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Kirov Ballet, D.C., Jewels

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Very quickly, because I'm exhausted:

Tonight was the first night of Jewels. Here's the casting (I hope!):

Emeralds: Zhanna Ayupova, Veronika Part, Viktor Baronov

Rubies: Irina Golub, Andrian Fadeyev, Maya Dumchenko

Diamonds: Svetlana Zakharova, Danila Korsuntsev

I liked much of the dancing in "Emeralds," especially Ayupova and Part. I've always liked Ayupova, and her maturity counted for a lot here. Not to mention her beautiful, beautiful arms. I will say, though, that I thought the ballet seemed segmented, a collection of parts -- I couldn't help remember the Miami City Ballet's "Emeralds" from last season. The Kirov has more dance power, but MCB had the sense of the work as a whole, I thought.

When the curtain rose on "Rubies" and you saw those grins and rather placid torsos -- well, it was a different "Rubies." I thought this was well-danced, but in slightly the wrong key.

What made the evening for me was Zakharova in "Diamonds," although the company as a whole was grand here. This one is home for them -- and the orchestra sounded like an orchestra. (Zakharova gave her first rose to the conductor, the second to her partner.) I thought Zakharova had a triumph here, bringing many of the same qualities to the role that Farrell brought -- the risk taking, the stretch, the luxuriating in movement.

But it was another controversial night. Several people I talked to did not like "Emeralds" or "Rubies" one bit, and a few found Zakharova's performance quite cold. I was very excited to hear people at intermissions aruging over performances.

Society note: Condoleeza Rice (who started college as a music major) and a few of her friends/colleagues were in the audience tonight. Nice to know, going into the theater, that no major foreign policy moves are planned for the next few hours. smile.gif )

p.s. I forgot to say that the truncated "Emeralds" caused much comment -- I heard "What happened to the Sarabande?" several times. Apparently the company chose an earlier version of "Emeralds," excluding the later revision. I didn't hear anyone who approved smile.gif

[ February 14, 2002: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I'm out of my league coming on the boards here after Alexandra's expertise but what-the-heck. Jewels was an evening worth attention and argument. I have never seen this work danced by a company that had not cut its teeth on Balanchine. (one would expect a superb "Rubies" from a company created by Villella, for example). Emeralds felt like someone sounds who is trying valiently to speak a new language in a foreign land -- sloooow, careful, mannered and flat. The grammar is mostly correct but there's no rhetorical sweep here. On Rubies, the less said, the better. I like Rubies ferocious, fun and sexy The Russians, who seemed happy to admit this was over their heads, did seem to enjoy themselves even if they have no idea how to cock a hip American style. Then, thankfully, came Diamonds and it was a festival of delight. This was a Balanchine they could understand, music bred in their bones, and they were sumptuous. (also helpful: The orchestra sounded less like they were playing a funeral) I left looking forward to Friday's Sleeping Beauty.

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After the magnificence of Tuesday's 'Sleeping Beauty'...AND after the phenomenal 'Jewels' that I recall seeing in London two years ago...Wednesday night's Jewels was a bit of a letdown, although the 2nd-tier audience seemed to really be into it...going particularly gah-gah for Svetlana Zakharova. Heck, they even broke into applause during her first develope, at the start of the pas de deux adagio. [LOTS of folks speaking Russian around me, by the way. I thought for a moment that I was at City Center, NY, for an Eifman tour!]


Just as she did in London, Zhanna Ayupova was charming in the lead ballerina role, capturing the Franco-Romantic spirit of the work perfectly, although the smile on her face looked a bit strained...not soft, as in the past. Viktor Baranov was her partner. I'm sorry to say that Veronika Part has lost all of her magic in her solo, as well as in a very flat 'Walking pas de deux' with a bland Denis Firsov. Part was merely going through the motions in what used to be a delectable waltz solo...how very sad. The true highlight of Emeralds, and the freshest-purest dancing, came in the brilliant pas de trois by three young soloists: cute Yana Selina, glamour-blonde Xenia Ostreikovskaya and, especially, the bouyant Anton Korsakov. This lad -- winner of last year's Helsinki IBC gold medal -- has really come into his own since his wet-behind-the-ears appearances at the Met three years ago. Bravo, Anton! I am now SOOOO looking forward to his Prince Desire, later in the run.


Tsars & Tsarinas play-acting as Radio City Rockettes? That's the impression left by the ensemble in this ballet and, alas, the lead two soloists did not help matters at all!! At least in London, it was Vishneva & Samodurov in the leads (and who will dance it tonight). Instead, I had to close my eyes a few times last night to counter the blinding of the plastered grins on the faces of Irina Golub and Andrian Fadeev. I've admired Golub -- one of the very young 'rising stars' of the Kirov -- in the past. With her sultry dark looks (a suntan at the ballet!), pretty facial features, etc., I call her 'the Little Vishneva.' But, good Lord, that plastic smile doesn't do her one bit of good; it takes away from her dancing. But nothing was as ridiculous-looking as Fadeev going through the paces of trying to 'be cool' - a prince lost in the Bronx. And what about the make-up, my friends? We're talking jet-black eyebrows & racoon-eyeliner on a lily-white Viking!!!! I was way up in 2nd Tier & could see the lines of his make-up without the aid of binoculars. Sorry to be so harsh on a dancer who I admire in Petipa roles but it upset me this much! The saving grace to this grining-gallery was Maya Dumchenko as the 'tall girl' who not only danced like a gazelle but had the appropriate style of aloofness &, I think, never cracked a grin until her bows. Ironic, how Dumchenko was my 'weakest link' in London, yet she is now the ONLY strong link in this ballet!


This is their ballet...and Svetlana Zakharova came very close to finally winning me over. The ear-high hyperextensions work OK here & her 'cold style' (direct opposite of Vishneva's natural warmth, IMO) works quite well. Musical. Every inch an Ice Queen. Zakharova came quite close to emulating my ideal in this role - Uliana Lopatkina who, alas, is not on this tour. Her cavalier, Danila Korsuntsev, served as a solid partner. Among the demi-solo women, Ostreikovskaya was once again a stand-out.

[ February 14, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Jeannie, you make me smile with the Eifman at City Center reference. Exactly! Totally Russian. Also, it was interesting at the opening of Jewels to see the division in the response of the audience -- it went almost 100% along the lines of ticket prices. The big ticket subscribers glued to their chairs and the galleries, where people may have to work a bit harder to come up with big buxx ballet tix, on their feet for Zakharova

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Originally posted by Jeannie:

especially, the bouyant Anton Korsakov. This lad -- winner of last year's Helsinki IBC gold medal -- has really come into his own since his wet-behind-the-ears appearances at the Met three years ago. Bravo, Anton!

I am really heartened to hear that Anton Korsakov is dancing so well again, in the Emeralds pas de trois. Korsakov had a knee operation last autumn after an injury during the Kirov's tour to Munich, and he only started doing class at the Maryinsky in late November. I don't think he has danced a single performance at the Maryinsky since his recovery. This performance in DC must be his first for nearly 5 months.

[ February 15, 2002: Message edited by: Kevin Ng ]

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Thursday night

It's a shame we only get the company for one week -- they're settling in (and the audience is settling in smile.gif ) Tonight was much warmer, I thought, on both sides of the proscenium.

"Emeralds" was tighter, though still a bit airy. There are complaints that Ayupova isn't witty enough, or French enough, but I still liked her very much. There's a beautifully creamy quality to her dancing, and her arms are ravishing. Part was a bit disappointing. She had some nice moments, but doesn't seem completely comfortable in the role.

"Rubies" had much more energy tonight. I liked Vishneva a lot here. Her dancing was very confident, very frisky (I wish she'd bring a little bit of that to her Aurora smile.gif ) The men in this ballet seem to be taking reviews of Villella as a macho man with his gang a bit too seriously. The dancing is Very Masculine Indeed -- to the point of being cartoonish.

"Diamonds" was danced by Pavlenko and -- I don't have my program -- was it Korsuntsev again? Pavlenko was much softer than Zhakarova, and the ballet could have been an Alternate Universe Swan Lake Act II. I don't think this is the ballerina's "character" (I posted this on another thread; Farrell was invulnerable, surrendering only to the music, and very queenly). Taken on its own terms, there was some very beautiful dancing, although Pavlenko faded after the pas de deux; the solos were a bit smudged.

The finale of "Diamonds" is quite wonderful and the company danced it at full power. At the risk of being pelted by our NYCB fans, the Kirov men win, hands down. We don't have a company that can field 16 men so elegant and so beautifully trained.

I hope the company can get a lift from its two nights of "Jewels" and carry over the energy here into "Sleeping Beauty" for the weekend.

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My oh my, Alexandra -- first Condi Rice, now Bo Derek! biggrin.gif

Quick notes on the 2nd & final 'Jewels':

OVERALL - A far better evening in the first two ballets; less so in 'Diamonds' because of Pavlenko's Latin-Spitfire style compared to the usual Ice-Princess rendering of the role.

EMERALDS - Surprise! Korsakov got to reprise his role in the Pas de Trois, dancing for the originally-scheduled Vasily Scherbakov. No printed or voice announcement of the change, as usual. Korsakov was even more impressive last night. [Thanks for the info on his injury, Kevin. I did not know this.] Ayupova was softer & more natural - less of a 'plastered smile' compared to Wednesday. Even her partner, Baranov, was more expressive.

RUBIES - 1,000-times better, due to the sassy spirit & fantabulous (!!!) technique of the new leads, Diana Vishneva & Vyacheslav Samodurov. Look, ma - no plastic smiles! What's more, Samodurov did not wear the clownlike make-up that marred Fadeev's performance the night before. As the new 'tall girl' soloist, Sofia Gumerova was less effective than Dumchenko was the night before; Gumerova was less sexy-mysterious, more the smiley hoofer with energy to spare. Gumerova's technique is admirable, though. I agree with Alexandra - there was Testosterone-Plus up on that stage, among the soloist guys! Special for Valentine's Day, perhaps???? wink.gif


Daria Pavlenko is a beautiful dancer, in a sultry Stephanie Saland manner...but that's not what is called for in this role of the ultimate Ice Princess. Daria was so hot, in fact, that she managed to light a fuse in her cavalier, Korsuntsev, who seemed to come to life & be more-at-ease last night, compared to Wednesday.

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I managed to get a ticket to Jewels last night (Thursday) (thanks Jeannie for recommending calling the box office—I tried four times throughout the day and was successful at last). It was too close—row J orchestra—but I was just glad to be there. This is the fourth company I’ve seen dance this ballet, and of course I wanted to see how they would cope with a foreign style (in more ways than one) in the first two ballets and dance an updated version of their own style in the last.

I really don’t have that much to add to what others have said here. The company looked very unhappy in Emeralds and Rubies; I could just hear them thinking, “Why are you making us do this?” Their inability to loosen their hips, relax their épaulment, and smooth their transitions from step to step made for stiff, rather prissy dancing. In Rubies, second ballerina Sofia Gumerova, leading man Viatcheslav Samodurov, and the four boys tried to compensate with forced animation and “acting” (sexiness on her part, street-tough hipness on theirs). At least in Rubies the dancers seemed to understand what they were supposed to be doing, even if they couldn’t do it, but in Emeralds it looked like they hadn’t a clue—and weren’t interested in learning.

As a fan of Ayupova’s since I first saw her nearly 13 years ago, I was disappointed in her performance of the Verdy role. Doggedly bright and charming, she missed the sophisticated glamour and mystery that Verdy and other NYCB ballerinas have brought to the role. The distinction between the two ballerinas—one mature, sensual, “comfortable in her own skin,” and the other a jeune fille—seems to have been lost here, as it has in the POB production. Which leads me to wonder how well this ballet is being taught. One of those credited in the program with staging the ballet is Karin von Aroldingen, who certainly understood the Verdy role when she danced it (not that she danced it well, but she understood it). Similarly, Veronika Part in the Mimi Paul role was no ingenue; she looked more mature than Ayupova. At least the girls in the pas de trois (Yana Selina and, especially, Ksenia Ostreikovskaya) were good. The boy was Vasily Scherbakov, Tuesday night’s Bluebird, who was considerably more earthbound here.

The corps looked much more comfortable in Diamonds than in the previous ballets, but the principals did not. Daria Pavlenko was ice-cold, which is a total misreading of the ballerina role. Farrell was aloof—removed from her partner and the audience—but you could clearly see the depths of passion and character underneath. The ballerina has to be desirable, otherwise why bother? Danila Korsuntsev didn’t bother—he was off in another universe somewhere, and hardly looked at his partner twice.

By the way, it’s a pity that the four demisolo girls were not identified in the program. I recognized Selina and Ostreikovskaya, but would have liked to know who the others were. For that matter, the whole corps should have been named for each ballet. Balanchine’s ensembles are collections of individuals, not a faceless mass. I think I saw Scherbakov and Gumerova in the Diamonds corps, but I would like to know for sure (or as sure as you can be with a preprinted program).

It’s funny—I’ve now seen this ballet danced by each of the companies to which it should be “home:” POB (Emeralds), NYCB (Rubies) and the Kirov (Diamonds), but the greatest overall performance came from Miami City Ballet. (The best soloists, however, have all been NYCB people, both the original cast members and their successors.)

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I'm happy that you managed to get a ticket for last night, Ari! smile.gif But - boy - did we see Pavlenko's performance differently. LOL! What I saw as too warm/not cool enough (Alexandra's feeling, too, I think), you saw as too cold. I just find it fascinating how different dancers affect people differently. This is fun, don't you agree?

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Ari, I'm glad you got in. It's nice to know there is at least one area left in life where persistence pays off. I was in the right front orchestra, and there were several empty seats near me. Whether they were turned back to the box office, or just no shows, I can't say, of course, but others reading this who are ticketless should take heart: call often smile.gif

Jeannie, I do find it fascinating. Sometimes it does matter where one is sitting -- if you're very close, the expressions can seem fake; if you're very far away you may not be able to see any expression at all. But I've also had different impressions than people sitting next to me, or in front of me.

I have a friend who also felt that Pavlenko was too -- perhaps not cold, but distant and external, not feeling the music from the inside, not responding to the music in the same way that Farrell did. (The dancers in this ballet are always going to be compared to Farrell, Verdy and McBride, because they were such individual dancers and the ballets were made on those qualities.)

I didn't really think Pavlenko was too warm, just too Odette smile.gif

I forgot to mention another celebrity in the audience -- Mimi Paul, who now lives in Washington and teaches here, I'm told, although I don't know at which studio. She's been at both "Jewels" performances.

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When I got home from seeing the two Jewels performances, my brother asked me whether it was worth the money for the tickets, the hotel and the trains and said, "Absolutely, yes!" I had such a wonderful time and enjoyed speaking with my fellow BAers.

Here's my impressions:

Emeralds -- I thought this portion was dominated by the beautiful Ayupova and Part. After a bit overexcited first night, Ayopova was positively elegant on Thursday night. She seemed much more relaxed in the slow parts. To me, Part naturally takes to Balanchine and in Emeralds she showed off her musicality in the different ways she reacted to the orchestra in each night. I loved the way she hung on to a phrase and she seems to have a talent for balance/imbalance a la Farrell. The clock-like movements in the 2nd pas de deux were a little blurry on the first night but perfect on the 2nd and not too herky-jerky.

Anton Korsakov was splendid in the pas de trois. He showed off the Balanchine style perfectly, jumping without visable preparation...springing out of the floor. He also highlighted the attacks in the music, lovely phrasing. I was not as impressed with his partners. The delicate blond -- I was told it was Ksenia Ostreikovskaya -- was, I thought, the better of the two. Very good, in fact, especially in her solo on the 2nd night. But I did not care for Yana Selina, who seemed to misunderstand the mood of the piece. When she came in for her solo -- which is to a plantive low string instrument -- she comes on like Aurora at her 16th birthday party. Whereas I think she should be more mysterious, like mist. Even if she was not coached that way, she only needed to hear the music. Her approach was really only one of two peeves I had with the entire evening.

Rubies was interesting. The first night, it had a very light feel to it, as if the dancers were loath to be too "vulgar" and wanted to be "pretty." But it needs not vulgarity, but jazziness. Irina Golub was cute on the first night, perhaps too cute. She'll be really good when she tones down that smile. She had two expressions -- mega-watt grin or concentrating on the steps. She (and other dancers) need to find more. Diana Vishneva was delicious on Thursday. Everything I could hope for. Fadeyev and Samodurov (an favorite of mine) seem to see the male role as a jester or the Jack in a playing card set. It works. But I guess I'm used to seeing the role as Villela and his gang from Queens. And while both were very good in their solos, neither scorched the stage in their final excit in the last sections. I also missed in the pas de deux, when the man holds the women against him and she thumps her hips in time with the piano, which is banging out the chords. It's a very sexy moment. But I was very happy.

However, I think the solo women's role (the big Ruby, so to speak) eludes the Kirov dancers. They just don't seem to get it. Maya Dumchenko dances the steps properly, but with the wrong tone -- rather staid -- while Sofia Gumerova was more game, but didn't do the turned in positions. And her penche arabesques exit was a little weak. But...in defense of Dumchenko and Gumerova, I've seen some really good soloists in this role recently (Isaacs at Miami City Ballet and Meunier and Korowski at NYCB).

Diamonds -- First off, the opening waltz was probably one of the finest exhibitions of corps dancing I've seen. Each dancer felt the Tchiakovsky music through their entire being.

Although her excess upset some, I find Zakharova facinating...a strange, exquisite creature. There were moments of great beauty in the pas deux but I also had the feeling that she performed lovely moments that weren't really connected. Zakharova didn't really highlight the off-balance moments that were Farrell's trademark, but I've seen that in some interpretations. Those things are not everybody's forte. She did show off her amazing extentions, although I like a little bit more space between the leg and head. An original.

Pavlenko gave a more traditionally Farrellesque performance. Grave and still. I felt she really built towards the climaxes and knew where she was going (but was not calculated).

All and all, the two evenings were wonderful. The costumes and sets looked great and I loved the hair glitter! smile.gif

[ February 16, 2002: Message edited by: Dale ]

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I'm glad I posted before reading all the other posts because I would have really second-guessed myself smile.gif I was sitting in the first row, 2nd tier for both performances, so some facial expressions could have been lost to me, although I have very good field glasses.

I forgot to mention the solos in Diamonds and the polanaise, which matched the opening. Perfect. (I only saw the ending the first night, as I had to leave right before the finale on Thursday in order to make the 10:45 train to New York -- the last one before a 3 am) I thought Korsuntsev was good, but a little soft in his solos. There is a moment, I think at the start of his second little solo bit, that he just walks through the corps. The man really has to have presence there and he did not quite have that magnetic aura to him that I've seen with Peter Martins and Igor Zelensky.

It's strange, but before the shows I would have guessed that Pavlenko would have nailed the solo while Zakharova would fudge it. But SZ was really strong while Pavlenko, like I had seen with Part in this section, looked a tiny bit rushed. The passage is really much quicker than it looks, with a series of little jumps into arabesques.

And after reading the other comments, I would have to concede that although the men in Rubies were more jestery types, they did seem to muscle in there movements. I guess what I expect from the men is a sort of casual, urban cool.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing the Kirov Jewels this summer.

Oh, in one of the articles on the Kirov's stay in Washington, it said that the ballet will perform two short Balanchine pieces to Tchiakovsky during the gala on Tuesday, the 19th. Does anybody know which ballets?

[ February 16, 2002: Message edited by: Dale ]

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Dale, I think they'll dance "Serenade" and "Tchaikovsky pas de deux" for the gala. I'm going, so I'll let you know smile.gif

I like your Jack-in-the-deck-of-cards description of the men in Rubies. A colleague reminded me that this is very much the way Baryshnikov did the role "until Balanchine made him tone it down."

Someone also pointed out something to me that I'd missed, and which may explain the unease some of us have sensed with "Emeralds." There's a rake at the back of the stage (the stage isn't raked, so this is an added, superficial rake). They don't use it, but avoid it -- leaving very little dancing room. Since our stage is smaller than the Mariinsky stage, this may have caused problems.

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