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Summer 2014 NYC & Saratoga Tour

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I don't have time to write much right now, or words to do justice to tonight's experience. Smirnova was astonishing. This was one of the best performances I've ever seen. What a contrast to the icy cold performance yesterday, with zero chemistry between Zakharova and everyone else. Today's performance was poetic, moving, touching from the moment Smirnova appeared on the stage. Dozens of small, barely perceptible touches made this performance---especially the duets between Smirnova and Chudin---extraordinary: for example, the way she would brush her head against him, or look into his eyes, or bury herself in his arms with abandon. He was a great and attentive partner, and when they danced together they were completely absorbed in each other. The performance was technically brilliant, but then yesterday's performance was even more technically brilliant---yet bland. I wish somebody who can write better than me would describe how Smirnova and Chudin were able to go far beyond technical brilliance and imbue this performance with warmth, authenticity, and poetry.

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The issue of chemistry is a tough one. I'm sure Hallberg has made quite an effort since joining the Bolshoi to assimilate and learn from their traditions, however with the language and cultural differences, and in the case of Zakharova, significant differences in body type and countenance, makes the pairing a difficult one. When I think chemistry, it's usually Osipova/Vasiliev or Cojocaru/Kobborg, but these pairs are also engaged couples in real life which makes a big difference. (Zakharova is currently married to Russian violinist Vadim Repin.) With Zakharova there has always been the issue of being somewhat distant and divaesque, however her dancing taken in its own right I've always found to be masterful, artistic, and breathtaking. Now of course ballet isn't done in a vacuum, but if I look at some of her older La Scala videos paired with Bolle, and though by no means are those productions perfect or definitive, I do come away with the feeling that hey, Zakharova was not just fabulous on her own but also as a partner and as part of a cohesive work.

Still, for me even if last night's performance didn't ooze chemistry or a strong sense of cohesion (certainly not helped by the production), Zakharova's individual brilliance is in my opinion without peer (or with few peers) and has my respect. She just has a unique, radiant, and forceful (detractors might say arrogant) personality and needs a partner with a similar style to make it work. Hallberg comes off more as a humble, nice guy. He also has a much smaller frame -- of course he is going to struggle on the lifts! It was notable that Zakharova skipped the dinner held in Hallberg's recognition after last night's performance.

Glad to hear positive feedback re: Smirnova/Chudin. Although I won't have an opportunity to see any of their SLs, I am very much looking forward to the Krysanova/Chudin Don Q next Wednesday with Smirnova as Queen of the Dryads.

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Smirnova & Chudin were fantastic tonight.

I just came back from tonight's Chudin/Smirnova performance and, having seen on Tuesday (Hallberg, Zakharova) the worst Swan Lake of my life, have now seen the best, despite the Grigorovich production.

Let me begin by singing Chudin's praises. He is fantastic, MILES better than David Hallberg was on Tuesday. He has a noble carriage, long legs, a long neck and huge stage presence. His jumps are fantastic, high and many 180 degree splits. His petit batterie are outstanding, his arabesque line long and classical, and his pirouettes & tours absolutely perfect. But more wonderful, he can ACT! Just when I had given up hope that this production had a discernible story, Chudin comes along. With the tilt of his head, his dramatic gestures, the expression on his face, I could actually understand what was going on in this ballet!

Then there is the wonderful Smirnova. I have seen her a few times before (Stars of the 21st Century, YAGP, ABT). She was beautiful and technically superb but a bit restrained. Not so tonight. Her Odette was, by turns, frightened and mournful. Her Odile was sparkling, sexy and seductive. Looking through the opera glasses, I saw a ballerina who not only uses her face but her EYES. You can see the sorrow in them when she is Odette; as Odile they sparkle and dance. I have never seen anything like that before.

As Ilya said up thread, together, Smirnova and Chudin had unbelievable chemistry. The way she touched her head in sorrow against his chest, as Odette. Her seductive manner with him as Odile. He was very attentive as a partner and in the overhead lifts, made her look as light as a feather. I think these two are the Ferri and Bocca of today.

The superb dancing of the principals extended throughout the cast. Artemy Belyakov was gripping and forceful as the Evil Genius (even better than Lantratov). Alexander Smoliyaninov executed the pyrotechnics of the Jester with as much or more virtuosity than igor Tsvirko on Tuesday.

Tonight, the brides in the court scenes were better able to imbue their dances with character and ethnic flavor. My favorite was still Tikhomirova (Spanish) with her astounding jump. But Maria Vinogradova (Neopolitan) also impressed me with her soft, pliant ballon.

Overall, this was a wondrous Swan Lake, perhaps one for the ages. It was all the more impressive in that the Grigorovich production's flaws did not seem so apparent. I'm just very glad I decided to splurge on this ticket (I bought it as a single, outside the package) and witness this outstanding performance.

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Smirnova & Chudin were fantastic tonight.

I forgot to add that the entire audience agreed with this sentiment. Unlike other nights, tonight the hall was filled with "bravos" , there was a standing ovation and many curtain calls. Unlike Zakharova, Smirnova and Chudin acted (towards each other and the audience) with graciousness and humility.

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Smirnova & Chudin were fantastic tonight.

I forgot to add that the entire audience agreed with this sentiment. Unlike other nights, tonight the hall was filled with "bravos" , there was a standing ovation and many curtain calls. Unlike Zakharova, Smirnova and Chudin acted (towards each other and the audience) with graciousness and humility.

There was a standing ovation Thursday night too, however it was a bit piecemeal especially in the orchestra section, a few people stood, then later on everybody stood up as if unsure whether the performance was deserving of it or not - more of a follow thy neighbor. For me personally I was a bit slower to stand because I was still disoriented from the abrupt ending, struggling to digest it even though I had already seen it described in words here. Also I left before all the curtain calls so can't speak to that.

I take it the sentiment was more spontaneous tonight. In any case if the contrast between performances was truly that significant I might make an effort to try to get standing room for Sunday evening's performance.

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Smirnova & Chudin were fantastic tonight.

I forgot to add that the entire audience agreed with this sentiment. Unlike other nights, tonight the hall was filled with "bravos" , there was a standing ovation and many curtain calls. Unlike Zakharova, Smirnova and Chudin acted (towards each other and the audience) with graciousness and humility.

In any case if the contrast between performances was truly that significant I might make an effort to try to get standing room for Sunday evening's performance.

I would try,instead, to see Smirnova and Chudin on Sunday. Chudin is SO much better than Hallberg (who will be dancing Saturday evening).

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Oops, danc1988, just realized you said Sunday, not Saturday. Yes, do try to go.

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I can understand your enthusiasm after the last night's performance yet when I see a ballerina splashing her emotions on the stage and, as some ballet pedagogues say (contemptuously) "dancing with her face", I consider this to be a transgression against the classical canons. Public readily responds to it, yet it is no more classical dance, it becomes danced melodrama. A pedagogue of the ballet school of the Opéra who I admire said: "«la danse classique» is a face of the Soul made visible through the medium of the body in gracious movement" and this is very different from "dancing with one's face".

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She was not merely actig w. her face. The manner in which she curved her back, tilted her head, delicately moved her arms enhanced the drama. All these details, together with excellent technique and palpable chemistry between the leads, made for a ver memorable evening.

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I can understand your enthusiasm after the last night's performance yet when I see a ballerina splashing her emotions on the stage and, as some ballet pedagogues say (contemptuously) "dancing with her face", I consider this to be a transgression against the classical canons. Public readily responds to it, yet it is no more classical dance, it becomes danced melodrama. A pedagogue of the ballet school of the Opéra who I admire said: "«la danse classique» is a face of the Soul made visible through the medium of the body in gracious movement" and this is very different from "dancing with one's face".

A not uninteresting general reflection, perhaps worth a thread of its own, because there is certainly a difference between using one's eyes and, as I at least would say, merely dancing with one's face. I have seen ballerinas as varied in schooling as Fonteyn, Verdy, and Maximova 'dance' with their eyes as indeed they danced with every inch of their bodies. Soul made visible indeed...Last night, Smirnova most certainly danced with her whole body including her eyes - which are part of the allure of her dancing as Amour described.

Smirnova is in many ways still developing as an artist, but last night 's performance had many beautiful and striking elements. I also admired the rapport with the very fine Chudin. I may try to write more later...

Edited to add: I was typing as Abatt posted and trying to make a similar point.

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danc1988,

Are any tickets still on sale, please? How do I get the standing or any other place at this time? Happen to be NYC now and dying to see Bolshoi.

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danc1988,

Are any tickets still on sale, please? How do I get the standing or any other place at this time? Happen to be NYC now and dying to see Bolshoi.

What I know about standing room comes from others' reports on this forum, which is 42 spots available for sale 10AM day-of-performance in-person. I believe otherwise at this point the box-office is completely filled out including late-released ADA seats. StubHub has a smattering of tickets still remaining although most are priced at a significant premium and are generally in sections with a poor view (rows AA and higher rings). Here's the link for that: http://www.stubhub.com/bolshoi-ballet-tickets/

Another idea which worked for me was hawking Craigslist, I was able to get an orchestra aisle seat to the second Zakharova performance from a nice lady who had bought tickets to all the performances in January but did not wish to see the same cast twice.

I can't speak to trying to buy tickets outside the theater right before the performance, it seems like a risky strategy.

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There is one offer on Craigslist for the matinee performance of Don Q ...

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I just came back from the matinee Swan Lake with Anna Nikulina and Artem Ovcharenko, neither of whom IMHO are yet ready for prime time (she not particularly musical nor steady and he with no flow to his dancing). I agree with many of the previous posts about this bleak production. One thing that was nice to hear was that little snippet of music that Balanchine uses for his Tchaikovsky Pas being used for its original intent in the the Black Swan Pas. (Of course whose choreography do you think I liked better?)

Now, I have been going to the ballet for close to half a century and one thing I never focused on during a performance was the bottom of dancers' shoes nor their toe boxes. However, I found myself distracted by the coal black bottoms and toe boxes of practically all of the dancers. It looked like they had all just been dancing in tar pits. It was not a nice look. I was in Row B of the Second Ring and, even without binoculars, thought they looked like "dirty shoes." I've never seen this at NYCB or ABT or any other visiting company. And, on a slightly different topic, the Bolshoi really does love bling, doesn't it?

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Now, I have been going to the ballet for close to half a century and one thing I never focused on during a performance was the bottom of dancers' shoes nor their toe boxes. However, I found myself distracted by the coal black bottoms and toe boxes of practically all of the dancers. It looked like they had all just been dancing in tar pits. It was not a nice look. I was in Row B of the Second Ring and, even without binoculars, thought they looked like "dirty shoes." I've never seen this at NYCB or ABT or any other visiting company. And, on a slightly different topic, the Bolshoi really does love bling, doesn't it?

I had that exact same experience! I've noticed it before with Russian companies -- it seems to be a national idiosyncrasy. Does anyone know what's behind that? Even David Hallberg seems to have "gone over to the dark side," as the bottoms of his feet on Thursday night were nearly black as well.

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I'm glad you mentioned the dirty shoes, Bobbi. It's been driving me crazy all week.

Not so much the Principals or foreign princesses, but the corps. It sounds so nit-picky

but there is no excuse for it at this level of performance. I guess pointe shoe funding

is something we've been taking for granted.

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I think a number of the dancers in the Russian companies have said they wear Gaynor Mindens, which last longer. I would think the longer a dancer wears a shoe, the dirtier the shoe will get. It's not such an issue for the Odettes and Auroras who wear Freeds, and up to three different pairs in a performance.

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Some of you might remember Dick Button, a longtime commentator on figure skating. He complained constantly about the dirty skating boots worn by the Russian women. They couldn't afford white shoe polish? When you could see close-up, he was right.

Principals seem to be wearing new pointe shoes, but not the others. I have also been surprised at how often ribbons are untucked.

Russians: is this a cultural thing, like Americans wearing old, torn jeans? Or are shoe budgets really that tight? Or do they use some strange black resin?

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I think a number of the dancers in the Russian companies have said they wear Gaynor Mindens, which last longer. I would think the longer a dancer wears a shoe, the dirtier the shoe will get. It's not such an issue for the Odettes and Auroras who wear Freeds, and up to three different pairs in a performance.

And yet, don't both Veronika Part and Gillian Murphy wear Gaynor Mindens? We never see coal-black feet on those two, that I can recall.

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I also just came back from the matinee Swan Lake with Nikulina and Ovcharenko. I actually liked it. Nikulina was a tender, sad, shy and shaky Odette, different from others. Over all, their performace made my blood run to my face and head, though, not moved me.

I am an ordinary ballet goer, cannot make comments as you, who have years of professional experience in dancing or reviewing ballet. The impression I hade over for this performance was good. I guess the Russians would think: ge, the Americans are sooooo picky!

I will see Swan Lakes of tonight and tomorrow. After comparing, I could learn more; hope so.

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I can understand your enthusiasm after the last night's performance yet when I see a ballerina splashing her emotions on the stage and, as some ballet pedagogues say (contemptuously) "dancing with her face", I consider this to be a transgression against the classical canons. Public readily responds to it, yet it is no more classical dance, it becomes danced melodrama. A pedagogue of the ballet school of the Opéra who I admire said: "«la danse classique» is a face of the Soul made visible through the medium of the body in gracious movement" and this is very different from "dancing with one's face".

A not uninteresting general reflection, perhaps worth a thread of its own, because there is certainly a difference between using one's eyes and, as I at least would say, merely dancing with one's face. I have seen ballerinas as varied in schooling as Fonteyn, Verdy, and Maximova 'dance' with their eyes as indeed they danced with every inch of their bodies. Soul made visible indeed...Last night, Smirnova most certainly danced with her whole body including her eyes - which are part of the allure of her dancing as Amour described.

Smirnova is in many ways still developing as an artist, but last night 's performance had many beautiful and striking elements. I also admired the rapport with the very fine Chudin. I may try to write more later...

I am glad she is developing. When she arrived at Bolshoi, she was scorned by the Muscovites as being singularly lacking in charm and cold. There was something to it, for sure, in 2011-2012. I have been staunchly defending her against detractors who were then in majority, saying she was simply an unusually serious kind of young ballerina. Then, in 2013 she went to almost the exact opposite — emotional intensity, splashing her emotions on the stage, and every kind of mannerism added to her dance. I couldn't watch that not least because I felt it wasn't sincere. That caused some sort of consternation in Petersburg especially that she also began displaying some surprising technical faults that were embarrassing her alma mater. Maybe she is finally striking some balance.

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And yet, don't both Veronika Part and Gillian Murphy wear Gaynor Mindens? We never see coal-black feet on those two, that I can recall.

Yes, there are ballerinas with American companies that wear Gaynor Mindens, and, no, I've never seen coal-black feet on them. I didn't on Shipulina, either, whether she danced Medora -- lots of dancing in that one -- or Gamzatti. Principal Dancers wear out their shoes a lot faster than corps members. In "Swan Lake, they stand there for minutes on end during the White Swan Pas de Deux and spend a lot of time walking around in various patterns. They wouldn't have to change their shoes that often, and the advantage of old shoes for swans is that they aren't as loud.

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When I first saw Smirnova live, at the 2012 Stars of the 21st Century gala, my impression was of a "cool" (not really cold) ballerina, albeit beautiful and technically wonderful. I also had the same impression watching that years Russian TV show "Big Ballet" (though I never understood the critiques she was getting, not understanding Russian) She was definitely less warm than Kristina Shapran or Anna Tikhomirova who also competed on the show. And this spring even, at YAGP and in ABT's Bayadere, I felt Smirnova had not yet become the kind of "dramatic" ballerina that say Diana Vishneva or Alessandra Ferri are. I put this down to both her innate personality as well as being young and not yet knowing how to fully interpret (as opposed to just "dance") a role. Last night I felt I saw a new, more mature ballerina who was able to act as well as dance. I was especially surprised at how much I liked her Odile (I would have thought it would be weaker than her Odette but I think it was stronger). I didn't feel I was seeing mannerisms ( for that, just watch Zakharova) nor false emoting. I also didn't pick up any technical faults, though she may gradually be losing some classical epaulement (I thought that TV show was trying to encourage her to be less "classical"). Last night I think I saw a ballerina who is developing artistry and feels comfortable enough with her partner to be freer and go beyond simply dancing steps into immersing yourself in a role. It does make me sad to hear that Muscovites initially scorned her. Since the Mariinsky is such a graveyard for Vaganova grads, I am sure the Bolshoi will continue to get both Mariinsky refugees like Zakharova, Lobukhin and Obraztsova as well as Vaganova grads like Zhiganshina. (And BTW who could be colder than the icy Bolshoi prima, Zakharova?) I hope they are welcomed and well used in the Bolshoi.

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Mathilde, I'm curious how Muscovites found Zakharova when she first arrived. I first saw her when she guested at an ABT SL years ago (she was still in the Mariinsky then). I found her cold, charmless and intent only to prove she had 180 degree extension. It was a terribly boring performance and Zakharova has never appeared with ABT again (Kevin McKenzie clearly preferred her nemesis. Vishneva). I now find her even more icy, charmless and BORING! How can she be the Bolshoi's prima?

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