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2005 Mariinsky Festival Reports!

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The start 5th International Mariinsky Ballet Festival is upon us. I will begin to post my reviews with the Daria Pavlenko Gala Night (March 28). Our other Petersburg forum-members and friends are, of course, welcomed to post their reviews and impressions throughout the festival.

As a reminder, this is the schedule of Festival performances (subject to change):

V International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY 2005


24 March

I. Apollo (Balanchine – Stravinsky) Bolle of LaScala/Tereshkina/Golub/Yesina

II. Reverence (Dawson – Bryars) world premiere - Gumerova/Pavlenko/Sologub; Lobukhin/Merkuriev/A. Sergeev

III. Two Ballets in the Late 20th Century Manner:

Approximate Sonata (Forsythe – Willems) Petina/Serebriakova/Tereshkina/Sheshina; Baimuradov/Zuizin/Ivanov/Peikhachev

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (Forsythe – Schubert) Zolotova/S. Ivanova/Tkachenko; Kulikov/Fadeev


25 March I.

I. The Four Temperaments (Balanchine – Hindemith) Golub/Kondaurova; Korsakov/Merkuriev

II. Reverence (Dawson – Bryars) same cast as above

III. Two Ballets in the Late 20th Century Manner:

Approximate Sonata (Forsythe – Willems) same cast as above

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (Forsythe – Schubert) Novikova/Obratsova/Osmolkina; Nedviga/Schklyarov


26 March

I. Rubies (Balanchine – Stravinsky) Vishneva/Sarafanov/Sologub

II. Le Bras de mer (local premiere, chor. P. Zuska) Vishneva & guest dancer, the choreographer, Petr Zuska of Prague National Ballet

III. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (Forsythe – Willems) Vishneva & many others, incl Kolb/Merkuriev/Kondaurova, etc.


27 March Lunkina & Gudanov of Bolshoi; Amosova as Myrta


28 March

I. Daphnis et Chloe (Ravel – Simonov – Samonov) premiere - Pavlenko/Lobukhin

II. Steptext (Forsythe – Bach) Pavlenko; Lobukhin/Lukovkin/Khrebtov

III. La Valse (Balanchine – Ravel) Pavlenko/Merkuriev; Baimuradov; Yesina/Zuisin; Obratsova/Khrebtov; Selina/Scherbakov; Fates - Vostrotina/Iosifidi/Kondaurova

Tuesday, MANON

29 March Sologub/Tsiskaridze (Bolshoi guest)/Nioradze/Khrebtov/Rakhmanova


30 March

I. Act III from Raymonda (Glazunov – Petipa) Lopatkina/Korsuntsev; Obratsova (cl. solo);

II. Act II from The Legend of Love (Grigorovich – Melikov) - Lopatkina/Kuznetsov/Shishov

III. Diamonds (Balanchine – Tchaikovsky) Lopatkina/Bart (POB guest)


31 March

Cojocaru – Kobborg (Royal Ballet guests); Tkachenko; Golub/Selina; Novikova (Act 4 var.); Lobukhin; Ponomeryev


1 April

I. The Kingdom of Shadows from the ballet La Bayadère (Petipa – Minkus) Somova/Zelensky; solo shades: Novikova/Ostreikovskaya/Tkachenko

II. Le Sacre du printemps (Nijinsky – Stravinsky) Amosova

III. Etudes (Lander – Czerny) Letestu/Bart/Sarafanov (1st 2 are POB guests)

Saturday, SWAN LAKE (Petipa, Ivanov – Tchaikovsky)

2 April *Night in Memory of Konstantin Sergeev (95th birthday) - Tereshkina/Hillaire

Sunday, INTERNATIONAL STARS’ GALA: a 20th-C choreography showcase

3 April

I. In the Night (Robbins/Chopin): Vishneva/Legris (POB); Pavlenko/Bart (POB); Lopatkina/Kuznetsov

II. Divertissement:

Bejart Opus 5 - Letestu/Bart

Ashton's Voices of Spring pdd - Marquez/Samodurov (Royal Ballet guests)

Forsythe's 'Limb Theorem' solo - Noah Gelbert (of Forsythe troupe?)

Don Q pdd - Novikova/Sarafanov

III. Bejart's Songs of the Wanderer - Hillaire & Legris (POB)

IV. Ballet Imperial (Balanchine) - Vishneva/Zelensky/Novikova

Natalia Nabatova

Edited by Natalia
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A corps de ballet gala performance - what a lovely tribute to the dancers! It also looks like an agonisingly difficult performance for the dancers with three tough, very different ballets.

Has anyone been to this kind of gala before or is it a first?

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GWTW - My understanding is that this is the first time since Tsarist days that such a 'gala tribute' to the corps is held. I have been to various soloist-specific tribute nights throughout the years but not one for the corps.

In Tsarist days, such tributes took the form of 'Benefit Evenings' in that the proceeds were literally a benefit to whomever was being honored. I'm assuming that in the case of Chorus, Orchestra and Corps de Ballet benefits, the proceeds were split many times around so the 'take' was not quite what the soloists would reap, alas. Of course, the practice of beneficiaries taking home the proceeds ended during the Soviet Era and, I assume, has not been reinstituted to this day.

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Here's a link to an article in the current issue (Mar. 22) of the St Petersburg Times, previewing the Festival, which opens tonight:


Also, please note that I've updated the above schedule/cast list to show that POB etoile Laurent Hillaire will be dancing Prince Siegfried opposite Viktoria Tereshkina's Odette/Odile on April 2. Kolb had been originally announced.

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Thursday, 24 March

Report of first night, given to me by my sister-in-law, Irina Nabatova, who attended. I'll be joining the Festival on Monday & writing my own reports. Until then, I will relay Irina's impressions. Of course, I welcome all of our Petersburg-based 'regulars' & visitors to post their own impressions!

On the bill at last night's opener:

I. Apollo (Balanchine – Stravinsky)

Roberto Bolle (La Scala guest)

Viktoria Tereshkina

Maya Dumchenko (replacing the announced Irina Golub)

Olga Yesina

II. Two Forsythe Ballets in the Late 20th Century Manner:

Approximate Sonata (mus. Willems) company premiere

Natalia Petina/Yana Serebriakova/Viktoria Tereshkina/Elena Sheshina; Islom Baimuradov/Max Zuizin/Andrei Ivanov/Dmitri Peikhachev

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (mus. Schubert)

Marina Zolotova/Svetlana Ivanova/Tatyana Tkachenko; Kulikov/Andrian Fadeev

III. Reverence (Dawson – Bryars) world premiere

Sofia Gumerova/Daria Pavlenko/Natalia Sologub;

Mikhail Lobukhin/Andrei Merkuriev/Alexander Sergeev


Irina enjoyed 'Apollo' the most, not only because of the "nobility & honor" of Balanchine's choreography & Stravinsky's score, but because of the first-rate dancing across the board. Roberto Bolle is "a true, serious god" possessing both "strength and beauty." His partnering of Tereshkina's Terpsichore was textbook-perfect. As for Tereshkina, she was a "most worthy muse" because of her "virtuoso dancing and exceptional high split in her grand jetes, similar to Alexandrova of the Bolshoi." Young blonde beauty Olga Yesina and the recently-returned Maya Dumchenko "sparkled" as Calliope and Polyhymnia, respectively. Irina told me that she's almost sorry that Bolle will not be around to partner Tereshkina in the complete "Swan Lake," later on in the Festival, as the Bolle-Tereshkina partnership really clicks.


Irina considers this "minor Forsythe" compared to the three ballets that premiered last year (among them the sunny "Vertiginous Thrill" which followed "Approx. Sonata" tonight). "Approximate Sonata" is, according to Irina, "... a very dark, pessimistic essay on the state of humanity." It is a work of "...extreme nudity and maximum individualism...the 'Me Generation gone wild'!" Standouts among the eight dancers include the tiny-but-powerful Elena Sheshina "looking fantastic in her swimsuit" and Andrei Ivanov in a "transformation scene." [Natalia's note: not sure what she meant...need to see the work for myself.]


This previously-viewed ballet pleases Irina very much: "It's a joyous neoclassical romp to Schubert." Last night's "excellent" cast of five included the "ultra-powerful Tatyana Tkachenko" and the "...always-princely and musical Andrian Fadeev, who will be sorely missed during the remainder of the Festival....", as he is scheduled to travel. [Natalia's note: Irina said that Fadeev was the subject of yesterday's Tsars Box documentary on Kultura.]


"A ballet full of hope...a ray of light following the darkness of the Forsythe premiere." Irina termed it a "soft and peaceful" work for three couples, among whom Natalia Sologub excelled with her "floating plastique, as if dancing on air." Daria Pavlenko was "poetic melancholia" while Sofia Gumerova displayed a bit less flexibility (less 'plastique') but fine technique nonetheless.

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Before adding my first report -- on last night's Daria Pavlenko Benefit Evening -- I'll make quick mention of last Saturday's Diana Vishneva Benefit Evening, which Irina & other friends attended. In two words: Mass Adoration! It was a huge popular triumph for Vishneva, not least of all because, at the last moment, she added a classical excerpt to the bill: "Shades" from Bayadere, partnered by Danil'Korsuntsev. The audience went wild, with multiple curtain calls...something that was in sad contrast at last night's Pavlenko tribute, which featured an all-modern triple bill, including two interesting but cerebral works to start. By the time that Pavlenko danced a magnificent 'La Valse,'much of the audience had left.

Back to Vishneva's evening. Not only did she triumph as Nikiya but also in her 'signature'role in Balanchine's 'Rubies,' partnered -- another last-minute switch - by Andrian Fadeev, instead of the originally-announced Leonid Sarafanov. Too, Maya Dumchenko danced the 'tall solo girl'role in place of the indisposed Natalia Sologub.

No word on the 'Le Bras de Mer' premiere by Czech choreographer Zuska, so it must not have made a huge impression. I'll ask around...in the meantime, Vishneva was very, VERY fortunate to have been able to insert a classical ballet, as that is what the Petersburg public truly loves. It paid off. Pavlenko should have done the same...as you will soon read.

Natalia Nabatova in St. Petersburg, Russia

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***First of seven on-site reports by Natalia***


28 March

I. Daphnis et Chloe (Kirill Simonov - Ravel) premiere

Leading Couple: Daria Pavlenko/Mikhail Lobukhin

Four corps couples:

Svetlana Ivanova/Anton Lukovkin

Ti En Ryu/Alexei Timofeev

Ekaterina Petina/Anton Pimonov

Maria Lebedeva/Maxim Chashegorov

II. Steptext (Forsythe – Bach)

Girl in red unitard: Daria Pavlenko

Three Men in Black, in order of appearance:

Anton Lukovkin/Maxim Khrebtov/Mikhail Lobukhin

III. La Valse (Balanchine – Ravel)

Leading Pair: Daria Pavlenko/Andrei Merkuriev

Death: Islom Baimuradov

Three Tall Ladies ("fates"), left to right, at start: Daria Sukhorukova (in place of Vostrotina)/ Alexandra Iosifidi/ Ekaterina Kondaurova

Solo Couple #1: Yanna Selina/Maxim Khrebtov

Solo Couple #2: Evgenia Obratsova/Vasily Scherbakov

Solo Couple #3: ***Olga Yesina/Maxim Zuizin


Beautiful...respectful...an intellectual and artistic triumph for the glamorous, dark-eyed ballerina. However, I would not be giving an accurate report if I did not mention that which was constantly being spoken about by my friends, long-time Mariinsky Theater-goers: that Pavlenko's evening was in stark, somber contrast to the absolute-pandemonium of applause & yelling that greeted Diana Vishneva on her benefit night two nights ago. This should not -- does not -- take away from the path that Pavlenko chose for herself, to eschew instant gratification with a 'warhorse classic'(Bayadere, in Vishneva's case) & an almost circus-like atmosphere for the service of pure, unadulterated art. My fur hat's off to Pavlenko. Now on to the show!


Choreographer Kirill Simonov and designers Nikola Samonov & Tatyana Noginova were undoubtedly inspired by Bronislava Nijinska's Le Train Bleu, in this 1920s seaside romp! Forget your memories of the recently-revived "Daphnis' by Sir Frederick Ashton or any other literal rendition of the ballet. Last night we saw a purely-abstract 'Daphnis, for a leading couple & four corps pairs, all attired in similar electric-blue 1920s-style swimsuits (actually unitards with small shorts & tiny capped sleeves). The only contrast between the girls'and boys'unitards was a line of lime-green color at the cuff of the girls' shorts, whereas the boys' shorts had purple lines. All dancers wore electric-blue lycra swim caps.

The scenery consisted of three equally-sized, large oil panels in mostly-red, depicting massive, frightening men, with faces similar to those of Goya's late-period oeuvre. The panels were hung backstage, center, with a blue-lit diorama (resembling the color of the costumes) behind.

The ballet is in three parts and utilizes about 50% of the full Ravel score, as the Simonov version lasts only 20-25 minutes. The first and final sections employ the full cast; the middle section is a pas de deux for Pavlenko & Lobukhin, while the eight corps dancers lie on the ground in a long line, audience-left...sometimes motionless, sometimes making 'swimming' motions.

The choreography of the first section is very fluid, showing off Pavlenko's reknowned 'plastique' to the fullest. There is much stretching, shimmying, with sudden collapses to the floor, akin to Simonov's well-known choreography for the Chemyakin 'Nutcracker's' Waltz of the Snowflakes (which Pavlenko led at its premiere). In this first section, the corps depict proud young athletes, often posing with stuck-out chests, as did athletes at early-Soviet Spartakiads (all-Soviet Olympic-like games)

In the second section, Pavlenko & Lobukhin decide to stay behind & 'spoon' rather than join their friends in the water (hence the corps couples going off 'to sea' with the swimming motions described above). During the pas de deux, Pavlenko & Lobukhin danced magnificently, the ballerina's extreme flexibility on great display. Near the end, Lobukhin tries to "go further" & Pavlenko playfully motions "No, no, no!" to him, to which he responds by pinching one of her nipples. [This is 2005...the Tsar is no longer in the Royal Box!] The pdd is characterized by playfulness, often shifting to seriousness. I wished that Simonov would have taken a more serious approach, as it was somewhat disconcerting for this viewer to be in a 'romantic mood,' then suddenly see Pavlenko making 'goofy faces' like a clown. Huh?...what was that all about? Pavlenko the comedienne? Sorry, it broke the spell.

The third (final) scene brings back the corps, to the famous 'march' music that ends Ravel's score. While it is hard for me to forget Ashton's colorful setting, with the villagers dancing with the handkerchiefs, doing line dances & such, Simonov's setting is, on the whole, quite effective & likeable. The Kirov-Mariinsky dancers are, again, swimmers at a Spartakiad...marching & hopping in place to the music. It ends with the chest-out pose that was seen earlier.

A nice work well worth subsequent viewings. That it impressed me -- a devoted classicist -- says something! Wonderful dancing by all. Mikhail Lobukhin impresses me more & more whenever I see him...what a tall God-like man! :) I look forward to seeing much more of him at this festival, including his Espada in Don Quixote later this week; he is a choryphee dancer on his way up.


This well-known ballet premiered locally one year ago, during the 4th Mariinsky Ballet Festival. Most of you know it well so there is no need to describe this, to me, true masterpiece of the late-20th Century. Seeing Pavlenko in the female role last night was a 'first' for me, as I had viewed only Sologub and Vishneva (& the Royal's Doborah Bull, only on film) before. I can honestly say that Pavlenko takes the cake -- no ifs, ands or buts. This is HER ballet. She truly understands the nuances of the work -- the quirky square-arm movements & intense developes -- and possesses the most muscular- taut figure among the named ladies (although Bull has been my benchmark). Pavlenko is wonderfully effective in the movements & patterns created by Forsythe, with not one iota of the 'diva' showing through. In short, I was totally in awe of the ballerina in this work. WOW!!!

As usual, the audience yak-yak-yaked as the ballet began, house lights still up, Anton Lukovkin stretching front-stage left. One would think that, by now, Mariinsky 'regulars'know about this but, of course, the stalls & bel-etage (expensive) seats were full of tourists viewing the work for the first time...so the rest of us just sat back & smiled at what was going on, with tourists chattering well into the ballet.

Pavlenko's three male partners are all wonderful...again, Mikhail Lobukhin, that tall blonde 'god,'wins first-prize in my book!


What a shame that the two ultra-modern works preceded this...as Valse was the highlight of the night...and a good 50% of the foreign audience members had retired to their hotels during the second intermission. A lot of the 'locals' moved up to fill the empty seats in orchestra.

What can I write? Call me sacriligeous but...Pavlenko tops Lopatkina in this work. What a crying shame/outrage that Washington, DC was deprived a look at Pavlenko in this role. Sigh.... Also, what a shame that DC did not see the extraordinary tall, blonde beauty, Olga Yesina (Vaganova class of '04), in the '3rd couple' with the ever-smiling Max Zuizin. Balanchine would have adored Yesina, a classic 'NYCB Goddess' type! A star is born, truly; I hope to see much more of her in the coming days. [Her graduation, last June, was auspicious -- Le Corsaire pdd -- but she has improved a lot during her first few months in the company.]

Back to Pavlenko...

Compared to Lopatkina --- who is, of course, quite good as the White Girl -- Pavlenko best understands the role as Balanchine intended it, as we've seen in films of LeClerq & others (& live in today's NYCB). Pavlenko is 'happy'' during her dancing with, first, her partner, then with 'Death.' As she dons the black gloves, cape & jewelry, her face betrays little of what will happen in the next few moments. Unlike Lopatkina, Pavlenko dances & acts the innocent girl at the ball, rather than the knowing diva. How youthful & light is the ballerina, making the collapse to the floor, when Death embraces her, all the more shocking.

The other soloists and corps were truly first rate...all white-gloved movements ín synch'. [They were a bit off the mark in DC, last month.]

The evening ended with a volley of 'bravos' by we, the faithful who stuck around for the last ballet. Interestingly, Pavlenko received a huge bouquet with the colors matching each costume, at the end of each ballet: blue-purple irises for 'Daphnis,' red roses for 'Steptext,'and gorgeous white roses & baby's breath for 'La Valse.'

Daria Pavlenko -- forever our exotic Russian-Armenian Rose!

Next up: Manon by Irma Nioradze & Nikolai Tsiskaridze, whose boatload of fans have arrived from Moscow. Prepare for balletomania in full force, tonight!

Natalia Nabatova

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Hi Natalia!

Thank you so much for your wonderful reviews of Diana and Dasha's galas!

I'm glad to hear that both Dasha and Diana gave splendid performances.

I agree with you: Dasha deserves much credit for dancing new choreography.

Pavlenko is the 2/3 of the trio that had a new ballet choreographed specially for her; in the M Theatre that's significant. I hope you can find someone who saw

Diana's new ballet, and give their impressions of it. Artistically, Dasha didn't

(and doesn't) play it 'safe.' IMO this is what makes her such an interesting Maryinsky ballerina. As a result, with 'Reverence' and the new 'Daphnis' she's staked out new territory with two new ballets in this year's Festival, regardless of the audience's response last night. Good job! :)

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***The second of Natalia's on-site reports***

Tuesday, 29 March - MANON (McMillan/Massenet)

Manon - Irma Nioradze

Des Grieux - Nikolai Tsiskaridze (Bolshoi Ballet guest)

Lescaut - Maxim Khrebtov

Lescaut's Lover - Natalia Sologub

Monsieur GM - Alexander Kurkov

Madam - Galina Rakhmanova

Beggar Chief - Andrei Ivanov

Jailer - Peter Statsyunas

Three Customers at bordello - Anton Pimonov, Alexander Sergeev, Vasily Scherbakov


As anticipated, the glittering blue-and-gold Mariinsky auditorium was filled to capacity with fans of tonight's guest artist, Bolshoi superstar Nikolai Tsiskaridze. The Moscow-based media were in full-force, too, capturing every moment. Several of us were stopped in the hallway during the first intermission & interviewed quickly for TV-1...not sure if I'll end up on the cutting-room floor...but it was fun while it lasted! [What was I to say? ''Tsiskaredize stinks! I want to go home!" no....] In fact, Tsiskaridze delivered and more -- it was his night. Interestingly, he achieved this despite a sub-par performance by the evening's Manon, Irma Nioradze. Max Khrebtov and Natalia Sologub were their usual magnificent selves as Lescaut & his courtesan girlfriend.


This is a lush, realistic production of a dramatic story; hence, the Kirov-Mariinsky dancers take to it like bees to honey! Three-act, dramatic ballets are their element. The ensemble must be praised over all. Each corps member knew who s/he is on stage & played the role to the hilt. Case in point: choryphee Tatyana Nekipelova as one of several courtesans was a delight to watch whenever she took the stage: bubbly, unsophisticated, dancing with gusto. The beggar boys each had a distinct personality. Who said that the Kirov dancers can't act. Rubbish!

The Kirov-Mariinsky's designs for Manon, by Peter Farmer, are luxurious, realistic, accented with pastel hues (soft greens, pinks, baby blues), especially in the ladies' gowns. I'm not sure if I prefer this to Georgiadis' stark rust & brown brocades of the Royal Ballet original. I'll just state that the Kirov does best in 'realistic' designs & the Farmer suits them beautifully.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze - Moscow's genius of the dance! He is back after a year and a half of injury & better than ever. Only in his partnering -- specifically, the lifting of the ballerina -- did he show a bit of wear & tear. His solo work -- the soaring, 180-degree split jetes; the buttery-smooth pirouettes; the flexible back -- was splendid, drawing gasps of delight from the audience. Nonetheless, what impressed me the most last night about Tsiskaridze is not his technique but, rather, his new subtle acting. Anyone who read my review of his Solor in Bayadere at the 3rd Mariinsky Festival, will recall what I wrote about his almost-clownish melodramatic acting back then. None of that was in evidence last night, thank goodness. Tsiskaridze has toned-down his dramatics, now displaying subtlety & elegance, showing only love for and rapport with his Manon, Irma Nioradze. In fact, he was so subtle that we did not notice his entrance in Act I...none of the wild 'bravos' that usually accompany his entraces in Petipa ballets. Last night, Tsiskaridze WAS Des Grieux, the poor poet.

The two major solos with the slowly unwinding arabesques & developes -- those that we so associate with the great Anthony Dowell -- were elegantly performed by Tsiskaridze. Who could ever top Dowell in those solos? Impossible...but Tsiskaridze, with his beautiful long limbs & solo-adagio technique, came quite close. Especially in that killer of a solo near the end of the Act II bordello scene - ahhhhh!!!! I wish that I could bottle-up Tsiskaridze & regale in that solo for the rest of my life, it was such a million-dollar moment!!!!! Bravo & welcome back to the stage, Nikolai Tsiskaridze!!!!

Last night's Manon was the Kirov ballerina Irma Nioradze. She had a night of mixed results. First the positives. She has a taut, dainty body that (to me) is ideal for this role...a Natalia Makarova & Jennifer Penney sort of physique...easy to lift & toss. Secondly, Nioradze has obviously given great thought to her solos, her final act being particularly touching in its nuances. She seems to click very nicely with Tsiskaridze; she certainly brought out great acting by him.

Unfortunately, the freshness of a 16-year-old girl, just out of the convent, is a bit of a stretch for the seasoned ballerina. As hard as I tried to shut out the memories of Nioradze's recent performance as the nagging Stepmother in Cinderella, in Washington, DC, I could not do so. The Ugly Stepmother & the younger-than-springtime Manon in the course of one month's time? I'm afraid not.

Beside the problems with the portrayal, it was obvious that Nioradze's flexibility has waned a bit, so that Tsiskaridze had to compensate & work overtime to help her in the pas de deux...sacrificing overall effect of each & every pas de deux. And what is this ballet without carefreeness in the pas de deux? The orchestra played the music of each pas de deux at a funereal pace, seemingly to assist the dancers.

After every pas de deux, a couple of folks in the audience yelled 'BRAVO!' at the top of their lungs. I silently 'bravoed' because Nioradze had made it through one more hurdle.

Little need be added to what's been already written about the portrayals of Des Grieux & the Courtesan-Girlfriend by Khrebtov & Sologub. Suffice it to say that it's always a pleasure to view Khrebtov's drunken louse of a brother & Sologub's flirtacious courtesan. Khrebtov is the only dancer I've seen who can pull-off the drunken solo of Des Grieux in a realistic, non-campy manner. That's his magic!

Special praise must also go to the three gentlemen-customers in the bordello scene, whose pas de trois stopped the show: Anton Pimonov, Vasily Scherbakov and -- especially -- newcomer Alexander Sergeev, whose smile & gusto (and incredible jumping technique!) were palpable. Watch out for this lad, who just graduated in 2004.

The character dancers were stellar -- Peter Statsounas' thoroughly rotten Jailer, Alexander Kurkov's arrogant Monsier G.M., and Galina Rakhmanova's daffy Madam in her blonde wig (barely recognizable, as Rakhmanova has very dark hair & brown eyes in real life).

Andrei Ivanov's high-flying Beggar Chief cannot escape without mention.

When the curtain fell on last night's performance, the second 'show' began, with the bows & curtain calls! Huge floral bouquets & loud 'BRAVOS' were the order of the day, especially for the Bolshoi's 'God of the Dance,' Nikolai Tsiskaridze. It was an honor & priviledge to have witnessed it all.

Next: The Gala-Benefit in honor of Uliana Lopatkina, reigning Prima Ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater...tonight!!!!

Natalia Nabatova

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***the third of Natalia's on-site reports ***


30 March

I. Act III from Raymonda (Glazunov – Petipa/K. Sergeyev 1948 vers.)

Raymonda - Uliana Lopatkina

Jean de Brienne - Danil' Korsuntsev

Classical Soloist - Evgenia Obratsova

Classical Male pas de quatre - Vasily Scherbakov, Maxim Khrebtov, Vladimir Schklyarov, Anton Pimonov

Mazurka lead couple - Elena Bazhenova, Artyom Yachmennikov

Csardas lead couple - Polina Rassadina, Andrei Yakovlev I

II. 'Highlights' amounting to 15 minutes -- rather than originally-announced full Act II -- from The Legend of Love (Grigorovich – Melikov) -

Three highlights shown:

1. Dance of the Jester - Grigory Popov & corps

2. Dance of the Harem Girls, led by Yana Serebriakova & Xenia Dubrovina

2. Solo of Mekhmene Banu - Uliana Lopatkina

*The originally-announced Ilya Kuznetsov & Vladimir Shishov did not dance at all, as their characters' dances were omitted.

III. Diamonds (Balanchine – Tchaikovsky)

Lead Couple - Uliana Lopatkina/Danil'Korsuntsev (in place of the announced Jean-Guillaume Bart of POB)

1st movement demi-sologirls - Yana Serebriakova, Xenia Ostreikovskaya

3rd movement soloists - Girls, in addition to Serebriakova & Ostraikovskaya: Elena Androsova & Yana Selina. Boys: Denis Firsov, Alexander Klimov, MIkhail Lobukhin, Ivan Popov


If the Mariinski Theater was full the evening before, for Tsiskaridze's Manon, it was at an absolute bursting point last night for Lopatkina! My ticket was in a Benoir' box that normally seats eight people...which somehow was crammed with 11 persons, including myself...which was increased to 12 persons when coach Gennadi Selyutski stepped in as the house lights dimmed. I felt sorry that this septagenarian great artist of the past had to stand, so I gave him my seat & watched the first part standing (great view, nonetheless!). It was that sort of 'jam packed' night. You should have heard them when they yelled 'bravo' simultaneously. When they got up & began to jump up & down, screaming at the top of their lungs, I was afraid that this delicate building would begin to crumble. Nothing reserved about the Russian public who loves a ballerina -- especially THIS ballerina! In all of my years of ballet-going around the world I've never witnessed anything quite like this show of affection for a ballerina known as 'The Soul of Russia.' This despite a few falters at the start of the evening...


It's always a joy to view a Petipa Classic in this House of Petipa. This mostly-modern festival has not afforded many opportunities to do so thus far but the lack was rectified in the first part of last night's program with this, the purely-classical final act of the ballet Raymonda. We saw the standard Soviet version by Konstantin Sergeev -- Lopatkina insists on dancing only in the Sergeev versions of ballets (rather than the recent 'new-old' versions), and the old guard among Petersburg/Leningrad balletomanes adore her for it. Last night's cheers were as much for Sergeev & his ballerina-wife (and Lopatkina's teacher), Natalia Dudinskaya, as they were for Lopatkina herself.

Lopatkina's entrance, wearing that gorgeous white tutu with the fur trim, a cute tilted feather cap on her head, was an ahhhhh moment. GORGEOUS! What lines! What a beautifully expressive face! Lopatkina is the 'super-tall' reflection of her teacher Dudinskaya!

So how was the dancing? Exemplary by all concerned, except for one rather major glitch during the famous adagio for Raymonda/De Brienne and eight classical couples behind them. As many of you know, this adagio begins with a series of slow & tricky lifts of the girls onto the shoulders of the boys. The magic of this sequence is in the mirroring of the lead pair by the couples who are behind. Tonight, the couples behind were fine...but Korsuntsev failed to hold Lopatkina in the second (presage-like) pose, gently brought her down after a couple of seconds that she was held up...then she did a double-pirouette to fill-in the time. The couples behind continued perfectly. Spell was broken - sad. However, Lopatkina & Korsuntsev recovered from the adagio to perform spectacular solos, later on.

Lopatkina's Clapping Variation was textbook perfect with gently-floating hands, rather than the harsh clap performed elsewhere. Her pointework was razor sharp. The bourees absolutely floated in feathery splendor.

I give 'Most Improved Solo Work' honors this year to Danil' Korsuntsev. This year, his solo technique is at an apogee, especially his VERY high cabrioles & brise volees, all finished in a beautiful fifth position, which is so rare nowadays! Before, I always thought of Danil' as the quintessential Realiable Partner who is there just to lift the tall ballerinas...the Solymosi of Russia, if you will. This year, he has really come into his own as a first-rate soloist. [between Korsuntsev, Lobukhin, Shklyarov, Zelensky & other tall soloists, there's really no need for the Kirov-Mariinsky to continue to bring on the 'baby boys' to partner tall ballerinas...although, thank goodness, we've been spared the 'babies' thus far at this festival!]

Cute & spunky Evgenia Obratsova ellicited her own 'bravos' upon performing her sparkling Bridesmaid Variation. This short, blonde-and-blue eyed beauty bubbles like champagne!!! [Her Juliet is already considered the non-plus-ultra amongs Juliets in today's Russia, by the way. Our English/Welsh friends should do everything in their power to catch her in the role, in upcoming tours.]

The famous Leaping Quartet of men was spot-on in the leaps...but a tad ragged in finesse...as only Schklyarov was able to close his fifth positions upon landing.

The character dances, as always at the Mariinsky, were a textbook on how this sort of dancing should be performed. Special kudos to the very young blonde 'hunk' of a cutie-pie dancer leading the Mazurka -- Artyom Yachmennikov! Watch out for him in Cardiff, DC, and London this summer, ladies!!!


This section lasted all of 15 minutes...followed by a one-hour intermission (no exaggeration).

What little we saw of Legend of Love was commendable. Grigory Popov, attired in orange, in the Jester Dance, was technically brilliant. His pirouettes a la seconde earned a volley of bravos.

Yana Serebriakova & Xenia Dubrovina were well-matched & in-synch harem girls.

All of the above was watched by Lopatkina, as Queen Mekhmene-Banu, perched on a pillow in her little pavilion, backstage center. She looked spectacular in her red-and-gold unitard. After the Harem Grils depart, Mekhmene Banu steps out of her pavilion onto the stage & dances the famous acrobatic solo that is the best-known piece of the ballet, to Westerners. Suffice it to say that Lopatkina wowed us with her agility & flexibility in this number. Again -- huge bravos.

....then one hour of waiting, until....


An A+ ballet, probably the finest of the Balanchines in the Kirov-Mariinsky repertoire. They are to the manor born. To see the exact synchronization of gorgeous 'Vaganova-trained legs' is a wonder to behold. Sorry but we don't see such lines & synchronization in New York or Miami. To see the aristocratic faces of these Kirov dancers, along with the beautiful legs, is the cherry atop the sundae!

Ostreikovsky & Serebriakova epitomize áristocracy' in their faces and manner...and they made the first movement a wonder to behold!

Lopatkina & Korsuntsev's pas de deux was breathtakingly perfect. I could find no fault. The combination of posing (the lines!), slow undulating legs, and palpable emotion between the dancers made this the paramount rendition of this pas de deux, in all my ballet-viewing years. [i've seen Farrell/Martins only on video...and Farrell was not at her best shape when this was filmed, as most experts acknowledge. So Lopatkina/Korsuntsev are my #1.....Zakharova leaves me cold...Pavlenko did not quite have the technique when I saw her live.]

What can I say about the 3rd (Russian) movement & the final Polonaise that has not been written before? Who but the Kirov-Mariinsky corps to give those eastern European dances the proper oomph!

After the show began the second show - huge baskets of white roses....floral bouquets...cut roses thrown onto the stage by Lopatkina's fans!!! I left after the 15th curtain call but I'm told that the fire curtain had to be rung down.

Tonight: We're promised the Royal Ballet's stellar pair of Cojocaru/Kobborg in Don Quixote. I hope that, unlike the no-show of Bart last night, we really do see the Royal Couple!

Natalia Nabatova

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p.s. to the above -

LOPATKINA's SCHEDULE: That Lopatkina performed as admirably as she did is amazing, given her recent schedule here. She taught her first-ever Master Class for dancers the previous day, at the 'Dance Open' Festival that is going on simultaneously. Too, she performed at a Dance Open Gala at the Maly-Mussorgsky Theater, on Tuesday night.

LOTS GOING ON: This is high Ballet Season...not only the Mariinsky & Dance Open Festivals...but the first-annual Petr Gusev Int'l Classicla Choreographers Competition, being held across the street from the Mariinsky, at the Konservatoire.

The choices for day & night ballet viewing are endless. I'm truly in the World's Ballet Mecca! I've been coming here regularly for the past 10-11 years & I'm forever in awe of the choice of ballet-related events, ballet books in stores, ballet theme throughuot the city.

UPDATES ON EARLIER FESTIVAL PERFORMANCES THAT I MISSED: The Vishneva Gala, as I reported, included many changes to the programme. I've been reading reports that the new ballet on that program, Petr Zuska's 'Le Bras de Mer,' was a big disappointment, mostly due to what everyone describes as horrendous ear-piercing music. Ratmansky's Middle Duet followed...and THAT was followed byonly the pdd from Ïn the Middle..., instead of the full Forsythe ballet. This allowed space for the previously-unannounced Shades.

Sunday's Giselle had numerous changes to the originally announced cast: Lunkina 'showed' and performed admirably...however, her Bolshoi partner, Dmitri Gudanov, did not come; the Kirov's Anton Korsakov replaced him, dancing in somewhat too-shy manner but with excellent technique. Alexandra Iosifidi replaced the announced Tatyana Amosova as Myrta.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RELATED TO PERFORMANCES THAT I HAVE SEEN: Interestingly, a lot of the Russian reports on Tsiskaridze's Des Grieux are not so positive as mine. Most point to the 'hopping' motion of Tsiskaridze in his Act I adagio turns, in arabesque position. Little do they know that this is MacMillan's choreography & that Tsiskaridze performed the little hops as the choreographer intended! Local fans also blame Tsiskaridze for not having properly lifted "' Our Girl " (Nioradze); only one local reviewer thus far has pointed out what, to me, is obvious -- that Nioradze is far too old to play the teenager! Amazing... :wink:

ALL of the local reviewers have pointed out the paltry audience in attendance for Pavlenko's gala. One reviewer actually could take a nap stretching across five empty seats in his box. Sad. I'm convinced that Daria Pavlenko is a very special sort of dancer who is not fully appreciated in her home country.


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We know that Petersburgers adore their classical heritage. But is it possible

that Petersburg's connoisseurs choose to ignore special talents? By special talents I mean dancers whose versatility, variability and giftedness are overwhelmingly evident in both the classical and neo-classical repertory (ie. Western & 21st century Russian not Soviet choreography). I hope not. It's always been about peronal taste, public opinion and the box office.

It seems to me that there's a pattern where certain 'think out of the box' artists are treated as an afterthought by the MT and its public. For example, Alla Shelest. I site Fyodor Luphokov's memoir in which he laments the stunting of her career and treatment by the MT's management ("Sixty Years in Ballet"). I'll site others as well: Dolgushin, Ossipenko, Asylmuratova, etc. There are others who are coming up, and others who are trying to, but continue unsung and unexposed.

Those who have artistic personas, talent and abilites that aren't pigeonholed by 'emploi' just aren't appreciated. Therefore, what we've had are three benefit galas: Two full houses, one night under capacity, one bad premiere, a new version of "Daphnis," two great ovations, a mass exodus, and polite

applause by the remnant "faithful few" for a gala with no apparent mistakes.

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Thanks, Marc!

Cygnet, I'm afraid that you're right. Mariinsky audiences, in particular, know exactly what they want & anyone who deviates from the norm, be it in temperament, body type or even (dare I say) ethnic background, has a very difficult time of it. However, it's not fair to generalize, as there are always exceptions, e.g., the darkish exotic beauty, Inna Zubkovskaya, flourished in the system as a star dancer & teacher/coach. Ditto Ruzimatov...ditto Nureyev, although his time here was very brief.

Fiery characters, such as Dolgushin, Panov & Shelest, were absolutely 'suspect' by the system. [There's a wonderful photo-album book on Shelest, just published, by the way. A loving tribute by her widower, who was a mere 30 yrs her junior yet adored her!]

While appreciated & politely received, many of the NYCB principals with non-traditional looks are not particularly appreciated here. [You will notice that not one American dancer is participating in this year's festival....hmmmmm....]

Darcy Bussell was considered too big-boned & unglamorous (non aristocratic face) by Petersburg standards...imagine, such a beautiful lady! [To be appreciated here, a tall/big ballerina must be absolute skin-and-bones, like Lopatkina. Everybody is urging the 18-yr-old phenom, Olga Yesina -- about whom I've written in the above reports -- to lose several kilos, as she is considered too bulky at present.] On the other hand, the dainty & 'glamour-pretty' Alina Cojocaru is considered absolute perfection...and it doesn't hurt that she gives TV interviews in Russian! (wink) Aurelie Dupont of POB also has that dainty-cutesy look that they love.

It's a combination of looks, temperament AND politics. No one pattern of'appreciation/nonappreciation prevails. All I know is that I've been around here long enough that I can tell just who WILL be appreciated & who will not be. I go by gut instinct but I'm almost-always right.

- Natalia

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**the fourth of Natalia's on-site reports**

Thursday, March 31

DON QUIXOTE (1902 Gorsky version, after Petipa; Act II Gypsy Dance & Act III Oriental (Harem Girl) Dance by Nina Anisimova, 1940s)

Kitri - Alina Cojocaru (Royal Ballet guest)

Basil - Johan Kobborg (Royal Ballet guest)

Don Quixote - Vladimir Ponomaryev

Sancho Panza - Anton Lukovkin

Lorenzo, Kitri's father - Igor Petrov

Gamache - Vladimir Lepeev

Espada - Alexander Sergeev (in place of originally-announced Mikhail Lobukhin)

Street Dancer - Tayana Tkachenko

Flower Girls (friends of Kitri) - Yana Selina & Yana Serebriakova

Act II Gypsy Dance leads - Lira Khuslamova & Nikolai Zubkovsky

Queen of Dryads - Olga Yesina (in place of the announced Irina Golub)

AMour - Evgenia Obratsova

Mercedes (Spanish Dance in tavern) - Galina Rakhmanova

Oriental Dance in tavern - Elena Bazhenova

Fandango leaders (wedding scene) - Elena Bazhenova & Andrei Yakovlev I

Bridesmaid Variation, wedding - Olesya Novikova


As much as it pained me to have to miss the 'world premiere'of Boris Eifman's latest oeuvre, Anna Karenina, going on across the street at the Konservatoire....there was no way on earth that I would miss the 'welcome back' to the Mariinsky of the two Royal Ballet stars who are enormous favorites here: Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg! They made a huge first impact at the 2003 Festival in Giselle and they did not disappoint their many Russian fans last night, particularly with Kobborg's unbelievably long one-armed lifts in acts II & IV.

Whenever Kobborg refused to lower Cojocaru from one of their many one-armed lifts...the hall went ballistic, cheering & yelling for more!!!!! WOW-WOW-WOW!!!! I had as much fun seeing my neighbors go bonkers with glee as I did seeing the dancers! But that was not all. Tonight also afforded Festival goers with a look at the male & female stars of the 2004 Vaganova Academy graduation class, both last minute replacements for others listed in the program; I refer to young blonde bombshell Olga yesina -- remember La Valse? -- as Dryad Queen & tall, dark & handsome Alexander Sergeev as Espada.


Alexander Golovin's sets and Konstantin Korovin's costumes from the 1902 production have been recently spiffed-up and, in the case of the classical tutus, recreated after many years of using the stiffer Soviet style of stick-out skirt. In short, this production looks spectacular!

The audience did not have to wait long to cheer its Royal Ballet princess, as Cojocaru's Kitri soared onto the scene...her opening solo cheered at the half-way point, it was so impressive! Kobborg was her equal technically & temperamentally. It appeared as if her was having a blast on that stage, making realistic exchanges with the corps...and it was palpable that the Kirov-Marinsky corps genuinely loves this pair.

Kobborg's Act I solo -- actually, a brief pas de trois with the two flower girls -- ender with an unbelievable high quick 'split leap'that left audience members aghast. Many bravos to Kobborg!

Cojocaru's Act I variation with the stag leaps started well, with lovely floating leaps. However, the final few seconds of her diagonal of pique turns was sloppy. It didn't matter - the audience still loves her!

The coda of Act I gave us a first look at this pair's unique 'trick'- those amazing one-armed lifts that go on forever. The second lift, in which Kobborg holds Cojocaru by the waist as she does 180-degree split that is perpendicular to the ground, went on for 20-plus seconds...so that the conductor had to lower his baton & allow the pose to continue as the audience yelled at the top of its lungs..many already on their feet, giving a standing ovation. OH MY GOODNESS!!! A MILLION-RUBLE MOMENT!!!

Alexander Sergeev's Espada was picture perfect - all charm & testosterone, flashing his red cape! His Street Dancer girlfriend, Tatyana Tkachenko, wearing a purple-ruffled dress instead of the usual all-black gown, was OK but a bit too short & 'bouncy' for this role, IMO....and it did not help that she had pinned a spray of violets to her bosom, so that it would bounce up & down whenever she piqued her way around the daggers on the floor. To each his own, I say...but not my cup of tea!

Act I ends and...whew!...we've already yelled for a lifetime and there are three acts to go! :wink:

The ACT II gypsy camp scene was memorable for the fabulous Gypdy Dance by Anisimova, which is no longer danced in the Bolshoi version. It's hokey, Soviet-circusy fun...especially the Gypsy Man's leps from foot to foot, as his body remains parallel to the stage. Nobody performs this hokey leap better than Nikolai Zubkovsky! The audience was yelling for more!

The Dryad Scene, as performed by the Kirov, is second to none on earth. Bolshoi is a very distant second. Why? The Kirov maintains the original Petipa patterns & arrangements of multi-colored 'bouquets', interspersed with two dozen perfectly-proportioned Little Cupids from the Vaganova Academy, who are absolutely perfectly synchronized. The opening galop of this scene alone was worth the price of admission to this ballet...it is a wonder to behold. Not one arm or leg out of synch -- including the children! Even the angle of their eyeballs -- their field of vision -- were in synch. When on earth will we ever see this in the west?

And now to Olga Yesina's Dryad Queen. Tall, big & beautful blonde. So fresh & innocent...and dancing in the big open 'lush'manner of Veronika Part. Absolutely. Being such a glamorous tall blonde, Yesina should take care to maintain this freshness and innocence...and not go the way of a Volochkova, because, in the coming years, she will undoubtedly have the opportunity to turn her fresh beauty into -- how to say it kindly -- knowing beauty. What we saw last night is the very young Olga Yesina, dancing on a grand scale, spectacular jetes during the diagonal coda (even more impressive than Kitri-Cojocaru's leaps). God protect her!

Cojocaru's Dream Scene variation was pretty. Well done. Juxtaposed against Yesina's tall dancing, Cojocaru's was almost dwarfed...but dance well she did.

Dark-haired Galina Rakhmanova is Queen of the Characters...Character Dancers, that it! She never fails to deliver 101% of herself, last night's Mercedes, with the deep backbends and stomping on the tavern table.

Kobborg's mock-suicide scene was oneof the funniest in memory.

Then the wedding scene...what a joy to see the ENTIRE Fandango that opens this act performed! Unlike the Bolshoi, which cuts it in half, here we get the whole glorious thing, magnificently led by Bazhenova & Yakovlev. I do miss the Bolshoi's gorgeous white-ruffled dresses, though; the Kirov's fandango ladies each wears a different color & style of dress...not so effective.

Then the entrance of the wedding party...each bridesmaid in a different colored puffy (ca 1900) style tutu...very younthful cut & colors. Then...the main couple appears...and -- the audience gasps, holds its applause -- Kitri appears in the UGLIEST, most matronly, funeralish tutu imaginable!!!! What the heck??? Who on earth gave the tiny, pretty Alina Cojocaru this horrendous black tutu with long sleeves & v-neck, with red rose at the bottom of the V? My neighbors asked ""chto eta?hat is this??""I have no doubt that the 1,800 audience members were asking the same question. Sorry but an ugly costume can come close to killing a dancer.

Luckily, Cojocaru triumphed above that tutu by her own dancing...but, believe me, it put a damper in everyone's mind. Kobborg wore traditional Basil costume & received the loudest bravos. Oh - and in stark contrast to the funereal Kitri, her bridesmaid wore a gorgeous pink-puff of a tutu. The bridesmaid was Olesya Novikova, she of the flashing blue eyes, and one of the Kirov's own wonderful Kitris....second only to Vishneva, IMO.

The evening ended with more of those fabulous one-armed lifts. Curtain down. We were spent...bravoed out. I could barely walk myself home, I was exhausted from the emotional high of tonight. Yet another evening to remember, in Petersburg.

NEXT: Tonight it's the Corp de Ballet's tribute night -- Shades, Rite of Spring & Etudes. Thalictum's favorites will perform: Somova in Shades (Nikiya) and Sarafanov in Etudes.

Natalia Nabatova

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p.s. to the above -

Interestingly, a lot of the Russian reports on Tsiskaridze's Des Grieux are not so positive as mine. Most point to the 'hopping' motion of Tsiskaridze in his Act I adagio turns, in arabesque position. Little do they know that this is MacMillan's choreography & that Tsiskaridze performed the little hops as the choreographer intended! Local fans also blame Tsiskaridze for not having properly lifted "' Our Girl " (Nioradze); only one local reviewer thus far has pointed out what, to me, is obvious -- that Nioradze is far too old to play the teenager! Amazing... :wink:

I know from a long-time experience that balletgoers’ impressions vary drastically, sometimes to such an extent that it may even seem that we attended different performances. In these cases I prefer not to argue, trying to affect someone’s opinion - especially from positive to negative. Here I just want to point out that MacMillan’s choreography is not “greek” to most of Russian balletomanes. In the past decades we had many chances not only to start admiring MacMillan’s works, but also to see them both on video and live in the theatres (among De Grieuxs thus seen I can mention Manuel Legris, Vladimir Malakhov, Ilya Kuznetsov, Anthony Dowell, Loran Hilaire, Jonathan Cope…)

And we are fully aware of the fact that the special hopping movements in De Grieux’s solo’s were devised by the choreographer. The reviews were unfavorable to the quality of these (and other!) movements, let alone the lifts, etc. At least according to my understanding. I personally haven’t made my own contribution to festival reviews, but I must confess that 29.04 “Manon” was mostly disappointing.

As to the new album of Shelest, it was organized and sponsored by a long-life admirer of her art – S.Kovaleva. This album had two presentations – in St.Petersburg and Moscow, in Bakhrushin Museum. We not only had a chance to hear reminiscences of her close friends and his last partner Tchernyshev, but also to see unique video fragments with Shelest (including fragments from “Laurencia” with Rudolf Nureyev, shot by amateur camera). She was an outstanding dancer and personality, who was very much honored by public and kept in the shadow in the Kirov. A couple of years ago her husband published a book (“Vechny Idol”), which is fully based on the reminiscences of Alla Shelest.

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At least there is a record of how Osipenko danced but I've been told nothing on film exists about Shelest, is this true? She remains for me the most intriguing of the Soviet Era ballerinas. So many tantalizing descriptions and a few lovely photos, what a great pity there is nothing more tangible.

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Ina, we posted almost simultaneously and I discover you have answered my question. Interesting that the film you saw was with Nureyev. In his autobiography he rates her very highly indeed and considerd her his best partner.

I shall contact my Russian pals and try to get a copy of the book.

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Thanks, chiapuris, ina et. al.

Thalictum - You'll find the Shelest book at the Mariinsky's shop. The Soloviev book is at Dom Knigi's temporary store, 62 Nevski Prospekt, about two blocks south of the permanent Dom Knigi, which is currently undergoing repairs. Ballet books are at street level, towards the left upon entering the store. Maximova's bio, Madame Nyet, is also there.

Just back from the corps de ballet gala. Will post that separately. - Natalia

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**fifth of Natalia's on-site reports***

Friday, April 1 - Gala Tribute to the Corps de Ballet

I. Bayadere 'Kingdom of the Shades'' (Petipa - Minkus)

Nikiya - Alina Somova

Solor - Dmitry Semionov (in place of Igor Zelensky)

Solo Shade 1 - Olesya Novikova

Solo Shade 2 - Tatyana Tkachenko

Solo Shade 3 - Xenia Ostreikovskaya

II. Le Sacre du Printemps (V. Nijinsky - Stravinsky)

Chosen One - Alexandra Iosifidi (in place of the announced Tatyana Amosova)

Old Woman of 300 Yrs - Elena Bazhenova

Shaman - Vladimir Ponomaryev

III. Etudes (Lander - Czerny)

Ballerina - Agnes Letestu (POB guest)

Two Leading Men - Leonid Sarafanov & Vladimir Shklyarov (the latter, in place of J-G Bart)

Patner of ballerina in Sylphides section - Ilya Kuznetsov


This was a more normal (sedate) evening at the Mariinsky but an exciting one nonetheless. Gone were the multiple extra stools along the aisles & in the boxes; gone were the mass media, with the exception of the Kultura channel's usual reporters. However, the house was nearly full & much enthused over its celebrated corps de ballet, performing in three highly demanding works. Although the corps reigned supreme, the soloists were of note...although one of those notes was a sour one...that note was souonded early on in the program. All else was first rate.

SHADES (Soviet version)

This is the signature work of the female corps de ballet of the Ímperial Mariinsky Theater. The 32 shades posed & arabesqued down the double ramp...not only dancing the steps in unison -- many ballet troupes can do that! -- but, unique to the Kirov-Mariinsky, imbuing the steps with a breathing quality that turns dance to poetry. This was the first ballet that I saw live at the Kirov-Mariinsky, eleven years ago and I never grow tired of it.

The three solo shades performed commendably although the true artiste among them was Olesya Novikova, in the first solo. She alone stuck to the music and performed with that extra something, especially in the tricky diagonal of traveling arabesques on pointe.

It was a pleasure to see the long-absent Dmitry Simionov on the stage, after a several-years-long recovery from a nasty injury. I barely recognized his face, with his blonde pageboy hairdo! [He was a brunette ca 2000, when we saw him in London, right?] Maybe I'm mixing up dancers...doesn't matter, the ballon & beautiful shapes were recognizable. And he deserves a gold medal for attempting to partner his Nikiya.

Now to our lone sour note of the evening. Whoever cast Alina Somova in this most classical of roles should be put on trial for torture of audience. Excuse me but Nikiya is not about 180-degree developes & flailing arms to steady herself in those steep poses. OK, so Svetlana Zakharova had the same extensions...but at least with Zakharova we had extraordinarily shaped legs and feet to admire, however painful the poses. Ms. Somova -- you are no Svetlana Zakharova! I was not alone as the applause was paltry for Somova...this audience knows its stuff. Somova's scarf solo was full of errors, completely botching the first turn...then she flails her right arms into a 'Heil Hilter' salute towards the conductor before performing her pirouettes. After that solo, the applause abruptly ended as she ran into the wings...but someone pushed her out for a bow...so a few people re-applauded just to be polite. During the coda, she does 180-degree splits as Simeonov attemps to skim-carry her along (you know the short skimming lifts). Abomination!

Enough - on to the next one.


Gorgeous total art -- those brilliant sets & costumes by Roerich depicting primitive Rus! -- and very tricking dancing by multiple clusters of corps dancers. All very effective. While this is far from my favorite ballet I admire it in the way that I love the Chemyakin Nutcracker -- as a work of Total Art.

Alexandra Iosifidi performed the Chosen One with energy & palpable fear. Vladimir Ponomaryev made the most of his one minute in the spotlight as the old sage with the long white beard...he even took his bow in character. What a character is this artist!


Etudes is my guilty pleasure...OK, Etudes AND Eifman ballets! I can't hide it. This wonderful essay on ballet classroom exercises & performances surely shows off the uniformity of the Kirov-Mariinsky corps. I've seen great performances of Etudes by RDB, POB, ABT...you name 'ém. While POB is hard to top, it's miraculous to see, for example, 16 pairs of truly IDENTICAL legs moving in unison at the barre...16 pairs of legs trained in the same Vaganova Academy. [Maybe that's the secret to POB, too, as their corps all come from the same school. ]However, the curvature of the Vaganova trained legs is unique to the Russian companies...and we admired this in full force tonight. With the Kirov-Mariinsky corps women, even the size & shape of the HEADS are identical...it was eerie but magnificent! Bravi!

Another highlight was the section of entrechats performed by the male corps. How wonderful to see each & every man who dances the Sleeping Beauty Bluebird lined up together, performing the entrechats!

The soloists were mostly fine. Certainly Agnes Letestu of the Paris Opera Ballet knows this work well and was very effective in the pyrotechniques but, even more so -- surprisingly so -- in the Sylphide section, with grace & gentility. Vladimir Schklyarov was mostly wonderful although he seemed to tire at the very end, landing a bit sloppily in the three simultaneous double tours. Ilya Kuznetsov was seen only partnering Letestu in the Sylph section; is this normal? I don't seem to recall three male soloist in other companies'versions. Final kudos to Leonid Sarafanov for his spectacular leaps and pirouettes a la seconde; when he doesn't have to partner tall ballerinas, he is golden!

Next: Swan Lake

Natalia Nabatova

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"Whoever cast Alina Somova in this most classical of roles should be put on trial for torture of audience," & "...then she flails her right arms into a 'Heil Hilter' salute towards the conductor before performing her pirouettes."

Natalia this is UNBELIEVABLE!!! Somova really mated the poodle last night!

'Whoever' cast her? You're very diplomatic Natalia :thanks:!! I could be wrong (?)

by my guess would be The Coach and her husband The Aritistic Director.

Merde, merde, merde.

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