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Alina Somova

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I think we have to be cautious photo comparisons. Just about every dancer can be photographed in what looks like a bad position, it's hard to judge momentum and weight in most stills, and a supporting partner's position in supported adagio has impact on the alignment of the supported partner.

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Alina Somova didn't appear as Nikiya in Saturday's matinee of Bayaderka and was replaced by Kondaurova: no reason was given.

Critic Giannandrea Poesio was very harsh about Somova in particular and the Kirov in general in The Spectator. Here's what he says about Somova

As Odile, the Black Swan, her performance was a compendium of escalating vulgarities, which culminated in triple and double fouettées ridiculously performed, against the tenets of the classical idiom, with little or no en dehors or ‘turn out’. Still, she dazzled those who haven’t a clue and love to cheer a display of nonsensical spinning

So much for the rumoured "improvements".

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I think we have to be cautious photo comparisons. Just about every dancer can be photographed in what looks like a bad position, it's hard to judge momentum and weight in most stills, and a supporting partner's position in supported adagio has impact on the alignment of the supported partner.

I agree completely abut being cautious. In this case, however, I think the still photographs are supported by a number of the video clips that have been posted on Ballet Alert over the years. Not to mention the reviews posted here from live performance. That out-of-alignment quality has been evident in so many of those, and not just in the case of Ms. Somova.

On the other hand, I'm a complete amateur in these matters. It would be great to hear from other members about what they think about Mr. Ou's photos, and what they do or do not show us.

For me, this series of photos raises a larger question than Ms. Somova's technique. It has to do with how much we can and cannot learn from still photography, and how much we can extrapolate from that..

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Mashinka wrote (and quoted) above:

Critic Giannandrea Poesio was very harsh about Somova in particular and the Kirov in general in The Spectator. Here's what he says about Somova

Quote

As Odile, the Black Swan, her performance was a compendium of escalating vulgarities...

Oh dear. This isn't going to help the trend of casting her less and less for the big galas and high-prestige tours. It sounds as if another Mariinsky ballerina is being "Makhalinized," although it's a bit jarring to see it happening in someone (a) this young (25/26) and (b) for whom the reason is not motherhood. [Other young principals have gone through this but it would usually be tied to motherhood at first, i.e., Pavlenko or 1st soloists Osmolkina, Dumchenko, etc.] Alas, the facts seem to be lining up:

* off the Feb/Mar 2011 Canada tour (no Bayadere/Ottawa, no Swan Lake/Toronto, with the latter cancelled at the very last moment...and still denied by the Mariinsky Press Office, even after I sent them a scan of my playbill, showing Terioshkina dancing in place of Somova)

* off the Youth America Grand Prix gala in NY, late March 2011

* no classical full lengths at the April 2011 Mariinsky Festival (after 5 straight yrs of being granted the most pretigious full-length Petipa evenings)

* only one full-length work in NYC, July 2011, and it was a 3rd-cast matinee (1 yr ago, would have been 1st-cast evening)

* only 1 SWAN LAKE in London (badly rec'vd, as we've read above), then taken off the BAYADERE matinee (lest we forget that just 2 yrs ago, Somova OPENED the 2009 London tour with her ROLE DEBUT as Juliet)

As YID had pointed out in the NYC tour thread: not so long ago, it was impossible to avoid a performance with Somova, e.g., in DC, she was either Kitri or Dryad Queen at every performance of DQ a couple of yrs ago. It seems to be the ebb and flow of life as a principal.

As for the photographic evidence:

Yes, it is very interesting to see clear-cut examples of alignment side-by-side. "The proof is in the pudding," as they say. However, it's perhaps even more important to critique the "essence" of the artist, i.e., does he/she bring you JOY, is he/she MUSICAL, does he/she convey the proper aristocratic airs in the big Petipa ballets? In all honesty, the technical imperfections of Ms Somova have irked me the least. It's the "big picture" that I've found hard to stomach. She could align herself perfectly but the lack of musicality, big grin, sticking-out of chin, and overall "hee-haw quality" would still be a problem, sorry to say.

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* off the Feb/Mar 2011 Canada tour (no Bayadere/Ottawa, no Swan Lake/Toronto, with the latter cancelled at the very last moment...and still denied by the Mariinsky Press Office, even after I sent them a scan of my playbill, showing Terioshkina dancing in place of Somova)

* off the Youth America Grand Prix gala in NY, late March 2011

* then taken off the BAYADERE matinee

She performed Swan Lake at the Mariinsky on February 19 with Vladimir Shklyarov and was injured during the performance, although she finished to the end. That was why she did not dance in Canada or YAGP.

Why she did not perform in Bayadere on Saturday is that she is very close to her coach, Tatiana Terekhova, and very close to her coach's husband, Sergei Berezhnoi, whose funeral was last Tuesday. Like, Anastasia Kolegova, who paid for her own airfare to leave Japan for her husband's funeral, Mariinsky does not pay airfare for special circumstances and like what happened with Kolegova staying at home instead of returning to Japan, Alina stayed home after the funeral on Tuesday.

Regarding 2011 Mariinsky Festival, Alina had been offered Swan Lake , but since Alina had performed many Swan Lake performances recently with Leonid Sarafanov in Italy, she did not want to dance another Swan Lake. That performance also was given to Kondaurova. Alina did close the Mariinsky Festival with the lead in the full length Dimanonds in the final piece of the closing Gala.

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I have photo proof to debunk what George Ou shows. He took Somova from a different section of the ballet and when she was getting in position and off balance. I can easily show a photo of Somova in the same point of the Bayadere adagio where Alina's shoulders are at least as square as Zakharova and her arabesque leg is not more open than Zakharova. Also, poses is not what ballet is about; artistry, acting, arms and hands, upper body, technique, movement of entire body and look of entire body, facial expressions, portrayal of roles, etc.

Anyone can pick bad points, particularly transitional points and say how bad a dancer looks at that peculiar point..

[Admin note: please see our rules and policies against discussing the discussion and to use the "report" button if you have a problem with a post. You are also welcome to post a link to photos that show Somova in a different light, as long as they aren't part of another discussion board.]

Edited by Helene
Content discussing the discussion

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In fairness though I am not a Somova fan by any means, I really feel for the woman, it must be bloody awful to have everything taken away from you and all the opportunities you've worked for diminish to nothing and one thing I don't doubt is that she really works hard.

Somova reminds me of Marguerite Porter who danced with the Royal Ballet in the 1980's; she was also promoted beyond her abilities and was defeated by every ballerina role she attempted to dance. Had she only performed minor soloist roles all would have been well and she could even have been remembered fondly, rather than the nadir of British ballet that she became. Somova is the same kind of dancer, quite acceptable when I saw her dance In the Night, but a disaster the following evening when she attempted the lead in Ballet Imperial.

Regarding photographs, I've noticed a lot of pictures that in the past that would have been vetoed by company press officers appearing all over the web on official sites. Whether this indicates a drop in expertise among the specialist photographers or a more lax approach to what is published I don't know, but even on her Mariinka fan site there are some truly awful pictures of Somova.

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I saw Marguerite Porter dance Odette/Odile when she closed the NYC portion of the 1981 Royal Ballet tour. I quite liked her and preferred her to Leslie Collier, whom I saw at the matinee.

While her career trajectory may have been similar to Somova's, I found her dancing to be direct, modest (in the best sense), and unmannered. I don't remember that many details from 30 years ago, but I do remember being impressed, and it didn't hurt that Anthony Dowell was her partner.

Of Porter's NYC debut in the roles of Odette/Odile, Anna Kisselgoff wrote:

Marguerite Porter, making her New York debut as the Swan Queen and her opposite number, was very much in the lyrical Margot Fonteyn tradition, while Wayne Eagling, replacing the injured Anthony Dowell, has honed the portrait of the youthful innocent prince he first showed here in 1976...

Neither Miss Porter, who nonetheless made a much better showing here than in ''The Sleeping Beauty'' nor Mr. Eagling can measure up to these technical standards: their performances can best be appreciated for sense of style.

Perhaps compared to dancers who had strong technique and even stronger style, Porter paled, but if Kisselgoff is correct -- and I didn't have enough exposure to the Royal Ballet to know the grades of style to know -- then she at least exhibited the schooling and style that, sadly, no longer exists in the company. Many of the complaints about Somova are that she doesn't reflect the style and schooling of the Vaganova Academy and can point to others dancing currently with the Mariinsky who do.

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Why she did not perform in Bayadere on Saturday is that she is very close to her coach, Tatiana Terekhova, and very close to her coach's husband, Sergei Berezhnoi, whose funeral was last Tuesday.

Thank you, alexaa1a!

Some folks are very disappointed for not being able to catch Alinas Nikiya in London, since they flew across the pond just for that one performance. Now, that you explained the reason why, I am sure they will understand.

Although I have never seen Sergey on stage, my heart goes out to his family and friends. All dancers go to heaven.

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Why she did not perform in Bayadere on Saturday is that she is very close to her coach, Tatiana Terekhova, and very close to her coach's husband, Sergei Berezhnoi, whose funeral was last Tuesday.

But she stayed for her Swan Lake, and In The Night which were both after the funeral?

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Why she did not perform in Bayadere on Saturday is that she is very close to her coach, Tatiana Terekhova, and very close to her coach's husband, Sergei Berezhnoi, whose funeral was last Tuesday.

But she stayed for her Swan Lake, and In The Night which were both after the funeral?

Mariinsky News Section in mariinsky.ru says that the funeral was on August 9.

You can look at many different locations to find out when she performed Swan Lake, In The Night and her only other performance, which you did not mention, Ballet imperial.

Swan Lake was on July 27

In The Night was on August 4

Ballet Imperial was on August 5

The funeral was 4 days after Ballet Imperial and 4 days before her scheduled Bayadere on August 13 when she did not return to London.

Still, there will be people that see your comment and will be convinced that she was removed from Bayadere, which is not true.

[Admin note: Last warning about discussing what the administrators should or shouldn't do on this board]

Edited by Helene

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Please respond with facts. That seems to be the problem with many comments speaking about Somova, when things are said that are not true.

Mariinsky News Section in mariinsky.ru says that the funeral was on August 9.

You can look at many different locations to find out when she performed Swan Lake, In The Night and her only other performance, which you did not mention, Ballet imperial.

Swan Lake was on July 27

In The Night was on August 4

Ballet Imperial was on August 5

The funeral was 4 days after Ballet Imperial and 4 days before her scheduled Bayadere on August 13 when she did not return to London.

Still, there will be people that see your comment and will be convinced that she was removed from Bayadere, which is not true.

The Swan Lakes with Sarafanov were five months before the Mariinsky Festival where she wasn't given a single full length, do you really think an ambitious dancer, a principal would turn down an opportunity to dance Odette/Odile on her home turf because she'd done a limited run in a foreign city some five months before?

Mea culpa, I got the dates wrong, but again the reason why Somova chose not to return, or rather perhaps was replaced following her poorly received Swan Lake is open to debate, none of us know the facts, but burying a dancer in third casts and matinee performances is a fact which speaks for itself.

I agree that a photo is just a snapshot of a certain moment, but seeing Somova is again a fact that those certain moments aren't taken out of context. Though if you want facts the fact of this Rose Adagio pretty much speaks for itself .

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EDITED TO ADD/CORRECT:

It was Angelique & not alexaa1a who wrote on may 23, in the Mariinsky Esthetics thread:

But truth is more important. At the time of Mariinsky Canadian tour, Ms. Somova and Alessio Carbone (Paris Opera Ballet) were preparing for World premier of Benjamin Milliepid's new ballet, which was shown at YAGP 2011 Gala: "STARS OF TODAY MEET THE STARS OF TOMORROW".

Nonetheless, the general trend is that Somova is no longer in heavy rotation as she was before Feb 2011, no matter whatever excuse or "fact" is cited.

Edited by Helene

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I agree that a photo is just a snapshot of a certain moment, but seeing Somova is again a fact that those certain moments aren't taken out of context. Though if you want facts the fact of this Rose Adagio pretty much speaks for itself - maybe you could enlighten me as to what you see?

Concerning your photo, why do people keep showing old videos and photos when she had Chenchikova coaching her, who was the wrong coach for her, but Chenchikova's husband was director, so nothing could be done. With the removal of Vaziev, Terekhova took over and made big changes in Alina.

Except for her 5 week absence after her Swan Lake injury, Alina has been very busy with 7 full length ballets in December, plus many Jewel performances in May. She has not suffered from lack of work. Look at her website schedule and she is also doing Mariinsky's first Giselle on October 9, which is not posted on her site, but is posted on Mariinsky.ru playbill.

This is her website schedule http://www.alinasomova.ru/content/?page=8 with everything she performed during the period in question.

Here is a different snapshot taken from a 2010 Rose Adagio video where you can see that Chenchikova’s influence on Alina’s attitude line has been corrected by Terekhova

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I don't think Somova needs to answer to anyone for attending the funeral of her coach's husband, nor to not returning to a tour after such a difficult time.

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The video is set to private and it's not my photo.

Sadly for her the critics, her company and audiences aren't backing her in any legitimate way, and like I said I think it's very sad for her to see her career fizzing out, but perhaps she should never have been promoted so fiercely to start with, and yes in certain ways she has indeed improved, I've even said so on this thread, but I still don't think she's a ballerina.

But again as Natalia said, the FACT is the Mariinsky aren't casting her and I do feel for Somova, it must be pretty terrible for her.

However, I'm sure there are boards out there championing Somova and online communities who love her.

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This is what all of London would have seen if Alina Somova had remained in London, not going to Berezhnoi's funeral.

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This is what all of London would have seen if Alina Somova had remained in London.

In truth Somova is hugely divisive but I have to say too I have never seen a dancer with such an overwhelmingly negative press and opinion about her abilities from the majority. Which is why those who love her will love watching her videos and those who have problems with her will continue to do so.

I have to say under Terekhova she has made huge improvements, I've even said so on this thread, though sadly in London apart from In The Night she garnered very bad reviews and seemed to fall back on many of her bad old habits, it's unfair too to say that Somova isn't talented, but she has a specific type of gift that perhaps would be better suited to a lyrical soloist, In The Night doesn't strain a dancer the way the classics and Balanchine do. It's not just Somova though, as Helene has pointed out the Mariinsky don't do Balanchine much justice, nor other contemporary choreographers such as Forsythe, one of the worst evenings of ballet I've seen in recent years was an all Forsythe programme by the Mariinsky, they were so out of their depth and didn't understand the dynamics and speed needed.

Maybe too Somova wouldn't be so contentious had her rise under Vaziev been so rapid, if she'd been given more time to be coached and had her excesses reined in, and yes I do agree that there's an element of schadenfreude by many in seeing her opportunities in her home company hamstrung to such an extent. Again, I really feel for her, to have so few performances, to be buried in one acts and third and matinee casts must be galling and disheartening and deeply depressing after having been given so much. But she does seem to have taken opportunities where she can get them especially at La Scala where Vaziev continues his commitment to her.

I think that's the thing though that in discussing this moment in Somova's career one does have to look at the subjective fact that she's been frozen out at the Mariinsky, that critics in the West are overwhelmingly negative to her when she dances the classics and the Mariinsky specifically put her in performances which the critics would not see, apart from In The Night which is a beautiful, lyrical ballet which makes no great demands on technique.

One also has to look at what's happening to her in regards to her position, she's one of a handful of principals, the youngest in fact, in a company of nearly two hundred and her performance schedule with the Mariinsky should be fully booked, she should by right of position be given first nights, multiple castings in three act classics, first choice on new stagings, new roles - she should be given more than most coryphees but she hasn't been. And maybe if she wants to pursue a full career she may have to move to La Scala, where I'm sure Vaziev would be delighted to have her, or K Ballet in Japan, places where the ADs like her for what she is - because to be continually frozen out as she is in St Petersburg must be pretty soul destroying for her.

To come back to Nikiya's death dance, yes she has improved remarkably, for me though with Somova all hell breaks loose in the Shades scene but that's beside the point, she's really come on and maybe if she wants to continue to grow with a full rep and full performance schedule she will have to move company.

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Simon G,

1. Do you go overseas to see all these international ballets, or do you have access online somehow? I would love to have this ability :>

2. Doesn't schadenfreude involve an element of revenge? How come someone take pleasure in the failure of someone who simply performs in successively higher roles and positions as directed and appointed, and then is disfavored, unless (a) she did something harmful intentionally to someone or (b) the competitors are petty and jealous? (I cannot fully understand schadenfreude in situations involving revenge, because I cannot understand taking pleasure in someone's pain or loss, but that is another issue not for this board. Here, I am trying simply to understand your selection of language and your position.)

3. Why would a lyrical soloist not match a classical or Petipa repertoire? I thought, within the structure of classical ballet, a lot of the sections were lyrical in nature.

4. What aspects of La Scala's schedule differ from the KM to suit these abilities, or does the audience in Milan simply have different tastes?

5. Can you describe the views of different schools regarding hip position in arabesque and attitude?

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I have photo proof to debunk what George Ou shows. He took Somova from a different section of the ballet and when she was getting in position and off balance. I can easily show a photo of Somova in the same point of the Bayadere adagio where Alina's shoulders are at least as square as Zakharova and her arabesque leg is not more open than Zakharova. Also, poses is not what ballet is about; artistry, acting, arms and hands, upper body, technique, movement of entire body and look of entire body, facial expressions, portrayal of roles, etc.

Anyone can pick bad points, particularly transitional points and say how bad a dancer looks at that peculiar point..

The problem with your argument is that I've shown multiple examples of her flawed arabesque and they're not just of her "getting in position". Furthermore, how is she "off balance" when she's holding a partner and is she off balance that often?

Here's the examples I've shown with actual links just so that people can judge for themselves if the photos are anomalies or if they're systematic problems.

Screen cap freeze frame

http://www.flickr.co...57627407653236/

It came from

at the 1:06 second mark. She's holding a partner so you can't claim she was off balance or claim that she was "getting in position". She's making a fairly novice mistake of shifting the spine to her right and away from the working leg.

Another example here

http://www.flickr.co...57627407653236/

More recent example of Somova here from

. I posted this one because one of her fans said that she had improved, yet she's making very sloppy "a la sabesque" poses in Giselle.

http://www.flickr.co...57627407653236/

She did the same thing in a 2007 documentary where the director of the Mariinsky said he didn't like her back attitude.

Now one may argue that her other virtues (beautiful body+face, great a la seconde, good stage presence, and for all I know a wonderful person) is more important than my criticisms of her arabesque and people have a right to that opinion. All I'm saying is that for me, the arabesque and back attitude are signature moves for the ballerina (and even important for men) and that aspect of Somova doesn't meet my personal expectations of what passes as a principle at a world class company.

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I think we have to be cautious photo comparisons. Just about every dancer can be photographed in what looks like a bad position, it's hard to judge momentum and weight in most stills, and a supporting partner's position in supported adagio has impact on the alignment of the supported partner.

I agree completely abut being cautious. In this case, however, I think the still photographs are supported by a number of the video clips that have been posted on Ballet Alert over the years. Not to mention the reviews posted here from live performance. That out-of-alignment quality has been evident in so many of those, and not just in the case of Ms. Somova.

On the other hand, I'm a complete amateur in these matters. It would be great to hear from other members about what they think about Mr. Ou's photos, and what they do or do not show us.

For me, this series of photos raises a larger question than Ms. Somova's technique. It has to do with how much we can and cannot learn from still photography, and how much we can extrapolate from that..

Well in my post above, I included links to the source video clips of Somova along with other photos and they can be seen in their entirety and in context.

Moreover, I've found multiple freeze frames of a video clip to be extremely useful in not only evaluating dancers, but also studying and teaching ballet technique. For example, here's a "text book" example of how to do an inside turn to fish which I've found immensely useful as a learning guideline. Here's Baryshnikov showing how to do a proper reveltad and how to launch the step. Proper (Vaganova in this case but applies to all elite companies) tendu a la seconde with legs fully to the side and heels facing downward, not heel forward with legs cheating front. Proper turns in seconde with legs fully to the side from the stunning performance "

".

The photos show every frame of the video which only shows the technique very well, but it's also very useful as an analytic tool for determining accurate flight time and height that the dancer jumped. From this analysis, I've found that Ivan Vasiliev spends 0.9 seconds in the air for his monster double cabriole which is even respectable hang time in the NBA. David Hallberg and Roberto Bolle are both in the 0.66 second range for double tours which is very respectable considering the fact that they're doing proper ballet positions.

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George, I commend you for your research. As they say, "The proof is in the pudding!"

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George, I commend you for your research. As they say, "The proof is in the pudding!"

Thanks flowers.gif

You've said: "Yes, it is very interesting to see clear-cut examples of alignment side-by-side. "The proof is in the pudding," as they say. However, it's perhaps even more important to critique the "essence" of the artist, i.e., does he/she bring you JOY, is he/she MUSICAL, does he/she convey the proper aristocratic airs in the big Petipa ballets? In all honesty, the technical imperfections of Ms Somova have irked me the least. It's the "big picture" that I've found hard to stomach. She could align herself perfectly but the lack of musicality, big grin, sticking-out of chin, and overall "hee-haw quality" would still be a problem, sorry to say. "

Honestly, your criticisms are far more stinging than my purely technical critique. The big picture is made up of many things some of which you and I have mentioned. Some of the things like the big grin sticking the chin out too far can be coached relatively easily. Her arabesque and back attitude alignment can be fixed though this takes a lot more work. The problem for her is that she was thrown into the fire before she could mature and it burned her and I feel for her. But I think the criticism is necessary because the last thing I want is little ballerinas emulating her.

I've always felt that even though the casual ballet fan doesn't understand all the finer details of proper ballet technique, they do understand it at a subconscious level. This holds true for many things and most people can't critique a singer to save their life but they know a good singer when they hear one. This seems true for Somova and people might not quite be able to vocalize it but something just doesn't quite look right.

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That's it - the "hee-haw" manner. Maybe it's an age thing but I think not. We see a lot of great ballet. We know the basics in a ballerina. One of the basics is an air of aristocracy...yes, even in Balanchine's 'Americana' works, those ballerinas have the European air of elegance. Something basic that we do not even be talking about.

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Recent videos of Somova show an incredible improvement in her technique, stage manner and acting (though if you look through her Vaganova school acting exams she always had the capacity to be a great actress). I too thought she was a circus pony until recent times. She has come a long, long way and is certainly deserving of her position as a modern Mariinsky Ballerina.

Watch her Dying Swan. Watch her in Millipied's "Without". Both beautiful and both during the last 12 months. I would pay to see her any day.

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