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Don Quixote at Kennedy Center


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What, no topic yet for this weekend's sold-out DonQs? Let's roll...

I attended yesterday afternoon's (Feb 24, 1:30 pm) electrifying performance, starring the latest Bolshoi wunderkinds, Natalia Osipova ('04 Moscow academy grad) & Ivan Vasiliev (06 Minsk, Belarus grad).

Natalia Osipova? SHE was da bomb - magnificent!!! The audience literally squealed with delight around me during her Act III 32 fouettes...absolutely the best I've seen, even topping Vishneva when she used to do this sequence with fan above her head. Osipova did mostly doubles, with a few triples sprinkled in-between, then did four or six singles before unleashing a 4ple pirouette to finish in a perfectly-steady 4th position. Osipova has personality to boot, too - a frisky Latin diva on fire & she never let-up in energy during the 3-hr run of the show (OK, maybe a bit in the Vision Scene). And, my, can she jump! Perfect placement? Who cares - this is Kitri, not Aurora.

Ivan Vasiliev? A fine first effort, although short of being the 'New Baryshnikov' as reported in Moscow and at numerous ballet competitions that he's recently won. He may have been a bit nervous as he took to the stage in his first big performance outside of Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, a fuse was lit in Act III & he soared in the final pdd. Too, he was a good partner for Osipova, even though he is barely taller than she; nice long, steady holdings on those lifts in Act I. Perhaps his personality was eclipsed a bit by his high-voltage Kitri? Next to Osipova, practically every Basil is bound to be a low-key player...except perhaps Carlos Acosta, some day? [The prospect of such a 'fantasy pairing' is delicious & not inconceivable; UK newspapers report that Acosta will soon guest-star in Moscow, as Spartacus.]

Yuliana Malkhasiants totally wowed us with her celebrated, melancholic Gypsy Dance in Act II.

Anna Rebetskaya & Olga Stebletsova were delightful, classically-perfect Flower Girls. Anastasia Stashkevich an absolutely spot-on Amour, tossing off double-pirouettes in the middle of her solo diagonal. Ekaterina Krysanova danced a good 1st bridemaid variation, although she did not produce the high jetes to which we are accustomed in this dance; however, newcomer Chinara Alizade -- a tall Georgian beauty -- was magnificent in the 2nd bridesmaid variation with elegant passes & cabrioles. Remember that name.

The initial disappointment at the indisposal of Andrei Merkuriev as Espada was forgotten the moment that we saw the dash & panache of tall, dark-haired hunk Vitaly Biktimirov in the role. Sassy Anastasia Yatchenko was his partner.

Greatest kudos go to the irrepresible Bolshoi ensemble - Energizer Bunnies in the 'character acts,' we could forgive some lack of uniformity by the ladies in the Dream Scene. [This is when we realize that we are not seeing the Kirov-Mariinsky.] And, of course, smiles to the 1,000-watt audience who contributed to making this one of the most memorable ballet-events I've ever witnessed...these guys around me in 2nd Tier were on fire! Huge instant standing ovation. A performance to remember.

Did anyone catch Alexandrova/Matvienko last night? Did Merkuriev dance Espada then?

The grand Osipova/Vasiliev pairing repeats this afternoon, followed by Bolshoi 'prima' Svetlana Zakharova, with Dennis Matvienko, tonight. Will Vasiliev 'let it rip,' personality-wise, this afternoon, compared to yesterday? Will Zakharova finally cast aside her ice-diva persona to essay a Kitri with warmth? And will her Basil, Matvienko, live-up to his own Ballet Competitions Grand-Prix hype? We will soon find out.

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I went to both Saturday performances. The evening performance with Alexandrova and Matvienko was very good, but I’m afraid it was somewhat anticlimactic coming only a few hours after seeing the irrepressible Osipova & Vasiliev.

Alexandrova’s Kitri was joyful, confident and alluring if less effervescent than the whirlwind that was Osipova. Stylistically her dancing was more sculptural though she also has booming jumps and rock solid balances. Unfortunately Matvienko couldn’t hold her overhead in the 1 handed lifts in the first act – I think I remember 3 in the afternoon’s performance – they did two and she listed badly in both of them. She may not have had quite the energy or exuberance that Osipova had, but her dancing has that spring & amplitude that I love and she sure can work those castanets!

Her dryad scene was beautiful, she had more grandeur and a more classical bearing than Osipova and she did the Italian fouettes which I always look forward to. Shipulina was beautiful as the queen of the dryads but I think Krysanova is miscast in the first variation. She has lovely floating, lilting jetes but they can’t compare to the soaring jetes of an Osipova or Alexandrova. I would have preferred to see her alternate with Shipulina as the Dryad queen, or in the second variation which is more lyrical and both Alizade and Kobakhidze did beautifully.

The 3rd act variation for Kitri & Basil was marred by some awkward partnering– I don’t think Matvienko is a good partner for Alexandrova. They had great chemistry but there were definitely partnering problems throughout the performance. Alexandrova’s fan variation was good, very flirtatious with beautifully timed passes and nice musicality. I think she started her fouettes with fast singles and then threw in some triples towards the middle. They were done very nicely & she finished in perfect control.

I loved Matvienko in his gala performance in NY 2 weeks ago (Diana & Acteon pdd), but didn’t like him nearly as much here. He is an exiting dancer with great charisma & personality but his feet looked sloppy and his line was not attractive. His partnering left much to be desired although I think I recall similar partnering problems the last time I saw Alexandrova in Don Q so perhaps it’s unfair to put all the blame on Matvienko.

Biktimirov replaced Mekuriev again at the evening performance (although this time it was not announced) and I loved him. He was not as flashy as some Espadas I’ve seen but what beautiful line and elegance, he reminded me a bit of David Hallberg. I’d love to see more of him. Does anyone know who replaced him in the Bolero?

Alexandrova brought joy, aplomb and great comic timing to her performance but I’m afraid that it paled in comparison to the youngsters who just blew through the afternoon performance like forces of nature. I agree with everything Natalia said about Osipova & Vasiliev – they were wonderful.

Osipova truly was a whirlwind, she started out at a million megawatts and just kept going up from there. She is a natural turner & jumper – very, very fast with very strong technique and oodles of charm. This combined with their youthful exuberance made her & Vasiliev absolutely breathtaking.

Her 3rd act fouettes were fabulous and her fan variation was the best I’ve seen since Makarova – fast, light feet, flirtatious with great coordination. I can see why Vasiliev has drawn comparisons to Baryshnikov – he has a similar body type, great elevation and the ability to burst into a stunning sequence with no visible preparation. He has beautiful line & articulation compared to Matvienko but I think comparisons to Baryshnikov stretch it a bit and are unfair to this very young dancer. I liked them very much as a pair. They are well suited to each other both in their styles and their youth– she is just a pinch taller than him when on point but they pulled off the overhead lifts & all the other tricky partnering with no problem.

I really love the Bolshoi's Don Q - it's so rich and the whole ensemble does it justice from top to bottom.

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I saw the Sunday matinee and would like to add to all the kudos for Osipova and Vasiliev. According to the program they are only Soloists!?!... that's gotta change soon!

Osipova danced like she was on fire. I was amazed by her quickness... her strength... her energy... her personality :blink:

Vasiliev was explosive, and the two of them danced beautifully together; amazing lifts, spot-on togetherness, great chemistry.

The company is even stronger than I remember from their last visit. I enjoyed, among many others, Anastasia Kurkova's Amor, & thought the corps excellent. Beautiful production too. Lots of applause for the sets and costumes.

I'm so glad I went - thanks Natalia, your glowing Saturday review convinced me to brave Sunday's snow and rain to check out the "dream team." I felt like the Bolshoi gave us everything that a great company can give.

A sign in the lobby said the Sun. matinee was being recorded, so hopefully we will soon be able to buy the DVD!

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Not much to add here, just a few tidbits from the Sunday matinee.

Osipova was all that the others have said she is, thought I can't say that she meets my personal "sparkle" benchmark of Nina Ananiashvili.

Did not see much sign of nerves from Vasiliev, and he too is a remarkable jumper and turner--on multiple occasions he finished a 6+ rotation turn by gliding to a stop, still on demi-pointe. Also, his "teaser" double cabrioles--in which it seemed as if he was doing only a single beat, but brought his lower leg back in for a second beat seemingly too late to land upright--brought gasps from the audience. Also, IMO his greatest move as a partner came at the very end: Osipova basically flubbed a supported double (yes, after those crazy fouettes). Vasiliev basically set her right, then took his hands away so that she could show a beautiful long balance in retire--as if to say, "see everybody, that turn was a just a momentary aberration". I don't know if the choreography calls for that balance or not, but it sure looked gentlemanly.

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After the profound disappointment of Wednesday’s “Cinderella” (I still can’t get over how bad the production was, at least in my eyes), the Bolshoi more than redeemed itself with an electrifying Saturday afternoon performance of “Don Quixote.” I’ve only skimmed through the above posts, but I’m fairly certain that everyone shares my opinion that Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova were magnificent. I feel like I should give up and skip all future performances of “Don Quixote” because no other dancers can come close to matching them in these roles, and anything less would be a disappointment.

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It's hard to say. I think the sign said something about Russian TV cameras, and one of my Russian friends (the aforementioned not-ballet-fan) said that they show ballet all the time on TV there. I'm not sure if ballet fans would use "all the time" to describe airing of ballet on Russian tv, but...

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NYSusan, koshka, MikeG & the others have already summed up the other performances so nicely, that I'll just add quick notes on yesterday's two performances (I missed Sat night):

Sun matinee - Osipova/Vasiliev II - Ivan Vasiliev totally 'hit it' today, even more magnificent than on Saturday. His personality was in evidence every second on the stage this time. The never-ending pirouettes lasting longer than before, each pirouette modulated, slowing down, then picking up speed until the slow elegant completion (as I've seen before only from Rolando Sarabia & other great Cuban men). The overhead lifts were held even longer than on Sat. He threw-in extra twists in his Act I dance (with 2 flower girls flanking him).

Osipova was as effervescent & technically brilliant as on Sat., except her 32 fouettes differed a bit on Sunday - lots of 3pls & 2bls...but alas no 4ple at the end, this time.

Sun night - Zakharova/Matvienko - She sparkled more than is usual from her (brava!) & the audience went gah-gah for her beyond-180-degree extensions but...she goes beyond marring the beauty of the choreography's lines. A freak show, sorry to say. Even the Act I castanet-stag leap solo is beyond recognition from that danced by every other ballerina on earth...and Zakharova even manages to do a bit of posing - yes, POSING for a split second - after each pirouette in the first diagonal of that solo (double-pirouette into stag leap is changed to double -pirouette into stag POSE, back leg hiked high, foot posing way above her head), just to show-off her freaky line. That posing/diva-ing totally overtakes the Kitri character, IMO ("Look at me & my lovely legs!"). But I give her credit for trying harder than usual to 'get into' character. And, for the record, she performed a zippy set of single fouettes with every 3rd one being a 2ble, although the series was not cleanly finished (unsteady, then hops onto pointe to cover it up). Audience went wild! But not as wild as at the Osipova/Vasiliev matinees, as I can compare the three performances.

Matvienko - Not bad. But pushes way too hard. Sweaty effort in what was brilliant ease for Vasiliev. [His shaggy & often-sweaty long blonde hair doesn't help, whereas Vasiliev always had the look of a cool cucumber.] Not the best of partners, either. Obvious shaking in the Act I lifts with Zakharova, so I can imagine what it was like with the heavier Alexandrova on Sat night. Nonetheless, Zakharova's wild warping makes it hard for anyone to partner; it's not just his fault.

Alas, no Andrei Merkuriev Espada this weekend; Vitaly Biktimirov danced the role very time, with Anton Savichev replacing Biktimirov in the Bolero of Act III.

In Sum: Years, decades, centuries from now, this KennCen Bolshoi run will be remembered as the OSIPOVA/VASILIEV Discovery Season. Those who attended will have something special to tell their grandchildren in decades to come, just as those who saw the early years of Fonteyn/Nureyev relate now.

Spasibo & Da Svidanya to the wonderful Bolshoi Ballet. Please return to DC next year or soon thereafter!

p.s. Sorry to burst everyone's bubble but there were no cameras set up in the house (that I could see, anyway), as was the case last year during the ABT 'Swan Lake' filmings. The signs were up, I think, because the Russian Kultura TV people were filming a report on the tour for the biweekly 'Ticket to the Bolshoi' program shown in Russia; they were filming parts from the wings. If there was a TV camera in the house, I missed it. I may be wrong & just did not see the camera set-ups in Orchestra section? Anybody see them?

p.s.s. - They do show ballet 'all the time' in Russia - Kultura's regular 'ballet/opera news' shows (Tsars Box & Ticket to Bolshoi) + airing of many full ballets from Russia & (mainly) Western Europe. Another Russian channel has (or used to have) a regular ballet-interviews show, once hosted by Nina Ananiashvili.

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One more thing--unlike other productions, which start with a slow, quiet prologue bit of the music, this one opens right up with some of the more "busy" music, which seemed to my ear to be waaaaaay too fast. Other bits seemed too fast too, but perhaps it's just fast relative to my DonQ CD, not fast relative to what's "usual" in the theater.

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Don't worry Ostrich, you are in good company. My daughter and her schoolmates got to see Sunday's matinee (although I've not heard her review of the performance yet). And here I am, suffering from the same jealousy and stuck on the West Coast!!! :yahoo:


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Don't be too jealous. I have no doubt that everyone will be seeing lots of Osipova/Vasiliev soon enough, either on TV or DVD release or live at a theater near you. No gala will be complete without this pair, a-la-Cojocaru/Kobborg or Letestu/Martinez. I predict (a no-brainer): Osipova/Vasiliev will be invited to the next Feb 2008 'Stars of 21st C.' Valentines Gala in NYC. And to the April gala at the end of the Mariinsky Festival (as Osipova dances in 'In the Upper Room,' which is to be shown in St Petersburg during the festival). Pick a gala - they should be there. :clapping:

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At the risk of breaking a posting rule, I'm going to repeat myself from another thread (the other Bolshoi-at-KC thread, which seems to be inactive now that this one's hot), because inquiring minds want to know:

Why are the 2 flower girls in act one bare-legged? Is this traditional for these roles in the ballet? For the Bolshoi? (I hope I have the role name right--they're two "side leads" who wear orange tutu-ish dresses).

What's with the ratty point shoes & ribbons?--they look worn out and dirty, even Osipova's. The set's pretty tired, too (I'm perplexed by some of the good reviews it's gotten!). Money problems?

For all the incredible jumping, the dancers seemed not to make a sound. Is this b/c of Kennedy Center's acoustics or the dancers (i.e., worn-out point shoes are quieter)?

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To answer part of the question, it's to do with personal preference as to whether dancers prefer old or worn out shoes, were you sitting close to or at a distance? If the latter then they need to tidy up a bit, but let me assure you it's not just Bolshoi dancers that choose to wear their most comfortable shoes at a big performance.

Surely soundless shoes are a cause of celebration? If it's noise you want, check out the Kirov - their shoes (with a couple of noble exceptions) are thunderous.

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Why are the 2 flower girls in act one bare-legged? ....

What's with the ratty point shoes & ribbons....


On the first question: I have no idea but, in this ballet (esp. Act I), female soloists often wish to perform without their tights. In the evening performance, Svetlana Zakharova danced bare-legged in Act I. Ditto Irma Nioradze and Diana Vishneva, whenever they dance Kitri-Act I. Maybe they feel more 'earthy' & less 'classical'??? Who knows?

Second question: Perhaps they break-in and 'soften' the pointe shoes excessively, to make them more comformable in performance? After all, these roles (Kitri & her 2 friends) demand a lot of 'taquette' (quick jabbing) pointe work. It also helps to soften the sound.

I noticed that the two Bolshoi Friends of Kitri went even further & put a beige-colored coating (powder?) on their shoes, that blended with their skin color, giving an effect of being barefooted. So perhaps that is our answer to both questions - the characters are poor, happy-go-lucky girls who walk around Seville bare-footed? Yet all of the other women around them wear heeled shoes, so it is still very odd-looking.

Speaking of sound but otherwise unrelated to the shoes: Did anyone else notice how LOUDLY the toreadors plopped the daggers onto the stage floor, during the Street Dancer's solo? They seemed to be wanting to tear-up the stage floor. Is this supposed to be a dance of anger? I don't think so.

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About the shoes: in principle shoes match tights, so the idea of coloring (usually with makeup) would be to make them match the skin rather than the tights.

Russian pointe shoes are exceptionally loud when new, and yet a quiet jump is prized. Hence I'd think dancers would choose shoes that were as soft as possible, but still strong enough to provide the needed support.

The orange/yellow costumes were severely in need of a cleaning.

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Thanks for the speedy answers! Natalia, I'm fascinated that wearing tights could be a choice, especially in a traditional company like the Bolshoi. And Mashinka, I of course stand in total awe at the quietness of the feet, esp. considering the height of the jumps! But I have to say the dirtiness of shoes, costumes, and sets put me off--I was sitting very close, mind you. And while the soft pointe shoes may be comfy and clearly reliable, they don't always flatter the feet (fortunately, these feet were mostly pretty amazing).

One more shoe note: the Toreador was wearing white, lace-up jazz shoes! Couldn't they sew some kind of flap or faux buckle over the laces? (plus, when I think of a toreador I always imagine black shoes).

The floor itself looked in need of a good sweeping, and that can't be blamed on the Bolshoi. I've actually noticed dirty floors at a lot of major venues lately. Budget cuts? I'm sure it's expensive to pay a stagehand to push a broom, but it's worth it.

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Just thank you to everyone who has reported - I'm already missing this production, which I just saw last summer! Am a bit surprised to hear about Alexandrova - her staying up forever in those one-handed lifts is something I associate with her for some reason - will have to check and see who I saw as her partner.

I see Osipova is set to debut as the classical dancer in The Bright Stream this month? Yeah!

If there is any DVD of her ever in my lifetime, I will own it. It's so nice to see the *joy* of dancing so clearly on display.

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Just thank you to everyone who has reported - I'm already missing this production, which I just saw last summer! Am a bit surprised to hear about Alexandrova - her staying up forever in those one-handed lifts is something I associate with her for some reason - will have to check and see who I saw as her partner.

ami, it was Sergei Filin who did it! He was amazing - after the hard work of doing the most of the first nights in the space of nearly three weeks the guy still maintained the stamina and strength to do that! (Wow!) I remember having cheered wildly at them, like a madwoman!!

Thanks also from me to all of you for bringing me back the 'fond' memory of the 'great' summer of '06...

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ami, it was Sergei Filin who did it! He was amazing - after the hard work of doing the most of the first nights in the space of nearly three weeks the guy still maintained the stamina and strength to do that! (Wow!) I remember having cheered wildly at them, like a madwoman!!

And if I'm not mistaken, he did it all with a nonchalance as if Alexandrova weighed nothing at all. Have you noticed how slender his arms are? I never know how he does it.

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And if I'm not mistaken, he did it all with a nonchalance as if Alexandrova weighed nothing at all.

'nonchalance' - that's exactly the word to describe Filin at the scene, Ostrich! The memo. I wrote after the performance reads: Filin held Alexandrova in the air with a single-hand lift for so long - longer than any body else I saw in years (and certainly much much longer than Matvienko from the previous evening). Particularly, second time he went for so long it's as if Alexandrova could suspend in the air forever! The audience went wild and cheered at them midway...

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Yes, it was Filin, and I loved it! I feel that while Osipova was the discovery, Alexandrova also very much delivered, and I also love her in Don Q. I also could watch the part where she runs across the stage and leaps into his arms.

And nonchalance is a good word for it - nonchalance but not ambivalance. The second lift seemed to last forever and Alexandrova totally flirts with the audience while she's up there.

Sigh. Yes Naoko, what a summer. A week after they left I was missing Don Q and The Bright Stream.

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