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silvy

Marianna Tcherkassky

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I recently came across a video tape called "Baryshnikov: the dancer and the dance", which shows rehearsals and performance of "Configurations" by Choo San Goh. In it Misha's partner is Marianna Tcherkassky.

Could someone please provide more information about Tcherkassky? What type of dancer was she? All I know is that she danced with ABT, and another video featuring her in Sylphides.

Thanks in advance!!!!!!

Silvy

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Marianna Tcherkassky was a whiz kid at the School of American Ballet, but instead of NYCB, she went into American Ballet Theater, where she enjoyed a meteoric rise, often being partnered by either Fernando Bujones or Baryshnikov. She is of Japanese and Russian ancestry, and was/is a very attractive woman, besides her amazing technical ability.

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She was initially trained at the Washington School of Ballet; the role of the Christmas Star in the company's production of Nutcracker was made on her when she was a teenager, I was told.

I agree with Mel's assessment. She danced so softly that her technique was often underrated, but I'll never forget one Don Q where she did the fouettes with her hands on her hips! I liked her Sylph very much, as well as her Giselle. She was also in the original cast of "Push Comes to Shove." I never considered her one of ABT's stars, although she was a principal -- stiff competition then, with Makarova, Gregory, Van Hamel and Kirkland. In soloist roles, she was always the one I noticed -- the pas de trois in Swan Lake, for example. A lovely dancer.

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Alexandra mentions "soft technique". When this forum appeared that's exactly the word that came to my mind: "soft". She had the softest feet I've ever seen, and I could never decide if was their physique or the shoes she wore. Her feet were beautiful, as was her technique: not flashy but always correct and....well, soft!

Giannina

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Marianna was a stunningly beautiful woman, in my opinion. A very lyrical dancer with a special affinity for -- :) oh, now I'm confused how to classify -- you know, the roles with mid-calf, white tutus, formerly called "Romantic." :wink: To my knowledge, she never danced Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. It seems that her not-very-long legs disqualified her from those roles in ABT's mind, and despite filling in for an injured Makarova for the Bayadere telecast, I think she stopped dancing Nikiya soon thereafter. I, too, saw her do a fiery Kitri (of which she did only one in New York), which surprised as much as delighted me, since she was often faulted for a lack of projection.

One of her specialties was travelling turns. Her electrifying diagonal of chaines in Bayadere remains vivid in my memory. And her feet had the best qualities of both rubber and steel. I recently asked a friend, if Marianna were in her prime today and at ABT, would she have star status? It's something to consider.

I saw Marianna when she was in Martine van Hamel's small troupe, performing at Jacob's Pillow in, oh, maybe '89. One of her roles was a tango choreographed by Peter Gennaro (which dance appears, I believe on "Natasha!" video). In that setting, with that role, she filled the house with personality and -- oh, my! -- sexiness.

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Marianna was beautiful-beautiful. She radiated humility and dignity.

I too loved her Giselle and La Sylphide. I also loved her prelude in Les Sylphides.

For me at ABT (in my NY days) it was Makarova, Kirkland and Tcherkassky. Next came Cynthia Gregory and Magali Messac.

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I just remembered something about M. Tcherkassky that you might find interesting Silvy.

When I was about sixteen I saw Bujones and Tcherkassky perform the Grand Pas from Act II, Nutcracker at Dade County Auditorium in Miami, FL.

They were still students at SAB and I assume they were taught the pas by Danilova.

Early in the pas there is a moment when the man stands in an open lunge position. The woman is in attitude derriere and she takes his offered hand.

Marianna lifted her hand as she lowered her head. Then she placed her hand in his as her head lifted. The coordination and beauty of the way she did this seemingly simple move has stayed with me for almost thirty years. I try to get this same beautiful moment recreated when I coach the Grand Pas, every year.

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I remember seeing Marianna Tcherkassky often in the early seventies in soloist roles with ABT. Although at that time I didn't really think of her as one my absolute favorites, I always enjoyed her performances. As other posters have said, she was very beautiful and soft, both her looks and her dancing. I remember especially enjoying her in Giselle in the peasant pas de deux and once in 76 in what I think was one of her early performances as Giselle with Ivan Nagy ( a big favorite of mine!). She dances in La Spectre de la Rose in the "Baryshinok at Wolf Trap " video and in Les Sylphides in" ABT at the Met (Mixed Bill)". For me those videos really reflect my memories of her.

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Although I never got to see her dance, I was able to take class from her at ABT's summer intensive and loved her classes. She was so beautiful just to watch give the combinations! I try to think of her class when I watch tapes of her.

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Silvy, she was a ballerina, for sure -- but her ways were so gracious, she did not ever impose herself on the audience, which means that she could sometimes astonish you when she'd appear as a soloist, for then she would just blaze.

I'm thinking of the peasant pas de deux performance she gave which is recorded on tape in the very best Giselle I know of -- Baryshnikov's, with Makarova. It's a Giselle everybody should take a look at -- Makarova is deeply , deeply absorbed in her role, Baryshnikov plays Albrecht as a prince on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who is only happy -- indeed, he is only CALM -- when he is in Giselle's presence. Van Hamel is a magnificent Myrta, everybody is remarkable -- and Tcherkassky is simply dazzling in the peasant pas. She isn't troubled by any of this drama -- she just loves to dance -- pas de chat pas de chat, brisee, entrechat-quatre...... SO beautiful.

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Veering ever-so-slightly off-topic.

On the eve of that telecast, one of my companions mused that Marianna (who must have done 10 thousand Peasant Pas by then) must be feeling the way she (my friend) did in anticipation of a cross-country/cross-ocean flight -- alternating between utter boredom and sheer terror. :grinning:

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Although I didn't get to see very many of her performances, count me in as one who really enjoyed those I did see! I agree with many previous posters that Tcherkassky danced with a soft, lyrical quality (that belied inner strength)... It seems that I tend to like dancers who have clean technique and use it expressively in on a more subtle than bravura manner. And am I correct in thinking that Baryshnikov actually set Clara in his Nutcracker on Tcherkassky (even though Gelsey Kirkland dances on the video)?

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It would be nice if someone could clear up the Nutcracker matter as I've always understood it to be that Clara was created on Gelsey but she missed the premiere.

If anyone saw Becky Wright in the role of Clara can you comment? My friends who were huge Gelsey fans said that Becky was actually the best Clara.

Back to Marianna, I remember being very impressed by the stillness of her torso, shoulders so down, when she danced the little duet with Misha in the prelude of "Les Sylphides" for television.

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It would be nice if someone could clear up the Nutcracker matter as I've always understood it to be that Clara was created on Gelsey but she missed the premiere.

That's my understanding too, Glebb. The premiere was in DC and there was a lot of coverage about it at the time.

I did see Wright, and just about every other soloist and demi-soloist in the company. ABT would bring Nutcracker for two weeks every year during the late '70s-early '80s and the Post did cast changes then and that was my beat :wacko: For me, no one came close to Kirkland. I remember liking Nancy Raffa a lot, though. There was a tomboyishness about her that was refreshing.

A

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Nancy Raffa! Whatever happened to her?I know she went w/ Ivan Nagy to Ballet de Santiago when he was the AD but lost any info after he left.

She showed a lot of promise when she danced Paquita w/ N Makarova's ill-fated co.

Joe

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To my great sorrow, Joe, I didn't see that Makarova troupe -- I was young and naive, and thought it would be around forever :wink: I have friends who did saw it and came back, very excited, saying that Raffa was going to be another Danilova; there was a similarity in the shoulders and arms.

I believe she is now teaching with Miami City Ballet now.

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Thanks everybody for the information

This is completely out of topic, but can someone please elaborate a bit more about Makarova's troupe? Who were the dancers? And why was it a short-lived company?

Silvy

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Makarova's co.,i think ,lasted only, 1 season. It opened to a lot of fanfare w/ a lot of guest principals,aside from Natalia,including A dowell, P Schaufuss and a lot of dancers from the old London Festival Ballet.She started w/ a lot of young,new graduates for the corp de ballet.

Unfortunately, the repertoire ( except for the staging of Paquita) did not please the critics. So w/ the young corp de ballet except for Nancy who danced Paquita(2nd cast).

They must have lost money because the troupe disbanded the follwing season. Nancy joined ABT after that season.

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The very young Miriam Madhaviani appeared in Makarova's troupe before joining NYCB. I believe she was still enrolled at SAB during Makarova & Friends, or whatever the name was.

Was the enterprise conceived as an ongoing Company, per se, or just an opportunity for Makarova to take total control of artistic issues for a program or two in a venue or two? I don't remember publicity projecting a long lifespan for this, and I can not imagine Makarova giving up the resources of ABT and RB for any length of time.

Back to Marianna, one reason why she rose so quickly (not that it wouldn't have happened anyway), was because she was a short girl who could replace the unreliable Gelsey Kirkland as Baryshnikov's partner. That was why she got her first Giselle so early in her career and why she ended up premiering Nutcracker.

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A couple of posters have said that Tcherkassky rose quickly to the top. That's not how I remember it. On the contrary, I remember her being stuck at soloist level for several years while it was apparent to everyone but the ABT management that she was ready for ballerina roles. The problem was that this was a time that ABT employed as many guest stars as it possibly could, turning a blind eye towards the talent in their own ranks. I remember the excitement among balletomanes when she finally got her first Giselle; it was the end of the season and I think the company had run out of stars. At that performance, people were saying that the corps seemed energized, as if they saw any hopes for their own careers in the success of this homegrown ballerina. (Of course we don't know if they actually thought that; that was just our reading of the performance and we could well have been projecting our own feelings!)

And about Makarova's troupe -- most of her corps dancers came from SAB.

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Her rise from the corps, however, was unusually swift, even though she was stalled there at soloist for a time. She was a huge audience and critical favorite, and when she did break through to the principal rank, a great sigh of relief could be heard throughout American ballet!

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Any idea what Mariana is doing these days?

Another bit of my curiosity!!!!!!!!

:wink:

silvy

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she MAY be working w/ pittsburg ballet, run by her husband(?) terryorr, another former ABT dancer.

but i'm not really sure.

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Guest ajg

Yes, we are lucky to have Marianna here in Pittsburgh. She is a Ballet Mistress at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Terry Orr, her husband, is Artistic Director) and she is just as gracious and lovely as ever. My son, who is a student at the school, really enjoys her classes and I love watching her give class - very musical and precise.

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