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Zakharova at the Bolshoi

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This “Giselle” was indeed a performance of great interest for Moscow ballet goers, for me even of double interest, since I missed the spring “Giselle” with Zakharova/Tziskaridze, which was so talked about. I must confess at once that for me personally it did not become a revelation. It was obvious that Svetlana did not feel at ease, which is rather natural in the circumstances, and as a result, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that she is trying too hard to make a show off of her debut. This tension, I think, affected both her dancing and acting. For me she rather acted Giselle, instead of living it – one of the possible reasons is that Zakharova is still too young and emotionally inexperienced. In any case, to my taste she was double cream in idyllic episodes and not too convincing in the mad scene (may be right from the beginning of this crucial episode she was a bit discouraged by Giselle’s mother – the actress was so clumsy in disorganizing Giselle’s hair for the mad scene, that it seemed to take ages :flowers: ). The white act needs less dramatic efforts, but badly needs style. To my conservative eyes it was broken: poses were not Giselle-like and the hands were more of a swan, than willy, not to mention the “obligatory” six o’clock. Dancing itself was technically strong, but not impeccable, often lacking fluidity. What really surprised me that Zakharova demonstrated neither high jump, nor real balon (sorry to be depraved by jumpy Moscow ballerinas :clapping: ). I’ve seen her several times before with Mariinsky, but was never aware of the fact. May be, it finally struck my eye in comparison with that day’s Mirtha – Maria Alexandrova and, surely, her Albert – Tziskaridze. He was emotional, but not over exaggerated, elegant in dancing and technically strong in bravura elements, with which this Vasiliev’s version is stuffed to my regret.

I would like to point out that of course Zakharova has spectacular lines and elastic feet and these qualities should 100% work in “Swan Lake”, especially in the old-new Grigorovich’s version, which is sophisticated to such an extend, that almost lacks sense :flowers: ) and as a result does not need extra-dramatic qualities.

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There was considerable amount of criticizing under Bolshoi‘s eight columns after the performance, but enough enthusiastic applause at curtain calls, and being frank not only inspired by the claque. Also her partnership with Tziskaridze automatically provided Zakharova with a whole stock of his devotees. Beautiful long-legged pair, romantic story, two prime-ministers, Russian and French, in the central box, - isn’t it enough nowadays to warm the hearts? :ermm:

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As far as I know next appearance will be on the 27th of October in "Pharaoh's Daughter" followed by two more performances on October 29 and 31. Her partner will be Sergei Filin. Zakharova never danced this ballet, so that will be another debut. Let's wait and see what comes out.

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To my great regret, I was unable to see this performance but was eagerly following the postings about it on different Russian ballet forums. The following extracts can give you a flavor of some of them:

Olya: “On the 5th of October I saw Giselle with Svetlana Zakharova and Nikolai Tsiskaridze. What can I tell you? I was in raptures! Congratulations to everyone, and first of all to the Bolshoi, with a marvellous acquisition which is Svetlana. She is beautiful and has wonderful arms, neck and ‘singing’ feet; she can show her coquettish side but not expressly, God forbid. She was charming in Act 1, maidenly naïve and pure. And what a madness scene! It was frightening when she was already becoming a Wilis! She was transparent and sad in Act 2 as a pure and light apparition – that was brilliant. She is a Ballerina of a very high order both technically and artistically, and the image she created is different from that created by other stars. I still remember Maximova and a very young Ananiashvili as Giselle, they were inimitable, but Svetlana introduced something of her own!

Eva: She was 100% convincing for me, and even more than that. So playful, coquettish and pure, a true child of nature. In the madness scene I felt scared for her and tears welled up in my eyes. In fact, not my eyes alone.

Where her duet with Tsiskaridze is concerned… At last we have a ballerina who is not eclipsed by him. He even himself excelled with her… Unfortunately, I can not write professionally about technique but, from my point of view as an amateur, Zakharova’s dancing was very, very beautiful.

O yes, Alexandrova of course... I can not hold my peace about her. She is a fantastic Myrtha! Not a ballerina who is pretending to be someone else but the Queen of Wilis coming from a legend in person.

MC: Tsiskaridze as Albert… Well, the Russian language is great and powerful but even this language is short of synonyms of the word ‘magnificent’ to help me with describing once again, without reiteration, Nikolai’s performance on that night. So, every time I am paining when desperately try to invent new words… We said everything and reiterated over and over again. Now the only word “Bravo!” can be endlessly repeated.

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Having seen Zakharova dance in the UK recently, I find it difficult to reconcile some of these fulsome comments with my impressions of her.

Marc described her approach when reviewing her London Bayadere very accurately I thought.

Zakharova resembled an alien visitor not familiar with the language of the corps. What I found most disconcerting is however that her technical virtuosity (impressive it may be when taken on its own) is totally unrelated to the drama unfolding before our eyes, worse it is even happening in spite of the drama

Another case of a dancer not "travelling" well?

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Thank you, Akimova, for giving some impressions from the Russian balletomanes.

Mashinka, I don't think it is so much a case of a dancer not travelling well, it is rather what you expect to see in a classical ballet performance. When taken out of its context, as many people seem to do here, her performance may strike as extremely impressive, but when considered as part of an ensemble, a whole ballet, with a certain style, theatricality, rules of emploi etc, (which is Ina's approach), it may seem less so.

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I attended “Giselle” on October 5th at the Bolshoi. It was not bad, it was not perfect. Everybody danced well enough, but as usual somebody danced better than the others :rolleyes: .

Myrtha by Maria Alexandorva was completely fantastic – high jumps, impressive ballon, noiseless landings, absolutely clear ten sauts-de-basque in the coda of the pas de willis (I cannot recall a performance when she did less), charming frequent pas de bourrés... She was not an actress, she was the Queen of Willis herself, as somebody wrote - terrible and implacable. Masha usually dances this role very well but that day she surpassed herself.

Albert-Tsiskaridze. I liked his dance that night very much. Usually he tries to decorate the role by many unnecessary details (say, different gestures, glances, exaggerated leaps and rotations, etc.) which often contradict each other in the style. That night he demonstrated a noble dance, noble in its simplicity as it should be in this charming romantic ballet. Almost everything he did on the stage was just excellent. And he was so gallant with his ballerinas, not only during the performance but also at the curtain calls. It was not the first time in the new season that Nikolai demonstrated that simplicity and the absence of mannerism which I appreciate. Is this a new quality of the talented dancer?

I was not so enthusiastic about Zakharova's first appearance in "Giselle" at the regular Bolshoi's performance. She has an extraordinary body, charming lines, elastic feet, everything a ballerina needs for a perfect dance. But I did not find her technique being superb. I noticed a lack of dramatic art in her interpretation and found her rather cold in the first act (may be only at Giselle’s death she looked sincere and touching). The Madness scene did not impress me. I recognize that Svetlana could not run beautifully, her movements were a bit unnatural when she played with the sword and tried to kill herself. And I did not understand why her pointes knocked so much... No good leaps in the 2nd act, what killed the effect of the flight. Maybe her jumps could be accepted better if they were not so contrasting to these by Alexandrova and Tsiskaridze. Svetlana’s arms were too "swanlike", some poses were not canonical (say, the pose of obedience when she faced Myrtha the first time – she should not keep her head straight, we know the photo by Spesivtseva). Strange enough but I did not notice the cantilena I liked so much when Zakharova performed 20th century choreography. There were some strange sharp movements of the body when Zakharova sank from her points.

Zakharova was not bad, by no means I would like to tell she was. Of course she demonstrated many beautiful pas – arabesques, developpés and all that. But she was not perfect as the audience was eager to see from the new Bolshoi’s ballerina. And when I recall a few “Giselles” I watched during recent years (Ananiashvili-Uvarov, Vishneva-Malakhov, Cojocaru-Kobborg, Ledovskaya, Lunkina-Malakhov), I cannot tell that Svetlana Zakharova touched my soul.

To conclude I have to tell that Ms. Akimova selected only positive posts about Zakharova from Russian forums and skipped any criticism people presented there. I think this needs to be said to give a better idea of what the Russian balletomanes thought of her.

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Many thanks for your review, Mikhail.

Interesting that you mention this about the poses, a detail maybe, but crucial if you want to dance "Giselle" and not "Chopiniana" or "Swan Lake". I know that Zakharova's previous Kirov teacher Olga Moiseyeva used to pay attention to this in rehearsals. Not everything seems to be remembered, though.

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Thank you, Mikhail, for your review (and also for your comments on the nature of the postings! It's wonderful for us to have an idea of what people are saying on other boards, but it's good, too, to have a context for them!)

I must say I'm especially jealous not to have seen Alexandrova's Myrtha! I was particularly interested in your comments on Tsiskaridze. I haven't seen his "noble" side -- he's performed here several times, and we've gotten the more exaggerated dancing you describe.

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I consciously, even deliberately, selected only positive posts about Zakharova from the Russian forums. I did it not because I am a biased person. On the contrary, I aimed to convey here the opinion of those who were impressed with Zakharova but can not write in English. That is why I introduced my translation with the words: “the folloing extracts can give you a flavor of some of them (reviews)”. Having followed Russian ballet forums closely, I knew that reviews of a different flavor will not fail to appear here. Therefore, now you can see different views of the Bolshoi’s “Giselle”, which will help the readers to judge the nature of the postings and a context for them.

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October 27, Pierre Lacotte’s “La Fille du Pharaon”

Svetlana Zakharova, Sergei Filin, Maria Alexandrova, Gennady Yanin.

The performance was rather mediocre. In the first act Zakharova’s acting consisted of a big simper without any variation. Toward the end of the ballet she developed some charm but the ballet asks for more. The most shocking for me was the choreography she danced: it was not the movements that other Bolshoi’s ballerinas (Ananiashvili, Gracheva, Alexandrova) did in the part! Zakharova danced a much more simplified version! The variations that looked in the past like French lace, with Zakharova were turned into simple school exercises! May be Lacotte himself castrated his own creation to adjust it to Zakharova’s abilities – with her long legs she apparently have problems with that “small” French technique. Or she did it on her own accord? The performance was filmed by the French TV, so the ballet will be saved in history in the “light” version…. I think it’s a great pity because the original ballerina variations was much more beautiful. To say nothing about Zakharova’s very modest artistry.

Sergei Filin was better – he was the creator of the role, his dancing abilities were as great as always, but he didn't look very inspired.

However Maria Alexandrova as Ramze and Gennady Yanin as Taor’s servant looked very good. Their warmth and commitment looked especially pleasant in comparison with the coldness of the leading dancers. I also liked Anna Tsigankova, Denis Medvedev and Anastasia Yatsenko who danced variations.

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Mark Haegeman:

"How was this "Pharaonka light" received by the audience? Anybody else who saw it? Mikhail, Ina, Akimova?"

- I totally don't understand this reference to "Pharaonka light"?

I saw both performances in London - one with Alexandrova and the other with Zakharova in the role of Aspicia. The two ballerinas are not even in the same league. Alexandrova is not a lyrical ballerina. Neither she is a possessor of Zakharova technical ability nor Svetlana's beautiful form. Zakharova technique is awesome! Yet it does not overwhelm her pure Kirov line. She remains Kirov ballerina first and foremost.

I can't believe that she danced 3 out of 4 performances in Pharaonka! This role is very hard on a dancer feet. Yet all her performances with sheer joy which was totally shared by the audience who watched her and her partner Fillin in awe.

She is by far the best that Bolshoi have to offer and certainly one of today's world's greats.

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Nikia, I am so glad you seem to have found your favorite ballerina. It's actually a very rare thing to discover an artist who meets your expectations in such a complete way. I also hope that you'll be able to see much more of the Bolshoi, and of Maria Alexandrova in particular, so that you'll be able to find and appreciate the true qualities of that ballerina as well.

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I only wanted to share my impressions about what I saw in London. Since I saw both ballerinas in the same role I could not resist comparing them. Svetlana was a treat for one's eyes and for one's soul.

I really don't want to downplay Alexandrova. I also watched her as Mirta some time back and was duly impressed by her ability to soar in the air akin to Spartacus, no sarcasm in this comparison. But my preferences lie with a more refined dancing style.

I also rush to share with you that Zakharova is not my very best, i.e. favorite ballerina. There is one who I think tops her in the ability to project. I leave it to you to guess.

Might be one of your favorite as well ;-)

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For Nikia to like Zakharova is fine: but I'm sorry it was felt necessary to denigrate Maria Alexandrova.

I won't argue with the fact that joining the Bolshoi seems to have been beneficial for Zakharova as some of her sharp edges appear to have softened a little this time around. But to say she has a better technique is frankly erroneous and as to Alexandrova’s form not being beautiful, I beg to differ, as there are very many of us out there that have no appreciation of the emaciated form Nikia obviously prefers.

Where Zakharova does score points is that she is the far more experience dancer and consequently looks a little more assured on stage than Alexandrova. I also saw both dancers in the role of Aspicia and my preference was for the warmer interpretation of Alexandrova, a preference shared by those I spoke to after the performance.

She is by far the best that Bolshoi have to offer

That is a highly contentious statement: Nina Ananiashvili remains the company's prima even though she was sadly unable to dance with the Bolshoi in London this summer. I think it highly unlikely that Zakharova will ever prove a challenge to her.

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I am very respectful of other people opinions and I find yours equally interesting even if you do find fault with Svetlana. It is perfectly fine to differ.

Unfortunately I didn't see Nina in the role of Aspcia. I saw her some time back in Corsaire. Yes, she was experience, she was expressive. But, well she was... old. Her body lost its suppleness, the lines were not the same. No matter how great a ballerina might be in the past, comes the time when it's time for her to go.

Since this topic is about Zakharova, I would like to share something else that dazzled me in London. It's Svetlana physical beauty. Nowhere had I seen a ballerina of such perfect proportions. It appears if nature went that extra mile to create a body especially for the ballet. Perhaps there were ballerinas in the past, perhaps Bessmertnova or Spessivtzeva, but I didn't see them live.

And another thing. I wonder if Svetlana is double jointed. What do you think Marc? When she opens her leg in develope and then carries it back to arabesque - there is no transition, so to say, but one movement. And her spine too. But the best feature is her amazing feet - flexible and expressive, perfectly able to create a phrase on their own. I wish I could write better. <sigh>.

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Dear friends, before we get entangled in a pointless discussion about the respective physical qualities of these dancers, may I suggest that we limit our observations as much as possible to their performances, which is in any case more constructive.

After all, opinions about physical beauty, bodily shapes, flexibility and no-jointed hips are about as personal as colors and tastes, and what might seem ideal and beautiful to one person, will appear downright wrong and ugly to another.

Thank you.

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It's a very kind hearted intension, Marc. But a body is a dancer instrument, just like a violin is for the musician. Performance of a violinist might very well depend on that very instrument. And instruments do differ indeed. There is a stradivarius and there is another kind... made in China :-) To separate the two would narrow a discussion considerably. After all freedom of speech is not the privilege, rather it the right.

Dear friends,

please be more open to new ideas. Nina is gone. Hey, I was way too young to

remember Nina in her prime. There is a new breed of dancers out there. Open your eyes and your mind.

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