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Yulia Stepanova

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The one Bolshoi "prima" I avoid at all costs is Anna Nikulina. I also tolerate Svetlana Zakharova only for the sake of her partner, and since he is usually Denis Rodkin, perhaps my least favorite dancer on the face of the earth, I don't see a lot of her either.

But, a few months ago Yulia Stepanova became the first dancer in a long, long time I was sorely tempted to boo, following a grotesque performance of "Diamonds." It was almost too awful to describe. Up to that point I had been neutral about her, finding little charm, warmth, individuality or imagination in her dancing, but at least it wasn't offensive. Until she walked out all puffed up. She stood center stage lifted her leg à la seconde, and when her it reached full extension, she tilted her pelvis sideways and cranked it up some more. Full crotch view to everyone on the house left side (where I was sitting, unfortunately), while wearing a white tutu and tiara. It was revolting, but it was Makhar Vaziev's non-stop "leg higher!" mantra coming home to roost. She would lift her leg in attitude so high and so persistently, that her tutu would constantly flip upside down. She dragged behind the music to an intolerable degree, she couldn't do the changes in direction or negotiate the off-center positions, and the partnering was horribly sticky. Now Balanchine's partnering is intricate; the following day I watched David Motta Soares make a mess of the partnering in "Emeralds." About two-thirds of the way through the andante I simply couldn't watch anymore and closed my eyes. The Bolshoi at least has a fine orchestra, and I tried to console myself by listening to the music, but I was so angry at the profanation that I wanted to scream.

I was tempted to blame Stepanova's partner, Artemy Belyakov, who was dancing the part for the first time, and indeed the disaster may have been his fault as well. Then the scherzo began, and the demi-soloist women did their thing, and Belyakov followed without apparent difficulty. But when Stepanova came out the conductor slowed way down, presumably because she couldn't manage the tempo. And even at the reduced speed, she couldn't keep up. Her footwork was messy and her elevation was low.

Her finale was sluggish and monotonous. Every downbeat was emphasized with the same tiresome, chin-first flourish at the same overdone dynamic level. And yes, at the end she fell out of her fouettés.

It was easily the worst "Diamonds" I have ever seen. And I wasn't alone in my reaction. I don't know who the woman sitting next to me was. I hadn't talked to her during the intermissions, though I noticed her lovely posture. At the end of the andante I sat with my arms folded firmly across my chest, not applauding. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that she was doing the same. Obviously I had been gritting my teeth and stewing, because when the scherzo began I let out a sizable exhalation. I could hear her exhaling at the same moment. When Stepanova and Belyakov emerged for their bows I stood up and left as quickly as I could, because I was severely tempted to voice my disapproval loudly. I am no fan of Olga Smirnova and have criticized her on the pages of this board for years, but seriously, I was never tempted to boo her "Diamonds."

So I decided that I would only ever attend Stepanova's performances for the sake of her partners, and since she is, shall we say, a robust woman and difficult to partner, I hope for their sakes that I never see her again.

Edited by volcanohunter

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On the positive side, Stepanova was excellent leading the Swan Lake Hungarian Pas during her early Mariinsky years. A good solid character dancer with her hourglass physique. Very Marie Petipa. 

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7 hours ago, Helene said:

There is no monolithic entity of "knowledgeable ballet aficionados."  Knowledgeable people can disagree greatly.  The classic example is from opera: the Callas vs. Tebaldi vs. Milanov wars. 

I agree with this. Liking artists is always subjective. We can say what we like or dislike and back up our opinion with specific things we witnessed.  On opera message boards people still debate Callas vs. Tebaldi as you say.

There are opera fans who are very knowledgeable who I respect who love Sondra Radvanovsky. Personally, my jaw drops to the floor when I read them say that she is a great Norma. I personally hear an unbelievably undisciplined singer who can not sing coloratura passages to save her life, and I consider her acting bizarre. I hear nothing beautiful in her sound either. However, my shock at what seems to be many knowledgeable opera fans loving a singer that makes me shake my head does not mean I am right and they are wrong or they are right and I am wrong. We simply hear differently.

Last season I thought Angela Meade did a credible and "decent" job as Norma at the Met, but many found her horrific, especially her vibrato.

Maria Callas was one of the most amazing dramatic singers. She changed opera forever, but many just hear her wobbly high notes. There are 20 year olds who have discovered Callas and worship her. There are some who simply hear squally singing.

I personally have never understood what everyone hears in Birgit Nilsson's voice. I am sure it was different in the house, but something about her sharp singing did nothing for me. Her many, many fans are not wrong. I am not wrong. Her voice is not for me.

There is no absolute. Every singer and dancer can be picked to death about deficiencies. All great artists have flaws.

The fact that so many jump to complain about Yulia Stepanova on her thread (a thread that is going to be full of her fans) is, in my own personal opinion, an indication that she is a great artist. Boring artists never have wildly dissenting opinions. They simply do not evoke many feelings one way or another.......I also am curious b/c I do not follow singer threads that I have no interest in.......sort of like if I went to a football game and started yelling, "Football is dumb!" I mean, I think there should be freedom of speech and differing opinions, but I find it odd. But we are each different and people can spend their time yelling, "Football is dumb!" at football games if they have time and energy to do so.

Edited by Birdsall

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We're not a fan board: we're a discussion board.  Dancer threads aren't fan threads, and if anyone comes into a dancer thread and expects it to be a cheer thread, they will be sorely disappointed.

The line we draw is when people have agendas and respond, usually repeatedly, to either slag or deify a dancer (or company, choreographer, etc.).  

 

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I agree it is not a fan board and anyone is obviously welcome to post, but we all know there are fans on each dancers' threads. It is the way of the world. There definitely are people who repeatedly slag a dancer. It is more helpful when someone states specific reasons for their like or dislike, and some do.

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1 hour ago, Birdsall said:

I agree it is not a fan board and anyone is obviously welcome to post, but we all know there are fans on each dancers' threads. It is the way of the world.

There are fans on every thread.  And since this is a discussion board, it is always a risk for fans, dancers, and their families and friends, to read or post here.  

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6 hours ago, Quinten said:

Reality check:

Misty Copeland Instagram followers: 1,600,000

Kochetkova Instagram followers: 176,000

Stepanova Instagram followers: 1,050

Based on the actual numbers, I think you can take Stepanova off that list.  

That is because Stepanova deleted her old Instagram account and started a new one on June 27th, only 2 months ago. 

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9 minutes ago, Quinten said:

You would also know that old account had something in the range of 10,000 followers, several orders of magnitude less than Copeland and Kochetkova.  Most Bolshoi ballerinas with social media accounts have more followers than Stepanova ever had. 

I don't disapprove of dancers who engage actively with their fans on social media but the (false) implication was that Stepanova is one of those who actively seeks out and engages with followers.  She doesn't, as anybody who follows her would tell you.  Her pattern for a long time was to post a single photo of herself for each debut and the occasional vacation photo.  The new account appears to be somewhat more active, along the lines of Nikulina's or Krysanova's -- she recently posted one video of rehearsal footage, a first for her, and has reposted some of the Sasha Gusov photos.  She politely responds to comments, mostly thanking people.  However, she does not promote her brand like, for example, Maria Khoreva (@marachok - 219,000 followers) who engages directly with her followers on a daily basis.  Nor does she promote products a la Obratzsova (86,000 followers), who goes so far as to post photos of her children wearing branded clothing and the cosmetic products she uses.  Again, there's nothing wrong with dancers attempting to promote and monetize their brand, especially given the brevity and unpredictability of their careers.  The immediate metric for social media success is how many followers one has, and on that score Stepanova is at the lower end of the scale.   

I don't mean anything, just saying the fact about that the current account is new and I am not criticizing Stepanova for her social media activities. 

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Graham Watts, Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in the United Kingdom and of the UK National Dance Awards, on Yulia Stepanova:

Stepanova personifies the Russian ideal of Odette

… we were treated to a stunning masterclass by Yulia Stepanova ... Stepanova personifies the Russian ideal of Odette, the white swan: tall, long-limbed, ultra-graceful, icily-dignified, with long, slender arms that undulate in rippling waves. Many Russian ballerinas have these attributes, but they often come without expressiveness; a criticism that cannot be levelled at Stepanova. … It is so difficult to balance out the dual role but Stepanova is equally impactful as Odile. … It was especially pleasing to see the 32 fouettés performed as flashing singles, concluded by a final swirling double turn. Just a few ballerinas are in the elite league of Odette/Odile presentations ... and Stepanova is now right up amongst them.

https://bachtrack.com/en_GB/review-yulia-stepanova-swan-lake-st-petersburg-ballet-theatre-coliseum-london-august-2018

Edited by Laurent

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6 hours ago, Laurent said:

It was especially pleasing to see the 32 fouettés performed as flashing singles, concluded by a final swirling double turn. Just a few ballerinas are in the elite league of Odette/Odile presentations ... and Stepanova is now right up amongst them

No denying she has her admirers !

Edited by mnacenani

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And a few haters who revile her at every opportunity... Imagine writing vile things about that "poseur", Anna Pavlova, you may like to know that she was badly afraid of 32 fouettés, or another one, her name was Galina Ulanova, "technically incompetent". I can. Easily. Before they became legends, of course. After it would look, hmmm, rather stupid. Even Marie Taglioni was reviled. By a very few, no doubt, whose names are consigned to the dust of history. 😎

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2 hours ago, Laurent said:

And a few haters who revile her at every opportunity... Imagine writing vile things about that "poseur", Anna Pavlova, you may like to know that she was badly afraid of 32 fouettés, or another one, her name was Galina Ulanova, "technically incompetent". I can. Easily. Before they became legends, of course. After it would look, hmmm, rather stupid. Even Marie Taglioni was reviled. By a very few, no doubt, whose names are consigned to the dust of history. 😎

Haters?  Rather a loaded term.  Ballet is now too much of a minority art form to produce legends and though it would be fun to compile a list of present day performers that might have become legends in another era, I think the valid and objective views of others here would exclude Stepanova from such a list.

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When I see that a unique in every respect artiste is constantly reviled, I can't stand passively watching. I used a metaphore that I consider appropriate to this case. Compiling all sorts of "lists", the list of "legends", the list of "10 best painters", "10 best sculptors", "10 best ballerinas",  et caetera, I leave to idle fun seekers.

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If anyone has anything new to add, please do.  Otherwise, do not reply.  Repetition and last-wordism doesn't make anything more or less anything, aside from tiresome.

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Here are Yulia Stepanova's fabulous Odile fouettes from her Swan Lake performance in London on 1st September, 2018, as posted on her instagram account today:

 

 

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I'll start with a disclaimer and say that despite having seen countless productions of Swan Lake I do not claim to be an expert on Swan Lake.

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre sadly doesn't credit anyone with staging their version, but it is closest to the Kirov in choreography and spirit in spite of minor differences, many purely logistical.  The company's St Petersburg base means it has always relied on Vaganova School dancers, e.g. Kolesnikova, Glurjidze, Kolegova and the teaching staff from the beginning has been made up of ex Kirov A-listers.  For example Alla Osipenko was a long time coach with the company, and my guess is one of them did the staging.  It is always possible to contact Konstantine Tatchkin, the company's very amiable founder, on social media and ask him directly if he could supply details.

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That looks almost identical to the Sergeyev, except that she lingers on the floor a little longer. When I saw her in the Sergeyev Mariinsky version instead of lingering on the floor she got up and went from side to side showing how weak Odette felt followed by the high attitudes (which you also see here). Nadezhda Batoeva recently debuted and did a 2nd Swan Lake at the Mariinsky, and she lingered on the floor just as Stepanova does here. So I think it is the Sergeyev, but apparently there are slight variations on the small details of Sergeyev's version.

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11 hours ago, Birdsall said:

That looks almost identical to the Sergeyev, except that she lingers on the floor a little longer. When I saw her in the Sergeyev Mariinsky version instead of lingering on the floor she got up and went from side to side showing how weak Odette felt followed by the high attitudes (which you also see here). Nadezhda Batoeva recently debuted and did a 2nd Swan Lake at the Mariinsky, and she lingered on the floor just as Stepanova does here. So I think it is the Sergeyev, but apparently there are slight variations on the small details of Sergeyev's version.

Yes, I agree it is Sergeyev version, allowing a little for personal artistic license and maybe the company allows this?!  (Kolesnikova embellished the port de bras  - as, for example, in Odile, when raising her arms to 5th -)  As for the Bolshoi Grigorovich Swan Lake ... I greatly admire Grigorovich for Spartacus,  Ivan the Terrible, Golden Age, Legend of Love  ... MANY ballets .. but I do not like his Swan Lake.   But just my opinion!  

Edited by MadameP

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1 hour ago, MadameP said:

Yes, I agree it is Sergeyev version, allowing a little for personal artistic license and maybe the company allows this?!  (Kolesnikova embellished the port de bras  - as, for example, in Odile, when raising her arms to 5th -)  As for the Bolshoi Grigorovich Swan Lake ... I greatly admire Grigorovich for Spartacus,  Ivan the Terrible, Golden Age, Legend of Love  ... MANY ballets .. but I do not like his Swan Lake.   But just my opinion!  

The Grigorovich Swan Lake  is possibly my least favorite of any that more or less keeps much of the lake scene intact--especially in its most recently updated version with the overwhelmingly beautiful final measures of the score CUT.   And I can't help but think it an uphill battle for any ballerina, even the finest, to create a  a truly profoundly moving Odette/Odile when playing a figure who is explicitly presented as an illusion to trap Siegfried. And indeed Grigorovich seems much more interested in Siegfried's relationship to the evil genius than to Odette.

That said, I hope to see Stepanova's Swan Lake for myself this summer--even in this version. Though I'm much more looking forward to seeing her (and other Bolshoi ballerinas) in Bayadere. Fingers crossed...

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On ‎9‎/‎17‎/‎2018 at 3:30 PM, Drew said:

The Grigorovich Swan Lake  is possibly my least favorite of any that more or less keeps much of the lake scene intact--especially in its most recently updated version with the overwhelmingly beautiful final measures of the score CUT.   And I can't help but think it an uphill battle for any ballerina, even the finest, to create a  a truly profoundly moving Odette/Odile when playing a figure who is explicitly presented as an illusion to trap Siegfried. And indeed Grigorovich seems much more interested in Siegfried's relationship to the evil genius than to Odette.

Grigorovitch's second version of Swan Lake is remarkably cohesive: Odette is certainly not an "illusion", it personifies the ideal of Purity and Beauty, spiritual and bodily, something that Prince is longing for and not finding in the real world surrounding him. Thus he rejects the real and devotes his soul to the ideal met in his dreams, the ideal that is, as it often happens, oppressed by the the Evil. The Evil Spirit cannot stand souls purified and uplifted by Purity and Beauty, thus he sets up Prince's downfall: he arrives in disguise to the Palace with Odile, whose purpose is to make Prince believe she is his dream materialized while leading him astray. For this reason, an aggressively "sexy", "vampish", or vulgar, Odile, which is unfortunately very common to see, is a contradiction. In the tragic aftermath of Prince's involuntary betrayal, the long lyrical sequence danced by the swans, before the arrival of heart-broken Odette, is an intermède that doesn't propagate the line of dramatic development. In view of this Grigorovitch's decision to omit it is logical. I can't see how you reached your conclusion that Grigorovitch "seems much more interested in Siegfried's relationship to the evil genius than to Odette". Siegfried has no more relationship to the Evil Genius in Grigorovitch's version than a chevalier of medieval romance has to a dragon he fights against. I don't share your other view either, to the effect that it is "an uphill battle for any ballerina, even the finest, to create a  a truly profoundly moving Odette/Odile". Two years ago I saw 25 Swan Lakes within less than 12 months, in various redactions. The one Odette/Odile that moved me  profoundly, more than any other (most didn't move at all, to be honest, some were empty nad off-putting), was, actually, dancing Grigorovitch's version (November 2016 at Bolchoï). Another strong point of Grigorovitch's version is a sequence of national dances, it is a departure from the custom but in the sprit that Marius Petipa might have had approved. The national dances in the Noureev's Paris version are weak, for example, as they are in nearly all versions produced in the West.

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Yes, I have to agree that the sequence of national dances, with each potential "bride" leading a national dance, is effective and I very much like this section.  

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I prefer the traditional character dances of Sergeyev’s version which I think the Bolshoi could dance fabulously. Mileages do vary...for me, the amount of time given to Siegfried dancing with the evil genius, at times almost as if being manipulated by him and other specific quirks  of Grigorovich’s production lessens the sense of the prince’s and Odette’s agency

But you surely might convince me  that I just wasn’t following what was intended,  and need to interpret differently...I still doubt I would ever love this production with its grim, sometimes sour-toned  visuals and missing measures of Tchaikovsky final, trancendent moments.  As sometimes happens at the Bolshoi, I still look forward to the dancers even when I don’t care for a production.

I am most excited to see the Bolshoi dance Bayadere and hope I am able to do so!

Edited by Drew

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I have to admit that I don't like the color scheme of the costumes/sets in the first scene and the second act of the Grigorovich's Swan Lake. It does look depressing compared to the Mariinsky's (Sergeyev's) version. I love the swan scenes in both versions. There are distinct differences even though the first swan scene is almost identical. I don't mind the choreographic differences or even the Evil Genius at the Bolshoi or jester in the Mariinsky. I love the Sergeyev version more than any other version in the world, but I find the Grigorovich version has grown on me.

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19 minutes ago, Drew said:

But you surely might convince me  that I just wasn’t following what was intended,  and need to interpret differently...I still doubt I would ever love this production with its grim, sometimes sour-toned  visuals and missing measures of Tchaikovsky final, trancendent moments.

Our perception has a tendency to depend on what kind of attitude do we come with. If one believes "I am not going to like it", one usually doesn't. For this reason, if I decide to see a production, I leave all my preconceptions and aversions aside. This is how a professional critic (in theory) approaches a piece he is going to report on. If he is unable to, he should refrain from writing about it.

Personally, I do not care much about the 1-st Scene, I don't know a single production today that would do justice to it. The scenery in the remaining three scenes of Grigorovitch's production I find satisfactory, and in the swan scenes even quite intriguing. I am at a loss when I hear complaints about the decorations or the costumes from the people who in 9 out of 10 ballets they attend, they are presented with mostly bare stage, sometimes enlivened by some ugly simplistic shapes. These are the realities of the modern Western stage design, which is today in the hands of people with no culture, no taste, no knowledge of  the past, for whom the canons of classical harmony must feel like the language of ancient inscriptions of which they have zero comprehension and no regard for.

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