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White Nights 2015

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I love the ballet The Fountain of Bakchisarai and even a B cast is still fun to see in it. Obama Bondareva was better in this than as Gulnare, and Iosifidi was a terrific actress as Zarema torn by despair and jealousy. She managed the back of the head kicks okay. This was not an earth shattering night at the ballet but still totally enjoyable. A Brazilian woman and her children chatted with me, and she kept saying how courageous for me to come to St. Petersburg several years in a row and see a ballet every night. I told her it did not take courage, just money! LOL

Vitaly Amelishko debuted as Vaslav tonight. I think I would grow to like him if he didn't remind me so much of the giant woman on Game of Thrones. I think he has potential and seems better since he's lost some weight.

Nail Khairsanov blew me away as Nurali, the male in the ballet, who like the women, seeks desperately to please Ghirei. He acted up a storm and showed incredible acrobatics in the final act.

Nikolai Naumov was a decent Ghirei but can not erase the memories of Kuznetsov's towering depiction of the Khan.

Maria Adzhamova was a very sexy 2nd Wife. I wish we could see her in larger roles!

I think Fountain is a totally exciting Soviet ballet. Glad to see it!

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Vitaly Amelishko debuted as Vaslav tonight. I think I would grow to like him if he didn't remind me so much of the giant woman on Game of Thrones.

OT: I have sometimes thought that judicially selected bits of Game of Thrones would make for an entertaining narrative ballet plot albeit for a rather retro ballet. And it might bring in some new audience members to boot.

Anyway, it sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Glad you got to see and even meet Kolegova. Of course I desperately wish I could have been there to see Lopatkina's Raymonda. The company has posted some lovely photos...

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Romeo and Juliet with Shapran and Askerov:

Until tonight I wasn't very impressed with Kristina Shapran because she simplified steps like Giselle's hops on pointe.

So I was unprepared for her Juliet. She was totally committed on a dramatic level and had some beautiful arm movements. In my opinion, she danced very impressively for her debut. She was girlish in the early scenes and became a woman in love. I actually thought I would dislike her Juliet, but she completely won me over.

Timur Askerov was also better than I have seen him in the past, but his acting was more pasted on with some melodramatic expressions, although Shapran and he had decent chemistry together. I was surprised that he managed the lifts since he looks short and tiny/skinny. In the final act Romeo has to lift Juliet above his head as she is in a plank position and then bring her down and take her up the steps with one arm holding her back as she is draped in front of him. This takes amazing strength, and Askerov managed it. Better dancers have faltered in this move.

Alexei Kuzmin danced Tybalt, and I have noticed him in small parts. He has a very rugged masculine look (almost Spanish looking to me), and his depiction of Tybalt was manly and subtle but I missed the outright villainous portrayals that Kuznetsov and Igor Kolb created in this same role.

David Zaleyev was a spitfire zippy Mercurio. I didn't think he could erase my memory of Sergeyev in this role, but he came close. His death scene was terrific.

Anastasia Nikitina and Alexei Popov were Juliet's friend and troubadour respectively. Popov is a joy to watch with his jumps and nice lines. Nikitina was lovely with gorgeous arms. She slipped and fell early on but danced beautifully before and after the incident.

I am always shocked to read that people dislike Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet. The sets are stunning. Costumes are great (although Tybalt's is over the top). The choreography is gorgeous. What is there not to like? I have seen Cranko's version live and MacMillan's on DVD, and I like Lavrovsky's version the best. A young man with his girlfriend sat next to me, and after the first 10 minutes he was sighing and seemed bored to tears UNTIL the sword fighting. He sat up and after that he got into the whole ballet.

Tomorrow I see Stepin and Shirinkina in Romeo and Juliet....will be interesting to compare with tonight's performance!

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Tonight's Romeo and Juliet was decent. Last night Shapran was a committed and dramatic Juliet to Askerov's sort of shallow Romeo. Tonight I felt was the opposite problem. Filipp Stepin was fully committed and Maria Shirinkina took a long time to get into the role. However, she had some great moments especially when she discovers Romeo is dead. I think it is her return after maternity leave, and so during the first act she seemed to register very little or very superficial emotions. She improved as the night went on, and her dancing was very nice. I have to say that out of the non-Vaganova Academy dancers at Mariinsky Shirinkina fits in with the style of the company better than most. She is from Perm. I like her flowing arms. The only thing is that she doesn't seem to have the gravitas for these really dramatic roles. She does everything nicely and it is hard to complain but I think she would fit the light soubrette roles the best.

Stepin handled the exciting final lifts with aplomb. Romeo is a role with what seems like a hundred lifts and then at the end he has to lift Juliet's body above his head and then transfer it to a draping pose over one arm. I am not sure audience members know how much strength this entails.

He also died falling backwards down the tomb's steps. This is always a scary thing to see. You think the dancer might break his neck. In contrast, Askerov rolled down the steps on his side...not near as exciting...

Dmitry Pykhachov was a wilder, crazier Tybalt than last night closer to Kuznetsov's masterful portrayal but not quite on Kuznetsov's level.

Timofeyev was a decent Mercutio but I think Zaleyev had more "ha ha ha" to both his dancing and acting.

Sofia Ivanova-Skoblikova was Juliet's friend and very good. The troubadour was Alexei Popov again, and each time I see him the better he seems. Beautiful lines.

Overall, it was a nice night at the ballet.

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Tonight I saw *Bambi* and *In the Jungle* two 30 minute ballets by Anton Pimonov, a dancer and choreographer at the Mariinsky.

It was surprising to see children in every row of every section. This is a good sign that these two ballets connected in theme and some characters will survive.

Pimonov bases his choreography on ballet's foundations but makes it fun and modern at the same time....

More later....at a restaurant near Kazan Cathedral called Terrassa overlooking the Kazan cathedral and Church on Spilled Blood. Drunk on wine and supposed to meet a Russian friend at a bar soon. More later...

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Bambi and In the Jungle with their theme of animals liking and being fair to humans while humans are cruel to them is very timely considering the barrage of social media attention on the dentist who killed a lion!!!

Alexei Popov was Bambi last night and I believe he originated the role back in the spring, if I'm not mistaken. Great dancer with such smooth and clean lines.

Valeria Martynyuk was Falina, his love interest. She has the beautiful Vaganova arms I love. Originally the newly graduated Lukina was supposed to dance Falina. Hope she's not injured!

Alexander Sergeyev is a riveting, evil hunter. He is so talented and I wish he could be promoted.

This short little ballet has many small roles with brief solo moments so it is a perfect vehicle to showcase new talent and also draw young audiences. I never saw so many children at the Mariinsky before!

The second part is called In the Jungle and has a different composer. Otherwise, it would have simply been Act 2. Andrei Golovin composed Bambi while Alexander Lokshin composed In the Jungle.

The orchestra for Bambi is very small and the orchestra doubles in number (to my eyes) for In the Jungle. And you find out just why at the climactic hunt: the music is intensely loud!!! Very exciting to hear the Mariinsky Orchestra's percussion and horns go full throttle!!!

Popov was Bambi in In the Jungle. Originally Zaleyev was scheduled. Not sure what happened.

The main role in this second ballet is actually Gurri, Bambi's daughter. Sofia Ivanova-Skoblikova is a sweet, darling young doe with lots of nice choreography.

Once again, the second ballet has a lot of small roles (various animals) that can give young dancers some stage experience.

The audience including the kids loved the show! I think Anton Pimonov (choreographer as well as Mariinsky dancer) has a hit on his hands. If this cute ballet stands the test of time he might help open up a world to young people watching...and he could be creating more ballet lovers.

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I stopped posting due to getting mugged and beaten up along the Griboedova Canal on Saturday night (actually it was really early Sunday morning). It was raining and I foolishly walked through a covered walkway that had been erected so that pedestrians can continue along the sidewalk despite construction. That was a big mistake. I was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground and punched repeatedly. I was so busy fending off the attack I don't know how he fished through my pockets at the same time so maybe there was a second person. Total silence from the attacker or attackers and a barrage of punches. My iphone and credit cards and money were all taken. I think it was a professional thief due to the speed of the attack and how fast it was over and how the attacker knew exactly how to get it done quickly. I now think he had been tracking me. Some wonderful young 20something Russians saw me emerge from the walkway covered in blood and were so helpful (called the police, gave me tissues to wipe the blood off my face, showed lots of sympathy and stayed with me until the police and ambulence came). They felt so ashamed of their country and apologized to me, but frankly this could have happened in any big city.

Anyway, so that kept me from posting a review of the Osmolkina/Segeyev Nutcracker that I saw earlier that night which was fabulous.

And I spent all morning Sunday at the Russian hospital and Russian police station after that and was finally taken to my hotel around 11am after no sleep all night.

Luckily, a Russian friend was scheduled to visit me at 12pm at my hotel (pre-arranged) and was able to go get some soft food and drinks for me and medication. He felt terrible also. Later his mother came with him and gave me some herbal things for my gums and health. It was a sweet gesture.

My front teeth were knocked inward and the Russian doctor pushed them back into place and wired them to the stable teeth.

After sleeping for many hours on Sunday I woke up and my choices were to either lie in the hotel bed and miss the second Nutcracker (final show of my vacation) or go ahead and go and watch it (flight home was Monday morning). So I walked over to the Mariinsky (my hotel was literally a block away) and watch Valeria Martynyuk and David Zalyeyev in Nutcracker. It was just as fabulous as the Osmolkina/Sergeyev Nutcracker the night before!!!!

I can't decide who I liked better as Masha. Both Osmolkina and Martynyuk had the beautiful Vaganova style that I love.

That's all for now. Overall, a fabulous trip except for the beating I took the night before the final night. The translator at the police station told me that even though it may not help at least I am alive and everything will eventually heal. She said that often in these cases when violence is part of the plan (not just robbery) if the attacker has a knife you can be killed. So, I guess, I must count myself lucky. I have a fracture in my nose and my teeth need fixing, but I am alive.

And it makes for a very dramatic end to a ballet trip. I can sort of joke about it now, but the few minutes it happened and you realize the person cares nothing about you as a human being and is pummeling you with fists for no apparent real reason (I would have handed over my money probably without the violence), it is truly frightening. It gives you a dim view of humanity, but immediately after the group of 20something Russian "kids" were super sweet and seemed so sad and comforting. My Russian friend and his mother were mortified. The hotel paid for my taxi ride to the airport, etc. The taxi driver apologized profusely for what happened in his country (the hotel told him).

So please don't let this make you think Russians are bad. Everyone was so nice and helpful. It was just one jerk, and my advice is to never go into one of those covered walkways at night even if it is raining. With hindsight I should have stayed in the road b/c the covered walkway gave a dark area for this to happen. Go ahead and get wet!!!!! Don't go into those covered walkways at night!!!

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So sorry to hear this, Birdsall.

For eleven years I've walked back to my hotel, about 20 minutes from the Mariinsky, alone at night along an almost deserted canal side street from the performances (approx. 10 each visit) and I've never been bothered. I often see young women coming home from work at the same time, which is one reason I decided that it was ok. I see young women during the day jumping into cars ( a form of pay for the ride hitchhiking that is very common) without any sign of concern. Sometimes at night I'll pass a group of young guys and I'm not totally sure what will happen, but so far nothing has.

As you've mentioned, I've found folks in Saint Petersbrug to be very nice and helpful. I guess what happened to you could happen anywhere.

Again so sorry to hear this and I hope that you'll be as fine as possible and will enjoy many more fine ballets performances, many of them in Saint Petersburg if you so chose.

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Very sorry to read of this terrible attack. I am glad you saw such wonderful performances of Nutcracker--but being beaten as well as robbed is just a horrible, horrible thing. Hope all injuries heal up well and quickly.

Buddy, without exception guide books--including those for young people--say tourists should never get into one of those hitch a ride for pay cars in Russia if more than one person (the driver) is already in the car. (As a woman tourist alone in Russia I would never do it in any case--whatever the locals may feel comfortable doing.)

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Drew, I have done the hitch a ride thing in SP when left with no other option and never had a problem, but I don't blame a woman not wanting to do it, and I have to honestly say now that I was mugged I will probably take extra pre-cautions and not do that either. The problem is that the SP "real" taxis are very expensive and are likely to really overcharge you big time whereas the common practice of hitching a ride they agree upon a price beforehand and normally it seems to work, but, like I said, I think I will walk or take a regular taxi simply due to having experienced what I did. I sort of had the belief that most people are less likely to attack a 6 feet, 200 lb. male.......boy, was I wrong!

Using buses, subway, and walking is actually pretty easy, so that is what I normally do there and will do if I return ever. The one thing is that my partner has been aggravated that I keep going to St. Petersburg (and he refuses to go with me), so I had already agreed that next summer he can choose a place and I will space out my trips a bit more. Well, after this, I am okay with spacing them out more and maybe just seeing them on tours even though I think this same thing could have happened in DC or NY or anywhere. But your mind still blames the place where it happened. With that said, St. Petersburg is so beautiful. I don't regret all my trips there at all. I hope I am not dissauding anyone. Just don't walk alone at night (take a taxi or walk on the Moika which I think has less seedy people).

THANKS TO EVERYONE (abatt, Helene, BalletPerfection, Buddy, and Drew for the well wishes)!!!!

Good news: driver's license replaced today, both credit cards cancelled with new cards in the mail....tomorrow I will go to my bank and replace my ATM card (the doctor appointments, calling credit cardcompanies to make sure the cards were cancelled, and getting my driver's license took all day).

The oral surgeon I saw today said the Russian ER doctor did the right thing and actually went above and beyond what the ER in America would have done by wiring my front teeth so that they are wired to stable teeth. They said most American ERs would just move the teeth back in place and tell me to get to the dentist asap. I was relieved to hear that not only did he do a good job but he went above and beyond.

Stitches in lower lip were removed last night. Apparently your mouth heals pretty fast.

I go to the ENT doctor for the nose fracture on Thursday.

I finally cried about it all today while telling a friend what happened. I had not cried. It took 48 hours to finally release an emotion about it, I guess. I guess I was in shock. A friend once told me that crying is necessary just like smiling is necessary. If we hold it back we are actually keeping ourselves from healing. But people avoid crying and try not to and people even tell people not to cry, but this friend told me that is wrong. Just as you never tell someone not to smile, you should never tell someone not to cry. And just the attack and the long hospital and police report procedures and not being able to contact my loved ones.....it was really, really upsetting. While I was stuck at the police station for hours I would go by the criminals' cells and envy them b/c they were lying down sleeping in their cells. I had had no sleep, was covered in dried blood all over my shirt and pants with various citizens coming in to file reports, and they were looking at me like I was a derelict (covered in blood), and I have to say that the red tape at the police station was the absolute worst part of it all......I would tell the story to one officer, he would get called away to an emergency so another would take over and I had to answer all the same questions and then he was called away. Then, the translator had to leave and then I had to wait for a new translator. It was so crazy.

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Dear Birdsall, Thank God you are still alive. I cried also for you reading this. I am so sad and sorry for you. This was a truly terrifying experience that no-one deserves and you truly ARE lucky to be alive, judging from what that police officer said. This was clearly an experienced thug crime. Just an appalling end to your trip, and I am so glad that you at last did enjoy all those performances before. Thank you for the reviews. There is nothing like the Mariinsky. I try to be careful, and rarely by myself anyway in St Petersburg, but what you said is also brave of you to write this all down for everyone to read and be warned by. I truly hope those physical and mental wounds heal swiftly. God bless you and I send you my best wishes.

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Dear Birdsall, Thank God you are still alive. I cried also for you reading this. I am so sad and sorry for you. This was a truly terrifying experience that no-one deserves and you truly ARE lucky to be alive, judging from what that police officer said. This was clearly an experienced thug crime. Just an appalling end to your trip, and I am so glad that you at last did enjoy all those performances before. Thank you for the reviews. There is nothing like the Mariinsky. I try to be careful, and rarely by myself anyway in St Petersburg, but what you said is also brave of you to write this all down for everyone to read and be warned by. I truly hope those physical and mental wounds heal swiftly. God bless you and I send you my best wishes.

Thank you so much for your kind words! I am okay. On pain meds and spent yesterday seeing doctors. I see another doctor tomorrow. Today I am going to get a new ATM bank card and then I will have everything replaced that was taken from me (once the new credit cards arrive as well). So the possessions taken are almost all replaced or will be shortly. Now I just have to hope my front teeth will survive. They are wired to other stable teeth and the oral surgeon says I have to keep the wires that the Russian ER doctor put in for 4-6 weeks!!!! These are like makeshift braces (like homemade braces), so very big and I am putting lots of wax on top of the areas that poke my upper lip. The oral surgeon said he was amazed the Russian ER doctor knew and even wanted to wire my teeth. He said that most ER docs in the States would just put the teeth back into place and tell you to go see your dentist asap. And the dentist would probably tell you to go to an oral surgeon who would then wire your teeth (losing valuable time in stabilizing), so he said the Russian ER doctor did a great thing. That was really good to know, because I was unsure whether what he did was right. It was a relief to know that what he did was right. I wish I could somehow thank him, but I don't know the name of the hospital or his name, etc.

Basically, my health is the only thing I have to worry about now. My possessions will all be replaced. I wish the criminal or criminals (still unclear if it was one or two) would have simply demanded my stuff. I probably would have handed it over without all the violence. The strange thing is that he didn't say one word.

As you say, the one good thing is that I am able to warn everyone reading this NOT to go into those covered walkways at night!!!! I mean, it is actually common sense, and I think I would have avoided it if it had not been raining. But with hindsight I would rather have gotten wet and walked along the street. All my other trips I felt totally safe in St. Petersburg, so I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression, but it is a big city, and it is important to take precautions and not go into things like a walkway late at night. Also, even though the "real" taxis are expensive in St. Petersburg (as opposed to the regular hitch-a-ride with someone you flag down) and liable to rip you off as a tourist, it is still cheaper than all the hospital bills I will now pay. So if stuck somewhere very late at night and it is dark go ahead and splurge for an overpriced taxi. I wish I had. I just became over confident because I knew my path and I had walked it many times.

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Oh.... what a terrible ordeal. I am just getting caught up on this thread, and I was so sorry to read all of this. I wish you a speedy recovery, both physically and emotionally. It sounds so traumatic.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It definitely makes me wonder if I am sometimes too complacent in foreign cities. I always think I'm being careful, but I wonder if it's easy to develop a false sense of security. Sometimes, if you're having a good experience in a city and doing things like going to ballets that finish up after dark, I think it's easy to let your guard down. (In fact, I remember a covered walkway from last fall when I was there, and I am pretty sure I went into it, although it was not the same one. It was on the Moika.) Anyway, I know that I'll definitely be more careful from now on, not just in St. Petersburg.

Well, good luck at the doctor's office tomorrow and with your teeth. I really hope everything goes well and that you have only good news from now on.

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