For our first festival we will bring leading artists, and later we plan to invite whole companies. By way of example, to show the Novosibirsk's public the Maiinsky Company in William Forsythe, and two years later to bring here the Grand Opera! There ought to be the financing. Q: The Mariinsky Theatre's chief director Valery Gergiev somehow put your name first among those who the Marrinsky needs to transmit their professional experience to young dancers... A: As they say, better the bird in the hand than two in the bush. Of course it's pleasant for me to hear that. I"ve known Mr Gergiev for 20 years, we met in New York. As concerns passing on artistic experience, I was occupied with this periodically for many years at the Mariinsky. At present, for me it is a theatre where I'd be interested in taking on the artistic directorship. A ballet artist doesn't really have a profession -- the time advances when it's necessary to assimilate a new speciality. I am not Gergiev, who's already directed for 30 years. Nevertheless, I am full of strength, energy and enthusiasm. I can still dance, two weeks ago, for example, I returned from London. But today I want to spend my strength on artistic direction. The director shapes taste. Apart from that, I very much like teaching, and next year I plan to occupy myself closely with our school. Q: How do you feel in the role of the Novosibirsk artistic director, which you've had for two years now? A: To be frank, I continually think that I'm doing right or wrong. But, please God, it's also necessary to make me allowances, I'm only learning this business. I don't want to make mistakes. I have a lot to learn. Artists comes to me and say, Igor Anatolievich, help me, my mother (or wife, or daughter)... This too is the what the artistic director has to do. Sometimes they ask me why we don't put on this or that production. I try to approach the repertoire accurately. It would be a pleasure to put on such masterpieces as Grigorovich's Spartacus and Legend of Love, but unfortunately I can't choose to, I don't have enough people. Now we're planning to work on a revival of Swan Lake. After the festival I have two shows at the Bolshoi Theatre, and as soon I come back we'll begin work. We'll be having a costume designer of world fame, Luisa Spinatelli from Milan. AT the end of October, Novobisirsk will see the new Swan Lake, in new designs. We are changing everything, from the flowers to the headgear, from the feathers to the leathers. Then I'll bring here seven ballerinas, we'll show Swan Lake en bloc; seven shows side by side with different interpreters in the leading role, and let the audience see and compare. It will educate taste. We'll do the production at a level like Bayadere, which today enjoys unprecedented demand: whenever we show this ballet, the hall is always full. Q— You have danced Bayadere on theatres in Buenos Aires, London and New York, in all the existing editions of the ballet. In Novosibirsk you put on the version by Vakhtang Chabukiani, who was your mentor at the Tbilisi school. A— When you're 15, you don't wholly understand what a superlative individual you have in front of you. The realisation that my teacher was of the same status as Nureyev or Baryshnkov came to me much later. But as regards Bayadere, at the Maryinsky theatre they returned to the old edition. But in my view it wasn't accidental that such titans as Chabukiani produced new versions, they kept up with the times. I for my part brought to his production other characteristics. The ballet's power is such that I myself sometimes sit in the hall and I don't get tired of watching it. Q— Specialist commentators remark on your partnering technique, but all the same it was in a duet that you received a spine injury that kept you from dancing for two years... A— It's true, girls in the ballet come up very different. I often talk about this with my artists. 90 per cent of ballets are about love, and the audience wants to see on the stage a man and a woman. The male artist is obliged to carry the ballerina. It's a very delicate business. Q— And in your own life what about love? Who are your family? A— My family will arrive in a few days. My daughter is a year and a half old, my wife is a former ballerina. One of our artists twisted her ankle the day before the Golden Masks, and Yana rehearsed another girl in three rehearsals. That's how she can help us in the festival. Q— You give the impression of a person for whom everything in life has turned out well. Is that so? A— You can hardly say that you are completely happy, can you? An artist cannot be self-satisfied in everything, he must do better every time, and raise the bar every time. I have had the good luck to master the chroeography of Balanchine in the place where he himself worked, and I lived for 12 years in New York. I could have remained there, but I wanted to dance MacMillan's ballets and I went to London. In our profession it's necessary to advance oneself. Of course, probably I had a talent from God, certain physical gifts, but the rest I did myself. Our profession is terribly hard, seriously physical toil 6-7 hours a day for 20 years. When you are young, many roads open in front of you, but this one is over very quickly. I say frankly, the euphoria I feel on stage I could have had nowhere else. But I understand that this period of my life is ending. And being a determined person, I am continuing to find myself, to develop, to create, which I also wish for you and all your readers too. IGOR ZELENSKY: [biog] Product of Tbilisi choreographic academy, probationer at Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, after graduation was taken into the Mariinsky Company (St Petersburg). At 21 received the Grand Prix in the Paris international ballet competition. Guest soloist at Deutsche Opera Berlin, for six years was a principal with New York City Ballet, and from 1997 soloist at Covent Garden, London. Danced leading roles in the most famous ballet stages of the world: in the Royal Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet. Appeared on stages in Boston, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro and tokyo. Programme of the 1st Siberian Ballet Festival: May 26: Giselle (Johan Kobborg from Royal Ballet) May 27: Bayaderda (Igor Zelensky, Elena Vostrotina from Berlin) May 28: Don Quixote (Ivan Vasiliev, Natalya Osipova from Bolshoi Ballet) May 29: Bayaderka (Leonid Sarafanov, Olesya Novikova from Mariinsky) May 30: Sleeping Beauty (Semyon Chudin from Bolshoi Ballet) May 31: Gala Concert: guest artists and soloists of Novosibirsk State Ballet
  6. Hamburg Ballet's prima ballerina Anna Polikarpova: "Humanity will die if it doesn't go to the theatre". Izvestya, May 14 2008, Svetlana Naborshchikova http://www.izvestia.ru/culture/article3116194/ On May 26 on the new Opera stage the "Sun Kings" gala concert will be held. The featured attraction will be Anna Polikarpova and Ivan Urban, the acclaimed couple from Hamburg Ballet. At the start of the 1990s the married couple became the first Russian dancers to be invited by John Neumeier to his company. How she then gained the title of Neumeier's muse was the subject when the former Peterburg girl Anna Polikarpova talked with Izvestia. Question: What struck you most of all on your arrival in Hamburg? Answer: Everything! In a month I realised so much. I did not speak either German or English, and it was a shock to me that many people in the company spoke five languages. It also struck me how much they worked, and how they worked. Simultaneously they were rehearsing Nutcracker, Requiem and Cinderella, all absolutely different in style. And then Mats Ek arrived to do "Meinungslose Weiden" (Spaces without meaning). I could not even bring myself to repeat after him, and I was very surprised when I saw my name on the first cast list. Q: Are you comfortable with life in Germany? A: I like how everything is in order, disciplined - you know what can be done and what can't. But sometimes it seems that most people have in their heads only business plans. Those who put the Euro first, they're immediately obvious. They're like zombies, all identical in their suits and ties. Lots of people don't know where to find opera. To me this seemed amazing. How can one live without theatre? You have to go to the theatre, even only once a year. Otherwise humanity will die. Q: Does John Neumeier seem to you a despot or a father-figure? A: He's a dictator. He holds everything in his fist. If it weren't so, the company would not have endured 34 years. I had intended to leave after two years of work, but he held me on -- gave me the rank of first soloist, and I began to dance literally everything. I simply could not refuse. Usually people don't last so long. They leave, or even change their profession. I was used to the idea that in the Mariinsky artists are there until their pension, and at first couldn't consider any other way -- Where else would they go, and why? Then I understood that with him people can just fizzle out, lost heart. There is absolutely no time for private life, let alone children. Right now, not one of the people in the company has children. For John only work exists. For that it's necessary to sacrifice everything -- he won't have it any other way. If you don't want it, go to another company. Q: How do you relax after such effort? A: We just sit at home. Ivan and I are very domestic, we rarely go out. In a restaurant you can't sit in front of the TV with your dinner! Q: Recently in Moscow you lit up his production of 'The Seagull'. How organically they depicted the character of Arkadina as a ballerina. A: To start with, she was to be a dramatic actress, as in Chekhov. But on the very next day, John announced: "You'll be a ballerina, like Anna Pavlova". It turns out, that the day before he was sitting by himself at home, which in fact is filled with ballet antiquities. Some little thing fell down -- and it was Pavlova's fan. John explained that in this way she herself had given him a sign. Q: Last year in Moscow he said that he intends to put on 'Anna Karenina', because he continually gets signals to do this. He also said that in the role of Anna he saw Uliyana Lopatkina and you. A: How interesting . With us John never outlines his plans. This season we revived 'Otello'. He gave the part of Desdemona to a girl in the corps de ballet, even though I really wanted this role. But to ask or argue with him is useful-- John sees it thus, and that's it. Next season he wants to put on 'Arminde's Pavilion', 'Sylvia', and to do Nijinsky's 'Rite of Spring'. I just hope that I will survive until 'Anna'. Time marches on, and I don't intend to dance till 50. Q: What will you do? A: I want children, I'd be interested in coaching, and I would very much like to act in movies. I've already had some experience in Leningrad. In a film called 'The Dogs' Feast' I played an inactive ballerina. The director Leonid Menaker saw my photo in a card index-- I was photographed for Lenfilm in the role of a girl in 'Vaganovka' -- and he said "Find me that face". I was stunned by the way Sergei Shakurov and Natalia Gundareva worked. Not a trace of star vanity and a great desire to help me, a slip of a girl... Q: If it's not a secret, what did your husband give you for your last birthday? A: Oh, this was so funny! I saw, myself, this Balenciaga handbag, and Ivan got it for me. I was in ecstasy, I started to thank him, when he said "Open the bag." And there appeared a Cartier ring! He always knows what I would like.
  7. "QUOTE Three roles in the Benefit -- Solor in Bayaderka, Narcissus in the eponymous miniature, and Herman in Pique Dame -- were dedicated to three legends of Russian ballet, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeechev, who once upon a time prepared these roles with Nikolai Tsiskaridze. 'Once upon a time' is true for Semyonova and Ulanova, but Fadeechev still coaches him in all his roles, as far as I know." Sorry I don't know how to extract previous quotes properly. I should say that in translating Russian, it's possible to suggest slightly different nuances or variations of tone in English by the variety of available translations. Kogda-to's first meaning is 'Once upon a time' but could also be 'once' or 'formerly'. Also the perfect tense in Russian can change in English if you say "who have formerly prepared the roles" rather than "who once (upon a time) prepared the roles". I do not know which would be more accurate. I try to translate close to word by word, in order not to second-guess more readable but maybe interpretatious (my own invented word) translations. Like Mashinka, I was also impressed by the straightforwardness of the description of Stepanenko, a dancer I do not know. By the way, on Tsiskarize and new roles, did he not pull out of making a new ballet with Christopher Wheeldon recently? We had a television documentary about that, and he did not seem very wholehearted about it in the rehearsals, though there was also a suggestion that he got sick. Non-ballet popularity has always seemed to get up some of the ballet fraternity's noses; Darcey Bussell and Rudolf Nureyev on TV comedy shows, and Baryshnikov in Sex and the City. I wonder if this wider media exposure actually has brought general watchers to see performances of ballet, though. My impression as an occasional goer was that more people would only buy a Darcy Bussell ticket for the Royal Ballet, because they were frightened of seeing someone else who they didn't know. It works better when ballet dancers turn themselves completely over to a different stage, like Adam Cooper or Sylvie Guillem. Ballet people don't seem to resent that so much for some reason.
  8. I have translated the Kommersant report in today's paper (May 12th), critical of Tsiskaridze, even sarcastic, but it explains his mysterious fame (mysterious to me, I regret). Introduction: The Bolshoi Theatre had a sold-out benefit for Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the most famous male dancer in Russia. Tatyana Kyznetsova was witness to his celebration. Benefit performances are given for three reasons: as a sign of farewell to the public, to verify someone's exceptional status, and to attract attention to that person. In the last instance they are usually organised in an outside theatre for those artists who aren't satisfied with their career progress or repertoire (a significant example was Anastasia Volochkova). In the Bolshoi itself benefits are rare, with just three in the 21st century for Svetlana Zakharova (by reason of her special status), Galina Stepanenko (for long service) and now Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the only dancer whose popularity has extended far beyond the limits of the world of art. If you stopped a man in the street and asked him to name a famous male ballet dancer, in Europe they wold name Nureyev, in America Baryshnikov, while in Russia invariably Tsiskaridze. No one in ballet equals Tsiskaridze in the eyes of the general public, and this is to the credit of not just him as an artist. Actually, no one of his colleagues leads such a busy life beyond his theatre-- he judges ballroom competitions on television, he performs in musicals, he doesn't miss important worldly events. It's true, though, that on the Moscow stage today there is no one capable of being a sufficiently charismatic and brilliant leading man to contest Mr Tsiskaridze's announced precedence. No wonder that his benefit was a total sell-out. The People's Artist indulged his public with his hits, the freshest of which dates from 2001. Apparently new stage roles aren't so urgent for the 34-year-old artist as new roles in life -- the dancer doesn't bother to conceal his desire to be chief of the Bolshoi ballet. Meanwhile, as he awaits his promotion, Nikolai Tsiskaridze asserts himself as the living embodiment of the Bolshoi' historical tradition, the natural heir to his geat teachers. Three roles in the Benefit -- Solor in Bayaderka, Narcissus in the eponymous miniature, and Herman in Pique Dame -- were dedicated to three legends of Russian ballet, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeechev, who once upon a time prepared these roles with Nikolai Tsiskaridze. From the stage result it's hard to say anything definite about either the pedagogic gift of these celebrities or the receptivity of the student. In all three incarnations N Tsiskaridze showed his trademark quality-- an excellent, almost feminine adagio line, exceptional footwork, amazing jete en tournant with his rather curved-back torso. He has just as rigorously retained his typical flaws -- the unstable, if passionate rotation, the mincing affectedness of his dance, and a pretentious mime style that is usually considered in this country to be a mastery of acting. In the final ballet, Petit's Pique Dame, which brought Tsiskaridze a Golden Mask and State prize, the six and a half years since its premiere have produced irreversible changes: the role of Herman has lost all the movements and combinations the People's artist found uncomfortable for his body. However, he has made up the loss with hard work on his face muscles -- none of Tsiskadirze's colleagues is capable of so horribly knitting his brows, or blazing with so wild a gaze, or twisting his lips into so sardonic a grimace. It was rather to Galina Ulanova's credit that in the old days she would counsel the young dancer to look in the mirror once in a while. "The mirror is your only true judge," said this great artist, who could play dead, not quivering a single muscle of that angelic, still face. While Mr Tsiskaridze dramatizes in a directly opposite fashion, evidently he has stayed satisfied with the process of judgement by mirror. Love of one's own reflection is the subject of the second role he danced at the benefit. Galina Ulanova adapted Kasyan Goleizovsky's 'Narcissus' for the then young dancer, jettisoning from it all that didnot suit his superb body. Since those days the half-naked Nikolai Tsiskaridze in a pale-blue leotard with coquettish yellow triangle below his waist has been loving himself with such self-intoxication that there isn't breath to reprove him either for his technical flaws or his distortion of the choreography. Only in the Shades Act from Bayaderka, in honour of Marina Semyonova, did Nikoali Tsiskaridze remain true to the accepted text of the role, and he danced Solor very successfully -- he turned clearly, he flew like a bird in his jetes and pas de chats, and the more complicated double assembles were done practically without fault. However, it is precisely in the territory of academic classicism where rivals to the People's Artist are found, who are capable doing as much with no less brilliance. Genuine uniqueness in the Shades Act was demonstrated by his partner, Galina Stepanenko, the oldest of the Bolshoi's primas. It lay in the natural regality of her stage authority, by some miracle transmitted by Marina Semyonova to her pupil. Galina Stepanenko, uniquely among all today's ballerinas, dances everything that is set, in the way that it is set, not changing movements and not simplifying them either. All the little details of the role that are missed by the normal viewer, were surmounted not simply honourably, but were performed by the ballerina with a kind of elegant flair, showing an unostentatious respect for herself, her profession and her teachers. This testified to the continuity of tradition more hopefully than the most emotionally wrought dedication, and the most packed-out benefit.
  9. Catherine, sorry to be so long to check in. I found it through a link to another Russian article and when I copied the text for translation I didn't keep the full link. If you use this link to the Gorod site and search in the Kultura section you could find it. http://www.gorod-spb.ru/index.php
  10. An article in a St Petersburg weekly GOROD on April 7th about the Kirov/Vaziev turmoil is strongly critical of Valeriy Gergiev, the conductor and theatre's overall artistic chief. Irina Gubskaya writes that it is not at all clear that the ballerina Ul'yana Lopatkina has the company's support as the next ballet artitic director, as when she was officially designated "director" of the American tour -- with the prospect of "the company directorship" in due course -- it aroused an "indignant flurry" or "upset" inside the company. This was said to be why the dancers were so noticeably relieved on the eve of the tour that Vaziev was announced as still in position. This turmoil has been reignited since, in America, as Gergiev "urgently" called up Igor Zelensky to dance in the US, abandoning his planned performances in the Mikhailovski theatre in St Petersburg. This is seen as indicating favour for Zelensky as Kirov company leader and currying favour with American audiences. The absence of Vaziev when the company arrived in the US is said to have astonished the producer Sergey Danilian, who would have been expected to know all about it, but didn't. M eanwhile, Gergiev's pronouncements on the ballet's general aspect have unearthed that he dislikes Forsythe ballets being done in the Kirov, thinking that they are "not of our tradition", and he also disapproves of several recent new productions there. (It isn't stated whether this includes the "reconstructions") . He has lately shown interest in Yuriy Grigorovich, but the writer comments with heavy irony that apparently Maestro doesn't know about the existence of "foreign" classical ballet, such as Bournonville. She also remarks that if Gergiev is now making blanket criticisms of the ballet policy -- which she says he did also in America, 5 years ago -- he himself is accounted as the policy's author, being the theatre's artistic director and in part the ballet's artistic director, a policy which Vaziev has only carried out for him since he himself has always been denied the title and job of artistic leader. The policy is: Petipa, Balanchine, leading contemporary ballet choreographers, and a smattering of Russians (yet not so far any interest in earlier "golden age" Soviet choreographers). If Gergiev disapproves of this, says the writer, he has made no alternative proposals. However Gergiev has mentioned that he longed, from childhood, to see a ballet based on 'The Tsar's Bride', has talked with Alexey Ratmansky about new productions, and he has, to give him his due, recalled some older stars of recent times, eg Makhalina, to pass on their experience. For Vaziev the writer has a lot of sympathy. She says that all mistakes will be put down to his account, including of course Gergiev's -- since "Gergiev can hardly be wrong".
  11. The verb Baryshnichat means to profiteer, usually in horsedealing. A person who does it is a Baryshnik. Ov (or ev) at the end means, son of. Nureyev is son-of-Nuré or Nuri, a Russified Turkish name meaning 'light, or pale'. http://mirslovarei.com (in Russian) has a comprehensive list. Vaziev is not in the list, but I suppose that it might be a Turkic version of Vasiliev (Basil = king) type names, such as son-of-the king. Makhar means blessed. But Valery means strong. Tsiskaridze is Georgian, and derives from 'Tsiskari', a very old Georgian name meaning dawn. One of Balanchine's nephews is apparently a ballet dancer called Tsiskara Balanchivadze. See http://www.opentext.ge/art/BALANCH.HTM
  12. There is a whole lot of strange spellings/ transliterations from the Diaghilev/ Dyaguileff Ballets Russes time. Sergeev can come out as Serguéeff, nowadays Sergeyev, and I guess that 'Serge' with the soft 'ge' sound was the result of French people having a stab at saying 'Sergei'. We presumably also owe to that time the kind-of-misspelling of Nijinsky. In Russian to English direct, as prounounced, he should be written Nizhinsky. But the French 'j' sound is the same as what we write in English as 'zh', so we inherited the French Nijinsky spelling from his first European transliteration, even though it makes us speak it with a hard 'j' as in 'Jump'. I have heard horseracing folk pronounce the name more accurately when talking of a famous racehorse by that name, using the soft 'zh' sound. Also his first name, directly transliterated from Russian-to-English 'Vatslav', started with its original Polish 'Vaclav', where the Polish 'c' is pronounced 'ts'. This was perfectly transliterated into the Russian 'ts' character, but in French maybe it was taken as the Russian 'c' (which is pronounced 's') and therefore became 'Vaslav' in the French version, and therefore the standard English version, which makes two mispronunciations in one name. I think some people even sometimes say 'Vaklav', reading the 'c' as hard one, when they are for example talking of Vaclav Havel. So Vatslav/ Vaslav/ Vaklav = vats it all about? incidentally many famous ballet dancers' names can be translated amusingly, as several Russian surnames are close to adjectival, and not always flatteringly. Yuliana Lopatkina's surname means 'little spade', or even 'little digger'. Diana Vishneva means 'Cherry girl'. Bessmertnova means 'immortal, undying'. Volochkova has an homonymical relationship to 'svolochka', a very rude diminutive of 'pig' . Zelensky means 'green man'. Nizhinsky/ Nijinsky means 'low to the ground, short', which is rather suitable for his height. Diaghil is the herb angelica, though I am not sure whether Diaghilev was the most angelic of men. Lopukhov means 'simpleton'. Lifar's name associates with the word 'lif' or 'lifchik', meaning bosom or bra. I am quite taken by the English homonymical aspect of 'lifchik' (bra) and the strong pictorial association of Lifar lifting a lady's, erm, chicks. Khrushchev means the son of a cockchafer. Talk about being born with a disadvantage.
  13. On from Catherine's post about transliteration, Vaziev should really be with a 'zee' rather than an 'es' as the sound is distinctly the zee letter, not the s. However as in the name Plisetskaya, there are those who write the 's' sound with two 'ss' to make the sharp unvocalised sound, and Kshessinskaya the same. The problem arises that in English 's' can have both the 'ss' and the 'z' sound. Many people seeing Plisetskaya would instinctly turn the s into a z. But on the 'iev' question - there are two problems here. If we wrote Vaziev consistently with the way we write 'Nureyev' would we not write Vaziyev? And re the 'v', if you have the wonderfully funny Caryl Brahms book 'A Bullet in the Ballet', you will see that Stroganoff is the company's director (as in Diaghileff - the old-fashioned spelling). This only reflects the care that Europeans took at first to get the sounds right - the 'v' sounds like 'ff' at the end of the word. (You see how they put an 'h' after the 'g' in 'Diaghileff' -- it is because in English and French 'g' before 'i' becomes softened, like 'ginger' or 'gîte', and they wanted to help us get it right.) Beef Stroganoff seems, perhaps for sentimental reasons, to have retained the 'ff', where now Stroganov would, I think, be acceptable as in Romanov. On the subject of Matilde Kshesinskaya, one of the hardest-to-transliterate names, her original name would be spelled in English as 'Matilda Krzhesinska', as her father was Polish. I am assuming that the Kshesinskaya (or the short version Kshessinska) was the French version as the Tsar's court only spoke French. She is not, by the way, Kchessinska, which I have seen from time to time. KCH would have different letters in Cyrillic. Also it is Matilda, or French-version Matilde, not Mathilda. The Tchaikovsky/ Chekhov anomaly arises from the fact that Russian names were first Europeanised into French, whose alphabet does not have the same sounds as the English. 'Ch' in French would be 'sh' in English - as in 'Chat'/ cat or 'Chopin' - so I suppose that Chaikovsky would be pronounced 'Shaikovsky'. So they put the T first. Maybe the English cottoned onto Chekhov before the French did and were happy to transliterate the sound into Ch as in Church. (Nureyev became Noureev in French - just to confuse matters further). I do not know how the French write 'Chekhov', with a T? Also there is the Polish factor, that 'w' can sound like 'v', so you see Tchaikowsky. Where we get into deep water is the Shch and Io (= Yo, but not as in Yo bruv/my man) sounds. According to my studies, there is no real reason, as far as I can see, why Rodion Shchedrin (the composer and husband of Plisetskaya) should not be Roden Schedrin - as we routinely write Gorbachev, not Gorbachyoff as per pronunciation, and we write Soloviev and Vishneva, when actually the sound should make them Soloviyoff and Vishnyova, and we often write Khruschev, when it should probably be Khrushchyoff. I think that my conclusion has to be that we should just go with the flow and do as the French do with consistency. I now wish that I had not begun this.
  14. I am not sure that I have such wholesome confidence that the sound team on the recording were so fastidious. If the recording is not recorded live, and the "live" sounds on stage would I guess give this away, then how certain is it that the dance you see is being danced to what you hear? in this case there are places where the dancers clap or stamp their feet, visually clear, but they are all just after the beat (and in some places kinda raggedy so it's not like they are an incredibly disciplined team all dancing just 'off' or 'through' together.) It would make a very strange impact live, I would guess,to hear those heels go down off the beat or the claps off the beat. Could be wrong, but inclined to stick to my theory that the recording engineers didn't 100 per cent engage, maybe just 99 per cent. Remember Singin' in the Rain ... "yes-yes-yes! / no-no-no! "
  15. They are two different ballets, kind of almost like comparing Tudor's Romeo and Juliet (Delius) with MacMillan's (Prokofiev). Same story, but different music, different treatment. Lacotte/Taglioni is a reconstruction of the first Paris Sylphide, which Bournonville saw and wanted to imitate in Denmark but could not afford to use that music, hence had to commission a fresh score for his own take on the story. I remember that I enjoyed the Lacotte one and its music very much when I happened to catch it on its premiere a few years ago. I have this Danish DVD and I think that the sound must have been produced later, as in my copy the music is around half a beat ahead of the dancing throughout. It is very disconcerting. They are always taking off or landing just after the beat. Scherzo, I have just realised you noticed this too, so it is not my rogue copy. By the way, I have just seen an interview online in the British ballet website with Peter Schauffus the Danish director where he said that ballets change so quickly now because there are many more casts performing them and making their own adaptations. He said that in the 19th century ballets had only one or two casts who would 'own' the role and dance it a long time, develop it on their personality, and then pass it on to the next longtime occupant. So you did not get these continual rewriting of productions and variations for many new casts. Interesting. More like today's theatre, actually.
  16. Hope people are not getting bored of this but for my politics homework I translated two interviews with Bolshoi ballerinas who were considering the balance of politics and art: I precis them (I put dots where I cut) I do not imagine that British theatre people have such considerations, ever. Svetlana Zakharova in the New News (Novy Izvestya) 3rd March : Q: This season has been special for you, your triumphs on London and Paris, then winning the State prize, the MP's seat. Has something switched on in your sense of who you are? A: Yes, it has switched on. I always knew that to be the first ballerina of the first theatre in the state was a special position, but when you think that besides this you represent not only the theatre but the state, this is a totally different feeling. And a great responsibility ... I do not understand why an artist should not be a political deputy. In the Duma there is a Culture committee. Who should be on it if not people in the art world? And I am a ballerina and know better than anyone what it is to work in the theatre ... I sense the envy of some of my colleagues, but that is their right. Q: Are you attracted to the political life? A: I do like it a lot. I don't want to be a coach or repetiteur when I stop my dancing career. I would much prefer to lead, to direct, to organise. I would very much like to work in future in the Kremlin or the Culture Ministry. The Duma is my first step. Q: When you enter the theatre and go on stage, do you consider yourself the best and the first ballerina? A: I always think that I must be the best. Also I have always thought that I must keep a large distance between me and my colleagues. This helps me to work. It helps me to go to morning class, it helps me to overcome tiredness after a show. If I were ever to think that I was already the best, that could stop me in my tracks. Q: Are you preparing any new roles in the Bolshoi? A: Soon I plan to debut in Spartacus as Egina. I've dreamed and thought about this for a long time. I think also about contemporary ballet productions created specially for me. I met an interesting choreographer, we are looking for a theme and music for a new work. Beyond that, this season (artistic director0 Aleksey Ratmansky did not schedule any premieres for me whatever. ... Ratmansky has done a lot for the theatre, he's had his triumphs and his defeats in the job. I cannot say that I have liked everything he has done. ... Q: Do you go out to fashionable nightclubs? A: No, that's absolutely not me ... I don't like noisy and smoky places. I love ceremonial halls and ceremonial occasions- such as the Georgievsky Hall in the Kremlin whee I received my State prize. I'd like to relive those feelings again and again. Maria Alexandrova in Moscow Young Communist (Moskovsky Komsomolets) 7th March: Q: it's sometimes seemed to me that ballet dancers lead an existence without personal rights. Is it so? A: You are thinking of the Bolshoi theatre as a monster! If it is a monster, then I love it. I applied every effort to get in here, and when they accepted me (after winning the Moscow international ballet competition) they made it quite clear to me that success at school is one thing, but life in the Bolshoi was another ... Q: The imperial ballet has always been interrelated with power. How do you experience that? A: It's the truth. The Bolshoi Theatre is a part of the state- its shop window. Without the state this type of theatre could not come into existence, would not attain the heights that it has reached. It creates a quite distinct specification. That was always so. In the 19th century actors in all the imperial theatres got their living by charter, and if they infringed discipline in some way, they were sent to the guardhouse. So Matilda Kshesinskaya got rid of her rival, the Italian Pierina Legnani, with the help of the Foreign Ministry. They simply did not renew Legnani’s residency, even though Swan Lake and Raymonda were staged on her. If you work in the Bolshoi, it's necessary to understand that besides the privilege, to be a prima imposes on you very real responsibilities. Obligations too. I understand this, and I treat all politico-cultural demands on me with full responsibility. Not long ago I flew out of Paris, where the theatre was on tour, for a single day in Sofia where they were putting on a government concert in honour of the visit of our President. But personally it seems to me that it's always dangerous for an artist to take too great an interest in "romancing with power." However unwittingly, a substitution can happen, what is primary, what is secondary, where creativity comes, and where something else. I should say, though, that the Bolshoi ballet fully reserves the right for you to choose for yourself. Speaking of which, Maya Plisetskaya became a legend in the harshest Soviet times, while on principle not becoming a "state ballerina". Her example pleases me even now, especially as it is becoming all the more real.
  17. I have translated some of the Bolshoi directorship articles from yesterday's Russian press. The details are interesting and the expressions of opinon are not held back. Two of the critics liken the appointmnt of Grigorovich alongside Burlaka as akin to Stalin being disinterred and brought back to life, offered a job as minister under Medvedev. In an interview with Tatiana Kuznetsova in Kommersant headlined: "Ratmansky is succeeded by Burlaka and Grigorovich," Burlaka said that he liked being unknown & working at the quiet out-of-centre company in Kuzminki, the "Russian State Ballet." He had stayed there because he wanted to work in a company where 90 percent of the repertory was classical. He agreed that he "did not know well" the contemporary scene, but had been interested when he had danced Kylian, Neimeyer, Eifman. He had enjoyed the work of Jean Christoph Mayot (Mayo?). Mr Ixanov the general director had spoken to him about the job just 10 days before the appointment was announced. He had not known then that he would be Yuri Grigorovich's boss. Asked what he thought about it, he said that it was a large boulder which ... the interviewer finished for him, ... he could not move. He answered that everyone in the theatre was raised and educated on Grigorvich's ballets. Asked whether Grigorovich's versions of classics were immovable and imperishable, he said that G's outlook on classical productions to a certain extent advanced the choreographic process. Q: If YG demanded that leading roles in his productions were danced by, say, Anastasia Volochkova, what then? A: I will argue with that... The BB's heritage dated from the end of the 18th century, including many and varied styles and different epochs which could all re-enter the company's repertoire. Q: Contemporary creators? Are you limiting yourself to Ratmansky? A: Many choreographers in the west worthy of having their works performed at the Bolshoi, or any other theatre. Q: Are you not frightened of being artistic director at the BB, which will not be a simple job? A: I will find a common language with the dancers and coaches. I am not by nature a quarrelsome person. It's necessary to examine each individual case for itself and think about it. Kuznetsova commented separately that this is a directorship with two heads, and neither young Burlaka nor old Grigorovich is interested in contemporary choreography, underlined by the plans for the reopening of the restored theatre. The BB which has recently recovered its position in the first rank of world companies risks going backwards. Already the company considers that Grigorovich will be their future boss and not Burlaka who was in his cradle when YG won the Lenin prize for Spartacus. by their act the theatre directorship has set off a delayed-action bomb in the company. Anna Gordeyeva in Vremya novostey: Although Burlaka is not well known in the country, he commands absolute respect in ballet circles for his academic work. For 20 years he has been soloist and then director of the Russian State Ballet, and last year worked with Ratmansky on the staging of Le corsaire.H is a cultured, clever and intelligent man. But one would rather sympathise with him than congratulate him on the appointment. Ixanov had ensure that the job is not a pot of honey. Ratmansky being kept as guest choreographer, though the job is only an agreement at the moment, isn't too bad as he and Burlaka are good friends and speak the same language. What is more important, is the position of choreographer/balletmaster, offered to Yuri Grigorovich. In fact this is a deliberate undermining of the artistic directors job: whoever casts ballerinas in classical roles is the director of the theatre. Does Ixsanov understand what he has done? He is aware that he has never seen Grigorovich's Krasnodar company and cannot judge whether the choreograher is capable of sustaining his productions in continuing life (since your columnist has seen that company, we can say at once : he is not capable.) Ixanov is not prepared for the return of Grigorovich's beloved Anastasia Volochkova to the Bolshoi theatre. Everything would be agreed, he said, among the leaders "we are civilised people." Well, indeed. For 20 years the gloomy old man has not created a production, but reproduced copies of old ones in other companies (including some very bad ones,) preserving just one skill - for virtuoso intrigues. And the young, clever, talented dancemakers (Burlaka, Ratmansky, and next season's guest Sergei Vikarev) will come to agreement with him? Do they themselves agree about that? Maya Krilova in gazeta.ru analysed the reasons why Ratmansky wanted to quit the directorship. Being at the Bolshoi in the job was stopping him reaching his own high standards as a choreographer, standards he had formed while working in the West for many years. In the Bolshoi dancers have become permitted to refuse to dance steps, just saying that they will change them. They would even alter them in performance to suit themselves. Ratmansky's current scheduled presence in the rep consists of the remounting of 'Flames of Paris' in summer, running an autumn festival for the 50th anniversary of the careers of V Vassiliev and E Masimova, the transition period of working with Burlaka, and other work abroad. There is a general plan for him to make a new version of 'the Sleeping Beauty,' something that he has long wanted to do, for the reopening of the theatr in 2009. But she asks, will he in fact fulfill all this when Grigorovich is officially called up, and considering that all the Tchaikovsky ballets are entirely in Grigorovich's productions? For that matter, Grigorovich's official job in the Bolshoi will be resident choreographer (ballet-master), even though that does not imply that he will produce any new ballets. He has not done for a long time. He will however vigilantly guard his ballet oeuvre from encroachments by people or time. And who will get what in the distrbution of duty? Grigorovich has one, very large segment; Ratmansky another, in the staging of new ballets and his own future creations, to do which he will "pay court" to the company by periodic visits to Moscow (He will it is said be living in the US). All the rest comes down to Burlaka, ie the "no-mans-land" ballets, like Pharoah's daughter, Sylphide and Don Quixote. Apart from that, the AD is required to set casting. To find new names for the posters. And to correct members of the ballet triumvirate if they exceed their brief. But this is only on paper. In reality the Bolshoi ballet anticipates a period of internal turbulence and unrest. A power struggle and an aggravation of "anarchy", all the more as Burlaka does not possess the iron authoritarian character that is needed here and that Grigorovich's presence underlines. This is a company unfortunately which better understands the whip than the kind word, and they take flexibility as weakness. Krilova said that artists should study the ballet La Sylphide to see what bad things happen when you pin down a dream.
  18. On the Bolshoi ballet forum someone has drawn unfavourable parallels between the uncertainty and "intrigue" over Alexei Ratmansky's succession with the orderly succession at the Royal Danish Ballet from Frank Anderson to Nikoali Hübbe. If the Western model of timing had been adopted at the Bolshoi the decision about who takes over from Ratmansky would be yesterday's news by now, they say: however, Russians feel no obligation to do things the Western way, and by Russian standards there was still plenty of time to keep the intrigue going. Apparently the TKuznetsova article that I translated about all the potential candidated has been given some post-publication editing. Mr Tsiskaridze is no longer described as motivated by aggressive self-promotion, but has become motivated by ambition for the Bolshoi company, which as the person who quoted the change noted, is quite another thing ;). A commentator has added that though she has noticed Miss Kuznetsova can at times make "subjective" or "insulting' comments, she is not noted for talking nonsense or perverting facts. Mr Tsiskaridze himself has given interviews denying that he is a directorship contender as he considers hmself still very much a dancer albeit doing more and more coaching. He wants people to remember him as the public has described him over the past 15 years, as one of the leading dancers on the planet. However he has already stopped doing certain classical roles and will stop dancing even contemporary work in 3 years. He "categorically disagrees" with the idea that the last five years' BB success is down to Ratmansky. He says that for all time, since 1956 when the BB first went abroad, the Bolshoi has been considered the world's greatest company. It has never had a failure or an empty hall. This success was due above all to the dancers and their coaches. It was completely independent of who the director was. Maya Plisetskaya has announced her support for Ratmansky.She says that she has never known so strong a company of dancers in the BB as today. An "enormous quantity" of world-class ballerinas, and above all of rich repertoire. Ratmansky had introduced excellent contemporary repertoire to the Bolshoi stage. Others too had brought contemporary work in their time, but not always "healthy' for the company. She also commends the theatre's overall director Anatol Iksanov, for, finding ways to continue Ratamansky's choreography link with the BB. She herself thinks that the jobs of administration and staging ballets should be separated now. Of parallel interest: The artistic directorship of Moscow's Stanislasky Ballet is also vacant, after completion of legal formalities following the mysterious death of Dmitry Bryantsev, the 20-years director. At least 8 pretenders there, it is said.
  19. Following consultation with my Russian teacher, I have amended two translations slightly, both being idioms. Ratmansky when a dancer in Denmark "renounced dancing" to become Bolshoi's director [not: he was tied up with creating dances] . And Ratmansky will, most probably [not: as soon as he can] , become New York chief guest choreographer. I also inquired about the "lack of principles" that was ascribed to Senors Taramanda and Leipa, and the rather blunt words about them and others. She told me first that the writer would be applying the "unprincipledness" more to their artistic approach than their attitude to company finances, and second that extreme bluntness is quite characteristic of Russians discussing people's talent, and would therefore be the general atmosphere in which the theatre's operations carry on. She added that Russians think the English beat around the bush much too much, khodit' vokrug do okolo. Useful to hear.
  20. Further developments are spelled out by Tatiana Kuznetsova in Kommersant yestrerday (Feb 2) under the headline "Dances with Directors", a long and amazingly frank piece about Ratmansky's achievements & possible successors as BB ballet director. She considers that Ratmansky the most successful AD the BB has had. The theatre is feverishly looking for someone to start in just a year's time. She believes that the choice will decide whether the Bolshoi slips from its world-beating position right now to the 'provincial edges' once again. She says that Ratmansky will become chief guest choreographer at New York City Ballet, and wanted a similar position at the Bolshoi. She discusses ex-BB directors who might hope for resurrection, old and current BB stars, ex-BB stars now directing elsewhere, emigrants and Kirov possibles. Notable is her opinion that the problem lies inside the Bolshoi ballet itself that after a lifetime of totalitarianism it is more used to the 'whip' than the light hand, which it considers weakness. After referring to the Bolshoi's successful recent tours in London and Paris and the world recognition given to Ratmansky's young proteges Osipova and Vasiliev, she goes over the list of possibles. The first successful AD, she says, was A Fadeyechev, director in 1998, who first brought in Balanchine, reconstructed the blockbuster Pharaoh's Daughter and won the company enormous success in New York. But after the new theatre director Rozhdestvensky cancelled the ballet plans, Mr F quite the company. His successor Boris Akimov, a fine coach but too cautious a director, initiated the production of Roland Petit's 'Queen of Spades' which won several Golden Masks and even a state prize. But the most successful director the theatre acquired was the following AD Alexei Ratmansky. The Bolshoi's general director Anatoly Iksanov engaged him at the time of the staging of 'Bright Stream'. At that time the young choreographer was still counted as a "hope for the future" and was dancing in the Royal Danish Ballet. The 34yo dancer renounced performing, but on the other hand the Bolshoi acquired its own creator, dreamed of by every great theatre in the world. However, Mr Ratmansky sacrificed his choreographic activity to the obligations of directorship: in four years he staged at the Bolshoi just three new ballets (of which one was smallscale, and another, the remounting of Petipa's Corsaire, contained only a few original fragments of Ratmansky's). In the quality of his directorship Mr Ratmansky provided the theatre with the breakthrough that raised the Moscow company to a world-beating level. Under him some 20 productions were put on (and this despite the reconstruction of the main theatre) and the repertoire became not only balanced but cultivated. Under him distinguished foreigners began to give masterclasses in the Bolshoi, introducing the dancers to the most important world schools, under him the casts became younger, and he radically updated the list of those who made headlines, ballerinas and male dancers. However this year Ratmansky's contract with the Bolshoi ends as artistic director, and it seems he does not intend to extend it. The point is that everyone is happy with the theatre's successes except the company itself, accustomed to strict directorship and inclined to take a light touch for weakness. It fell to the Bolshoi's AD in all the years of his job to come up against both secret sabotage and open hostility towards his undertakings. Older coaches showed complete disrespect towards an "out-of-town youth" (on graduating from Moscow's school, Ratmansky was assigned to the Kiev ballet), eminent artists shunned premieres that they disliked, and people cursed their boss without a trace of embarrassment in numerous interviews. The choreographer did not have enough time for his own productions, while around the world the demand for "a Ratmansky" reached a peak. Finally, Mr Ratmansky received an offer from the leading American company NYCB, and, it is most likely [edit], will become its chief guest choreographer - ie, responsible for regularly putting on his own ballets, but not run the company's daily operation. Mr Ratmansky is prepared to play a similar role in the Bolshoi, but this is only possible under conditions where the actual artistic director is someone close to him in creative conviction. And where will such a person be found? There are many candidates, but no definitively suitable figures. There are charismatic personalities from the 70s, idols of the Bolshoi's "Golden Era" , who were genius dancers but proved feeble directors: both Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Lavrovsky irrevocably discredited themselves as directors. The directors of active companies Viacheslav Gordeev and Andrey Petrov, who are aged 60, have proved themselves dyed-in-the-wool routine-merchants. The veteran ballet entrepreneurs for some 45years, of the type of Gediminas Taranda or Andris Liepa, are dismaying in their [her words] lack of principle, bad taste and staggering lack of choreographic culture. The 34-year-old Nikolai Tsiskaridze is absorbed by aggressive self-promotion. The showman and television star is known for his definite creative vision: he likes only those creators who like him (that is, the patriarchs Roland Petit and Yuri Grigorovich)) , and only those dancers who are less successful than himself. It's clear that if he gets the Bolshoi company, it will lose a large section of the stars of the new era, and from its repertoire will disappear the hits of the past five years. There are still some ex-directors around. But Mr Fadeyechev closed the door so firmly when he left the Bolshoi that the repercussions have not been forgotten eithe in the theatre or in the Culture Ministry. It is hardly likely that Mr Akimov can be persuaded to stay as an "interim" director: so unceremoniously was his contract annulled, in the rush to obtain the promising Ratamansky. As an ideal alternative would appear the Bolshoi's ex-prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, now resurrecting the Georgian Ballet from ruin. But Russia's leading theatre is hardly going to call on the godmother of Mikhail Saakashvili's child, for political reasons. There are emigrants available. Former Bolshoi leader Vladimir Derevyanko, chief of the Dresden Ballet. Mikhail Messerer, descendant of the noted Moscow ballet dynasty Messerer-Plisetsky, a teacher of world renown, who recently rehabilitated at the Bolshoi his uncle Asaf Messerer's 'Class Concert'. Ex-leading Bolshoi dancer and People's Artist Alexandr Vetrov -an irreproachable professional pushed out of the theatre at end of the 90s and resettled in the sticks in America. But it is hardly likely that they, after being spoiled by Western discipline, would cope with the prevailing artistic licence [corrected translation] at the Bolshoi. There remain the St Petersburgers. An offer from Moscow to Petersburg at a creative crossroads is historically customary. In the 19th century Alexander Gorsky was sent over, and in his time he raised high Moscow pride. In the 1930s an entire army of Leningraders ruled the Bolshoi as coaches, ballet directors and dancers. The 37yo Grigorivich became leader in 1964, dismissing the Golden Generation, so that for 30 years the BB became the 'Grigorovich Ballet' . Playing the Petersburg card is quite realistic - the aesthete and expert in old style, Sergei Vikharev has successfully directed the Novosibirsk Ballet; Igor Zelensky, who spent half his career working in the Balanchine company, is firmly directing the Siberians now. However, undoubtedly in Moscow a Petersburger will come in to conflict with the hopeless antagonism of the indigenous population. The totalitarianism of Soviet ballet, even though it formally ended after perestroika, left its traces: Russian performers prefer the whip to the sweetmeat, while ballet directors lack the necessary range and original creative vision. Of the new generation of leaders, Vladimir Malakhov and Nina Ananiashvili have succeeded in take charge of foreign companies. Finally, at the end of the year we will lose Alexei Ratmansky. And unless a miracle happens, once again we will find ourselves on the provincial edges.
  21. Thank you everyone for your appreciation - I will tell you if my teacher gives me A+! I was struck by what Ratmansky said about Osipova not performing Medora in Paris - that a fortnight before she decided she would not be fully ready. This kind of fastidiousness is rare outside Russia, I shld think. In England and America, a fortnight - even a few minutes? (see Mr B, if I recall aright? ) - can be considered quite enough for a ballerina to pick up a new leading role and perform it to the public. One attitude is about serious study, the other is about show business. Osipova seems to be treating her role with the same perfectionism and reflectiveness that is more expected in a profounder ballet than a frivolity like 'Le Corsaire' . If it was the same seriousness of mind that she applied to preparing her performance in the Twyla Tharp ballet that they did in London, it certainly is not reducing the bubbliness of her impact, if anything the opposite. Even though she was not the lead, she was, like Ratmansky said, absolutely noticeable !
  22. For my Russian homework, I have translated today's Izvestiya interview with Alexey Ratmansky. In sum: he will quit the directorship at the end of the year, concentrating on choreography. He is doing a premiere for City Ballet, and 'Pierrot Lunaire" for Diana Vishneva in California February, he has just done "Bizet Variations" for Nina Ananyashvili in Georgia, "Flames of Paris " in July for the Bolshoi. It seems a new ballet on a classical literature theme at some point in the Bolshoi (at a guess by Neumeier or Eifman). He talked about Parisian disapapointment at missing Natalia Osipova in "Corsaire", he appraised Svetlana Zakharova in depth, and he glided over (I am assuming it is) Tsiskaridze's well-known declarations of hostility. He said that Soviet ballet has an important historic place in Bolshoi repertoire. He generally came over IMO as an equable and resilient leader . He said that the Bolshoi naturally is a more classically-minded troupe than the Paris one, and his main job as director was to bring the Bolshoi repertoire and artists into th 21st century during the theatre reconstruction period, and that he raised its world profile in that time. It is long, but here is the full translation for interest: Izvestiya Jan 29 2008 Headline: "Today the problem of leaking talent is over." Introduction: Grigorovich's Spartacus concluded the three-week season by the Bolshoi Ballet in Paris - one of the most successful tours in the theatre's history. In conversation with Izvestiya's France correspondent Yuri Kovalenko, the Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet Alexei Ratmansky spoke about changes in the theatre, and revealed that in a year he will leave his position and devote himself exclusively to choreography. Q: What was the main value of the Paris tour? A: While the Bolshoi stage is being restored, it's very important for the artists to perform in historic theatres like the Opera de Paris, not only the home of ballet but the place where ballet was founded as an art. It's one of the loveliest stages in the world. Here everything is inspiring - the public, the building itself, the auditorium, and of course that ceiling painted by Chagall. Q: Local balletomane were disappointed not to see Natalia Osipova in Corsaire, the girl who was dubbed in London the new Maya Plisetskaya. A: Osipova prepared the role and was due to debut in Paris. But a fortnight before the tour, she and her coach Marina Kondratieva decided that she was not absolutely ready, and the debut was postponed. All the same, Natalia danced in other ballets, and I know she made an impression. Q: Is she actually the brightest of the young generation? A: The nature of her gift is such that she is very noticeable on stage. Among the young ones I would also pick out Ivan Vasiliev, Ekaterina Krysanova, Anna Nikulina and Denis Savin, and there are others. This gifted generation is actively brought out by the repertoire. But our established stars are very young too - Zakharova, Alexandrova, Lunkina. None is over 30, and they are already famous and loved around the world. Q: How is today's ballet repertoire formulated in the Bolshoi? A: More than half the productions are 19th-century classics. We also preserve Grigorovich ballets, we seek out young Russian choreographers and we restore one or two forgotten people who are significant in the theatre's historical or artistic growth. In this season's repertoire - 19 large ballets, 12 one-acters, the festival for Marina Semenova's 100th birthday, the "Masters of new choreography", the international projects "Kings of the Dance" and "Benoit de la danse", many tours. In all, around 200 performances. Q: Do your artists aspire to dance contemporary ballets or are they more habituated to classics? A: In our great troupe the choice is wide. This person may feel closer to Grigorovich, that one to the old classics, another is attracted to new ballets, but all have the same love to make it succeed. We are really glad to work on all of it. So when the hall raises an ovation for a new version of 'Romeo and Juliet' or Twyla Tharp's 'In the Upper Room', even the more conservatively-minded artists begin to understand: if they speak to the public in a contemporary language, without losing the highest standards of interpretation, this produces a major impact. And a young public is now coming to the theatre, which is very important. But in Russia, in contrast to France, the classical ballet is more popular than contemporary, and generally speaking we adhere to the classical lineage in our repertoire. Q: Once Grigorovich remarked that the Bolshoi had gone over later to the West, and the Kirov earlier. A: In my opinion, he had in mind that on the whole it was not necessary to keep in step with the West. In the area of repertoire, I would agree with him. This is precisely why we are very cautious in transplanting ready-prepared productions, even ballets that are popular on world stages, in which our stars might perfectly well shine. In our search for repertoire in recent years, all the changes that the press often write about (rather more positively in the West, by the way, than here) are targeted to answer the question of what the Bolshoi is in the 21st century. How to preserve this high style in a living and contemporary way, so that we set the tone afresh, and didn't just plod along behind. Q: Today is it possible to produce a classical ballet on classical literature - let's say, Turgenev's 'First Love'? A: Of course, something on classical literature is possible, though the classical ballet is actually 19th-century. That's a terminological confusion. Nowadays there do exist choreographers who use classical or rather neo-classical language, but there are not many of them. The majority choose a freer plastique. In that regard, our distinguished compatriot Boris Eifman, like the American John Neumeier, often uses classical literature subjects. We do have some plans in that connection. Q: What ballet premieres is the Bolshoi preparing? A: This season we have already had the premiere of "The Lesson" on a Ionesco play. In February we will show a new staging of "La Sylphide" in an edition by the Dane Johan Kobborg. In July there'll be the premiere of 'The Flames of Paris', my own production. This is a significant Soviet ballet. The theme is rather difficult - revolution and the the fate of individuals on a background of terrible events. Q: That means the Bolshoi won't refuse to do Soviet ballets? A: That would be impossible to do, no way. I am an admirer of Soviet ballet in its best manifestations. Leaving aside the political aspects, Soviet ballet continues to impress even today. This was the latest "Bolshoi" style in ballet history. Q: What are you doing abroad this season? A: In Amsterdam my ballet "Russian Seasons" on Leonid Desyatnikov's music will be presented. I am preparing a premiere in New York as well for City Ballet. A production of 'Bizet Variations' has just been made for the Georgian Ballet under Nina Ananiashvili's direction. And one other project, 'Pierrot Lunaire' on Schoenberg for Diana Vishneva, that's a premiere in February in California. Q: You have no great problem with losing ballet talents? A: In the 90s it was almost catastrophic. Almost all of my generation went. But now it's only individuals here and there. Economically all is stable here and creatively it's interesting. In the past 4 years we've staged 24 ballets. The artists dance more and more variedly, often they go abroad. And I am only glad when they receive invitations from other prestigious theatres, like the Paris Opera. Q: Is the company generally of one mind with you? Do critics bother you? A: There are many of the same view as me, and yes, critics do naturally bother me. But we do have a very large collective - 220 dancers and 20 coaches. Opinions can differ. The main thing is that those who "disagree" as well as those who "agree" all dance well, because they always put the theatre's interests ahead of their own. And also that there's an understanding that we are all in one business. I will not presume to evaluate the past four years from an artistic point of view, but I can say that we have fulfilled the fundamental task - we preserved both the company and the repertoire in the period of the theatre's reconstruction. And we have considerably improved the company's profile in the world. Q: Do people love you inside the theatre? A: I would like to be held in respect. To be loved by my family is enough for me, and I set great store by that. Q: Who is harder to work with, ballerinas or male dancers? A: That depends on the character. As ballerinas are more active, in that regard they're more disciplined, and they do want to dance. Q: So even in ballet Russian men are, as in tradition, indolent? A: Not all, but it can happen. Q: The Bolshoi prima, Svetlana Zakharova says of herself - "Inside, I am steel." A: That has helped her to become what she's become. It's most important to set oneself a noteworthy goal. Our profession constantly demands the highest physical and moral strength. She has to reach her highest level every single day. Q: A well-known critic once called Zakharova - "gifted, but cold". A: These are not words that I can go along with. Sveta is young, but already she occupies a place in the world as one of the best. When she came to the Bolshoi, it was one of those moments that lifted the company. The competition intensified. Now she needs dramatic productions in which she might open herself up more as a dramatic actress. Including even a production on classical literature in which she could show a character in development. To call her the best would be unjust to other ballerinas. We have remarkable female artists. But God granted to Zakharova an astounding body, she is a product of a first-rate school, and generally Sveta is a very major ballerina Q: What do you lack for complete happiness in the theatre? A: To me happiness is the production process, when I'm rehearsing in the studio and when we're all preparing a new performance. This is an even happier experience than the premiere itself. Q: Which company seems to you the ideal? A: Across the different companies there are different missions. In "Corsaire" or "Pharaoh's Daughter", you need to deploy more than 100 people. Very few can manage to put on stage 68 members of the corps de ballet of such beauty. From this viewpoint the Bolshoi is close to ideal. Of course in a smaller troupe it is easier to maintain good relationships. We are not a holiday home, the rules are quite rigid; you will survive if you have strength of will, love for the profession, talant. Apart from that, there are the laws of competition - one receives a role, another misses out. Sometimes it is hard for people to hide their emotions. But that is where our training comes to our aid. I must confess, we still have work to do on that within this plan. Q: People say, you will soon be leaving the Bolshoi Theatre. A: My contract with the Bolshoi ends in a year. I will stop being director, but I hope I will continue to mount ballets. This is what I want to do.
  23. The generosity of Baryshnikov to Nureyev is very evident in Diane Solway's biography and the extensiveness of his testimony is one of the major assets of her very good book, in my opinion.
  24. I thought I would talk about the two casts in Jewels - both uneven, but as long as my memory holds out I will be able to put Emeralds A with Rubies B and Diamonds B, and be happy. I had seen only two full-length Jewels before, with Miami City Ballet many years ago and when the Kirov were new to it and brought it to London. I think it was HET that did Rubies on its own when I first saw Viacheslav Samodurov, who was in Holland before coming to the Royal Ballet, and who very sadly was unable to recover from injury in time for this current run. Cast A looked spectacular on paper - Tamara Rojo and Leanne Benjamin in Emeralds, Carlos Acosta and Zenaida Yanowsky in Rubies, Alina Cojocaru in Diamonds, with some added suspense as Cojocaru's partners kept changing due to injury. BTW there are a mysteriously large number of injuries at the start of this season among the male contingent - Bonelli, Samodurov, while Johan Kobborg has pulled out of most of his London performances but was apparently okay to do Kings of the Dance elsewhere, which seems unsporting. The main interest of cast B was Alexandra Ansanelli in Rubies and the fiancés Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares in Diamonds. I am flabbergasted by the beauty of Emeralds, sublimely through-choreographed, the sheer gauze loveliness and etherality of the winding of girl corps with the opening couple, who wrap themselves inside the wafting girls like a mist, almost breathing the corps forward and then breaking through it like a radiant little moment of lovers' victory, or sun's warmth clearing the fog, while the girls swirl away. Touches of Sylphides in its sylvan atmosphere, but the two ballerinas' solos are something richer than that. The first one, done by Rojo, the mistress of the art, a variation of utter enchantment, winding arms, elusive slippings away and back bends, an ondine in her boudoir, adorning and perfuming herself, raptly absorbed with her invisible iPod playing Faure into her shell-like ears. Everything Rojo does is an invitation to a conversation with you in the audience, I find. She tells you something, and you find yourself anwering her back. The second one, done by Benjamin, a more childlike one, little skips, silvery, a descant, though she and her partner did not get the ghostly tick-tock walking pas de deux quite precise enough for it to chill one with the way it calls time. The bracing trio, unexpectedly pushing a third man to the front line, fielded Stephen McRae or Jose Martin, both with the sex appeal and earthy stage presence for it. This calls up the false major-key ensemble ending, which then so enchantingly elides into one of the most erotic pieces of choreography I have ever seen, that concluding septet. Are there other occasions when Balanchine puts near equal numbers of men and women together, and then plays slyly with the possibilities of the ' spare ', like some fascinatingly suggestive dinner party? Inside the symmetrical choreography, I am reminded of the games the men play on the women in ' Cosi fan tutte ' - the women put out a hand for support and the ' wrong ' men take them. They swap partners, without seeing who they are taking on. The last touch of the couples is again, with the ' wrong' partners, before the three men whoosh the girls away and end on their knees with a courtly gesture that is almost an invitation to the next lot of ladies. In England we rarely see Balanchines with this degree of sophisticated, bittersweet sexual playfulness, or am I just imagining it ? No contest between the casts: Rojo is just a magical, luminous dancer who sublimates her peerless technical skill into language, the steps dissolved here into sensual atmospherics, musical allure, flowing nuances in temperature, tone, volume and colour, just as on some other night she will fire out unbelievably brilliant fouettes and balances to frighten and seduce. Marquez, the B counterpart, does the steps very nicely - both casts looked very well coached by Elyse Borne - but she is a slightly fussy dancer, she flourishes the exterior shape of the moves, rather than interpreting why this rather than that. In Cast B, Mara Galeazzi was quite wrong where Benjamin had been right, she's too musically four-square and muscular a dancer to be an illusionist. I thought she could have been better in Rubies. Rubies seemed unfocused, almost unready, on opening night (Acosta oversold the party spirit, Sarah Lamb was okay but underwhelmed, the musicians lost their way) -- and just thrilling on the second, mainly because of Ansanelli. I have not so far been much of a fan. She has disappointed me in her classical roles with some rough dancing and lack of stylistic responsiveness and I have wondered why she came to London. It is unnerving that she is apparently going to be first cast Petrovna for Ashton's A Month in the Country next spring. It needs such nuanced teamwork, it is such a delicate cobweb of needs, and Ansanelli seems so intent on grabbing limelight and not fitting in. Whatever former reservations, she used her me-me-me style to spectacular brazen effect in Rubies, playing off a mini diva thing with her partner Ricardo Cervera who she at first tossed her head at rather scornfully, as he is a quite unassuming presence on stage (and not even a principal ! SO not cool ), and then, to my amusement and admiration, showed herself becoming increasingly attracted to him as he threw off the impressive turns and leaps that he has hidden inside that discreet personality. Finally she was throwing herself, too, on stage so recklessly that she went splat on her bum, legs splayed, but picked herself up at once and just carried on like this fabulously unpredictable firework. She was the kind of girl who you'd buy a red Ferrari off, even though she crashed it on the test drive. Yanowsky for me is rather a Volvo, well engineered, powerful, reliable, but too big and blunt in every way for the solo headliner, not fast enough to be dangerous, her feet not wittily pointed at the end of those long legs . Height needs to be a consideration for that role, but sharpness, even more. I fear Yanowsky gets typecast too much in amazon roles, when she is really a more reticent, courtly performer than that. She should be touching in a Month in the Country where she is supposed to be second cast. Diamonds, in my view, is the weakest of the three ballets, despite its unspeakably beautiful pas de deux. Too many Snowflake references and balancés in the opening corps movement for one thing, the formal ensembles like watered-down Petipa (let alone Ivanov), lacking the great Balanchine finale excitements of things like Symphony in C. However, there is that Everest thing in the middle, that magical snowy mountain, the pas de deux. I wish that Cojocaru had been better paired than with the gigantic and inexperienced young Pennefather, since I suspect that she would have been less smiley and reassuring with someone like Bonelli or Kobborg, and hence far more mysterious. She was a very bright diamond, but a very small one. To me the darkness and attraction of the chasm is what's alluring about Suzanne Farrell's performence on the video, and which Yuliana Lopatkina had in her more on-balance, mystical way with the Kirov. Enchanting, but forbidding too. Whereas Cojocaru was a joy, a pastoral princess, Aurora in public, never physically daring her partner to catch her, or setting secret tests of his imagination, the way I sensed Farrell and Lopatkina did. But, maybe this was not really how Cojocaru wanted to perform it, rather what was forced on her by the partnership. With such a tall guy she could never look in danger. With such an inexperienced one, I will speculate, she could not take the physical risks that she can with Kobborg. However, absolutely maximum marks to Monica Mason for casting Nunez and Soares, inspirationally, as a partnership who really are able to eloquently interrogate each other emotionally as well as physically. Their pas de deux was one of the greatest single performances of anything I have ever seen. They added up to more than the sum of their parts, all the risks coming together, a highly skilled pair of dancers with a deep and very interesting empathy with each other (this is not a Sibley-Dowell pair, they evidently strongly desire each other) and the refined and brave combined imagination to filter their love for each other through their aesthetic skill into a piece of choreography that questions the entire idea of togetherness. This just is like no other ballet pas de deux which will end in a happy fishdive or a sighing collapse. It is the most speaking and subtle dialogue about uncertainty, in my opinion, and although I might think Rojo and Cojocaru are a shade more extraordinary ballerinas, they don't regrettably have the blessing of an electrically charged partnership like Nunez and Soares do, and this pas de deux is hugely nourished by the artists having that real subtext as material. Anyway, it has been a privilege to see this ballet, enriched and fulfilled by such artists as Rojo, Cojocaru, Ansanelli, Nunez and Soares. We are very lucky in London.
  25. Jennifer Homans's very long and comprehensive review in ' The New Republic ' http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=...dd-058a09d5af2f, which is almost a biography of its own includes much appreciation for Diane Solway's book, and has a cool reaction to Kavanagh's. A couple of quotes that I concur with. ' Nureyev was not always performing his sex life. Sometimes he was just dancing, and Kavanagh badly underestimates the capacity of art to be its own cause. ' and her conclusion : ' Unfortunately, by focusing so hard on Nureyev's private life, Julie Kavanagh has not taken us any closer to the truth about why he mattered. Instead she reduces his art to the tedious and sordid details of his life. The people who "authorized" her book got what they asked for. The rest of us will wonder why we should care. ' While I did not agree with her opinion that Nureyev was not so much a great dancer as a dancer with perfect timing in his world and time -and really Margot Fonteyn was not ' bourgeois ' at all - generally her last word is close to my overall feeling that this is a missed opportunity. No one will write an acute biography of Nureyev now, ever. Kavanagh has woven him inside a cocoon of sex and society. It will seem even more a pity when Baryshnikov dies and truly excllent biogs of him will appear.
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