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Kirov's "La Bayadere" in Washington DC

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I just got back from a glorious evening at the Kennedy Center. The Kirov put on a magnificent production of La Bayadere. They did their traditional version, which ends with the Kingdom of the Shades - (no temple destruction in this one). The corps was beautiful; the character dances were very entertaining; and we had great performances from our three leads:

Viktoria Terekshina was a wonderful Gamzatti. I've seen the part acted better, but her dancing was beautiful and the audience loved her. I thought she looked a little nervous in the beginning - it looked like she took a little bobble before she started dancing, but once she started - wow! She was a delightful surprise. I saw in the program that she is also dancing Nikiya later in the week.

Andrian Fadeyev was also wonderful as Solor. I have seen him dance twice before (once with Vishneva), so I knew what to expect from him. His solos were great and he partnered Vishneva and Terekshina beautifully.

Diana Vishneva - :):clapping::clapping::clapping::clapping:

What can I say? I have seen her as Odette/Odile, Aurora, Juliet, Giselle, and now I have seen her twice as Nikiya. She blows me away every time. She feels every beat of the music and she has such a command of the stage. Her solo in Act II was absolutely heartbreaking. And the whole Kingdom of Shades act made me cry.

There was so much beauty on the stage tonight. What a treat to see the Kirov live. And I have to say it again - I love Diana!!!

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A sublime performance by the entire company. Vishneva was indeed marvelous, as were Viktoria Terekshina and Andrian Fadeyev. The Dance of the Shades was mesmerizing. Each time the Kirov stages a production at the Kennedy Center, you can expect a first-rate show.

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It was indeed a spectacular evening....but.....Where, oh where, was Manu??? C'mon Kennedy Center! You can't find two little girls in the DC area who can dance on pointe, to accompany the ballerina who performs this standard -- almost iconic --variation with the pitcher on her head? All else remained intact, including a Golden Idol accompanied by adult females instead of un-PC "Little Black Sambos" that can still be seen in Russia. Best of all: The Elephant, The Cobra and Tony-the-Tiger came on tour!

My quick thoughts, while listing the dancers. As usual with Kirov casting, there are some unannounced substitutions.


La Bayadere

Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

Kennedy Center

January 22, 2008

Nikia - Diana Vishneva (delectably passionate! Technically fine if not spot-on. Lovely, pliant back.)

Solor - Andrian Fadeev (ever-handsome and strong)

Gamzatti - Victoria Tereshkina (move over, Terekhova - a new Ultimate Gamzatti is in da house!)

Golden Idol - Grigory Popov (WOW! One of best ever. Strong, yet s-m-o-o-t-h, with long elegant line.)

High Brahmin - Vladimir Ponomaryev (MY #1 "star" among the night's stars; he carried the performance into the extra-special realm)

Solo Shade 1 - Olesya Novikova (perfection in this solo)

Solo Shade 2 - Nadezhda Gonchar (looking unusually tanned for a shade; fine performance)

Solo Shade 3 - Ekaterina Kondaurova (gorgeous line; one of best ever, almost as good as Michele Wiles' rendition at ABT ca 1999)

Two Lead Jampe Girls - Elena Androssova & Yana Selina (great amplitude; in synch)

Four Little Bayaderes (red/white tutus): Yana Selina, Valeria Martinyuk, Elizaveta Cheprasova & Svetlana Ivanova (I don't think that Ivanova was truly there, unless she has changed a lot)

Four Big Bayaderes (powder-blue tutus) in Grand Pas Classique ensemble: Elena Androssova (the lovely blonde), Yulia Bolshakova, Daria Vasnetsova and -- according to the programme -- Ekaterina Kondaurova. I'm pretty sure that someone else took Kondaurova's place in this dance.

Two Men in Grand Pas Classique ensemble: Sergei Popov (was there - the taller, blondish one) and "Dmitry Pykhachev" (that was definitely not him...but who?)

Indian ("Tom-Tom Dance") lead pair - Ti-Yeon Ryu (gorgeous!...but Galia Rakhmanova is missed) & Islom Baimuradov (definitely he - the human sparkplug!)

Indian Dance Drum Guy - "Vasily Scherbakov"...but it looked like Dmitry Pykhachev to my eyes

Rajah - Petr Statsyunas

Toloragva - Andrei Yakovlev

Aya - Elena Bazhenova (most glamourous slave woman in existence)

Slave (Nikia's partner in Act I adagio) - Sergei Salikov

Magedaveya - Igor Petrov

Corps of Shades - I won't list the 32 shades but I'll note that the female ensemble is packed with recent -- 2005 & 2006 * -- graduates for whom this is the first US tour. They did a great job, performing "as one" as if they'd been with the company for ages. Some of them, such as Maria Chugai and Anna Lavrichenko, are already dancing solos back home.

According to the playbill, most of the above casting remains the same for ALL performances in the run, e.g., same solo shades, same Little & Big Bayaderes, Jampe leads, Golden Idol, High Brahmin, Aya, etc. Changes -- beside the obvious Nikia/Solor/Gamzatti -- are in the Indian Dance girl (Lubov Kozharskaya alternates with Ryu) & the Act I adagio Slave (Konstantin Sverev alternates with Salikov).

I'll be attending two more performances in the run, tonight's edition with Lopatkina/Kozlov/Tkachenko, then Friday night with Somova/Sarafanov/Osmolkina. I look forward to enjoying and comparing these wonderful dancers of the Kirov-Mariinsky.

* note: there was no graduation class in 2007

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I think the Kirov ditched Manu some years ago as we didn't see her in London last time the Kirov danced Bayadere here, but thankfully she is still a feature in the Bolshoi production.

Oh no, Mashinka. Manu is still very much a part of the production at the Kirov-Mariinsky, as I've seen with my own eyes during the past few months. The cut is made just for tours...as are parts of the Sleeping Beauty Act III divertissements...as are Juliet's friends' Act III dance in R&J, etc. when on tour.

A recent "Manu Sighting" at the Mariinsky (June '07), courtesy of "Poduchka's" wonderful website:


Sorry but to even think of the Bolshoi's hack-Bayadere (Grigorovich at his kitschy worst) when discussing the Kirov-Mariinsky's divine production is sacrilege, IMO. (wink) Now if you want to compare Corsaires, then I'm with the Bolshoi. :)

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It IS too bad that they were not able to come up with girls for the Manu "little girls." My dd, who is currently studying at the Kirov Academy in DC was one of the "little girls" when the company did this production in Los Angeles a few years ago. I'm certain she would have been very pleased to watch some of her younger classmates at Kirov rehearse this and then perform it. She will greatly miss seeing that portion of the production when she attends on Friday evening.

And I can think of several girls at KAB who would have been able to do this part quite nicely, too!

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You've stated the obvious, pj, which I did not want to do for fear of offending other fine area schools, such as Washington Ballet, Maryland Youth Ballet and so on. Any of these ballet schools could have provided not only the girls for the Manu Dance but also the Little Sambos, which could have been performed without the blackface.

As un-PC as they look, those Little Sambos add a lot to the Act II ensembles. For example, the Fan Dance (ensemble of women carrying fans) is supposed to incorporate the kids down the middle of the stage. Since there are no kids in DC, the middle of the stage remains empty duirng the final portion of that dance. Very odd looking.

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La Bayadere

Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

Kennedy Center

January 23, 2007

Nikia - Uliana Lopatkina

Solor - Ivan Kozlov

Gamzatti - Tatyana Tkachenko

Another magnificent performance but markedly inferior to last night's Vishneva/Fadeev/Tereshkina edition.

Yes, Uliana Lopatkina displayed her divine Stradivarius instrument, superior to Vishneva's or anyone else in the company (or anywhere else on earth, in our lifetime). Two problems: (1) relatively weak technique in the bravura sections, such as the low manege of jetes-renverses in the coda of Shades and (2) too icilly-calculated demeanor. Even my husband, a casual ballet-goer, remarked that Lopatkina "should smile a bit more" when seeing Solor in Act I. Brilliant but cool and calculated. This underscores the excellence of Vishneva's rendition yesterday -- great technique coupled with realistic, soulful acting. Take as an example the Act II "hootchie-kootchie coda with basket" that follows Nikia's adagio solo. While Lopatkina performed in a controlled manner keeping the flowers intact, Vishneva danced with abandon, spilling petals onto the stage.

Lopatkina's uber-long limbs make her the undisputed queen of adagio. Vishneva is superior in technique, raw emotions and allegro-bravura dancing. Both are absolute-delights. How lucky we are in Washington to experience them on consecutive nights!

Ivan Kozlov's Solor improved during the performance but, still, my feeling is that he is not "Kirov-Mariinsky Worthy." His Act II solo -- the famous one with the back cabrioles -- was weak to the point of embarrassment. As I said, he was better later, acquitting himself nicely in the Shades scene. Here's the rub: he is is tall, muscular and handsome -- the perfect partner for the tall Lopatkina. 'Nuf said.

The least said about Tatyana Tkachenko's Gamzatti, the better. Seeing her Ulanovesque looks (not such a bad thing!), I felt as if I were in the 1940s. Nice all-singles fouettes. Slightly-beyond 90-degree jetes in her solo. Nothing embarrassing, mind you. But...after the perfection of Tereshkina last night, the comparisons are inevitable.

Another downer: How could ANY Russian ballet company "miss" with the Act II Indian "Tom-Tom Dance"? Well, the Kirov missed tonight, not because of the men. Lubov Kozharskaya is the only Kirov character dancer who I've ever seen to UNDER-play this dance. Very low jumps. Minimal amplitude. Really, I am puzzled at how weak she was, thus ruining the energy of the dance. Give me Ti-Eun Ryu (last night) or the legendary Galina Rakhmanova any day! [Now I ask myself if this truly was Kozharskaya. The Kozharskaya who I recall from the 2005 Vaganova graduation, dancing to Wagner's Walkyries, had very long limbs, while tonight's dancer was shortish and muscular. Hmmm.]

***Good news: the dancers listed as the four Little and four Big Bayaderes *did* correspond to reality tonight (err...I think)! The Little Bayaderes were the following, left to right: Svetlana Ivanova, Valerya Martinyuk, divine strawberry-blonde Elizaveta Cheprasova & Yana Selina. The Big Bayas were: first two to dance (left to right) Elena Androssova and Ekaterina Kondaurova; second two to dance (l to r) Daria Vasnetsova and (I think) Yulia Bolshakova. [Yup, I have a question mark next to Bolshakova, who I recall as having more of an oriental face when I last saw her..but it could be she.]

The Golden Idol, High Brahmin & 32 Shades all brought down the house, as before. Ekaterina Kondaurova's 3rd Shade solo was even smoother and creamier than last night's. She is closing-in on my #1 trophy for this solo, set to overtake Michele Wiles.

Even an off-night with the Kirov is golden.

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Thank you so much Natalia for the insightful and detailed reviews! They are much appreciated! :dunno:

Thank you Natalia,

I can echo your impressions, since I saw both Tues & Wed performances....though I still liked Lopatkina, they are just very different (for me Lopatkina's Nikia was "smarter" more "royal").

And I was not impressed by Kozlov (after my favorite Fadeyev ;-)). I couldn't resist and asked the dancers after the performance to make sure - it was YANA SELINA, who led the shades entance - WHAT A WONDERFUL JOB - and how much stamina ;-)) impressive and unforgettable...

Looking forward to seeing Fadeyev and Nioradze tonight ;-))... I only wish I could schedule another visit to see Tereshkina as Nikiya...

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Echoing thanks to our great reviewers! I saw Wednesday's performance - loved it - now I wish I could go back and see the opening night too. I have to say that Tkachenko's Gamzatti did win me over, although maybe if I'd also seen Tereshkina it would have been a different story. I also thought Lopatkina and Kozlov made a good partnership, although soloistically Kozlov seemed a little tired in Act II (saving himself for Act III?).

In the corps' Act III entrance it seemed like everybody had their own ideas about the timing and extension of the arabesques. I thought it could have been much more synchronized, but is that asking for the impossible here? And does anybody else think that the Drum Dance is _way_ over the top? It's almost like it jumped into this ballet from some Las Vegas or Parisian-type revue. Overall, though, a wonderful evening and a great company.

The Wednesday cast repeats Saturday afternoon.

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....does anybody else think that the Drum Dance is _way_ over the top? It's almost like it jumped into this ballet from some Las Vegas or Parisian-type revue. ...

You saw the low-key, contained version last night, Mike. I am not joking. The female soloist is usually much more explosive and high-flying, making the entire piece zing a lot more. If it is performed properly, the audiences yell 'bravo' and keep bringing the dancers out for extra bows.

The orchestra pounded the drums at full-tilt, though.

I'm sorry to be missing tonight's Bayadere with Nioradze, who rarely performs at the Mariinsky nowadays. Washington is getting a rare treat. Hopefully others will be able to report.

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I'm sorry to be missing tonight's Bayadere with Nioradze, who rarely performs at the Mariinsky nowadays. Washington is getting a rare treat. Hopefully others will be able to report.

Nioradze stayed back in Russia, V. Tereshkina danced. I loved it. I am biased, I love Fadeyev, and I guess that also played the role that enjoyed yesterday's dancing. I really LOVE his partnering and ACTING compared to Kozlov. I finally got binoculars and was studying facial expresions of both.... I could see and feel Fadeyev's struggle and agony of letting Nikia down. I also liked how Fadeyev plays the rejection in Act II/Wedding.

I liked Tereshkina and starting to like her more and more. Not me, but my neighbore said that she dared more dangerous spins than Lopatkina. So, now I will be debating whom I liked more Tereshkina or Lopatkina ;-)) Diana did dance with abandone, but her "shade" was just NUMB (or may be that's how it should be, not sure, need to study more). And I love Tereshkina's acting, so truthful, so convincing...

Comparing Golub's and Tckachenko's Gamzati - Golub did a much better job than Tkachenko... However, still Terechkina is by FAR my FAVORITE Gamzatti.

A TOTALLY BAD thing (to my mind) - they did NOT GIVE flowers for the second night in a row ;-((

Two off-topic things, I waited for my neighbore who wanted to give flowers to Viktoria, and Tereshkina is such an approacable humble and sencerely nice person ;-)) a very sweet person, and much prettier without the theatrical make-up ;-))

I saw Peter Quanz, who's choreographes for Kirov, very interesting....

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Thanks for the report, YID. My, that's too bad about the Nioradze no-show but I'm happy that Tereshkina's Nikia impressed. I actually prefer her Gamzatti to Nikia. Just like the legendary Tatyana Terekhova, Tershkina has a special allure -- a snooty-glamour, coupled with powerhouse technique -- that makes her delectable in these villainess roles. Ditto her Myrta in Giselle.

My main problem with Tkachenko and, especially, Golub's Gamzattis is that those two ballerinas have the sort of look (doll-like faces & girley figures) that is more Goodie-Two-Shoes than Villainess. It's hard to think "Bad Girl" when watching a perfect Fairy Doll! I even had a problem watching 'sweet Darcey Bussell' as Gamzatti a few years back. Gamzatti is, to me, a glamourous spoiled B-I-*** it's hard to think of Bussell as that. Just my opinion, of course.

Osmolkina, who essays Gamzatti tonight, *does* have the snooty-allure that should be right for Gamzatti. I've seen her thus far only in the new-old Vikharev version, where she did a commendable job. I look forward to finally seeing her in the traditional Kirov version.

I sure hope that all of tonight's promised principals (Somova/Sarafanov/Osmolkina) appear!

Phooey to the KennCen for not having bouquets for the soloists on all nights, especially after the gorgeous red roses for Vishneva & other soloists on Tuesday. We'll just have to take our own, to present at the stage door. :)

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Kirov Ballet

La Bayadere

January 25, 2008

Nikia - Alina Somova

Solor - Leonid Sarafanov

Gamzatti - Ekaterina Osmolkina

Generally a stronger performance than Wednesday's (Lopatkina/Kozlov/Tkachenko) because of the superiority of the Solor and the Gamzatti. Osmolkina may not be at the same dramatic level as Tereshkina or dance as expansively because she is rather petite BUT her dancing was of a crystaline purity that is rarely seen on the Kirov-Mariinsky stage nowadays. Sarafanov was his usual brilliant self in the solo moments and displayed passionate acting. His partnering continues to improve and he 'made it' (sometimes barely) when lifting his tall Nikia.

Now the moment that everyone has been waiting for: How was Alina Somova's Nikia? Not bad but still too coltish (semi-wild legs and clodhopper feet) to be in the big leagues of this most classical of ballet troupes. BUT she is less irksome than in the past. The 180-degree developes have been tamed to about 120-degrees in most cases; she even displayed a few attitudes of just-beyond-90-degrees that practically had me shouting for joy, they were so beautiful! In the brisk Coda of Shades, when Solor lifts her and she performs a series of quick splits in the air, she no longer 'claps out' her legs into 180 degrees as she did horrendously, three years ago in a performance of 'Shades' at a mariinsky Festival. Best of all - she LOOKS more mature from the neck up, with dark-brown hair (her natural color), a tamed chin (no longer jutting out constantly) and a decent port de bras. I can even say that I admire her gorgeous tapered fingers and the way she uses her hands! Those hands are her strongest suit.

It's just a shame that a bit of the 'old gymnastics spirit' still creeps through every now and then, in which she sacrifices elegance and beauty for 'wow effects,' such as the loud jumps in the Shades adagio-pdd with Solor, when she even lost her footing and wavered. Had she jumped normally, she would not have lost her balance. In the acting department, Somova delivered a 'by rote' performance -- calculated with little passion, a la Lopatkina. [somova seems to be trying hard to be the 'new Lopatkina' in many respects.]

Nonetheless, "bravo" to Alina Somova for making moves in the right direction! She's already 22 or 23 years old -- it's time to be coming into her own. I applaud her efforts and look forward to seeing continued progress.

The rest of the ballet was as wonderful as in previous performances, reviewed earlier.

A novelty: I finally saw Lubov Kozharskaya in the Indian Dance tonight & she was wonderful - almost as explosive as Ti Eun Ryu on Tuesday. Whoever we saw on Wednesday was NOT Kozharskaya (someone shorter with light-brown hair...perhaps Lira Khuslamova?).

Also, I've been told that I was right earlier about Bolshakova not being among the four Big Bayaderes in the G-P Classique. The 'mystery brunette' is, I'm told, Victoria Kutepova. Furthermore, it's confirmed that Dmitri Pykhachov is not among the two demi-solo men in the G-P Classique; the uncredited male dancer is Anton Pimonov, dancing with the credited Sergei Popov. All G-P Classique dancers have been spot-on at all performances. It's a shame that not all of them are credited in the printed programme or announced before the curtain goes up.

So it was three performances, three sets of principals. The first (Vishneva/Fadeev/Tereshkina) was the best but all of them were replete with delights!

Bravi to all of the Kirov-Mariinsky's artists. I'm looking forward to seeing them -- along with many others who stayed behind this time, such as Obraztsova/Schklyarov --again at the NY City Center in April!

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I went to the opening night performance, and while I saw some fine dancing, the evening was less than magical. Overall, I think I prefer Makarova's version better. I think it works better dramatically. And while the ballet has a lot of campy moments, the Kirov version really was over the top. My impressions:

Vishneva - this was the first time I've seen her live, and I had lots of expectations based on crtical reviews and friends. She is certainly a fine dancer, technically assured, strong, and musical, but something just didn't quite add up, something was missing. Could it be the role? I don't know.

Fadeev - I love watching this guy. He's so clean and elegant, reminds me a bit of Mr. Carreno.

Tereshkina (sp?) - good Gamzatti, especially when dancing alone. The pas with Fadeev made me very nervous with the partnering off. The confrontation between Nikita and Gamzatti was one of the best I've seen.

corps and the shades scene - very nice. A minor quip with the production: when they come down the ramp, it looks like there are trees or boulders on the side; I prefer the dancing without that scenery, which marrs the lines. The Bolshoi's version a few years ago in DC had that also.

So, wonderful dancing, but a bit disappointing. One other quip about (some of) the Kirov dancers - I don't like how they throw their legs up in order to get the high extensions. There is no fluidity, no feeling of tension of the leg moving through/against the air.

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La Bayadere

Nikya - Uliana Lopatkina

Solor - Ivan Kozlov

Gamzatti - Tatiana Tkachenko

Well I finally saw the Kirov in La Bayadere! In many ways, it didn't disappoint. The production is still beautifully elegant, with the right mix of spectacle, mime, pageantry, and of course, the Shades! The 32 Kirov corps deserve the biggest :P for their breathtaking beauty. They weren't perfect, mind you. During the big group developpe, several girls started wobbling. I happened to see one poor girl in row 2 wobbling painfully, and I saw her face, and she was grimacing. A reminder of all the hard work that is behind the beauty. But their uniformity of movement, exquisite port-te-bras, and elegance made the Shades scene the best part of the afternoon's performance, by miles.

Grigory Popov deserves all the praise he got as the Golden Idol, as does Ekaterina Konduarova as the Third Shade.

I thought the performance of the leads was a bit disappointing. Tatiana Tkachenko was maybe the most disappointing. The best Gamzattis drip both glamour and menace. Tkachenko exuded neither -- she seemed at times rather girlish, other times simply bland. She didn't convey her social superiority to Nikya, nor her determination. The fight seemed somewhat tame and rote, and one who didn't know the storyline might have thought the ever-regal Lopatkina was the royalty, not the other way around. This is also a role traditionally given to the technical heavy hitters. The Turners, the Jumpers. Tatiana Terekhova, for instance. Elizabeth Platel. Tkachenko was technically unremarkable, she finished her variation with a nice triple, but she stumbled a few times during the grand pas de deux. A bland interpretation backed by an unimpressive technique.

As for Solor, ever since Chabukiani I think the expectation is to have a dancer capable of wowing the crowd. I can kind of understand the complaints about Kozlov. I think he'd be fine as a Siegfried or Sleeping Beauty Prince or any other "cavalier" type role. But he's definitely not a bravura dancer. He's tall and handsome, but a somewhat careful dancer, without much speed or elevation. The difficulties of partnering Lopatkina must be numerous, and I noticed that Kozlov when supporting her in turns often breaks classical form and spreads his legs wide and bends his knees slightly, kind of like a basketball player shooting a free throw. I don't think he's a bad dancer, just that maybe Solor isn't the role for him.

Now Lopatkina. Unlike Tkachenko or Kozlov, Lopatkina definitely is not miscast. She walked onstage like she owned it. Her body is, as Natalia said, the Stradivarius of classical ballet. She makes Sylvie Guilliem look stocky. She has maybe the most impeccable classical line today -- her long tapered feet elongate her legs even further, her neck naturally gives her an air of elegance. Still, I felt that she maybe has done this role too many times, or was having a slightly off day. Her dance at the Betrothal Scene was beautifully phrased, and her back was pliant but curiously missing in some bits of acting. For instance, she doesn't really radiate happiness when she gets the bouquet from Solor. She barely smiles. When the High Brahmin gives her the antidote, she doesn't look over at Solor/Gamzatti one last time before dropping it. It's the Kingdom of the Shades scene where she's predictably the most impressive. Here, her air of regal serenity is appropriate, and she used her magnificently long arms/hands to great effect -- her fingers often seemed to dissolve into the air as she reached for Solor. Unfortunately, the Scarf Duet, usually one of my favorite parts of the ballet, was marred by a rare moment of technical insecurity from Lopatkina. She stumbled out of the first series of pirouettes, and seemed shaken. Maybe because of the first bobble, she didn't alternate directions in her pirouettes, unlike most Nikyas. She looked like she just wanted to get the duet over and done with, and so for once, the Queen of Slow was rushing through the steps. I might have been reading too much into it, but I thought she looked a bit circumspect during the curtain calls. I was glad I saw her in one of her trademark roles, but she might have been having an off-day.

Before the Shades scene I saw Makhar Vaziev and Olga Chenchikova sweeping into their seats a few rows in front of me. Vaziev by the way is very handsome.

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I was also at the Lopatkina/Kozlov/Tkachenko performance yesterday afternoon and my take on it is pretty much in line with most of what Canbelto reported, and what Natalia saw in that cast's first performance

I don't find Lopatkina's performing style cool, or calculated (though it may be) and since I've always been a bigger fan of adagio than allegro dancing nobody on this board will be surprised to hear that I absolutely loved her performance. I don't doubt that she had the technical weaknesses that Natalia & Canbelto pointed out (but it does surprise me, isn't she known as a really strong technician?). It's just that I really didn't notice them; I was too enraptured by those magical arms, the plasique, the line. I thought her Nikia reflected a very strong, serene spirit - as devotional and spiritual as a priestess rather than a lowly temple dancer. Vishneva's interpretation was much more full blooded (I didn't see her here but caught her in ABT's version last spring). I see almost opposite conceptions of Nikia in their interpretations, and I love them both.

Kozlov is certainly not a virtuoso, nor did I see the perfect danseur noble line of a Kolb or (reaching back) a Nagy. But he was fine, he wasn't sloppy and it didn't look like he left out steps, he's just not a dazzler. He is a tall, handsome dancer whose partnering & acting skills are superb and who is a great partner for Lopatkina. I can think of a couple of extra tall ballerinas who'd be lucky to find such a cavalier (you know Gomes can't partner them all).

Tkachenko was the weak link for me, I am in complete agreement that her demeanor just isn't authoritative enough for Gamzatti and while her variations were fine they weren't outstanding.

I think I finally identified a coryphée who's dancing I've enjoyed the last few times I've seen the Kirov – I always thought it was Svetlana Ivanova but judging from the casting and Natalia's invaluable descriptions (thanks a million) I believe it is Elena Androssova who was a big bayadere and a d'jampe girl (along with the always lovely Yana Selina).

I loved the 2nd & 3rd shades (Gonchar & Kondaurova) but I found Novikova's performance in the first shade variation confusing – her upper body and especially her arms seemed very out of control.

All of the character dancers were wonderful and despite a few bobbles the corps was magnificent. I LOVED the way the palace walls dissolved into the Himalayan peaks after Solar took a few tokes on that hookah, a perfect background for the corps' descent. It will be interesting to see what the Shades scene looks like at City Center in a couple of months – I'm betting they skip the scenery and cut the corps from 32 to 24 – no way they can fit all of those dancers on the tiny City Center stage.

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Already excited by the prospect of the Kirov Bayadere, I was thrilled at the opportunity to see Lopatkina for the first time. (Very generous matinee casting on the past of the Kirov.) She does indeed have the remarkable instrument others have remarked upon. In fact, when I revisit the performance in my mind, I see a succession of gorgeous images of line and plastique, separated by ... shutter clicks, almost a series of still images. By contrast, I see the flow of dancing of everyone else, especially the three shades, all of whom gave me great pleasure. Perhaps this is simply a function of the riveting quality of Lopatkina's line.

Tkachenko faced a daunting task. Given her build, demeanor, and costumes (which seemed an off note, almost a dance-recital conception of opulence and not especially flattering to her), how could she possibly be more regal than Lopatkina? I look forward to seeing her in other roles. And I particularly look forward to seeing more of Novikova, Gonchar, and Konduarova. Wouldn't have missed the afternoon for anything.

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I too was there with NYSusan and Canbelto (we chatted during the intermissions). I hadn't seen Uliana Lopatkina in over 8 years, having first experienced her as a very young ballerina in the Kirov tours in 1995 and 1999. Her glory is her upper body and her unique arms - they seem to be the biggest, most powerful part of her body - almost longer than her legs and more flexible. Lopatkina has the "russian back" described here and her rather grand, aloof presence reminds one of legendary stars of the last century - Garbo, for example. The spirituality was more pronounced in her interpretation but then supposedly that was the case with Anna Pavlova when she danced the role in Russia over 100 years ago. Her footwork is solid and her technique, though not as brilliant as such allegro technicians as Vishneva or Tereshkina, is more than adequate to express her ideas. Remember that Lopatkina's long absence from the Kirov and its tours was due to a serious foot injury and maternity leave. Her recovery took time. Like Veronika Part, she favors slow, almost sonnambulistic movements that seem weighted and deliberate and yet have great depth and expression in the phrasing. Lopatkina is very musical too much like Part (now that Lopatkina has returned to her assoluta position with the company, Part's departure from the Kirov seems apposite - they are too alike and there would be one too many).

She is more of the "danseuse noble" as Alexandra described Part and has a reserved but not unengaged stage presence. I saw passion and even saw a smile in the first act pas de deux with Solor. Obviously, Vishneva has more nervous temperment and is more "realistic" in her acting. I have room for both conceptions, like NYSusan and was enchanted by a lot of what I saw from Lopatkina. I felt it was worth the trip and cost to trek down to see her after such a long hiatus.

Kozlov is handsome and an attentive partner. He is not a virtuoso leaper or turner but was pleasingly old-fashioned in his support of his ballerina. I think with more work with the Kirov coaches his level of technique will improve and I look forward to his progress. We must also remember that this kind of tall, solid but not brilliant danseur has a long tradition at the Kirov, not every male dancer was a Nijinsky, Nureyev or Baryshnikov. They were the exceptions, not the rule. There was lots of Vladilen Semenovs and such types all the way back to the beginning. I enjoyed his performance. Tkachenko has the saucy look of a coquette - Gamzatti as Paris Hilton spoiled nymphet. She seemed small-scale and soubrettish next to this heroic pair of lovers. Next to more petite dancers she would seem stronger but there was a real mismatch here, not just of dancer to role but of dancer to dancer.

I love "La Bayadere" in all its many forms (have seen the Makarova production at ABT, the Nureyev production with POB, the Vinogradov production for the Universal Ballet derived from the Kirov traditional version and this Chabukiani/Sergeyev production with the Kirov as well as the Vikharev 1900 reconstruction). In my head I love to assemble my ultimate version combining my favorite aspects of each version. But that is another long post.

Anyway, a fine afternoon.

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Bayadere is my favorite classical ballet and the Kirov is my favorite classical ballet company. I must say that I absolutely enjoyed the performance this afternoon (Sun. 1:30). The corps were supurb despite being exhausted by now, I'm sure. Just impeccable-each foot exactly placed, heads just so, arms on the same lines, legs at the same degree. Who can compare?

Now to the main roles. Sarafanov. A master technician, he soared and wowed the audience. If he were in a boy band, he'd be as popular as Justin Timberlake with those cute looks. (I had a little elderly lady next to me that "aaahhhed" at everything he did. Starting from when he walked on...it was amusing at first and then old by Act III) His double assembles entournant were absolutely amazing-he actually assembled his legs in a moment of suspension and then turned! Even my husband was impressed. (A retired Russian dancer himself, he is more critical of male dancers than me) Sometimes I felt that he did too much technique. Act II for example. His grand pirouettes were going well, he threw in a few repeated double tours, slipped, and then messed up his final pirouettes. It didn't go with the music-was it really necessary?

Alina. She actually did better than I expected her to. Her back and arms were very expressive. She and Sarafanov had almost a school crush sort of pas de deux in Act I. Her extensions were fairly controlled throughout Act I and Act II (there were even a few 45 degree arabesques....wow...) In Act III, there were moments of uncoordination and angularity of arms. She is just so tall and long. She is maturing and maybe in a few years will reach a maturity that will make each performance shine. Maybe if she were coached by an old-school Vaganova/Kirov mentor instead of Perm Chenchikova.... Anyways, I was impressed with her growth and enjoyed her performance over all.

Osmolkina was very regal and aristocratic and very well cast as Gamzatti. She danced very cleanly and braved the super slow tempo of her variation. I'd like to see her as Odette/Odile.

The Shades were wonderful! Novikova seemed to be having a rough day-she seemed heavy and slightly spastic in her variation. I'm sure she's exahausted. Kondaurova was sublime. So smooth, so silky. She had the most expressive epaulement of the three.

The Grand Pas was also very good. Did anyone else notice Androssova today? She seemed like something was wrong-maybe she wasn't feeling well or something. She didn't smile the whole time and almost seemed to be going through the motions.

Another great moment for me was seeing Tatiana Terekhova in the audience just rows from me! I grew up idolizing her and was so happy to see her in person.!

Bravo to everyone onstage tonight! Now they can all go home and rest a bit after this greuling week of performing one of the toughest ballets in classical repertoire. What's next??? How about Raymonda or a Gala?

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Since I bought a ticket to today's matinee before the casting was announced I was feeling a bit of trepidation as the day approached, even thinking about selling it and heading home early. But I love this ballet and I love Sarafanov so Natalia's review of this cast was all the incentive I needed to take a chance and stay.

Although she seems to have a fondness for extreme developees a la second that I find horrendously ugly – and subjected us to 3 or 4 of them during the shades scene - those were the only truly egregious offenses from Ms Somova this afternoon. Aside from those few transgressions she was, well, pretty good. As Natalia pointed out, she has obviously re-thought her stage presentation, and I think the style of the first 2 acts worked in her favor. The exotic costuming & expressiveness of the dancing gave her some cover but there were still some rough edges visible in the unforgiving classicism of the 3rd act. Not sure I'll be clamoring to see her Swan Lake again any time soon, but this was a huge improvement over the first couple of times I saw her and I look forward to seeing if her rehabilitation continues when she performs a varied repertoire in NY.

Sarafanov was super! Not only has his partnering improved but it looks like he's filled out a little bit and his new short hair cut mitigates that baby face a little. I'm glad that his looks are finally catching up with his technical abilities – he's always danced like a Prince and now he's starting to look like one.

Osmolkina was a very good Gamzatti. Despite her petite appearance she reeked of nobility, power and entitlement and her dancing was wonderful – brilliant and effortless.

I was skeptical when I read Natalia's comment that this cast (overall) was better than the Lopatkina cast but I have to admit that I agree. There can be no comparison between Lopatkina and Somova but the dramatic balance between this Nikia and Gamzatti and the excitement and ardor of Sarafanov's Solor really made it a much more compelling drama. It was one of those times when the energy of the principals seemed to lift the whole company - and they had been at a very high level already!

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