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Mariinsky under Fateyev

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Stepanova is clearly talented, but bravissima to Kondaurova: what mesmerizing authority.

It seems rather unfair to Shirinkina to have her debut during an opening night--a kind of favoritism that could effectively hurt her if she needs some seasoning in the role. I hope she does do really well, as she definitely caught my eye the one time I saw her and she seems a natural 'Cinderella.' But yes, it's a bit odd.

...Shrinkina is an interesting choice for the opening night reviewers, since she's a dancer who has generated interest and isn't a dancer they've seen every tour, ....

Shirinkina was on the most recent Kennedy Center tour -- leading Chopiniana (jete solo and pdd). DC and all of N. America have seen Shirinkina often since she appeared in the April 2008 NY City Center season, her first with the MT after having been acquired from Perm. She is a capable dancer, if not spectacular. Her 'star' is helped by her private and professional partnership with one Vladimir Schkyarov, no doubt. But she is capable and should fare nicely as Cinderella. I wouldn't want to see her as Aurora or Odette/Odile or Nikiya...but Cindrella is within Shirinkina's means...but, good grief, the opening night of a big tour, in front of reviewers?

The MIRACLE of the KennCen casting is that Somova is not getting opening night and not being subjected to the critics...which may explain that. [And may explain why Somova was kept off the Edinburgh Festival tour altogether. The irony is that Cinderella is her best starring role, IMO & where she had the best chance of garnering truly positive reviews. Go figure.]

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According to the Mariinsky website, Novikova now replaces Tereshkina for the opening night Raymonda. I also read, but I cannot remember where now, that she, Somova and Matvienko may not dance in America, so Somova's Washington Cinderella will be recast, as will be her, Tereshkina's and Matvienko's Swan Lakes in California. This would seem to be an excellent opportunity for Yuri Fateyev to revive his bored ballet audiences with some new and much-deserved casting of underappreciated ballerinas. A Marchuk CInderella and a Stepanova Swan Lake would both be wonderful substitutes.

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According to the Mariinsky website, Novikova now replaces Tereshkina for the opening night Raymonda. .....

This is major and a fitting acknowledgement of Novikova's accomplishments in Milan last year. I wonder if she will dance the sequence of 30 entrechats-six during her Act II solo, as in Milan? What a treat for St. Petersburg balletomanes!

So DC will once again be a "Somova No-Fly Zone"? Hmmm... She may be substituted by Pavlenko as Cinderella, I am guessing, as Somova was scheduled to be partnered by Sergeev, who is Pavlenko's real-life partner/husband. Golub is another possibility, having danced the role a couple of times. Or Vishneva, if she reconsiders going to DC and doesn't have other commitments; she is a busy lady, although she has only one performance (a Giselle on Oct 21) scheduled so far during the USA tour period. Not too many other current ballerinas on the Mariinsky roster have danced Cinderella...just Vishneva, Golub, Pavlenko, Somova and Osmolkina.

As for the Swan Lakes in California, it would be so appropriate if the company's greatest Odette-Odile -- Lopatkina -- would be cast. It's absurd that the Mariinsky's Prima Ballerina was omitted from the tour.

I hope that none of the replaced dancers are out due to injury but that the changes were made due to common sense and a wish to 'right past wrongs.'

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Almost every freakin' North American tour since April '08 has had Shirinkina...especially if Schklyarov is also on the roster and even if he is not.

I happen to like Maria Shirinkina very much and consider her to be a lovely lyrical classical ballerina with some of the most beautiful arms in the Mariinsky. She is not a bravura, virtuoso type ballerina, but she has not been cast as one, and I personally found her very effective and loved her performances as Giselle, Syuimbike, Shirin, Masha and others. I think Cinderella will be a very good role for her and wish her every success.

Shirinkina graduated from an 8 year ballet programme in Perm and joined Mariinsky Theatre immediately after her graduation in 2006. At that time, Vaziev was ballet director and many will say that he used the youngsters in good roles, too much, to the detriment of veterans with great experience. However, Shirinkina cannot be blamed for taking her opportunities. In this environment which Shirinkina entered, in her first Mariinsky Festival, during her first season in spring 2007, she danced the role of Amor in Don Quixote, which featured Natalia Osipova, Leonid Sarafanov and Alina Somova. Nowadays, Vaganova graduates cannot dance in their first Mariinsky Festival at such an early age as Shirinkina, since in 2007, Vaganova changed to a 9 year program.

The youth lover, Vaziev, has been replaced by Fateyev, who seems to not comprehend that there are differences in the stage talent of the young dancers.. He seems to think that all dancers need time to develop as professionals, but now they are starting one year older than previously because of Vaganova's 9 year program, replacing the 8 years that always existed since Vaganova died. In addition, because of Vaganova entrance requirements on height, many students now start later meaning that some graduate at as old as 20 or 21, which hardly ever happened before. Marchuk graduated at an older age than Maria Shirinkina and with the exception of Martynyuk, it is not possible to find a more suited dancer for Amor, than Marchuk. Marchuk has never danced Amor and she will now enter her 3rd Mariinsky season, after going through Vaganova's long 9 year programme.

Something must be seriously wrong with Fateyev if he is unable to give a relatively easy role, Amor, to a dancer with such amazing natural gifts for that role. We are not talking about Giselle which requires much more skill and diverse talents than Amor, a role which any good Vaganova student can dance. Don Quixote is scheduled for 19th and 28th October, and would be a wonderful opportunity for Fateyev to give this lovely dancer her chance in the role.

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Tiara, I also admire Shirinkina in soft, non-bravura, Zhanna Ayupova-style roles like Chopiniana or Emeralds. I haven't been quite convinced of her dramatic and comedic abilities yet, or the ability to carry a 3-act ballet, so let's see how she fares as Cinderella. On the other hand, Marchuk (like the now-gone Obraztsova) is such a firecracker and sunbeam of JOY on stage - not to mention extraordinary dancer -- that it is truly absurd that she is not even being given Amour in DQ...yet her fellow-graduate, Keenan Kampa, who did not even make the troupe after graduation, is taken aboard this summer and immediately being given featured roles (2 wilis, for starters). Go figure.

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I thought this video clip, just uploaded today on YouTube, was particularly appropriate at this point in the discussion.


As everyone knows, in the 1930s, George Balanchine took three unknown young ballerinas, Irina Baranova, Tamara Toumanova and Tatiana Riabouchinska, and made them the stars of his Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Two of these baby ballerinas were only 12 at the time, and Riabouchinska was 14. They performed a huge variety of roles and were so successful that critics of the day said, "Ballet exists again."

In my opinion, in the Mariinsky today there are equally talented ballerinas, who should have been given opportunities at a young age, as soon as they graduated into the company. Both Yulia Stepanova and Oksana Marchuk are phenomenal ballerinas, stars-in-waiting, yet at 22, they are already ten years older than these Ballets Russes ballerinas. It seems that unless she has financial or political backing, or is a "foreign" dancer imported into the company, a ballerina must wait until her mid 20s to get any principal roles. This is a ridiculous state of affairs.

The Mariinsky corps de ballet is overflowing with young, talented ballerinas. Yuri Fateyev has it within his power to have his own generation of star Baby Ballerinas, and reaffirm his company's status as the greatest in the world, yet he does not have the vision or inclination or ability to see this.

In my opinion, both Stepanova and Marchuk should be promoted, given the roles they deserve straightaway and turned into the stars they should rightfully be.

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So is this thread about mis-management by Fateev or simply a plea for more performances by personal favourites?

If the former there is an 'elephant in the room' situation at the Kirov - I know what it is and I'm damned sure some of the posters here do too, as long as the casting racket continues don't expect anything from the company other than a slow slide into mediocrity.

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Interesting talk about Marinsky which I had no idea was that bad in terms of management. I didn't know about the young dancers being discussed here, so had to go look them up on youtube. Skorik I knew from that infamous video. But after watching Shirinkina's videos, I think she also needs to work on technique. Her Aurora was technically subpar and seemed ballet schoolish not ballerina with gravitas for the role. Marchuk is charming and if she has the technique would make a better Aurora than Shirinkina. Stepanova I suspect would have to starve herself if she is to get lead roles in Petipa ballets. Too bad because she is the best one out of the ones discussed here.

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... Stepanova I suspect would have to starve herself if she is to get lead roles in Petipa ballets. ....

Cordelia, that's what I was trying to say diplomatically when I wrote, above, that she is 'large-ish at the top.' Thirty years ago, the womanliness would not have been a big deal. This fits in with the topic of this thread, in that Mariinsky Theater's Central Casting prefers one mold (GuillemClone = Lopatkina/Zakharova/Somova/Skorik/Kampa) to all other looks. One could even say that it began with a near-contemporary (a senior?) to Guillem - Galina Mezentseva, in the mid-80s. So it is really a trend and not the sudden fault of Fateev. By the way, I have nothing against 'The Mold' (hyper-elongated look) when the instrument belongs to a true artist, like Guillem, Lopatkina and Zakharova. The problem came about 10 yrs ago when 'The Mold' became more important than the artistry.

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With regard to the general physical type required by Mariinsky management, when Yuri Fateyev came to give a lecture to students at the Washington DC Kirov Academy, he brought with him Maria Shirinkina and Ekaterina Kondaurova. He told the students that the most important thing to be ballet dancer is to be skinny. Obviously what Vaganova Academy in SPB has always been known for - fabulous flowing arms and upper body, plus artists that dance with their soul and have exceptional technique, are not relevant when compared to being skinny. It seems the statement about Yulia Stepanova is true, because Fateyev prefers string beans with no talent to a "true artist" with a womanly body.

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Question: This string bean look (which I like on some dancers)......is this a look that the company wants simply b/c the company prefers that look and wants to be known for dancers with this look, or is it because they think the public expects that look? If they think the public wants that look I know people who prefer a more womanly look. I think Stepanova is beautiful. I think many people would. If they think the public wants that look in dancers, I am not sure they are correct.

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Question: This string bean look (which I like on some dancers)......is this a look that the company wants simply b/c the company prefers that look and wants to be known for dancers with this look, or is it because they think the public expects that look? If they think the public wants that look I know people who prefer a more womanly look. I think Stepanova is beautiful. I think many people would. If they think the public wants that look in dancers, I am not sure they are correct.

I too like the string bean look on some dancers, but generally prefer a more womanly look. I agree that Stepanova is beautiful and her physique is perfect for her. Certainly most of my friends do not like the skinny look and often argue with me about Shirinkina, who I like very much, and criticize her skinny look. The Mariinsky Theatre requirements are obviously very influential on physical type of children recruited to the Vaganova Academy and the result is that the public is forced to see an endless stream of string beans (the preferred height for a Vaganova graduate is 165-170 cm, so this is already above the average height for a woman.) It is a shame when there may be many talented dancers who are denied roles because they do not fit the ballet type favoured by Mariinsky management.
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From Catherine Pawlick's book, "Vaganova Today":

Terekhova, pp.107-8

A ballerina with short legs, a large, tank of a girl, that kind of dancer does not exist here. A ballerina must have long legs at least, long arms, and be slender. In America, there is a struggle with this aesthetic. I mean a full barrel cannot go out on stage and wear a white tutu and dance Odette. But for them in America, it's normal. There is the automatic, "Put on the tutu and go out there," they are completely fine with it. It's a different level of aesthetic. But they don't allow that here. Here everyone must always be in shape, and the shape, the body, is a very specific type. They choose the children for the school according to certain parameters, there is an index against which they measure the children. The standards are different.

Terekhova speaks as if this always was the aesthetic and body type at the Mariinsky Theatre. Perhaps Terekhova's memory doesn't extend farther back than the '60's or '70's, but this aesthetic was in place well before Fateev.

Christiakova, p.140

Vinogradov liked tall girls, and so he first looked at those with long, thin legs. But I'm medium height, with a feminine build, and I was not favored in terms of external appearance.

Assymuratova, p.176

Now we have stricter requirements about physical appearance. Because if you look at the 1940's and 1950's, you can go to the [Vaganova Academy] museum and look at photographs, and there were fantastic dancers then, but it is unlikely that they would become leading dancers today, because they were short and plump. Now the demands are completely different; everyone has to be thin and long. The traits are completely different today. However, it wouldn't be correct to say, I cannot say that they danced worse, for example. No. There were some elements that were more emotional then; the requirements were different. There were lots of ballets with stories, and we know that some of the artists fulfilling this or that role, they were truly artists of ballet, not just executors of movement, not just performers of subject-less technical movement. Then it was full, rich, spiritual dancing, which is what Russian ballet has always been distinguished by--its emotionality and soul and soulful richness...
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I also think that by going so much for the "skinny and long" look the Mariinsky is losing out on certain dancing abilities. For instance, I notice that the best jumpers in the world, male or female, anywhere, in any company, usually aren't "skinny and long." They are usually on the short side, with powerful thighs. I call them the "dark haired dancing dynamos" because they usually have dark hair, are tiny (short), aren't necessarily the prettiest in terms of body shape, but they are fantastic jumpers.

So what the Mariinsky is getting in terms of beautiful-looking O/O's, they're also losing in terms of dynamite Kitris or Giselles.

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Everything changed around 1982/83. Margarita Kullik -- one of the favored students of Dudinskaya -- was being primed for super-stardom, then had the awful luck of joining the company at exactly the time when the craze for the Guillem Mold began to take shape. I've always felt a little sorry for Kullik because she is the balletic equivalent of the person in whose face the Metro door slams. Ayupova, who graduated a couple of years after Kullik, was a bit luckier, making Principal eventually but had nowhere close to the career of the taller and ultra-thin Makhalinas and Lopatkinas.

We can forgive Terekhova -- a Gamzatti and Myrtha for the ages! -- having forgotten that the 1970s Soviet Union still saw many wonderful stars with either more womanly figures, such as Nadezhda Pavlova (at Bolshoi) and Galina Panova (Kirov), or shorter and a bit 'fuller' than today's Mold, such as Gabriella Komleva and Alla Sizova. Speaking of Terekhova, didn't she live and coach in Boston for a while? I would have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall during casting discussions...with champions of the two aesthetics (US 'inclusive' vs Russian 'exclusive/ultra-thin') arguing their respective cases.

p.s. - Just saw canbelto's post, which is spot-on.

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Just adding that it's not just Kitri and Giselle that suffers in terms of this kind of figure selection. Juliet, Aurora, Rubies, third movement of Symphony in C, are all traditionally roles that belonged to the short dynamic dancers. Raymonda and Nikya can really go either way in terms of casting.

Also, selection for taller and skinnier females means selection for tall, cavalier-type male dancers, so there's even less room for the demi-character males.

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I also think that by going so much for the "skinny and long" look the Mariinsky is losing out on certain dancing abilities.

I've been noticing-(and reporting)-for a while an ongoing grow of ballerinas for which the posing, flexibility and lyricism in movements is more visible and obviously important than their actual dancing abilities. I'm definitely also under the impression that the ultra-thin and flexibility trend is taking its toll in their muscle strenght and ability to keep beautiful airy, controlled jumps-(a la Vasiliev)-or their "a terre" ones in turns and pointe work which require a maximum of strength in their ankles-(a la Valdes).

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I had to laugh reading the quote from Terekhova..."I mean a full barrel cannot go out on stage and wear a white tutu and dance Odette. But for them in America, it's normal." Oh yes, those barrel shaped American ballerinas!

(Come to think of it, wasn't Balanchine accused -- not without some reason -- of creating an aesthetic that valued tall and thin over other qualities? He may have featured some more petite dancers, but on the whole that was not what was associated with the overall NYCB 'look' and long before Guillem.)

Mashinka's post remains rather enigmatic to me. That is, I agree that there is a difference between making the case for one's favorites to get more roles and making the larger case with what is wrong with Fateyev's directing -- and I certainly know of no company in which the casting satisfies all fans. But I'm guessing that spelling out the problem being alluded to would involve speculation/gossip...if not, though I wouldn't mind being enlightened!

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Weight certainly does seem to pose a problem at the Mariinsky at the moment for a number of ballerinas. Tiny Valeria Martinyuk was labelled fat by the St Petersburg ballet critics and recently lost a great deal of weight, to the extent that she now looks far too thin. This resulted in her promotion to 2nd soloist and a variety of new roles for her, but she actually looked perfect before and should have not felt it necessary to adopt this extreme measure. Svetlana Ivanova also has lost a lot of weight, and actually looked shockingly thin recently in her odalisque costume as opposed to healthy and radiant in her Florine with Batalov's Bluebird, that is uploaded on YouTube. It is a disgrace that these two beautiful ballerinas, who both had healthy feminine bodies, felt themselves obliged to lose weight in order to fit in with Fateyev's required physical type. Ivanova in particular is shockingly thin, although when she is wearing a tutu or her body is actually concealed by her costume, she can still look nice. Incidentally, how can Fateyev still be casting her as Amor, a role for a young ballerina? It is an insult to her. Most of the dancers at the Mariinsky know they have to be thin in order to get roles - and a very sad case in point of one who has not been able to do this is Tatiana Tkachenko, who was wonderful in many soloist roles (particularly Diamonds) but has always struggled with her weight. She has not danced a classical pas de deux or been cast in a major solo ever since she put on weight - not that she is fat now, just not skinny. It seems only the skinny will ever progress in Fateyev's Mariinsky.

Of course, there have aalways been thin ballerinas - Lopatkina for example was always skinny at Vaganova, unlike fellow students, so this was plainly something in her genes. Maya Dumchenko also, who I saw in Rubies, and as Aurora and Giselle, was always very thin and 168 cm tall, but she was another naturally thin girl. It is just that now, the very thin girls predominate, whereas once there were a variety of different body types to be found within the company.

I think the problem comes when dancers are forced to diet below their natural "set point" as this results in a look that is not natural for them. Personally I believe that every dancer has a weight and a look that is best for her, and dancers should not be forced to all be the same, like a row of paperchain ballerinas. Diversity is good, and different physical types bring different qualities to a role. It would be boring if every dancer looked the same! Some dancers, like Stepanova and Marchuk, are feminine in build and it suits them, but others are naturally skinny beanpoles and this look suits them. I believe there should be room for all physical types within the Mariinsky.

At the Royal Ballet, this is certainly the case, and we do not have a uniform required look, partly of course, because our ballerinas are of all different nationalities and come from different schools of dance. We do not have the problem either that only dancers of a required type may dance certain roles - tiny Roberta Marquez for example, is less than 5' tall yet can dance Nikiya and Odette-Odile, and Alina Cojocaru is only 5'3" (approx.) We do of course have taller principal dancers, but physical type is not a bar to becoming principal or to being given roles in the way that it seems to be at the Mariinsky. It seems that it is only at the Mariinsky that being tall and thin is more important than being talented. And for this state of affairs only Fateyev is to blame.

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In "Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear," Carla Korbes described how when she was at NYCB, Peter Martins would tell her she needed to lose weight, she would, he would reward her with roles, and she would become weak and get injured, a vicious cycle that lasted until she moved to Seattle to join PNB. (Not that she's been injury-free since she's been here, but she looks gorgeous.)

At the end of Wiseman's "La Danse," Brigitte Lefebvre is giving a career review to a young corps member who looks like she'd snap from blowing out a birthday candle, and that dancer happily tells her boss how she's lost weight as she was told, much to Mme. Lefebvre's satisfaction. My stomach did a 360 at that one.

I rather watch "barrels" and "tanks" dance.

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