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Maria Kochetkova


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Latest post by MK on this subject:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0EmGO3hfN4/

 

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Thank you @nytimes and @giadk for this post – I’m so inspired reading all of the conversation in the comments about what ballet is, isn’t, could be, or should be. That’s the question I’m asking in my program @thejoycetheater this week. Come see for yourself and join the discussion!

It’s really a creature,” Maria Kochetkova said of the role she dances in “Degunino,” a solo by the Spanish choreographer Marcos Morau @la.veronal featured in “Catch Her if You Can,” an evening of dances showcasing the ballerina at the @thejoycetheater this week. For the piece, set to music by Alexander Knaifel (performed by the pianist Oleg Malov and the singer Tatiana Melentieva), Maria strives to dislocate her body parts — right down to her eyes. “I’ve learned to coordinate my movements for 25 years as a ballet dancer,” Maria, or @balletrusse, said. “This goes against all the rules.” A former principal with @sfballet and @abtofficial, Maria has struck out on her own as an independent artist. “I thought it would be nice to show what is ballet today,” she said. And that has opened up a world of possibilities for her, too; her program also includes works by William Forsythe and Jérôme Bel. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be dancing,” Maria told the #nytimes writer @giadk, “but I still want to learn, and you can’t do it on your own. It takes someone else to push you.”

Edited by pherank
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I saw the show too and found it mostly really lacking, but there were some enjoyable sections. The solo piece described in the Speaking in Dance post was one of the most interesting parts of the program IMO; it showed off Kochevkova's versatility and "avant-garde" side.  As Seibert says in the NYT article she looked like a "broken marionette," but I don't see that as a negative... the angular, isolated movements were impressive! The two pas de deux she danced were lovely and brought out her classical technique. Sofiane Sylve ate up the stage in the Swan Lake excerpt, although I found the "updated" choreography somewhat boring and unmusical (hard to re-choreograph such an iconic ballet moment unless you're going to do something radically different with it). 

The "Rachel, Nevada" piece by Drew Jacoby was just ridiculous. The wacky costumes and trippy visuals were fun gimmicks but the choreography was amateurish. Jerome Bel's "Masha Machine" had the audience read text messages projected onto a screen for around 15 minutes... it went on forever and came off as kind of narcissistic on Kochetkova's part. In the texts she talks about how she's "sick of dealing with stupid people" in company life and "doesn't have the patience to teach" after she retires, but she says she wants to run a company??? I didn't get it. In the text conversation we had to watch grainy YouTube videos of some of her performances, including one where she's a kid dancing at the Bolshoi Ballet school, and in the texts she talks about how all of the parents of other kids hated her because she was so much better. The whole piece read as "look how brilliant and talented I am / I'm too good for this life though." 

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6 hours ago, JuliaJ said:

I saw the show too and found it mostly really lacking, but there were some enjoyable sections. The solo piece described in the Speaking in Dance post was one of the most interesting parts of the program IMO; it showed off Kochevkova's versatility and "avant-garde" side.  As Seibert says in the NYT article she looked like a "broken marionette," but I don't see that as a negative... the angular, isolated movements were impressive! The two pas de deux she danced were lovely and brought out her classical technique. Sofiane Sylve ate up the stage in the Swan Lake excerpt, although I found the "updated" choreography somewhat boring and unmusical (hard to re-choreograph such an iconic ballet moment unless you're going to do something radically different with it). 

The "Rachel, Nevada" piece by Drew Jacoby was just ridiculous. The wacky costumes and trippy visuals were fun gimmicks but the choreography was amateurish. Jerome Bel's "Masha Machine" had the audience read text messages projected onto a screen for around 15 minutes... it went on forever and came off as kind of narcissistic on Kochetkova's part. In the texts she talks about how she's "sick of dealing with stupid people" in company life and "doesn't have the patience to teach" after she retires, but she says she wants to run a company??? I didn't get it. In the text conversation we had to watch grainy YouTube videos of some of her performances, including one where she's a kid dancing at the Bolshoi Ballet school, and in the texts she talks about how all of the parents of other kids hated her because she was so much better. The whole piece read as "look how brilliant and talented I am / I'm too good for this life though." 

The Bel piece does sound a little cringe-worthy - unless you happen to be a true "fan" of Kochetkova, I suppose. The social media crowd may eat up that type of thing. It sounds like an exercise in icon-making which I'm not crazy about myself.

As I mentioned to someone else, it may not be an 'accident' that Sofiane Sylve appears in the program. New York had as much trouble understanding her artistic approach as they do with Kochetkova's. It may have been a conscious choice on Masha's part to add Sofiane to the program as a celebration of the alien/other.

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9 hours ago, JuliaJ said:

Jerome Bel's "Masha Machine" had the audience read text messages projected onto a screen for around 15 minutes... it went on forever and came off as kind of narcissistic on Kochetkova's part. In the texts she talks about how she's "sick of dealing with stupid people" in company life and "doesn't have the patience to teach" after she retires, but she says she wants to run a company??? I didn't get it. In the text conversation we had to watch grainy YouTube videos of some of her performances, including one where she's a kid dancing at the Bolshoi Ballet school, and in the texts she talks about how all of the parents of other kids hated her because she was so much better. The whole piece read as "look how brilliant and talented I am / I'm too good for this life though." 

To my mind, the excerpts that Bel selected were merciless. The piece seemed to work to portray Kochetkova as profoundly isolated, without a home base or meaningfully relationships, turning to her talent as her all-consuming, self-defining characteristic, without a sense of who she as a person is apart from her talent—basically, emphases of emptiness and isolation. (If you've read Toni Bentley's Winter Season, or watched the Wendy Whelan documentary, I think it played on some of the same themes of dance as identity, though Bel amplified it to an almost cruel degree.) I don't know how much of Bel's portrayal was art and how much was reality, but it was really, really troubling.

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My understanding, including at the time she was there, was that Sofiane Sylve was extremely well-regarded in NY and as a dancer with NYC.  Ditto when she was with the Dutch National Ballet. 

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37 minutes ago, tutu said:

To my mind, the excerpts that Bel selected were merciless. The piece seemed to work to portray Kochetkova as profoundly isolated, without a home base or meaningfully relationships, turning to her talent as her all-consuming, self-defining characteristic, without a sense of who she as a person is apart from her talent—basically, emphases of emptiness and isolation. (If you've read Toni Bentley's Winter Season, or watched the Wendy Whelan documentary, I think it played on some of the same themes of dance as identity, though Bel amplified it to an almost cruel degree.) I don't know how much of Bel's portrayal was art and how much was reality, but it was really, really troubling.

Artists love "troubling".  ;)
But many people mistake that for art, which is really a different thing, and not dependent upon a particular feeling or impression. I suppose Kochetkova wanted to appear brave, and honest, for allowing the Bel piece to go forward as is, but the audience might still be left with the wrong impression.

 

2 hours ago, Helene said:

No dancer will please everyone, but there were a lot of upset people in NYC when Sylve moved to SFB. 

Her technical abilities were certainly appreciated. There's a documentary out there somewhere about Sylve's move to NYCB, and someone remarks that having Sylve in class with the SAB-trained dancers would keep them nervous - the other dancers would have to up their game. That was seen as a positive development. But what was missed (when she left) seemed to be her classicism. A huge part of Sylve's 'agenda' - and Kochetkova's orientation as well - is the creation of new works and support for today's choreographers. I think it was a bigger deal for Sylve to work with David Dawson again - on Anima-Animus - than to perform yet again in a purely traditional war horse ballet. This new Dawson Swan Lake duet may not be a success, but it is something more to be tried. Moving the art form forward is a major concern for both these women. That's what makes their adventures interesting to me. Onward and upward...

Edited by pherank
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On 7/18/2019 at 2:04 PM, pherank said:

The Jérôme Bel piece may be biographical, but I bet that was his choice and not hers.

Bel's work is often biographical, so I imagine not a surprise.

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2 hours ago, pherank said:

Artists love "troubling".  😉
But many people mistake that for art, which is really a different thing, and not dependent upon a particular feeling or impression. I suppose Kochetkova wanted to appear brave, and honest, for allowing the Bel piece to go forward as is, but the audience might still be left with the wrong impression.

I was debating using the word “artifice” instead of “art” above, but wanted to avoid many of the connotations. I think that might have made my meaning unclear.

I don’t want to say that Bel makes up the themes of isolation, dance as identity, and the struggle to self-identify apart from dance out of wholecloth. Those are sentiments that I’ve heard expressed over and over by dancers and former dancers in public media and private conversations.

(Indeed, the brutal brevity of the ballet career makes these issues all the more apparent, because the cutting-off of the pursuit occurs so early! In contrast, to, say, a member of the New York Philharmonic who must also dedicate herself to her craft from an early age and devote herself to her art form, but who retires from the workforce at the same age as most of society, a ballet dancer usually reforms herself and her art form when she’s got at least another 25+ years where she’s got to find another day job and pursuit—another way to pass the majority of her waking hours!)

What I refer to as “art” and perhaps should have called “artifice” above is the amplification and exaggeration of that theme — the editing work to make something (troubling or not) apparent. I mean to say that I don’t know how much the amplification of what seem to be very real, constant themes in the lives of ballet dancers I know (and in chronicles by those I don’t) reflects day-to-day existence, or Kochetkova’s own thoughts and feelings.

Maybe “character creation” would be a better way of describing this. I don’t know how much Bel used the “Masha Machine” and the idea of Kochetkova the performer/Facebook conversant as a vessel for ideas about art and identity and ephemerality and loneliness, and how much reflects Kochetkova herself. 

Now that I think about this, Bel is likely doing this on purpose! “Masha Machine” looks at once like authentic accounts of their conversation, but we see moments of Bel saying he doesn’t have to include one of her responses (and we don’t know which). We see grainy rendering of YouTube videos, but not all of those that are sent in the thread. Bel doesn’t pretend that what we see is unedited — he shows us selections and snippets and makes it clear we don’t see the whole. We’re grappling with whether we’re seeing a version of Kochetkova’s self or her created character or her image and physicality as vessel for another’s voice, but she’s fundamentally unknown, and Bel makes us see all of that at once. Kochetkova describes learning that her key to the second act of Giselle is to never make eye contact with anyone on stage, and I think of the way that a performer usually can’t see the audience beyond the lights—here is the artist, whom we only know in images. 

Sorry for the rambling — I’m still working through what was so affecting (maybe not troubling) about “Masha Machine.” If I hadn’t seen the work and read a description of it, I’d think the whole thing was pretension hanging on preciousness. Something about it is still in my head, though!

Edited by tutu
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19 hours ago, Helene said:

No dancer will please everyone, but there were a lot of upset people in NYC when Sylve moved to SFB. 

Agreed.  I was one of those people upset by her move to SFB.

I was very excited about seeing Sylve today, but I just donated my today's tickets back to the Joyce.  This heat and very hot subway platforms are just too unbearable to make it worthwile.

Edited by NinaFan
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17 hours ago, tutu said:

Sorry for the rambling — I’m still working through what was so affecting (maybe not troubling) about “Masha Machine.” If I hadn’t seen the work and read a description of it, I’d think the whole thing was pretension hanging on preciousness. Something about it is still in my head, though!

Well put, and your thoughts on Bel's biographical piece are very interesting. Perhaps a video version of Bel's presentation will end up on YouTube one day. Who knows?

I guess one could argue that dancers are primarily a "vessel for ideas", and rarely the idea maker. And that is a tenuous position for any artist to be in. Bel and Kochetkova may have been hoping to capture that fragile state to some degree. I'm sure Kochetkova would be happy that you're taking the time to consider what it was all about.

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3 hours ago, NinaFan said:

I was very excited about seeing Sylve today, but I just donated my today's tickets back to the Joyce.  This heat and very hot subway platforms are just too unbearable to make it worthwile.

That's a bummer. I understand now why Kochetkova mentioned that the Joyce Theater has air conditioning.  ;)
The crazy weather seems to be ruining quite a few events on the East Coast.

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