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Flames of Paris


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Am I the first one to review this? I thought this ballet was so cheesy, but also fun once you got in the mood. I know it's supposed to be a reconstruction of the Vainonen original but considering how short it is, I wonder how much of the ballet got "lost" over the years. I loved this cheerful, happy depiction of the French Revolution.

In a way it makes sense that Stalin loved this ballet so much -- I've never seen a ballet so cavalier about deaths. There are FOUR onstage murders in this ballet (I counted), but all that bloodshed is apparently forgotten a minute later when the whole stage lights up in a blaze of happy folk dancing and flag waving. My favorite example of this cheerful attitude is the character of Therese, the basque dancer. She brings the house down in a justifiably famous basque dance, then somehow she winds up in the Versailles. Then a minute later she's dead. But who cares? We won the Revolution and before anyone can say "R.I.P. Therese" it's time for some more happy dancing! Yay! I can just picture Uncle Joe watching this ballet. "Oh she died." "Who cares? A million people died today. Let's dance!"

As for the dancers, they weren't perfect but they were right for this ballet. Ivan Vasiliev's (Philippe) ballet vocabulary seems to consist entirely of barrel turns, double/triple tours en l'air, and ... uh, that's about it? He's sloppy -- his landings often result in a loud thud on the floor and forget and fourth of fifth position -- if he's anywhere near vertical that's already refined by his standards. His physique is thick and honestly kind of lumpy. But he gets the crowd going and he can lift ballerinas like paper, and that's what this role needs. Oksana Bondareva (Jeanne) is one of those ballerinas where she steps onstage, and you think, "ok, she can crank out fouettes until tomorrow morning." You see those tough turned-in ankles and you know. And crank those fouettes out she did -- a bunch with her free leg extended a la seconde, and then a bunch more doubles and triples. She's clearly a "spunky" dancer, great for Kitri and this kind of stuff. Not very graceful but she gets the job done.

The secondary couple of Diana and Antoine were more interesting. Irina Perren is that ballerina you always encounter in these Russian tours -- refined, exquisite, and, for reasons known only to the company, not dancing leading roles. I kept thinking she would have been a wonderful Giselle -- why didn't she get to dance one on the tour? I looked at her biography and saw that she's no spring chicken -- she graduated in 1998 from the Vaganova Academy. She was equally at home in the court divertissement and then in the last act we got to see her in the Freedom pas de deux that consisted entirely of her in a series of one-handed gravity-defying overhead lifts (the lifter was Marat Shemiunov). But even in that small pas de deux, you saw how her arms and hands were in the most exquisite, tapered positions. Leonid Sarafanov in the brief role of Antoine (he gets killed off after about 15 minutes) looked much more comfortable tonight. This role just highlights his superb technique and not his limited acting skills.

The real stars though were the folk dancers and in particular the basque dancer Therese (Mariam Ugrekhelidze). My first thought when I saw her was, wow, she's kind of ... large. Not fat, but she has a thick torso and powerful thighs and doesn't look like a ballerina at all. But she could really dance up a storm, and so could the corps de ballet behind her. The other two standouts were Viktor Lebedev and Andrey Yakhnyuk as the Fraternity Brothers. They didn't have much to do besides entrechats but oh my! What beautiful dancers, and what clean beats!

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Perren performs many leading roles. In winter 2014–2015, the Mikhailovsky Theatre goes on tour to Japan.

Le Corsaire

Jan. 08 Ekaterina Borchenko, Farukh Ruzimatov and Leonid Sarafanov

Jan. 09 Irina Perren, Farukh Ruzimatov and Victor Lebedev

Swan Lake

Jan. 10 Ekaterina Borchenko and Denis Matvienko

Jan. 11 Angelina Vorontsova and Leonid Sarafanov

Jan. 12 Irina Perren and Victor Lebedev

Jan. 13 Ekaterina Borchenko and Victor Lebedev

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I agree with Canbelto's description of this as a depiction of a Happy Revolution. Ratmansky's version for the Bolshoi, as I recall, highlights the senseless violence of the times much more clearly.

No one else has mentioned the little girl who performed a character dance in the last act. She was a great performer!

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I loved this cheerful, happy depiction of the French Revolution.

We won the Revolution and before anyone can say "R.I.P. Therese" it's time for some more happy dancing! Yay! I can just picture Uncle Joe watching this ballet. "Oh she died." "Who cares? A million people died today. Let's dance!"

Oh, no fair, making me laugh till I'm wheezing!

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Perren performs many leading roles. [...]

I have liked Borchenko in the past, and she showed off a lovely upper body in the court ballet, but I thought Perren negotiated the challenges of the role of Diana - both in the court ballet and in the acrobatic revolutionary celebration - with a lot more ease, and also had lovely port de bras...Found Perren's pantomime quite charming as well.
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Perren performs many leading roles. In winter 2014–2015, the Mikhailovsky Theatre goes on tour to Japan.

Le Corsaire

Jan. 08 Ekaterina Borchenko, Farukh Ruzimatov and Leonid Sarafanov

Jan. 09 Irina Perren, Farukh Ruzimatov and Victor Lebedev

Swan Lake

Jan. 10 Ekaterina Borchenko and Denis Matvienko

Jan. 11 Angelina Vorontsova and Leonid Sarafanov

Jan. 12 Irina Perren and Victor Lebedev

Jan. 13 Ekaterina Borchenko and Victor Lebedev

Ah... I'm so jealous of the fans in Japan! I'm dying to see Borchenko/Lebedev Swan Lake :(

At first, I was wondering why they didn't bring SL to this tour then realized that Osipova has never danced Odette/Odile with Mikhailovsky yet.

Hopefully this tour was profitable enough for Mikhailovsky to come back!

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I found some vintage Flames clips. I'm actually impressed with how well the Mikhailovsky preserved the spirit of this ballet. The dancing I saw last night very much resembles the dancing in the clips, right down to Ivan Vasiliev having some of the same sloppiness as Chabukiani.

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This sort of thing is definitely not about tight fifth positions.

I thought Saturday night's performance kicked up a notch from Friday -- Vasiliev included (despite a hand down on one of his trademark indescribable leaps); he did less vamping and was somehow at once more under control AND more exciting. Bondareva, a little looser I think, added a bit more personality to her gentle soubrette manner and fluent spinning. But huge cheers from me for Irina Perren and Marat Shemiunov in the Soviet (or Soviet style) acrobatic adagio of Act Three. I enjoyed them last night, but they had just that much more confidence and ease this evening to make it special. They showed you what that kind of showy partnering CAN look like even if it almost never does.

Generally this ballet has been a real treat. I quite enjoyed the afternoon cast as well...Though I missed Ugrekhelidze as Teresa...I depart NY early tomorrow or I would happily see it again.

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One thing I noticed about the Mikhailovsky is how diverse the company is compared the the Mariinsky. You see dancers of varying shapes, complexions, and ethnicities. It's a little weird to see a Russian company dance Giselle where a short, somewhat stockier girl is dancing right next to a much taller, thinner girl, but the Mikhailovsky proves that it's not just about aesthetics when choosing a corps -- the dancers are all obviously trained with similar schooling, and so despite the differences in shapes and looks the corps dances as a sisterhood.

It's very different from the Mariinsky, with their army of girls who look like they've all been selected to fit a certain aesthetic.

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One thing I noticed about the Mikhailovsky is how diverse the company is compared the the Mariinsky.

It's very different from the Mariinsky, with their army of girls who look like they've all been selected to fit a certain aesthetic.

The difference I notice is not sizes or looks but training. The Mikhailovsky takes dancers from all over: Bolshoi, Vaganova, there is one American and they don't all dance alike. I actually find that a bit bothersome. I think ABT (which also takes dancers from everywhere) does a better job of having the corps dance as one better than the Mikhailovsky.

As for Vasiliev, having come from Saturdat night's performance, I was shocked at how really sloppy his technique has gotten. Much worse than the last time I saw him with ABT a little over a year ago. As canbelto said, if he gets anywhere near vertical he's doing well. Those tours are looking worse than James Whiteside's. He needs to get himself into a steady class or have one coach who travels with him. Right now he has incredible stage presence and can still pull off those barrel turns (though not as extreme in their angles) and land without falling over. But given the deterioration of his technique in just a year, that is not a good omen for the future. Right now he is young and presumably healthy (uninjured) enough to set things right. I just hope he has the sense and discipline to do so.

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Perren performs many leading roles. In winter 2014–2015, the Mikhailovsky Theatre goes on tour to Japan.

Le Corsaire

Jan. 08 Ekaterina Borchenko, Farukh Ruzimatov and Leonid Sarafanov

Jan. 09 Irina Perren, Farukh Ruzimatov and Victor Lebedevquote]

Wow! Ruzimatov is still dancing? He's 51 years old! I hope some (Naomi) reports back about this. That's quite a record.

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At first, I was wondering why they didn't bring SL to this tour then realized that Osipova has never danced Odette/Odile with Mikhailovsky yet.

Osipova danced two performances of Swan lake at the Mikhailovsky three years ago. She had a big public success, but many bad critics. She had it scheduled for this September with Hallberg. When he cancelled all his engagements, Osipova cancelled her performance of Swan lake.

Ah... I'm so jealous of the fans in Japan! I'm dying to see Borchenko/Lebedev Swan Lake sad.png

As for Borchenko, she has to be very upset not dancing Swan lake in NY. This is HER ballet. I don't believe the supporting roles can show all her talents.

Here The Black Swan with Borchenko and Lebedev:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifB9SBRcqR8

Wow! Ruzimatov is still dancing? He's 51 years old! I hope some (Naomi) reports back about this. That's quite a record.

For me sounds like a bad joke. Ruzimatov has to dance Conrad. Both Borchenko and Perren are taller than him. This can never happen at the Mikhailovsky, but the Japan producers insist.

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One thing I noticed about the Mikhailovsky is how diverse the company is compared the the Mariinsky.

It's very different from the Mariinsky, with their army of girls who look like they've all been selected to fit a certain aesthetic.

The difference I notice is not sizes or looks but training. The Mikhailovsky takes dancers from all over: Bolshoi, Vaganova, there is one American and they don't all dance alike. I actually find that a bit bothersome. I think ABT (which also takes dancers from everywhere) does a better job of having the corps dance as one better than the Mikhailovsky.

As for Vasiliev, having come from Saturdat night's performance, I was shocked at how really sloppy his technique has gotten. Much worse than the last time I saw him with ABT a little over a year ago. As canbelto said, if he gets anywhere near vertical he's doing well. Those tours are looking worse than James Whiteside's. He needs to get himself into a steady class or have one coach who travels with him. Right now he has incredible stage presence and can still pull off those barrel turns (though not as extreme in their angles) and land without falling over. But given the deterioration of his technique in just a year, that is not a good omen for the future. Right now he is young and presumably healthy (uninjured) enough to set things right. I just hope he has the sense and discipline to do so.

Saw the matinee today. What a joke! Vasiliev is more than an embarrassment. I felt he took a wrong turn and should have gone into the entrance for the Big Apple Circus! It's no longer just about the lack of technique. He isn't even a competent performer. As to the rest of the ballet; glad I saw it, but hope never to see it again! I just want to say 'sorry' to the French. Never thought I'd long to see "Les Miserables" so much!!

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I like Flames of Paris for the very reason that I don't like Les Mis -- I think a lot of French Revolution based art has a tendency to be pretentious and preachy. Flames is like the opposite of that -- it's breezy and campy and fun. There's a little bit of everything -- there's French court dance, there's folk dancing, there's clog dancing, and there's good old fashioned bravura ballet. The score by Asafiev isn't heavy and ponderous but instead it's consistently tuneful and pleasant. And the Mikh performers IMO do this ballet with the right sense of humor. There's no silent movie acting, just a good time had by all. It's like those 1950's MGM musicals.

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Well I was at this afternoon's performance and a couple of times Vasiliev looked like he was going to splat but he somehow saved it. The real charmer was Angelina Vorontsova. Really sweet face, technique stronger than what youtube videos suggest, and great winning personality. I'm glad I have a ticket for her Don Q on Friday.

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Well I was at this afternoon's performance and a couple of times Vasiliev looked like he was going to splat but he somehow saved it. The real charmer was Angelina Vorontsova. Really sweet face, technique stronger than what youtube videos suggest, and great winning personality. I'm glad I have a ticket for her Don Q on Friday.

I wondered how Vasiliev would hold up. I assume they were worried about selling tickets to Flames of Paris without him, but by this afternoon he was on his third of performance of Philippe in three days, having also done Albrecht on Wednesday.

I saw Vorontsova with Zaytsev and, like Canbelto, enjoyed her dancing and, also like Canbelto, more than I ever have on video. I guess unsurprisingly in a former Bolshoi dancer she seems to know how to project herself well. I did find her mime a little less charming than Bondareva's -- and her turns a little less fluent, but she gave what I thought was a very good performance.

I also thought this ballet was a wonderful gift from Messerer and the Mikhailovsky. It speaks directly out of its era but is still (as the company dances it) alive in the theater--so it gives a real window into another time theatrically -- and politically -- even as it's a lot of fun. The Soviet ballet we usually see in the U.S. is either Grigorovich or Lavrosky (Romeo and Juliet)--this is very different, not least because of the variety that Canbelto talked about above. Grigorovich, at any rate, is nothing if not repetitive.

Sophisticated dramaturgy it's not--and not supposed to be. But visually wonderful with terrific dancing. I also thought Saturday night's performance was just rather special--everything flowing with high energy. And, in this kind of ballet, I have no problems with Vasiliev's hell-for-leather dancing...certainly not in the two performances I saw him give.

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So I couldn't help but notice that in the front row of the corps de ballet in Flames of Paris was a dancer of African descent. Very beautiful woman, and she danced wonderfully. I did a little research and found out her name is Olympiada Saurat Alfa N'gobi and she graduated from the Moscow Ballet Academy in 2010:

http://www.mikhailovsky.ru/en/theatre/company/corps_de_ballet_f/olympiada_alfa/

Definitely not something you'd expect to see in a Russian company, but she's very beautiful and I wish her a great career.

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At first, I was wondering why they didn't bring SL to this tour then realized that Osipova has never danced Odette/Odile with Mikhailovsky yet.

Osipova danced two performances of Swan lake at the Mikhailovsky three years ago. She had a big public success, but many bad critics. She had it scheduled for this September with Hallberg. When he cancelled all his engagements, Osipova cancelled her performance of Swan lake.

Oh I didn't know she danced O/O with Mikhailovsky before... (I'm still a newbie to this company)

In their website SL isn't listed as her repertoire- I guess those bad critics are the reason.

And thanks for the link! Hopefully they perform Swan Lake in their next visit.

I saw Flames of Paris today afternoon and it was great! Great in a "Don Quixote" way... which is a compliment!

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So I couldn't help but notice that in the front row of the corps de ballet in Flames of Paris was a dancer of African descent. Very beautiful woman, and she danced wonderfully. I did a little research and found out her name is Olympiada Saurat Alfa N'gobi and she graduated from the Moscow Ballet Academy in 2010:

http://www.mikhailovsky.ru/en/theatre/company/corps_de_ballet_f/olympiada_alfa/

Definitely not something you'd expect to see in a Russian company, but she's very beautiful and I wish her a great career.

I noticed her too--she danced in the most purely classical parts of the ballet ...

Ismene Browne tweeted a link to a 2009 article she wrote on the "Messerer dynasty." Quite detailed and interesting....

http://www.theartsdesk.com/dance/messerer-dynasty

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That little girl in the third act nearly stole the show. She was so charming and cute.

Vasiliev did his usual Vasiliev tricks. He looked extremely out of breath sometimes. How much longer can he keep this up? These "heroic" roles seem to be his bread and butter because his physique is ill suited for the classics, but he should be concerned about the fact that he seems to be out of breath on a regular basis. I think he intentionally milks the applause after these tricks to give himself an opportunity to breath

I thought it was a fun ballet that had a little bit of everything, as noted above. I'm glad we finally got to see Flames here in the States.

I saw Bondarava and Vorontsova in the leads on different nights. I thought they both did very well.

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