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Simon G

Alina Cojocaru

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I've been thinking quite a bit about Cojocaru these past three weeks, since seeing her in Symphony in C, and wondered what others thought about her, in light of her guesting in New York and Paris.

Firstly, although this will be a highly critical posting, I in no way deny her talent or her potential. What troubles me is how she is, in my eyes since her incredible Giselles in 2001, really blowing it.

For anyone who wasn't there, those two Giselles which elevated her to principal status were utterly spellbinding. As Judith Mackrell in the Guardian said "You had the uncanny feeling of being in the right place at the right time." Cojocaru had already caused a bit of a stir by then in Symphonic Variations, and had been promoted to first soloist after only a year within the Royal. Those two Giselles were utterly brilliant. Perhaps because she really had nothing to lose, was not a "ballerina" at that point and because they were so utterly organic and impulsive. The most powerful dance I had seen since Lynn Seymour.

She was then promoted to principal. I at the time thought this was a brilliant idea, despite the fact that these were the only principal roles she had danced. It just seemed the logical conclusion to these performances. Then I saw her in many other roles and now I believe that she was promoted far too soon.

Over at NYCB one sees that Megan Fairchild, (who i have not seen) has been following a similarly Cojocaru-esque route, but after her principal roles she returns to the corps, and she has now danced more principal roles than Cojocaru when she was promoted. This is not unfair, I feel, it's how promising dancers are taken care of. Because one thing that is becoming clear on seeing Cojocaru, is how her technique and strength are suffering at the hands of the roles she is dancing.

Cojocaru is essentially a Russian trained dancer, with a rhythmic gymnasts facility, especially in the back, her arabesque is higher than many a penchee. She has those qualities which Russians are famous for, beautiful plasticity, facility, adagio and grand allegro. What she also has is poor footwork and a Russian style cavalier attitude to music. She also relies on what Joan Sutherland called the GPE - general pained expression, to supply drama to a role in the place of real characterisation.

On seeing her in Symphony it was interesting to see how weak her feet have become, allegro work which she made mincemeat out of a couple of years ago is now clumsy and at times veyr sloppy. Her feet are suffering. Also that extremity of back flexibility is taking its toll, the soaring arabesque jarrs. But what is most troubling is her assumption of a grand ballerina manner, which is getting in the way of her developing into the dancer she is.

She is not classically proportioned, so what? Many of the greatest dancers in the world did not have ballet classicisim of form, but what they did have was a clear idea of an individual path which there career could take. Also she is just too young for many of the roles she has been given. Olga, Odette, Manon, Titania etc these were not good in her hands. Also the technique was surprisingly not there, especially in Odette/Odile and Aurora, roles I thought she would have aced at least on a tecnical level.

Also the musicality in the modern rep is off. She is a stunningly musical dancer within the classical rep, however with Balanchine she seems to get annoyed with how the dancer must adhere to the correct tempo, but within the form and structure of the music and dance can assert her personality there.

The problems of the Royal are many and manifest as has been pointed out many times and one of the problems with an ailing company is that once they find a potential star they overpromote, overwork and eventually cause that star to self-destruct.

A few years ago Cojocaru was one of the only reasons I would go to the RB, now no longer.

Any thoughts?

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I have only seen her in a couple of roles, Symphonic with the Royal Ballet in Washington, and Nikiya when she guested with ABT. In both, I was somewhat disappointed. I thought she was a bit too light weight for both, though she is a lovely dancer. This was not a uniformly shared opinion by any means! She seemed to me, though, to stretch everything out, and distort some of the classical lines. I remember especially a bit in the Shades scene, when Nikiya jumps sideways; the ABT dancers' legs made a beautiful arc, but she looked like a gymnast, with her legs flat on each side and off the music. It may just be a question of what I was used to seeing, but to me it was jarring. And in the final pose, Nikiya is pulling Solor up to the heavens. Cojocaru bent her back almost horizontal, again, a striking pose, but it destroyed the upward movement. I don't know if this could contribute to the lack of footwork you see, but her shoes were really not pretty, with huge, seemingly heavy blocks. I did think seeing her, that she would be a much better Giselle than Nikiya.

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I guess two essential things have been overlooked in Cojocaru's case. Time and emploi.

With the sheer amount and diversity of roles she had to digest in the last couple of years, it was bound to go wrong at some point - no matter how talented she is. They just don't give these people enough time and as soon as they are successful they are thrown in everything, regardless whether they are suited or ready for it, or not.

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We musn't forget Alina's partner in those mind blowing giselles, Mr Johan Kobborg!!

Now i've tried, with no luck, to convince my friends that when ms.C constantly throws her leg up it only serves to show us what we have already know she can do and have already seen! Should her leg extentions not be different with each role she undertakes? I find dancers most convincing when they are totally into a role! The 180 she does for one role is exactly the same as the 180 she does for another!! Don't get me wrong i like alina, really i do, but sometimes gymnasitcs just aren't tasteful...........

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I only saw Alina Cojocaru twice: the first time during a gala where she danced Giselle act II pdd and two months ago when she danced Giselle with the POB here in Paris.

The first time I saw her I found her really amazing (especially her lightness), but it was only a short pdd.

In the videos I saw, I also found her really great, but the parts really fitted her (Clara and Cinderella).

From what I've heard and read about her Giselle, I really was eager to discovering her in the title role. But I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. She is of course a lovely Giselle and she is dancing very well, but her interpretation didn't move me especially. I particularly found that she lacked some dramatic weight in act II, where according to me she was too "light" (she made me think of a "sylphide" rather than a wili). Some people told me that she was better in London some days before and perhaps she was too intimated or tired when I saw her (and the couple with Legris didn't work very well)

But, although her Giselle didn't convince me, I liked the ballerina and I hope to see her in other parts very soon.

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I guess two essential things have been overlooked in Cojocaru's case. Time and emploi.

With the sheer amount and diversity of roles she had to digest in the last couple of years, it was bound to go wrong at some point - no matter how talented she is. They just don't give these people enough time and as soon as they are successful they are thrown in everything, regardless whether they are suited or ready for it, or not.

Alina reminds me of three old RB dancers who were exceptional, thrust into

too much too soon, and then burned out: Bryony Brind, Maria Almeida, and Marguerite Porter. Alina is currently injured, and she had that awful spill last year in "Manon." A young dancer needs consistent guidance and the utmost care. Is Monica Mason seeing to it that she's getting it?

Edited by Cygnet

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At the risk of going off topic, I would not include Marguerite Porter in the list of burn-outs. I wish Alina had been nurtured the way Marguerite was. Porter was in the corps for at least six years before she started doing demi-solos like Hermia in the Dream and Ysobel in Enigma Variations. Alina was in the corps for less than a year! And she skipped ranks when promoted. She went from artist to first soloist. That is a big change, and not really a good one. She hasn't had time to find out what she does best and has been given roles which are not suited to her. Olga in Onegin was a serious miscast, and so was Manon. A role which might be good for her is Julia in a Wedding Bouquet, which I think she will be dancing next year.

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I felt the same of her Swan Lake (Odette/Odile)- totally mis-cast.

She hasn't had a chance the grow as a person either, she has never really had those two or three years (say between 18 and 21), where most of us were at university, to find out what she like and doesn't like, whats shes good at (and not) and (its bit cheesy) but also to find out WHO she is...............

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Guest barleys01

I don’t know if I would go as far as saying she hasn’t had a chance to grow as a person. Well I don’t know her personally, obviously, for a start! But I also think that although Alina may look like a little girl, we have to remember that this is someone who left home at the age of 9/10 to train in a foreign country and someone who took the risk of leaving the familiar surroundings of Kiev to join the Royal Ballet in London. Normally circumstances like these teach you to grow up quickly.

And although I don’t know her personally, I think she does have the maturity and intelligence to deal with being in the spotlight, seeing how she has dealt with her rapid rise to stardom and how she has appeared to remain so humble.

Having said that, I think having youth on your side probably means that she doesn’t right now worry too much about pacing herself and I do hope that she has someone to give her guidance. I think she was given most of the roles you mentioned when Ross Stretton was the AD and she had a crazy schedule performing 50+ shows during his season. It appears that Monica Mason has a more reasonable schedule for her but I don’t know how much say Mason has in what Alina does when she is not on the ROH stage as she appears to be guesting everywhere these days! Again, Alina seems to know what she wants- I can only hope that she is pacing herself.

I wonder what happened with dancers like Darcey Bussell and Alessandra Ferri who were also promoted at such a young age- did they dance a lot in their early twenty? I suppose they must have done something right because they have gone on to have such successful careers. Both have had two girls and are still dancing!

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The ITAR-TASS Agency in Moscow reported on Benois de la danse 2004 awards which were announced yesterday. Алина Кожокару (Alina Cojocaru) got the prize as the best ballerina for her role in “Cinderella”. The best male dancers are Laurent Hilaire for "Chants du compagnon errant" and Lloyd Riggins for his role in “The Death in Venice”.

The gala concert will take place in Moscow tonight.

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Good heaves Coda, writing in Cyrillic - didnt even know that the board could manage that. I have had problems before writing Swedish and Danish names (we have some more letters than the normal alphabet).

Anyway, though I wouldnt claim to speak Russian at all (just some phrases and of course a good stream of invectives which come in very handy at times) I can read signs and names. Fantastic, I am flabbergasted. :rolleyes:

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Oh, my God! I haven't even noticed when I copied Cyrillic straight from a Russian ballet forum. :rolleyes:

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And magically changed it into finest English! Thank you!! Congratulations to all the winners.

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I missed it so I don't know. I would imagine, though, that if Coda copied in text -- in any alphabet -- it would "copy" as is.

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The ITAR-TASS Agency in Moscow reported on Benois de la danse 2004 awards which were announced yesterday. ????? ???????? (Alina Cojocaru) got the prize as the best ballerina for her role in “Cinderella”. The best male dancers are Laurent Hilaire for "Chants du compagnon errant" and Lloyd Riggins for his role in “The Death in Venice”.

The gala concert will take place in Moscow tonight.

Friday's "links" has an article from the Moscow Times that says that Irina Kolesnikova won the award for best ballerina. Did they award more than one prize for ballerinas, or did the previous report mention the nominees?

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Dear Nysusan, I read everything that was written last week by major Russian critics about the Benois de la danse results as well as all reports on Russian ballet forums and can only repeat that the winners of "Benois de la danse-2004" are:

Alina Cojocaru as the best ballerina,

Lloyd Riggins and Laurent Hilaire as best male dancers,

and Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon (Ballet of Netherlands) as best choreographers.

Where the article by Raymond Stults in "The Moscow Times" is concerned, well, what can I say. His articles there about ballet, which I read from time to time, demonstrate clearly that he is a reporter and not a ballet critic. It is even more disappointing that a reporter can not report the facts accurately.

Now about Irina Kolesnikova. Participants of the Russian ballet forums who are very well steeped in their favourite subject kept asking recently who Irina Kolesnikova was. She is more known abroad where Tachkin's ballet is touring than in Russia. I think she was nominated for Benois by her coach Alla Osipenko but has not got the prize although danced a piece at the gala concert. Alina and Hilaire could not come to Moscow.

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Thank you Coda, for clarifying a confusing situation!

Susan

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I've also noticed that Cojocaru's shoes are EXTREMELY wide, and in some of them you can practically see a bone protruding. I wonder if she has very bad bunions.

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Well ... not that I'm a dancer, but if she has bunions that large here is a picture of how large and wide her feet have become, shouldn't she have surgery before her feet become completely deformed? Sorry for dragging this into off-topic ...

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Very, very bad ones. Her shoes have the shape they do out of necessity.

Looking at a pair of Cojocaru's shoes, the bunions problem on one foot is so severe that she cut a 1/2 inch slit in the side of one. Also, her feet are very short, which may exaggerate the sense of width. A few years ago, when she danced two Bayaderes plus rehearsals and a dress rehearsal at ABT, she only brought two pairs. They looked bad, BUT she presented the greatest incarnations of Nikiya I've ever seen.

Frankly, her artistry is so glorious that I'd pay to see her dance even if she had to wear army boots.

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Yikes! I've seen some pictures where the bone is literally protruding from her pointe shoe, as if there werent shoes wide enough for her feet. I've got a question though -- what would she wear offstage for feet with such bad bunions? And will her feet be completely deformed to the point where she wouldn't be able to walk if she doesn't treat them?

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Also, her feet are very short, which may exaggerate the sense of width.
Or conversely, it may be their width that (together with the high arches) makes them look so short.

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