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Bolshoi in England 2006


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The Bolshoi Ballet

Swan Lake

Birmingham, England, March 30-April 1, 2006

Although it was a week ago, this could still be a guide to their future performances in England this year.

The casts for the performances that I saw.

Odette/Odile-Prince Sigfried

Maria Alexandrova-Sergei Filin

Anna Antonicheva-Dmitri Gudanov

Maria Allash-Vladimir Neporozhany

Svetlana Lunkina-Alexander Volchko

"A Loveable Odile!"

Maria Alexandrova. She seemed exactly that. She was to me a ravishing women saying to herself, "I really hope that I can make *Him* fall in love with me." Her characterization ranged from Cleopatra to Giselle and it was brilliant. Each expression was flawless! I couldn't imagine a better example of the so-called Bolshoi ability to act.

I consider Maria Alexandrova to be one of ballet's "Sunshine" personalities. Nikolai Tsiskaridse could be another. They both seem to have a positive, radiant presence both on stage and off. Her Odette characterization was deeply emotional. Her dancing was fine. Some of her highlight moves--wonderful! She has one relaxed pose standing straight with her hands together in front that that always suggests--"Great things to come". She never fails to surprise me at each performance with some new aspect of excellence. But she isn't the only one.

Each ballerina had a different interpretation of Odile and each was very well danced and very well acted. It was an outward expression for Odile and an intensely inward expression for Odette.

Svetlana Lunkina. She has a beautiful fineness to her dancing. Very much like Svetlana Zakharova in her wonderful adagios. In the Odette adagio, which I think of as the "Mozart of Ballet" piece, she is enchanting. She has a riveting presence in her Odette/Odile. I give her a "Video Quality" rating. This means that when the videos of the all-time greats are playing through my head during a live performance, I can see her peformance as being of the same quality as theirs. She moves as beautifully as they do.

Also she displayed another endearing characteristic. She would occasionally go for the big vituouso effects, as if to say, "I am a Bolshoi dancer and I can wow too!". I give her an A-plus for trying. A triple fouette was one example.

Anna Antonicheva. I read once, "Watch her wrists." They did indeed move beautifully, but I found that her entire dance assimilated all her special elements into one unified and very satisfying presentation.

Maria Allash. She danced delicately and beautifully and seemed to be putting everything she had into her performance. It was lovely.

Natalia Osipova. I would really like to discuss her for a moment. She danced a solo as one of the Five Princesses, Act II. She was the Spanish Princess. She seems to be a small woman, but her abilility to jump is breathtaking. She exploded on stage with a double jump and then returned with one more jump. These were huge buoyant jumps that she did equally well each night. I was amazed. One night I mentioned to a man sitting next to me, "Watch her entrance." The man 'gasped' after he saw what she had done.

What I found extremely interesting is that after these enormous spacial moves, she settled into her size. Her limbs aren't long and in the rest of her dancing her expansion or reaching out was quite restrained--but the expression in her moves was absolutely beautiful!

I watched her dance alongside Ekaterina Shipulina (Polish Princess-- very good) who has longer limbs and reaches out more. It was a beautiful contrast. I hope to see a lot more of Natalia Osipova.

The other three Princesses were very good as well--Nelly Kobakhidze, Olga Suvorova and Anastasia Yatsenko.

The two "Prince's Friends" in Act I were very fine--Anastasia Yatsenko (again) and Ekaterina Krysanova.

Audience response was very enthusiastic throughout as were the news reviews that I've read.

Birmingham by the way has a very nice modernized downtown center with a pedestrian only mainstreet and lots of large departments stores. The Hippodrome (home to the Birmingham Ballet?) where the Bolshoi performed has a lovely restored 150 year-old classical interior. Birmingham is about 1 1/2 hours from London on the fast train.

If I can I would like to mention the men and the corps de ballet in a future posting. All were very good .

Wonderful, wonderful performances!

Edited by Buddy
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Oh, my goodness, Buddy! You've been busy!

Thanks for the comprehensive review. When the Bolshoi visited New York last year, I fell hook, line and sinker for Alexandrova (as Kitri and the Pharaoh's Daughter). You're so lucky to have seen her O/O -- as well as the others.

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So far I've only managed to get to two performances of the Bolshoi's UK provincial tour, but am planning another four in the next two weeks. A remarkable aspect of this tour is that casting was announced six months ago and that almost everything has remained unchanged.

The company is in tremendous shape and as Buddy points out, is playing to wildly enthusiastic audiences. I too was impressed with Osipova, but another newcomer caught my eye also: Viacheslav Lopatin who danced the jester at the Saturday matinee Swan Lake.

It’s almost two years since the company was last in the UK and it’s wonderful to see them dancing to such a high standard as recent Kirov performances have been a lot less notable and I was fearing that there might be a malaise among Russian companies as a whole. I’m glad the Bolshoi is proving me wrong.

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You mention the young soloist Osipova -

Natalia Osipova will be competing in the senior division of the 2006 International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, this June or July, by the way. She is listed in the competition's website. I would say that she is an early favorite for a senior ladies medal, wouldn't you agree?

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Osipova should do well in Jackson as she has a huge jump and seemingly cast iron technique that should impress the judges; you have to admire her as she really socks it to the audience with her amazing attack. Whether she also has lyrical qualities I've yet to discover, I hope she possesses those qualities that will enable her to become a rounded performer and doesn't head down a virtuosic dead end.

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Regarding Natalia Osipova, whose Spanish Princess attracted so much attention in Swan Lake and who was such a sensation in similarly small roles last summer in the Bolshoi's NYC season: can anyone report on her Moscow performances as Kitri in Don Q? It would be fascinating to know how well she can carry a leading role.

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chiapuris, thank you very much. carbro, thanks for the kind words. I feel very fortunate to be able to attend such fine performances. I only wish here to share the experience and give whatever credit possible to the wonderful talent of these remarkable artists.

The Bolshoi Ballet

Swan Lake

The men as unsung heros.

I first express my admiration to these men who purposely remain "invisible" and yet whose physical and psychological (loving) support make it possible for the ballerina to take center stage and shine. I try from time to time to focus on the man during the lifts or the ballerina's characterizations, but I generally do what I'm supposed to do and stay glued to the ballerina. When I did take a quick glance during these performances I was very impressed.When thse men did "appear" it was very rewarding.


Dmitri Gudanov. I liked him very much. His jumps were very impressive. When they were rotated they had a slow motion "suspended-in-air" quality. They also had a certain softness, especially in the landing. A very nice quality that contrasts with the big "airy" jumps of Leonid Sarafanov or Igor Zelensky (Kirov) or the sensually bravura jumping of Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

Sergei Filin. Fine and consistently reliable partner.

Vladimir Neporozhny. A somewhat boyish and very expressive face.

Alexander Volchkov. A solid, elegant presence, impressive jumps and often very clean looking footwork.

All the men's dramatization was extremely noteworthy from the time that they discovered Odile's 'deceit' until the thunderous expression of remorse at the demise of Odette that terminated the ballet. Another example of fine Bolshoi "acting". In my mind all thses men did about equally well and were just fine.

The Jesters also seemed equally good. Still the performance about week earlier by the Kirov Jester Andrei Ivanov remained outstanding in my mind.

For myself I tend to cushion the sad ending, the demise of Odette, with the background knowledge that this is in part intended to be a psychological drama. Von Rothbart can be viewed as an alter-ego to the Prince and Odette could be somewhat a creation of the Prince's own mind. In fact a 'regenerated' Prince might be able to set everything right again.

In any case it seems that the wondrous uplifting dancing of many ballets transcends the plot.

For me ballet at it's best is an expression of "The Triumph of Love and Beauty".

Now to an area of real delight for me--a look at the corps de ballet and some destinctions between the Bolshoi and the Kirov-Mariinsky .

Some generalizations.

If the Russian ballet is known for it's "Heart and Soul" I would suggest that the Bolshoi is perhaps the "Heart" and the Kirov-Mariinsky is the "Soul".

The Bolshoi in my very limited viewing experience has "outward expression". It "charms" and it can make you feel "moved" or better yet "happy".

The Kirov -Mariinssky has "inner expression". It "enchants" and it can make you feel "elevated".

Of course these are large and not always consistant generalizations as I will try to illustrate right now by looking at the performance of the Bolshoi corps de ballet Swans.

Bolshoi "Heart" (to be expected)

Enter--twenty-four Bolshoi White Swans. They are almost joyously bouncing across the stage.

Twenty-four entrapped princesses joyfully bouncing across the stage??? Yes!

To me this is Bolshoi genius! First of all it is the Bolshoi female response to the Bolshoi male bravura and it is a delight!

But twenty-four entrapped princesses--joyous???

Mr. Rogers of children's program fame once returned from Moscow. He commented on the beautiful vibrant colored decoration on the old cathedral exteriors. From his wonderful child's eye view he commented, that in contrast to the historical harshness of life that he still felt in Moscow, the old Russia had a remarkable sense of "Whimsy".

Joy arising from a world of adversity. In the case of our White Swans perhaps--Bolshoi "Heart"--Russian "Heart".

What about "Soul"? Well that's over at the Kirov-Mariinsky--right?

The ballet is almost over. In come twelve Bolshoi White Swans to perform about five minutes of the most lovely "enchanting" dancing that I could imagine. It recalled immediately the Kirov-Mariinsky entrance of the Shades, the most lyrical interpretation of the Willis, the violin solo entre acte of Sleeping Beauty.

So distinctions are sometimes hard to make, but the rapture of beauty is still overwhelming.

"Da skorai stretchi." "Until Next Time."

To everyone involved, " *Bolshoe* spassiba! " "Thank you very much!"

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