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St. Petersburg State Acad. Ballet - 2008 US Tour

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The St. Petersburg State Academic Ballet Theater (SPSABT) - one of the 'Big Five' companies of the city of St. Petersburg - is in the midst of a four-month U.S. tour, visiting mostly smaller venues in college campuses and towns.

I attended last night's performance of GISELLE at the Montgomery County Community College in Rockville, MD. It was a beautiful show, led by two fabulous soloists who I'd love to see again soon: petite redhead Anna Borodulina and tall-lanky-blonde Yuri Mirov (formerly from the Tatchkin troupe with other name - Yuri Gloukhikh). Borodulina presents a beautiful face, solid technique and lyricism to spare; her Act II solo's leaps and entrechats were high and weightless; her acting in Act I was eloquent. Mirov's Albrecht began in a spotty manner -- lackadaisical, with unpointed feet and floppy port de bras -- then he was literally transformed into a technical whiz and noble gentleman in Act II, almost as if someone had turned on a switch. He is also an amazing actor...and/or an ultra-sensitive guy, as I've never before seen an Albrecht literally collape and sob his eyes out as he did...with real tears (I was sitting pretty close up)! Mirov, by the way, won over the hearts of every lady in the audience with his good looks -- a baby-faced blonde who, unbelievably, is already 27-28 years old...no, impossible! :)

The printed programme listed the first initial and surname of each of several possible dancers for each role; thank goodness for a brief announcement over the loudspeaker cnaming some of the main dancers, or we would not have known who we were seeing last night.

Alas, I can't tell you the name of the Myrta...'cause she was not announced. (!!!!) Perhaps it's all for the better, as she was very wooden and 'heavy-mannered' (LOUD shoes!) in her delivery. The other negative note was sounded by the Peasant PDD pair (again, nameless), partly due to their being mismatched in height and weight...a swan lift imploded, among other troubles.

Back to the positives. ALL other soloists were excellent -- from the delectably-danced Moyna and Zulma (again - no names), to a well-acted Hans (Egor Ivanov). This troupe must have the most beautiful-looking character-actors -- glamorous Anastasia Lyubomudrova isa Bathilda for the ages. Alisa Sveshnikova was very moving as Giselle's mother, Berta. The corps was impressively spot-on, especially those Wilis in Act II; the chugs elicited the inevitable applause. [One of the corps ladies is a dead-ringer for Diana Vishneva in the looks department. No way that any of us would know her names.] Designs and staging were traditionally gorgeous. The capacity audience shouted 'bravos!' and accorded the troupe a standing-o, particularly for the Borodulina and for company A.D. Yuri Petukhov, who took a bow at the end. The applause would have gone on forever were it not for a sudden drop of the curtain...almost on top of Borodulina's head, making all of us gasp loudly.

p.s. Borodulina is surely St. Petersburg's best ballet secret -- a top graduate of the prestigious Novosibirsk Academy's Class of 2000. She could easily be the pride of any of the world's top-top ballet companies. In other words, I urge all of you to see her...and see 'my lad' Yuri, of course.

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Natalia, thank you so much. I just got on BalletAlert to find out if anyone has seen their "Giselle" and poof! here's your review! I will definitely try to get myself a ticket to see it when they come to CT; I'd been reluctant to give up a night's work for just anybody, but the quality of performance (and the price of the ticket) have swayed me to take that evening off. :smilie_mondieu:

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That's great, vagansmom. Hopefully, you'll also get the Borodulina/Mirov cast; I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. I see that the troupe is also performing GISELLE in Hershey, PA, on 5 April. I'd go to see them again in this ballet, were it not for Kirov-in-NYC madness going on by then

SPSABT also returns to the DC area in early April but not with GISELLE -- CARMEN, then SWAN LAKE, at Geo. Mason Univ. in Fairfax, VA, on 11/12 April. Again, I'll have to miss them due to 'Kirov-in-NYC Madness.' I'm especially sorry to be missing the SPSABT's SWAN LAKE but I can't be in two places at once. :clapping:

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I'd also like to thank you for your review, Natalia. It's the first I've read about Yuri Mirov/Gloukhikh since he left the Tachkin Company. You describe him just as I remember him with his intense performances outweighing the deficiencies in technique.

I've always wondered what Mirov would have been like if he met up with a really outstanding coach able to clean up those deficiencies. With his emotional input and intrinsic charm I think that with a little help he could have been world class.

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Last night, I saw this ballet company perform at UConn's Jorgensen Auditorium. I think I saw the same cast as Natalia. I didn't hear the announcer's voice very well, it was muffled from where I sat, but I believe Anna Borodulina portrayed Giselle. Albert (Albrecht) was Yuri Mirov, and Egor Ivanov was Hans (Hilarion). I really liked this production, and most especially Borodulina's interpretation of Giselle. Why, she was a sprite even before the Second Act! Petite, with eloquent arms and an expressive body, she was fully convincing as a lively peasant girl who fell madly in love with a duke. She "wore her emotions on her sleeve", rather in this case, throughout every pore of her body. I've never had the privilege of seeing Alina Cojocaru in person, but have glimpsed her Giselle on youtube. Borodulina's expressive sprightliness reminds me of her.

I thought, though, that Giselle's animation was in sharp contrast to what I found to be a rather dull Albert. I'd read Natalia's review and was looking forward to seeing Mirov in this role. It might've been an off night for him though; I know we can't expect a touring company to put on their A performance each and every night. In the pantomime of the First Act, he was rather wooden which is a shame because he possesses a princely style. It just wasn't enough, the pantomime wasn't clear enough. Not so for Borodulina though; she shone throughout every moment.

I loved Ivanov's Hans. What a terrifically expressive body! I've never seen a better use of neck and shoulders in a character role. His musicality even rose up through his neck. Would love to see more of him.

I think I liked the peasant pas deux more than Natalia. It was a secure dance by the time they got here to CT, although they were not perfectly in sync the whole time. I especially loved the male dancer, and because of his vitality in dancing, I thought, till I reread Natalia's post that he might have been the Albert she'd seen. The woman in the peasant pas had beautiful lines, and I enjoyed her dancing. My one quibble, and it may just be a pet peeve of mine, is that when she leaped ( grand jete? don't know the ballet term for those particular leaps, sorry), she had that goose-necked look that too many dancers nowadays have. (I checked the corps out on their leaps; most had beautiful upper bodies in the air). Other than that, I really loved her variation.

The corps in the first act was a capable one. Other than one man who appeared to be off the music during one dance, they were all fluidly together.

It was in Act 2 that I really began to like Mirov's Albert. I agree with you, Natalia. As you stated, it really was as if a switch had been turned on; I decided that he replaced his First Act weak battery with the "energizer bunny"! He was quite fine, and it was in his variations in this act that I found his character believable. I still didn't get the sense that his acting was vastly improved, but his dancing more than made up for it. "Technical whiz and noble", as you said. :thumbsup: I was too far away to know if he cried real tears.

This Mirta didn't impress me as many others in the past have. I really like a sharp, imperious Mirta, with haughtiness in abundance. Last night's Mirta was too soft for my taste. I think Mirta should stand out magnificently from the other Wilis and quite frankly, I got confused when the blonde-haired dancer came out for a solo variation soon after Mirta early on. What? I thought. Two Mirta's? There wasn't enough to distinguish this Mirta from anyone else on stage.

The Wilis were sepulchrally magnetic, and I know I liked them because I got my usual tingles up and down my spine during their famous dance.across the floor. Is there a name for the thrilling section where they dance across the stage in unison in arabesque with their heads down?

It was a great night out. I was delighted to have seen this "Giselle". I'd say the most memorable part for me was Anna Borodulina's Giselle. Her First Act sprightliness was endearing, her mad scene heart-breaking. In the Second Act, Giselle as a Wili was eerily captivating. I'd love to see more of her.

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I saw the same performance as Vagansmom (but I composed the comments below before seeing her review).

Cast: (What I was able to determine… the announcement was made as the lights were going down and my mind stuck on "Hans will be played by" and couldn't get a pen out in time. At intermission I asked a few others if they had heard who the Giselle and Albrecht were, but no one could say; so I used my usual trick of waiting patiently at the audio console in the back of the orchestra and with sign language asking the engineer to circle the performers. He got as far underlining who played the Duke and the "Henchman" before losing interest; so I didn't get the casting for the Peasant Pas de Deux or Myrtha.

Here's what I did get: Giselle - A. Borodulina; Albert - Y. Mirov; Gans[sic] - E. Ivanov; Batilda - A. Sveshnikova; Duke - A. Petrov; Henchman - M. Anisimov

Now who is to blame for the sloppy program credits and synopsis, I wish I knew the story. I don't blame the venue... I'm pretty sure they just drop in what is sent to them; but CAMI & the company should be ashamed... Is it a problem with CAMI? Is there poor communication with the ballet company? "Willises"? "They leave their graves and incite a great cemetery dance of death". A native English speaking friend should help them out a bit. But some of this goes beyond translation flaws: Libretto by T. Gaulthier; Choreography by J. Perro? The company credit finishes with "he repertoire of the company consists of both classical and modern ballet performances - more than 60 dance items and 20 one-act ballets". Curious term... I wonder if Giselle is a "dance item" or do they mean the choreographic miniatures?

Assorted notes on the performance (and as a native English speaker, I have no excuse)…

Before I get into the picayune... Borodulina was just beautiful, and the corps was so perfect with soft pointework, perfect line, perfect spacing... They were wonderful to see and so much better than I've seen play this venue before.

Alas, the group tickets our director got for us were at the very back of the balcony... about the worst seats in the house except those with obstructed sightlines. This is perhaps because there were children involved? I don't know. I was rather annoyed with the box office. Here we help drum up an audience and are rewarded with terrible seats. It would be okay if it were the best they could do to keep us together but there were several unsold rows of seats in front of us. The house was pretty full but there were still plenty of empty seats in the back (in front of us). It was like having to watch the ballet through a window from a building across the street. I arrived just before curtain and prevailed on some of our group to move further down, but we were still too far away to really see the acting and the light didn’t make it’s way back that far. The children thought they had a fine view, but when I asked them about the daisy at intermission, they said "what daisy"? Particularly in the first act, I think a lot was lost. I can't give a review of the mad scene... I couldn't make out Giselle's face... I tried with the binoculars I brought but at that magnification they were so shakey it wasn't worth the effort. After the intermission I dragged several people down with me to the better empty seats at the back of the orchestra. In ACT II it was easier to see the dancing, and they looked so much more enchanting at that proximity, but of course, that's the act that could have stood the balcony.

Peasant costumes... these must be doubling as as ballroom costumes in some other ballet... they were the most elegant peasant costumes I've ever seen. The Willis looked beautiful too, but here the tulle was appropriate.

Mirov's entrance as Albrecht was not much... perhaps it was the measly cape... I think they ought to splurge and get him a more impressive cape, since it does play a part later in the plot. There's that business of running in a circle that occurs in various parts of the stage... some danseurs can make you sense the space they are orienting themselves in during this sequence, while others just make you sense that they're running around in a circle with their arm outstretched for some reason and feeling a little silly about it.

Beautiful softness to the ballon... again and again I marveled at the lovely softness to the women's jumps in the ballet.. and such nice soft landings at the end... I almost never heard a footfall.

Spacing -- my handwriting not legible -- maybe said it looked like they were feeling a little cramped for space but they beautifully maintained their spacing, regardless.

Mirov a little clunky for someone so slender... arms not enough.... I kept feeling his arms didn't extend from his back enough... he was elegant enough but there was no breadth to his gestures. Perhaps this is true to the soviet idea that as a nobleman messing with the peasants, Albrecht was not one to inspire admiration?

Borodulina's pointe work was beautiful. Occasionally I did wish a little more detail attention in Giselle’s entrechat trios… the feet tended not to point enough as the step finished, and she had beautiful feet... I don't get the sense jumping is her best feature... all the same, she had a beautiful softness to her jumps, both in the air and in the landing.

Again and again, the mime didn't really read from the balcony. I could make the big gestures, but I doubt my students could see the acting enough to know what they meant (I didn’t have a chance to teach them about the pantomime language, we have so little time in class as it is and many of the kids’ normal bedtime was at curtain).

As Hilarion, excuse me, "Gans", Ivanov was often very good, but sometimes his timing was off just enough to throw it off "natural". His gestures were big enough to read well from the balcony (I would have like to have seen his Albrecht), but his timing was a little weird, off a beat or some such thing... perhaps he was doing exactly by notes in the music as opposed to the movement of the dancers before him? Don't know what was up. Most likely it’s a casualty of one-night stands in different venues. I notice he's the only option in the cast for his part. I wonder if casting such a strong dancer as Hilarion and a weaker one as Albrecht is part of the old Soviet PR machine casting?

I know it's not possible on this sort of a tour, but I do miss the hunting dogs... rigor mortis seemed to have really set in on the hunt's catch... perhaps it was a leftover from last week's hunt? (I'm being mean here... the company did a wonderful job... it's just that it seemed funny to me the way the beat looked)

Bathilde doesn't walk like a noble woman… I didn't feel Bathilde made convincing nobility... she didn't have it in her bearing. A cigarette girl, but not a Duke's daughter. Perhaps again this is part of the old soviet interpretation?

I couldn't follow the Duke's instructions.... There was a long bit of pantomime that didn't come across as anything to the balcony. And then they just disappeared into the hut (I'm beginning to understand the director's motivation for that crazy scene in the Bruhn/Fracci Giselle film)

There was a peasant dance I didn't remember from Ivan Nagy' staging...but maybe my memory wasn't performing. I shot Nagy's Giselle a few times in Chicago years and years ago for Ballet Theatre of Chicago (a short lived troup headed by moonlighting Joffrey dancers), but I don't know if the choreography here was different or it just didn't read the same.

Can't read my notes... but it looked like the ballerina in the Peasant pas de deux (or was it Giselle?) didn't look entirely happy with her solo.... I wish they had played up to the balcony a little more... dancers don't seem trained to project up anymore... but so much of what she did was very beautiful and I'm glad my students got to see dancing of that quality.

I was surprised to see her arms a little abandoned in the piques, flying out haphazardly (Giselle or pdd?)... Seems to be before peasant pdd??

The peasant Pas de Deux wasn't done for the entertainment of the hunting party. Is this normal? It doesn't seem to be what I remember, but the memory isn't vibrant. I wished Peasant pas de deux would let the lovely lines register a moment longer... linger a moment... they were very beautiful but it was like when a novice musician doesn't hold the long notes long enough... that old stage consciousness error of thinking the moment has lasted longer than it has.

And then some jerk took a flash photo during the Peasant pas! How I wish ushers were equipped with poison blowdarts! (Still it was better than another jerk - or maybe the same jerk in a different location - took a flash during Hilarion's scene) My notes say the Peasant Pas de Deux adagio was just beautiful. This company's dancers have such beautiful phrasing (even if they might linger a little longer in the held spots).

The Men's landings looked like the floor was really hard.... Strange landings... something was strange... they looked as if landing hurt their feet.. I don't know what was up... the weather kept threatening to rain, could they have had tendonitis acting up?

Giselle (Ppdd?) jetes... she had trouble with her back in the jumps... as if she jumped in two pieces.. didn't jump from the small of hte back so it seemed to have adjust... but her turns were very beautiful... they had a cleaness and a timing that was just perfect (perhaps I've been teaching too much lately?)

The guys' legs go too high... sometimes for Giselle too.. in the first act, it just doesn't suit her costume or the choreography... just because they can go up doesn't mean they should... it looks incongruous... On the guys, it looks awful... I don't need to see the leg flop up into that birdlike arabesque... it disconnects the back from the leg, breaks the line of the jump... it would be nice if it went "out" lengthening the control on the landing, but not up against the back... it looks weak. In the jumps, when the leg goes up so high at the end it just breaks the line of the leap, so that jump looks like less than it is... I don't understand why this has become the style... why does it seem better to them? Because it is "more"? It makes the larger image of the jump look like "less" to me.

Over and over again, I felt the turns were beautiful....

Arms often seemed not neurologically connected from the fingertips to the spine, but there was beautiful soft phrasing dynamics with the arms... these dancers had a kind of musical sensitivity in their arms that we don’t regularly see in our American companies... I hate that dead fish look to the hands when it seems a ballet shaped prosthesis has been attached at the wrist instead of sensitive fingertips... it's such a fine line between lifelessness and beauty... some of them got it, others didn't... I don't feel there's enough consciousness of back-through-arm-to-fingertips line in ballet today... more beautiful spine-through-leg-to-toes line than ever, but something short circuits in the arms.

I missed Albrecht's moment of reaching for his missing sword hilt when Hilarion angers him... did I try to dig up binoculars? I don't think so... Anyone else see this in this production?

Opening of the second act... Smoke a little high...the air seemed clear for a foot above the stage... l could see their feet but above that was obscured... made 2nd act opening very effective... (thank god I didn't have to shoot it, would have driven me mad trying to focus on an image in the dark and smoke)... He really seemed lost in the mist.

Myrtha's entrance bourées were beautifully performed... such nice pointe work throughout this ballet. I felt she was being a little careful with the penches... not that they weren't extended enough, more it was a phrasing situation, as if she were a little worried of losing her balance rather than transcending .

The whole point of technique is to transcend it? Want that quote from Joffrey's new AD... Borodulina's balance was just like that... invisible technique... balancing and drifting off it as natural as breathing in the music's phrasing.

2nd Act I was able to assess the lighting a bit better... lovely... given that they couldn't have competent soft focused followspots for a one-night-stand like this, there were still some spots that they had managed to place to hit certain spots in the ballet to highlight Giselle very effectively.

Over & over again... beautiful arm use, lovely soft beats. Better than Boston Ballet was in La Sylphide last fall. The pointe work was perfect for the era of Giselle... so soft and supple without that soupy sinking into the soft shoes as if one's feet had never developped the strength for this kind of work...

Beautiful arms out of the blonde wili soloist, wish I had her name... these were correctly connected to the spine without too much tension/feeling... no dead fish here

Traveling arabesque section so beautifully done that the audience burst into applause.. The arabesque lines were perfect, spacing perfect... perhaps I'm picking too much, but I prefer to see this sort of voyagé to skim along the floor rather than hop... their jumps were a little too vertical instead of horizontal... it disrupts the ghostly floating effect..but impeccably performed.

Myrtha had a beautiful back. Still sent chills down my spine when they make ... hmm... didn't finish sentence... think it was making someone dance... Hilarion?

Corps was perfect. Perhaps I should put that in bold & caps.

Albrecht didn't make a lot of sense... but his first approach to Giselle's grave was very nice.. quiet, reserved, elegant line. His servant's acting, pleading a little too frenzied... too fast to read quite properly on the stage. ("bigger stronger", "make more of it" doesn't necessarily mean "faster")

Albrecht's second walk to the grave was too "correct". Men's walks.... (how many danseurs can walk well?) ... might have been more appropriate for Don Q (or Carmen?)... too correct has a sharpness... not exactly a strut, but not appropriate for a grieving prince approaching Giselle's grave in the fog of the forest.

Mirov performed some beautiful grand jetes with lots of loft rather than those slashing split grand jetes so often seen now… is there a name for these two different style jetes? Beautiful cabrioles at the end... followed by a fall that cried out for him to studing Limon technique so he could learn how to fall... but maybe it was that wierd landing thing now affecting the falls... I wonder what's up there now for flooring... (or was it some other stage they danced on this tour that has them all skittish now)

Recording didn't bother me (I've heard some truly terrible recordings and this didn't seem so bad... or perhaps it seemed better from the orchestra in the 2nd act after I had already adjusted). Some of the parents said they'd like to have seen it with a live orchestra. I'm with them... but of course, that would have involved a lot more money. I did find the harp a bit bizarre in the 2nd act... I wondered if they had felt it wasn't audible enough and had digitally adjusted it's volume... it was almost as if they used an electric harp (?) for the recording... a little out of balance.

Main reaction from the 9 year olds? "Giselle was so pretty!"

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Happy to read that Vagansmom and Amy (in the general St. P Ballet Th. thread) both enjoyed this Giselle. It is truly a very fine company and Borodulina is a beautiful ballerina. I am so sorry that some stops on the current USA tour feature their sub-par modern rep, such as Petukhov's R&J (with Queen Mab) and his ghastly Carmen. The presenters (impresario) should be more careful in selecting the rep for such tours, IMO. I'm very sorry that none of the three performances in the Washington, DC, area (the one that I saw in Rockville, MD, and two upcoming shows in Fairfax, VA) includes Leonid Yakobsen's 'Rodin Sculptures' masterpiece, for example.

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I don't know how I failed to mention the moment that floored me...

It's that diagonal line of the willis sending off Hilarion... it's always a striking moment, but, I seem to remember it having a different style... I don't really want to say with the precision of the Rockettes, but I can't think of something closer... a sort of inexhorable command down the line for Hilarion to die...

but here, it was different... the line change direction 3 or more in succession at a time in a slower softer canon immediately behind Hilarion... it was like a ripple... I'm reminded of how waves of heat rising make a sort of lens in the air... a slight distortion of light around whatever it is one is looking at ... this was like a distortion of delirium around Hilarion as he moved down the line... very much more like a supernatural special effect than I remember it being in other productions...

I ran into another dancer tonight who saw the show (and the last 3 years of ballet presentations at the Jorgensen) who thought the second act excellent too... and the comment was "finally, we get someone good!"

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