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Mariinsky's Raymonda To the KC in Feb 2016

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I was seated very closed to the stage, and I don't remember very well Katya's diagonal on her first night, but I went to scrutinize her second performance, particularly said diagonal. Only sautees were done, with no changements. In the recon. clip Novikova does what appears (to me) entrechat trois, no quatres. The absence of the White Lady is certainly a miss in K. Sergueev production, and yes..she shows up in Bessmertnova's video, although maybe she is gone by now at the Bolshoi. If we count her appearance in Grigorovitch (Bolshoi), POB (Rudy), ABT (Holmes) and La Scala (Vikharev), she is definitely a presence to miss in the Mariinsky. The White Lady is, just as most of the original Lilac, a non-dancing role. She presides over Raymonda's castle and family, and the love story, so forgettable in most versions, benefits from the scale and rhythm of Acts I and II. I really think that for being probably the first time many ballet goers watch this ballet live, the absence of this character is a faux pas.

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A fantastic ballet--a wonderful production. Regarding the changed story: I was wrong about the importance of the White Lady for those with better memories than I have! And without the White Lady's warning before Abdurakman appears the ballet is less of a religious allegory, but I still think Sergeyev's approach makes a certain psychological sense: Raymonda dreams of her far away fiance -- one she may not have met? -- bringing up thoughts of desire which leads her dreaming/unconscious mind straight to the only man she has met (in this version she has met him) who is openly, inappropriately sexual and desirous of her, and who at the same time embodies her fears of her own desires as he is a foreign figure etc. Uh...I'm not claiming it makes for a great libretto :dry: but honestly the original libretto doesn't seem like a masterwork of dramaturgy to me either. The original does seem to be more of a religious and, indeed, moral allegory. And of course that's what Petipa created. (So...Bravo La Scala). But I do love the Mariinsky's version.

I thought the corps and demi-soloists were super 'on' Saturday afternoon, throughout the ballet but especially in the vision scene; at that same performance the line of eight woman behind Kolegova in the Grand Pas was also just extra-extraordinary; every one of them looked like a 'Raymonda.' To some degree that was true at all three performances I attended--that is, the whole company looked wonderful at all three--but the matinee just felt that little bit extra sharp and exciting. Perhaps it was just my imagination. I am at least quite confident that, Saturday matinee, during the coda of the vision scene, the two soloists executed a diagonal of turns that were quite the best I saw all weekend in that sequence: silky smooth and super fast. There was even a little ripple through the audience as they were about to applaud that moment and then the scene just swept onwards to its conclusion. Anyway for me, it's at a performance like that, that one feels most acutely "The Mariinsky" with all the delight that name evokes for those who love the St. Petersburg/Leningrad ballet tradition.

I had still a different judgment than any yet expressed on the Saturday matinee and evening entrechats on pointe of both Kolegova and Kondaurova :lol: -- I'll keep it to myself but just say that I suspect the angle one was sitting at may have had some bearing on just how clearly the step seemed to be articulated. Kondaurova at any rate covered the largest amount of space on the diagonal. Or so it seemed to me. Overall I'd give the palm for the second act variation to the light, playful execution of Kolegova -- with zippy if not always neat chaine/pique turns to cap things off. But in the vision scene adagio I loved Skorik (Friday evening) best, and Kondaurova seemed to me the stateliest and most impressive in the final Act -- though Skorik's appearance of genuine joy in that act was very appealing to me in a human way. In that act, too, Skorik had a couple of moments where she raised her dark eyes up and seemed to look directly at the audience in a way very different from her usual somewhat veiled expression. I remember thinking, 'she should do THAT more often.'

But truthfully I enjoyed all three performances throughout. If I'm not mistaken, based on what I have read and what I have heard, I caught Skorik on her best night (by far) and, perhaps, did not catch Kondaurova on her best night. For my taste, in adagio I wish Kondaurova had a deeper plié when she sinks into her supporting leg in fondu--in the vision scene the shallow bend of the knee sometimes made her transitions in adagio look a little stiff to me. And I wouldn't mind talking to a ballet teacher about her use of turn-out in the first scene--which seemed to me a little lacking at times (?). But is she gorgeous! Wow! And aristocratic. Both Kolegova and she had much more expressive faces than Skorik, and Kondaurova's mime as she summoned the waltz corps to dance in Act I was about as beautiful and expressive a 'let's dance' gesture as I have ever seen. I don't, though, find her convincingly spring-like in Raymonda's opening dance. Anyway, basically, three very fine but very different ballerinas in a super challenging classical role. Bravo Mariinsky.

To be blunt, I feel Washington got hosed on the leading men. (For terrific male dancing from the Mariinsky, Yermakov, Shklyarov, and--less spectacularly but no less gracefully, Zyuzin, were all making the case up at BAM. Fortunately, I saw them Sunday night.) As a pair, only Korsuntsev and Kondaurova managed to look as if they were in love with each other. For the rest: in pantomime, walking, and, especially sword fighting, Korsuntsev was also the only Jean De Brienne who performed with energy and charisma. (Oh...that's another bravo from me for the sparks that come flying off the swords during the big fight at the end of Act II, all casts.) But Korsuntsev's dancing was scarcely adequate. Ivanchenko I have been known to defend. That won't be happening here. Some of his dancing was, I guess, adequate, but I couldn't get over the seeming sloppiness and carelessness with which he did things like...walk across the stage. And I don't mean aristocratic carelessness. That is the sort of detail that one can reasonably expect to be done well by an aging dancer. His partnering of Kolegova was not noticeably a problem as best I could tell, but he doesn't exactly get prizes for gallantry and grace as a partner at this performance either. Askerov made for a handsome knight, danced his variation very well, handled a stage mishap reasonably well (his helmet didn't come off when it was supposed to during the big sword fight), and -- to my eyes -- partnered Skorik decently. But he was really wooden -- no comparison to Korsuntsev's liveliness and charm. So, pick your poison.

I would like to say something about the various soloists, demi-soloists, and character dancers. And Glazunov. But I will hold off except to say something about the two Clemence ballerinas I saw. First, if Chebykina can develop to be as good in more extended roles (and roles involving allegro dancing and 'big' technique) as she was both Friday and Sat in Clemence's exquisitely delicate and dangerously exposed variation, then she could become a major ballerina. Even if she doesn't turn out to have those chops, what she gave us this past weekend was plenty to appreciate. Already in Act I--in her long medieval dress and heeled shoes--she drew my attention; just the curve of her neck seemed utterly graceful...and then how lovely and really believable the distant look in her eyes as she listened to Raymonda strum the harp and moved upstage as if in her own world before being moved ever so gently to dance -- though joined at once by her troubadour.

I find the whole magic of the ballet present in that scene when done well. (Kondaurova's pointe shoe abruptly slipped out from under her when she was sitting in the 'harp' pose Sat night--but that didn't spoil the moment anything like to the extent the loud whistles [sic] that went off in the theater during that very scene. It can't have been someone's phone, and after about 3-4 minutes it did -- thankfully -- stop. I don't know if people could hear it throughout the theater. Where I was sitting it was appalling, and Chebykina still managed to keep my attention.)

In the Clemence variation Sat afternoon Shapran was controlled and graceful--a lovely performance throughout--but in the variation not quite as easy, varied, and gracious as Chebykina. Also: I don't often think about dancers' make-up, but after hearing some comments about Skorik's I started paying more attention and I think Shapran's make-up Sat afternoon made her look older than she is. (To be fair, I was sitting in Row O.) I may write more later, but this is enough from me for now. Except to say, I'm very grateful to have seen these performances. A big thank you to the Mariinsky.

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I just returned from a few day voyage to Washington DC. It was a great trip and I got overloaded with art having spent most of my time either at the Kennedy Center or in one of the museums. It was also a great pleasure meeting some of the BA members and other ballet aficionados. I saw four performances (Ekaterina Kondaurova on 2/24 and 2/27 eve, Anastasia Kolegova on 2/25 and Oksana Skorik on 2/26). Counting another four performances in Costa Mesa in September 2015 I share the number of viewings as well the feelings of this ballet with BIrdsall---I can see it another dozen of times.

All three ballerinas Katia, Oksana and Anastasia were a joy to watch. But I do want to single out Oksana Skorik who has now become my favorite ballerina. I have seen her a few times now and am able to form or rather change my opinion of her which was previously heavily influenced by numerous detractors. Oksana's movements have this plush elastic quality which I don't see in other ballerinas. It is not only that her long limbs can create the most beautiful lines but it is also how she gets there. Her swan neck, pliable back and super elastic muscles give otherworldly appearance to her movements.

Kondaurova gave two memorable, almost flawless performances. Her Raymonda was aristocratic from head to toe, the center of attention for rival protagonists and the audience alike. Kolegova, who I saw for the first time, was a nice discovery. Being shorter that Skorik and Kondaurova she brings other qualities to the character of Raymonda and to choreography -- faster footwork, steadier balances and crisper relevé reveal a more youthful, energetic and charming heroine. The only problem I had with Kolegova was quite a distracting noise from her pointe shoes. But maybe this was some acoustic phenomena as I only experienced it in the boxes and not in orchestra seats.

As far as the Mariinsky men go, I can't shower them with the same praise. At the San Francisco Ballet we are spoiled with clean virtuoso technique and feline jumps of our male dancers so that Mariinsky couldn't impress me with their often flimsily executed triple tour en l'air.

I also like to share some of my seating experience at the Kennedy Center. I will never again buy tickets for the second row in the box tier. The second row is not stacked and one pays a premium price for a restricted view. I was quite content with row P in the orchestra (the last row of the orchestra section before the passage way) but my absolutely favorite seat was in row S (second row after the passage way behind the row with wheelchair seats).

Overall, I was very happy I made this journey. Though I did get completely soaked in the big storm during my commute to the theater on February 24 but I still value it as part of my experiences.

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I sat in row H, J, P and Q and liked P and Q the best. Q is the last row on the side section before the passage and the middle area ends in P.....P and Q are far enough away where no heads are blocking any view. Close up in H and J the head in front of you is in the way (despite being on the aisle).

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I sat in row O, and I had wonderful views at all times. By the way...I invite you all, with your eyes and minds fresh from the DC performances, to re visit the recon. I did this morning, and I definitely can say that it gave me a way better view on how greater this original scenario is compared to the Kirov/Mariinsky version. Countess Sybil, in the opening scene, looks and acts with much more command on the whole situation, and looks way more human-like than the frozen smiled one of the Russian production. She has much mime, and in general her character is more colorful and important than the mainly walker "queen-like" from K. Sergueev. Then, the fact that Abdherrakhman doesn't appear until the dream scene makes much sense to me. I find awkward than the the chief enemy was so well received at the de Doris household, even with a smiling Sybil while he is making unwanted advancements toward her niece. Finally, the White Lady. Her deletion also weakness the story, as the supra natural element is absent. Only during the dream do we see non real characters in the Mariinsky version, so the whole thing tries to have a "realistic" touch that fails to be. Raymonda looks and shows better with the mysterious, fairy tale element on. And about the costumes and backdrops, well....there's not even comparison. La Scala's is a sumptuous production.

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Then, the fact that Abdherrakhman doesn't appear until the dream scene makes much sense to me.

In the original production, Abderakhman made his first entrance in Act 1, scene 1, like he does in the Sergeyev version, and Petipa even had Glazunov compose an interpolation for his entrance in the first scene. Vikharev, however, did not restore this and in his defence, having Abderakhman make his first entrance in Act 1, scene 2 does make a bit more sense, but it's not what Petipa did.

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Oksana's movements have this plush elastic quality which I don't see in other ballerinas. It is not only that her long limbs can create the most beautiful lines but it is also how she gets there. Her swan neck, pliable back and super elastic muscles give otherworldly appearance to her movements.

Kondaurova gave two memorable, almost flawless performances. Her Raymonda was aristocratic from head to toe, the center of attention for rival protagonists and the audience alike.

I'm glad that you enjoyed all the things that you did, Dreamer. In general I share your comment about Oxana Skorik. In fineness of dance, for me, she is perhaps only second to Ulyana Lopatkina, and I sometimes see other expressive qualities in her that make me think that she could be an equal. I consider Ulyana Lopatkina to be perhaps the finest ballerina of our generation and perhaps one of the top five finest in history.

Your other statement above resounds. I've seen several performances of Angelin Preljocaj’s “Le Parc.” Viktoria Tereshkina and Yekaterina Kondaurova were featured. Both were excellent. Whereas Viktoria Tereshkina was interacting, Yekaterina Kondaurova seemed to be floating through on another plane. "....aristocratic from head to toe, the center of attention for rival protagonists and the audience alike," would be one very good way to describe her. I hardly noticed anyone else.

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In the recon. clip Novikova does what appears (to me) entrechat trois, no quatres.

But a trois would require to dancer to take off with two feet, beat, and change their legs to land on one foot. Novikova takes off from two feet, beats her legs in the air, and lands on both feet with the same foot in front.

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I'd like to add a few more words about Oxana Skorik that might present a slightly different point of view. I've seen her perform on stage maybe twenty times or more in the last five years. I can understand the feelings of many here that she isn't always technically "consistent'. I've seen this myself but I have to say that I've seen it in two other ballerinas, two of the finest of our generation. Overall Oxana Skorik has become much more technically 'consistent.' In fact she has performed some amazing technical feats.

But to my point. For me, she has such a *Basic* fineness, that in my viewing experience it has totally eclipsed everything else. But much more interesting to me is that some of her finest efforts have occurred at her most difficult moments. She has had to reach to the limit and the results have been outstanding. I've seen her do flawless performances and I have to say that some of the times that she's had to struggle have proved absolutely breathtaking.

Added thought:

These so called difficult moments did occur several years ago, not recently. I would never wish that she would have to face them again no matter how outstanding the outcome. I hope that whatever happened in DC of this nature will be a passing thing. Yet I would also want to say that a great performance does not necessarily have to be a flawless or technically perfect one.

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Cubanmiamiboy, you're absolutely correct about Kondaurova on Saturday. I reviewed my "notes" and those were indeed sautées on pointe Saturday night .... No swishing of hips/flicking of feet as she progressed in that diagonal. She had the deepest plié in between each sautee, among DC's three Raymondas, which I found unusual. I also "reviewed" Kolegova on Sat afternoon and she too did sautées with no swishing of hips or flicking of feet. Good steady sautées by both on those Saturday performances.

I also reviewed my "notes" on Skorik's diagonal and she did changements. That was her finest, steadiest solo that night, IMO...really great opening sequence of a-la-seconde hops into pirouette, immediately whipping into double pirouette (then repeating).

My point is that Novikova, in the La Scala edition, is such a treat to see because she reintroduced the rarity of performing entrechats in that particular solo. Go back to the Fall 2011 thread to read the various reviews of us who attended the premiere in Milan to see that we were all bowled over by that amazing move...our fellow poster Chiapuris was the first among us to write about it.

Drew made a good point about DC "getting hosed" on the Jean de Briennes, as the current best of the Jeans were in Brooklyn (Ermakov & Shklyarov; not sure if Zyuzin has danced the role but he could).

Buddy, I hear you. I've seen such good performances from Skorik and was ready to defend her at the opening night here but simply could not with what I saw on Tuesday, in general (but had a fine A2 solo, as I mention above). I'm sorry to have missed her Friday performance, which seems to have been a winner.

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On both nights (2/24 and 2/27) Kondaurova performed entrechat-deux. Her ankles barely crisscrossed though and it may have looked as simple sautees to some. In youtube videos, Novikova starts with entrechat-quatre but finishes with entrechat-deux. Odd-numbered entrechat jumps land on one foot, as MRR correctly noted in his post above.

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With regard to the diagonale of entrechats4 (or not!), I was not present at the American run of Raymondas, but have seen many Raymondas on the Mariinsky stage in St Petersburg. For the sake of information only, here is a list of all those ballerinas I have seen perform the role of Raymonda at Mariinsky Theatre, and what they actually performed during this sequence.

Lopatkina - changements

Tereshkina - changements
Matvienko - changements
Skorik - changements
Kondaurova - did maybe 2 entrechat4 then the rest changements
Shirinkina - entrechat4
Kolegova - entrechat4
Somova - entrechat4
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Was this the Saturday matinee? Looks like hops on pointe...maybe the term "entrechat deux" is just that. This is not the "full flickering" (scientific term) that we see with Novikova at La Scala...or any guy dancing Bluebird...or the flickering by the pas de quatre men in Raymonda...or by the 2nd Dream Variation gal...or by the Slavic Girl in A3...I saw full flickering from Sophia Ivanova-Skoblikova!

Thanks for posting, Bart. Much appreciated lesson. I like your "notes."

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In the slow mo. video of Kolegova, she barely crosses two-("deux")-times her foot on air, which is why it looks like simple sautees, landing in the same position. When they do changements-("cambio", "change")- is easy to recognize because the position of the foot at landing is the opposite as when they start the jump. I say Kolegova's are entrechat deux because she "crosses"-(just a few times maybe in the beginning of the diagonal)-her foot two times before landing. She obviously does not perform four-('quatre")-crosses before landing.

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