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Kirov in Amsterdam - Giselle

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The Kirov Ballet opened its short season in Amsterdam yesterday with "Giselle". The company looked in excellent shape, the corps de ballet doing fine, the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre playing well, and the Theater Carre, although far from the ideal venue for ballet, being definitely a much happier choice than the catastrophic RAI where the Kirov guested last year.

The scheduled casts have once again been turned upside down. Opening night was danced by Diana Vishneva and Igor Kolb. For an opening night I found this leading couple rather weak and underpowered.

Vishneva's Giselle is a too sophisticated, playful (hair tied in a long tail - for when the pony-tailed Giselle ?), featherlight and superficial girl, obviously finding pleasure in misplacing the dramatic accents. The moment when Giselle feels slightly faint when dancing with Albrecht resulted in some heavy-handed histrionics, while the mad scene showed nothing but a slightly tipsy girl unable to make any impression at all.

The final scene with the exhausted Albrecht showed a faint effort of creating some heartfelt drama, although Vishneva's obvious hesitation as to where to place her head had an unwilling comical effect.

The 1st Act variation was rather well danced, but her exxagerated plasticity and towering extensions became irritating and totally out of place in the 2nd Act pas de deux.

Igor Kolb is surely a fine dancer, although he never succeeded in creating any rapport with Vishneva. At some point it looked as if the principals (Vishneva, Kolb, Amosova as Myrtha) were all dancing solo, having no eyes for each other and turning some of the scenes in a competition of 'Who can jump the highest?'. In the context of a company like the Kirov I find this weird.

Amosova was a strong Myrtha, tough as nails and really hard on the floor. Yet, she too, was nothing but a visitor to the role.

The peasant pas de deux was not included in the 1st Act, allegedly because of shortage of dancers.

The next Giselles will be danced by Irina Zhelonkina, Vishneva again, and Maya Dumchenko. Lopatkina, Zakharova and Sologub are not in Amsterdam.

Opening night wasn't exactly a bad night out, and inspiration will surely find the following soloists (at least so I hope), but I couldn't help thinking that ten years ago an evening like this would have been impossible. No way.

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Unfortunately, I missed the first night of "Giselle" by Kirov in Amsterdam, but Marc's report gave me a general picture of some problems of Kirov ballet now.

I cannot imagine how they could omit "peasant pas de deux" just because they do not have enough dancers...

And also it's a pity that some principal dancers could not (or at least, did not) come with the company. Maybe you are supposed to see the performance of company itself, not the performance of a certain dancer. But I still want to know who is dancing, especially when I see classic ballet...


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Thanks for your report, Marc.

It's sound like this wasn't a memorable performance after all. Was it sold out?

What's your impression on the Dutch audience's reaction?

Too bad that you didn't enjoy Vishneva's Giselle *at all*. What's happening to original casts then? Please don't say they are all injured!

Would it be possible for you to post any reviews from local critics? I'm keen to hear how the Kirov is popular in Amsterdam.

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The company seems to be extremely stretched. Some of the dancers are indeed injured or recovering (Lopatkina, Zakharova), but others are just occupied by other engagements.

Prime example is Vyacheslav Samodurov here, who just runs between theatres (luckily for him they are only three canals from each other), spending his time between preparing James for the Dutch National and Albrecht for the Kirov. (Samodurov is supposed to dance Albrecht tonight, BTW.) He will have to make up his mind some day, as nobody seems to be very happy with this situation. Others are busy in a project with John Neumeier etc.

One can judge easily how 'short on dancers' the company is by the fact that they even have to bring in soloists who otherwise hardly ever or even never get a chance to perform a leading role on a tour: Irina Zhelonkina for one, who hasn't seen the dress of Giselle in the last two or three years; Maya Dumchenko, too, in a way, as she wasn't cast initially. And frankly, I kind of like this situation, as it gives us a nice opportunity to see some other talent.

However, since Zhelonkina is preparing and dancing Giselle, she cannot appear in the peasant pas deux. Unfortunately for the Kirov she seems to have been the only one around who can do peasant pas de deux. So, no peasant pas de deux for Amsterdam. It's that simple.

NO7, the theater was sold out except for the seats with limited visibility. The performance was received with much enthusiasm. Vishneva's hyperstretch obviously conquered the audience. There was a critic of a local newspaper sitting right next to me. She much enjoyed 'the modern side' of Vishneva's interpretation, but had never seen the Kirov's "Giselle" before.

Yes, Alexandra there are still coaches around smile.gif. Of course rehearsal conditions are anything but ideal. The pressure is high, time is short, as always. Most rehearsals take place on the stage and sometimes a soloist has to ask permission from a colleague if he/she can have part of the stage to do some rehearsing, behind the graveyard of Giselle for instance...

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Marc, what do you mean by Zakharova recovering??? Do you think she'll be able to dance Manon in four weeks?????

(Thanks for report - felt as if I was there - but I hope you will have some more rewarding performances to come!)

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Marc, thank you very much for your interesting review.

There are very troubling rumors circulating at the Mariinsky's discussion forum, regarding Lopatkina's injury. I find it hard to believe, but it has been said that her career may be over. Can you shed some light on this please?

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Marc, thanks for the report. I was fascinated to know that the dancer preparing Giselle could not dance the Peasant ppd and there were no replacements. It is so different here in NYC. At New York City Ballet (for better or for worse), dancers go on in a part the length of the ppd with one day of rehearsal. It is interesting to learn how other companies are organized.

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Sonja, I know that you are dying to see Zakharova in Manon smile.gif. Four weeks is still a long time. There seems to be a problem with her leg. We will all keep our fingers crossed.

Ilya, all I know is that Lopatkina is having therapy in Austria. She apparently wants proper treatment and I haven't heard anything as alarming.

Liebs, Irina Zhelonkina can now dance the peasant pas de deux blindfolded, but since she was cast as Giselle on the very last minute, she had to concentrate on that, and nobody else is around to replace her in the pas de deux.

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Inspiration has clearly been found on the banks of the river Amstel, during the Kirov's second night's "Giselle" with Irina Zhelonkina and Vyacheslav Samodurov.

Irina Zhelonkina possesses a delicately beautiful plastique, has always been a gorgeous stylist, and as this performance proves she is a ballerina who seems to be aware that there is something like a performance tradition which deserves some respect, especially in the context of a company like the Kirov. After the performance, backstage there were comments that this is "Leningrad" style - and the use of the name Leningrad instead of St. Petersburg was surely no coincidence.

Zhelonkina's more traditional approach is so much more convincing because she goes right to the point and doesn't loose herself in superficial gimmicks or unnecessary tricks. The drama was there in front of us and you believed in it from start to finish. I haven't seen the mad scene as moving as in this performance for ages.

Although there were a few rough edges here and there in her dancing, for somebody who didn't dance the role in two years and with a minimum of preparation, this was by all means a remarkable performance.

I also warmed to Samodurov's Albrecht and for having only had two rehearsals with Zhelonkina, they were truly together on stage. They never danced the ballet together before, but they obviously sparked each other off and the final scenes had a sense of despair, both being aware that these were their last moments together.

Convincing performance of veteran Alexander Kurkov as Hilarion.

More of that, please !

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Thanks, Marc, I enjoy reading your report.

I think Samodorov is a very good dancer. I enjoyed very much his dancing when he came to Beijing with a small group a few years ago. But I guess he does not appear with the Kirov very often because he did not come to China and Japan when the company toured here. Am I right?

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Originally posted by Hu Xinxin:

I think Samodorov is a very good dancer. I enjoyed very much his dancing when he came to Beijing with a small group a few years ago. But I guess he does not appear with the Kirov very often because he did not come to China and Japan when the company toured here. Am I right?

Not as much as the Kirov would want him to, Hu Xinxin. Samodurov is a busy man, very much in demand. He will appear with the Kirov again later this week as Petrushka, and then continue his series of performances as James with the Dutch National Ballet.

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I've heard from other sources that Zakharova is perfectly fine(?) and indeed prepared to appear in Amsterdam as scheduled. But, in the last minute, she wasn't ready for the role since she hasn't danced Giselle for ages.

Could you please clarify me a bit more what is really going on, Marc?

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Vishneva danced a second Giselle in Amsterdam, which fared even worse because of the presence of Farukh Ruzimatov, who looked embarrassingly out of shape this evening and never even touched the role. His variation was a poor man's version of "Le Corsaire". One might say they that Vishneva and Ruzimatov were well matched as they both excell in distorting their roles with questionable personal touches. It may all be very nice and spectacular on its own, but it's miles away from a Kirov's "Giselle".

Amsterdam got some idea what this can be with the final Giselle performance of Maya Dumchenko and Viktor Baranov. From the lovely romantic hair dress to the carefully poised arabesques and the subtly crafted mad scene - everything looked right and true. Dumchenko is a wonderful Giselle and one with a rich pedigree. Baranov proved the ideal partner. The way he made Dumchenko float in the 2nd Act was unforgettable. And at last we had somebody who successfully attempted the swallow lifts in the 2nd Act.

Interesting to note, finally, that Dumchenko and Vishneva have the same coach: Olga Chenchikova. An interesting example of how different performers can be even when guided by the same teacher smile.gif

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Marc, you really were lucky to see Zhelonkina's Giselle. In the past years I too always felt frustrated that such a refined dancer as her - a true classicist - had not been given leading roles. (Felt the same for Dumchenko too!)

When they come back in town (London) in June, I'd more than welcome a cast change or two - again Zhelonkina is not casted for any of the leading roles! (Her Aurore must be a delight to watch!)

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Naoko, actually Maya Dumchenko did get leading roles in London last August. I saw her Aurora and Juliet. Zhelonkina danced Florine though not Aurora.

On another note, Diana Vishneva and Faroukh Ruzimatov will dance in a gala in Moscow on 2 April.

[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited March 22, 2001).]

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Mr. Haegeman, perhaps the differences between Vishneva and Dumchenko have something to do with their schooling as students in school. They had different teachers, both being at the top of their respective classes upon graduation in 1995.

Vishneva did her final three years with L. Kovolova and Dumchenko with Zaknovskaya. Who coaches a dancer in a company is only part of the story.

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Naoko, Irina Zhelonkina is indeed a delightful Aurora. She is however only rarely cast in leading roles on tours. In the last five years or so she could occasionally be seen as Maria in ?The Fountain of Bakhchisarai?, Masha, Gamzatti, Chopiniana, ballerina in Petrushka, and now Giselle, but for most of the time her repertory is limited to pas de deux and variations.

Vrsfanatic, I agree, coaching isn?t everything of course (there is also schooling and mentality for instance), but in the case of a company like the Kirov Ballet working with strong personalities as ballet masters (Moiseyeva, Kurgapkina, the late Zubkovskaya, Selyutsky, Yevteyeva, Chenchikova?), who spend several years with the same dancers, I am always inclined to expect a certain stamp or mark of the coach on the pupil. Yet, in practice this proves completely wrong. No greater difference, for example, between Zakharova and Asylmuratova, who both prepare their roles with Moiseyeva.

Interesting to note that Nina Sakhnovskaya especially came over to see Maya Dumchenko?s performance in Amsterdam.

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Kevin, I did notice Dumchenko danced leading roles in the two productions - but as far as I can remember at least for SB she was a replacement for someone - not originally casted for the role. In Nov-Dec last year when they were in Japan the only leading role she got was Masha in the Nutcracker. Even though there were usual cast changes, which would have given her fairly good chance, dissapointingly younger dancers were given roles to replace the absent 'stars' - to this some of balletgoers, including myself, responded in a puzzlement: 'Where's Dumchenko?' (She has been a frequent visitor to Japan - obviously not a glittering star as Asylmuratova or Vishneva, but certainly one of the favourite principals of Japanese balletgoers.) And again this summer to my eyes she was not given 'substantial' roles - which is a shame!

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Interesting to read others' takes on these dancers. When the Kirov was at the Met in 99, I thought that while Dumchenko was a very fine Giselle, Vishneva was very special, especially her second act. I'm happy to read that Zhelonkina is doing so well lately -- her Peasant Pas during that visit were rough around the edges, to put it mildly.

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Although Maya Dumchenko definitely belongs to the group of youngsters whose fast rise coincided with Makhar Vaziev taking over at the Kirov Ballet, she somehow fell out of favour (at least since 1998) and has been mainly consigned to second rank duty, the dancer who performs when most of the others are absent or injured, and missing some tours. As far as I was able to see, there is absolutely no ground for that.

Manhattnik, Zhelonkina has always been remarkable for the quality of her plastique and movement, even when she was only doing Flower Girl in "Don Quixote" or Bell dancer in "The Fountain".

Vishneva's "Giselle" is "special" indeed, as it is basically in open defiance of the ballet’s performance tradition, but actually tells us nothing new about the role. Depends of what you expect of your Giselle, no doubt. smile.gif

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It is of great interest to me, this subject of character and training. All though ballet masters such as Kurgapkina, the late Zubkovskaya and Zelyutzky are definite personalities with tremendous knowledge and professionalism a teacher/coach is only able to guide a dancer so far. I heard many times from ballet masters, " you can only trick dancers into believing , so far. The rest is trust and talent."

Dumchenko and Vishneva are two very different people. Glad to hear Saknovskaya was in Amsterdam. Do you know where she is teaching now. Last I had heard she left Vaganova School after 1995.

It is also very interesting to read the opinions of others regarding the different performances of the Kirov internationally, since they have not been to Florida in a number of years. Wish I could see more.

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