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Maria Kochetkova's Mariinsky "Giselle" Debut

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With all respect to those who like Miss K, but I don't get too moved by her performance. Then, I notice this has not to do with the performer per se, but rather with the whole stylistic issues that Giselle has nowadays. Thing is, Giselle used to be a role that had two different ways. When you see the videos of Ulanova, and then compare it to those of Markova or Alonso, it is like night and day, each one carrying their own distinctive traditions. I suppose the West had the likes of N. Sergueev, Sppesivtzeva, Egorova, Karsavina and eventually Dolin, Markova and Alonso to build its Giselle, and then Russia was left with Vaganova and some others, from which Ulanova was probably the model role ever since. In my own opinion, the West had the richest input in the role, and that's why I value as a treasure the carbon copy characterization that Alonso has preserved, along with precious bits of choreography otherwise gone for good from the ballet. Now, it seems to me that every other ballerina I see in the role, name it from Miami, NYC or now SF, seems to be doing exactly the same thing...there's no differentiation between Russia and the West anymore-(at least US). I always think of this as the Nureyev, Misha and Makarova influence, eventually spreading out all over America and Paris too. London could be an interesting place to investigate, but I haven't seen a complete performance of any of the current RB ballerinas.

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Alonso's and Markova's Giselles are also quite different, at least according to the clips posted in another thread where Markova seems so spontaneous, as if she's making it up as she goes along. And very different too according to the reviews of Edwin Denby and John Martin, who saw them dance live in the forties. Denby says:

Alonso's Giselle is young, lovely [& quick, clear and direct]... nonetheless Markova is still dramatically dramatically more thrilling. One watches Alonso imitate to perfection several of those touching "Victorianisms" of Markova's that are close to mincing; they are effects that suit Markova's figure but not always Alonso's. (Alonso's head, for example, when she holds it forward is not fragile enough to be innocently wagged.)

Markova ... attains expressive effects by a sovereign eveness of momentum, which makes her motion seem floating and her lift seem under a spell ... Alonso's Giselle tends to a more sforzando-edged attack and it sometimes breaks the continuity of her characterization, too.

Incidentally Alonso's bows "in character" are unfortunate.

Perhaps Kochetkova's Giselle is closer Markova's, in that they are light and small boned – though Kochetkova sometimes does have some distractions and mannerisms that take away from the character she's portraying.

But anyone who quotes Anna Ahkmatova in her Twitter feed has to be a pretty good Giselle:

He loved three things:

Evening songs, white peacocks

And worn maps of America ...

No crying of children, nor raspberry tea or neurotic acts. And ... I was his wife.

[tweet of 9/29/2012, via Google translator]

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This performance -- or at least these clips -- may not be fair to Ms. Kochetkova, who has to play off a fairly clueless Albrecht, an generic Bathilde, and a group of villagers who seem to be phoning in their emotional responses from a variety of distant locations.

The clips are short, and the second clip especially is undercut by the inability of the camera to let us see crucial dramatic action at stage right. This makes it especially hard to generalize about the performance.

Kochethova is remarkably tiny in comparison to the other main characters on stage, which made me want to root for her. Instead of using her physical fragility to make Giselle more interesting, she seems to imagine Giselle as emotionally pallid and lacking in emotional intensity.

Cristian and Quiggan both refer to the many different kinds of Giselle over the generations. I've seen great, heartbreaking performances, and I've also seen dancers who perform these two bits without conviction, or in an affected manner, or by over-playing to the crowd. But this is the first time that I've seen someone apparently choosing to tamp down her character to the point of blandness. Giselle as village mouse might be a nice way to start Act I -- but to end it that way? In a mad scene? Perhaps it came across differently on stage.

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