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Giselle in NYC--Reviews


Ilya

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I second Abbatt. Sarafanov's technique and clean line are hard to match. In terms of acting, he can be very vivid and inspired when paired with his wife, gorgeous Mariinsky ballerina O. Novikova.

Cory Stearns may or may not act, but these dancers are not in the same league.

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Actually my reaction is somewhat in the middle of the two extremes. This was an extremely excitingly danced performance - there were so many remarkable moments from both leads and also from the supporting cast. Sarafanov has a callow, underpowered presence onstage which combines poorly with Osipova's intensity and strength. So Act I was strangely lopsided but my god, how Osipova danced. Agreed that she is more mature and less innocent than before - also more calculated. In Act II, she actually had the floating arms and pliant back unlike Vorontsova the night before. Sarafanov also has magnificent line and control. Agreed that he should have only done one extra set of entrechats and ended them cleanly - that pumping his arms mime was clearly intended to keep him up for a few extra sets which he plopped down from clumsily. I also found Osipova a bit staccato in the beginning with her jerky jumps but to my eyes she got lighter and smoother as the act progressed. She is a physical dance marvel - the height of the entrechats en derriere and the big jump. At the end I was very impressed though not as moved as I was by Vishneva/Malakhov or Ferri/Bocca. Again, the connection between the two lovers was not quite there. But Osipova did suggest Giselle's need to forgive, protect and save the man who betrayed her. Sarafanov's boyishness wasn't as damaging in this act and he gave a little more. Borchenko was also in good form and despite the bad staging of Myrta's solo she showed her Vaganova Academy pedigree. Wednesday was an off night for her I guess - she is really good.

The company for me has a lot of good things in it which evidently need stronger direction to reach consistent distinction.

Also, Cory Stearns has very clean if not powerful technique and actually was consistently excellent in ABT's Fall season at the Koch - he delighted me in "Raymonda Variations", "After the Rain", "Fancy Free" and "Jardin aux Lilas". He can do well both as actor and dancer (as in an Albrecht I saw a few years ago with Hee Seo), it has just taken him a while.

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I have to say that Mikhailovsky was under a great pressure by the organisers of this tour and by the managers. The theatre had to make some compromises. For instance, they don't bring their most successful production - Swan lake - because not an Osipova-Vasiliev repertoire.

I recommend the "all Mikhailovsky" Saturday "Flames of Paris" (matinee) with Vorontsova, Zaytsev, Lebedev and Borchenko in a real primadonna role.

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I recommend the "all Mikhailovsky" Saturday "Flames of Paris" (matinee) with Vorontsova, Zaytsev, Lebedev and Borchenko in a real primadonna role.

I did think the company showed to much (much) greater advantage in Flames of Paris than Giselle. I saw the opening cast - Bondareva, Vasiliev (who was born to be a great Soviet dancer), Perren, Sarafanov plus Ugrekhelidze... Am certainly looking forward to seeing Saturday's performances, too.

Giselle had its interest and it's pleasures--I went Thursday--but I was disappointed in Sarafanov. Even Osipova, whom I consider a miraculous dancer, did not transport me quite as she has in the past. Nor did the company look anything like the energized and lively ensemble that made Flames of Paris so delightful. When I saw them a few years back, I thought their character dancing a special highlight. It still is.

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Granted Sarafanov is not Gomes in terms of acting and stage presence, but who is? I thought that his diffident nature worked with his story line. He was a man child, not a suave seducer.

If you're going to bring your story ballets to New York City, the standards and expectations are very high. NYers have seen the best of the best, and expect the best (especially at NY prices).

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Saw two performances of the Mikhailovsky Giselle (Wed aft with Soboleva and Thursday evening with Osipova), first time having seen classical "story" ballet in person, save for non-story NYCB performances almost 40 years ago. Looked at this board for the first time, to read others' impressions (which I did and which I appreciate) and I have a couple of comments as an amateur observer.

Enjoyed both performances immensely, which is why I immediately bought a ticket for Thurs night right after seeing the Wed matinee.

Interesting contrast between Soboleva's elegance, fluidity, lyricism, and expressive use of entire body (particularly her arms) for effect with Osipova's quickness, athleticism, dramaticism, and soaring, but with almost no added expression from her arms.

As for the men, my amateur impression, contrary to the expert observers here, was that Sarafanov's waving and collapse during his (more than) 32 (!) entrechats sixes were entirely in line with the story: Of course he collapsed roughly -- he was supposed to be dancing to exhaustion! I saw the waving, not as grandstanding to the audience, but as his pleading with Myrna to be allowed to stop. And, if anything, would have found it quite odd (and out of character) for his supposedly exhausted character to do anything other than roughly collapse, let alone finish in perfect form!

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As for the men, my amateur impression, contrary to the expert observers here, was that Sarafanov's waving and collapse during his (more than) 32 (!) entrechats sixes were entirely in line with the story: Of course he collapsed roughly -- he was supposed to be dancing to exhaustion! I saw the waving, not as grandstanding to the audience, but as his pleading with Myrna to be allowed to stop. And, if anything, would have found it quite odd (and out of character) for his supposedly exhausted character to do anything other than roughly collapse, let alone finish in perfect form!

I assume you are being ironic with the reference to "expert observers" whom you take to be . . . wrong. But I don't think you would find much disagreement with the suggestion that Albrecht is supposed to look exhausted and collapse. The question for me is...how. Great Albrechts find a way not to have the collapse look equivocal, not to have it look as if they have gone out of control as dancers even if they are out of control as Albrecht. Malakhov managed to go higher and higher in his final set of leaps while making it look simultaneously as if he was more and more unable to jump. Like you, I'm an amateur not an expert, so don't ask me how he did it.

But I was actually okay with Sarafanov's collapse, though I found his acting throughout rather palid. (If anything I was dismayed that he didn't manage to collapse more convincingly by ballet's end, to look truly drained/transformed by his experience.)

However I did not care for the waving arms to express desperation at the end of the entrechat sequence. Why not? Well, he managed to select exactly the gesture to express Albrecht's desperation or, as you suggested, "pleading" that could also be read as rousing the audience to cheers; I have seen Russian figure skaters wave their arms just that way at the end of a competitive program. For me, in the context of this particular performance, it read as a kind of equivocation--as if Sarafanov wanted to "act" the drama of the moment and get in a little applause bait as well. Something that's fine in some ballets (Don Quixote anyone?) but not really Act II of Giselle.

That may not be how he intended it. I don't doubt he is a serious artist and, for some viewers, it obviously worked emotionally etc. -- it didn't work for me. I have seen other Albrechts manage their pleading, desperation, and exhaustion without it seeming to me equivocal in that particular way.

It probably aggravated my response that I felt he was piling on the entrechats (he went past 32) in a way that seemed not quite called for. I actually am pretty tolerant of dancers pushing things up to the edge or beyond of 'taste' let alone tradition -- if I had enjoyed Sarafanov's performance as a whole more than I did, then I probably would have been inclined to give him a pass on a bit of showiness.

Very interested by your description of Soboleva by the by. I only saw her in a tertiary role (in Flames of Paris)--but she is just lovely to look at...

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Wasn't being ironic at all.

I realize that as a non-expert there are things I would miss, particularly imperfections, no different than the way an expert singer would hear an aria or expert appraiser would look at a diamond, as compared to an amateur.

However, I did think that I could sometimes (perhaps) be less likely to be caught up in the details and (perhaps) more able to see things in terms of overall impression, without being distracted by all the little things that went wrong.

And, of course, being that I was thrilled just to be there, as opposed to comparing what I saw to memories of ideal performances of the past, I would naturally be more positive.

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Sometimes expertise makes an experience more astonishing, and sometimes it does not, but none of us have a choice in this -- we know what we know at the moment, and we see through those glasses. Your observations are absolutely valid for you, just as other people's are for them.

As you continue to watch, you will accumulate your own ghostly community, of artists and performances that you've experienced. I have to say that I enjoy bringing mine along with me to a performance -- they don't make a fuss about where they're sitting and they never ask for an extra cookie during the intermission.

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Thanks for taking the extra time to explain why Sarafanov didn't look right in the entrechats... from the unhappy descriptions it seemed like he was "acting struggling heroically" and it did not make sense that this was problematic...

I think maybe Albrecht's struggling to continue to dance while managing to keep the struggle virtuosic ... yet not clumsy nor overacted... is worthy of it's own thread... it seems such a subtle distinction... between the acting seeming too real vs seeming too acted vs just right...

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The most hilarious Albrecht moment of my ballet going years was when Carreno dropped to the ground, but then lifted his head and shoulders to look at the audience and acknowledge the audience's applause. Way to take us rigth out of the story, Jose.

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From my perspective, Sarafanov did exactly what he should have, much better than the other Albrechts I've seen on video (other than Hallberg) who save their strength and do less than 10, but fall to the floor AS IF they'd just danced themselves to exhaustion.

Better an actor-dancer like Sarafanov who truly DID exhaust himself!

How is it that faked exhaustion for the sake of an elegant fall to the floor would have been better?

(BTW, young Lebedev also did 32 at the matinee, which might also be why Sarafanov decided to do his young colleague a few better the next day. Even so, I didn't see it as hot dogging -- especially when having to be on the same stage as Osipova. Did Sarafanov do the extra set at the Tues night premiere?)

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(BTW, young Lebedev also did 32 at the matinee, which might also be why Sarafanov decided to do his young colleague a few better the next day. Even so, I didn't see it as hot dogging -- especially when having to be on the same stage as Osipova. Did Sarafanov do the extra set at the Tues night premiere?)

I saw the matinee performance with Lebedev, and I counted 32 entrechat sixes and then 3 more (I gasped), making 35 in all, before falling to the ground. Either Sarafanov thought he shouldn't do fewer than Lebedev, or this is the way the Mik performers all do the step.

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Wow, how is he doing all those entrechats without almost any plié? Ouch! I actually think Sarafanov's (I saw Tuesday and Thursday) were more impressive because the beats were cleaner and he jumped higher. Still, Sarafanov was a lifeless actor.

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Thanks for taking the extra time to explain why Sarafanov didn't look right in the entrechats... from the unhappy descriptions it seemed like he was "acting struggling heroically" and it did not make sense that this was problematic...

I think maybe Albrecht's struggling to continue to dance while managing to keep the struggle virtuosic ... yet not clumsy nor overacted... is worthy of it's own thread... it seems such a subtle distinction... between the acting seeming too real vs seeming too acted vs just right...

This is indeed a tricky part of the role. Giselle has to jump and jump and jump, and look like a ghost the whole time, but Albrecht has to falter, without looking sloppy. Of the two, I've often thought his was the harder job.

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Thanks for taking the extra time to explain why Sarafanov didn't look right in the entrechats... from the unhappy descriptions it seemed like he was "acting struggling heroically" and it did not make sense that this was problematic...

I think maybe Albrecht's struggling to continue to dance while managing to keep the struggle virtuosic ... yet not clumsy nor overacted... is worthy of it's own thread... it seems such a subtle distinction... between the acting seeming too real vs seeming too acted vs just right...

This is indeed a tricky part of the role. Giselle has to jump and jump and jump, and look like a ghost the whole time, but Albrecht has to falter, without looking sloppy. Of the two, I've often thought his was the harder job.

The general point is well taken! But In the interest of fairness I want to be clear that although there were a number of things I did not like about Sarafanov's Albrecht, I did not think he looked sloppy. My problems with the performance, as discussed above, were different.

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Thanks for taking the extra time to explain why Sarafanov didn't look right in the entrechats... from the unhappy descriptions it seemed like he was "acting struggling heroically" and it did not make sense that this was problematic...

I think maybe Albrecht's struggling to continue to dance while managing to keep the struggle virtuosic ... yet not clumsy nor overacted... is worthy of it's own thread... it seems such a subtle distinction... between the acting seeming too real vs seeming too acted vs just right...

This is indeed a tricky part of the role. Giselle has to jump and jump and jump, and look like a ghost the whole time, but Albrecht has to falter, without looking sloppy. Of the two, I've often thought his was the harder job.

The general point is well taken! But In the interest of fairness I want to be clear that although there were a number of things I did not like about Sarafanov's Albrecht, I did not think he looked sloppy. My problems with the performance, as discussed above, were different.

Apologies if you thought I was tweaking you -- that didn't even cross my mind. I was just mulling over Amy's thought about the challenges of the role. Now that I think about it, there are several roles in classical arts that require the performer to seem to fail without really failing. All those tubercular heroines in opera, who have to die of a respiratory disease while getting their voices to the back of the auditorium...

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