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Mariinsky Ballet Swan Lake at Berkeley

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It's been a long time since I had last posted on BA, such that I'd forgotten my username and had to re-register as new member. I would like to share my thoughts to Skorik/ Shklyarov performance last night.

First of all, this is the second time I had seen Skorik as O/ O, the first time being her opening night stint in OC more than a week ago. There were differences and similarities between both performances that I had seen. Her OC debut was shaky and nervous, even with the very generous audience applauding her on. However, last night it was clear that Skorik had improved technically, or at least watered down certain technical elements which are not, I would guess, her forte since that opening night. That is the good news. The bad news is that having seen her twice within such a short span of time and in such an iconic role as O/ O, I am forming the opinion that her rapid ascent within the Mariinsky is NOT justified. It would be one thing if Skorik was dancing soloist variations, in which case I would be less critical about up-and-coming, potential principal ballerina, but this is O/ O we're talking about....

The pairing of Shklyarov and Skorik is an odd one. She is simply too tall for him or the other way around, he is too short for her. This isn't to say Shklyarov didn't try his best to partner her, but just that aesthetically it didn't work for my taste. En pointe, she towers over him by at least 3-4 inches, and I'm not even around to mentioning how he almost dropped her on a couple of lifts both in OC and last night. Because of her height or his lack of height/ strength, there were no overhead lifts in Act II odd. They replaced it with a couple of very pedestrian promenade in penche, which in my opinion, robbed the pdd of greater emotional impact. I had seen Shklyarov as Siegfried before, when he partnered a very bland (and tall) Polina Semionova a few years ago, also at Berkeley. From yt videos and also these performances, it appears to me that Shklyarov is not the most reliable of partners, and especially for a skittish or mistake-prone dancer like Skorik. He shines more in his own variations, and not in partnering like, for example, Danila Korsuntsev. There was also very little chemistry between Skorik and Shklyarov, and this was apparent last night as well. Skorik's Odette has a tendency to rotely and briefly glance at Siegfried, then moving on to concentrate on doing her own thing the rest of the way. Because of this, her Odette is not a tender nor heartfelt Odette but rather one who has been schooled by coaches on how Odette should act. Throught Act II pdd and also Odette's variation and coda, Skorik seems to relish in holding poses which show off her tremendous extensions and long lines, I get the feeling that this is where she "shines" or has confidence showing to the audience. Not the most subtle of dancers in this regard, musically or in interpretation. Towards ending of Act II pdd, she glosses over what is in my opinion one of the most beautiful and iconic Odette steps, those petits battements sur le cou de pied between final, supported pirouettes. So this is just one example of lack of subtlety or perfection of fine or detailed technique on her part. Casual balletgoers won't notice but I find it sad that Mariinsky is promoting such a dancer as if she is already a wunderkind of sorts, a dancer whose talents are instantly recognizable.

Act III began gloriously with lovely Yulia Stepanova and Karen Ionessian as part of the quartet in Spanish Dance. I just hope Mariinsky doesn't pull Stepanova over to the Character Dancers side just because she is slightly bigger framed than her female colleagues onstage. That would be a shame because she deserves to be seen by American audiences in something more than character dance or bit part in Carmen. Anyways, of all the character dances, the audience seemed to love Spanish Dance the most last night. Black Swan pdd went pretty smoothly for both Shklyarov and Skorik, although Shklyarov had some bobbles in his variations, I think his finished his turns rather messily. His Siegfried came alive in Act III more than Act II but then regressed a bit in Act IV. Overall I wasn't that impressed with his characterization. Skorik danced a competent Odile variation and easily sailed through single fouettes in the coda. I think it was a good idea for her to concentrate on doing competent singles instead of attempting doubles like she was doing in OC. Skorik plays Odile as straightforward, one-note seductress. I've always felt that Odile is the easier of O/ O for a ballerina to conquer as far as interpretations go. Skorik is definitely better as Odile, in interpretation and comfort level, than as Odette. Though her Odile has one expression, that of wide-eyed, cartoon-evil look, and she finished every move with an even wider smile.

Act IV was the weakest of the acts, when in fact it should have been the strongest. But we only had Soviet ideology to thank for this. I actually prefer Bolshoi's Swan Lake, which I'd also seen this year, for its less ridiculous ending and for the fact that I like character dances being done in pointe shoes for the ladies. Back to Shklyarov/ Skorik paring, most of the lifts were concentrated in Act IV and it was clear that it took effort to lift Skorik. In fact, on the final lift, he nearly lost his hold or grip on her. It would have been a disaster had he dropped her, since she would have landed still in horizontal position.

Other standouts in the performance were Xander Parish as Prince's Friend, Anastasia Nikitina as one of the Two Swans, and Ilya Petrov as the Jester.

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Hi - just wanted to pop over since the MT is now in Berkeley and we are indulging in the beauty here...))

On the topic of partners, just wanted to chime in. I think it's probably already been discussed, but if not, I believe there is a shared opinion that Shklyarov's strengths lie in his solo dancing, especially in bravura roles, rather than in partnership/lifts. I've seen him emote a great deal in some romantic roles (Giselle/Romeo) but he shines best as an individual dancer in any given ballet (except perhaps Romeo with his wife Shirinkina). So that applies to Swan Lake and these tour stops as well. I think part of the problem here with the last minute casting run-around is truly the lack of tall/strong men for these taller ballerinas...Korsuntsev is the most reliable but he's 38 and let's hope he will still be able to perform for many years and wont be given (or accept) mandatory retirement soon (as he's already at the 20 yr mark). Ivanchenko, well that has been discussed. So the shorter men can be fantastic performers on their own, but when you have the basketball team (as Lopatkina lovingly referred to the administration's categorization of her generation) of ladies, you need the tall(er) men, and right now the crop coming up the ranks still has a few years to go before they get there.

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