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Mme. Bessmertnova's Raymonda


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In preparation for the upcoming run of the Mariinsky's Raymonda at DC, I have been revisiting the DVD of the Bolshoi, with Mme. Bessmertnova in the title role. I'm very fond of this production for personal reasons. Some of you here might remember that a while ago-(exactly 8 years now)- I went trough an extremely hard situation related with my mom's health, and countless days and nights I found myself seating in hospital waiting areas and praying for the best-(which thank God was the end result). Anyhow...I always had my laptop and my ballet DVD's, which I used to revisit over and over and over. The Raymonda with Bessmertnova was a usual pick, and I used to scrutinize her magnificent solo in the last act-(the "clap variation").

I don't think I will ever watch, live or recorded, a Raymonda that convey all that I love in a ballerina. Mme. Bessmertnova is a class act in this solo. We know that she was already past her prime here, so it is in this section-(which is not a hyper technical one)-where she demonstrates what made her one of the most celebrated ballerinas of her generation.

Mme. takes a very languid approach to the solo, while incorporating a wonderful royal bearing that I have not seen in any other Raymondas. This is a Raymonda that slides around the stage in a way that, when others rely on hard claps and too serious faces as if saying "look at me!",has a total command of her domains by saying "You KNOW you have to look at me..". There's an almost hypnotic quality to her solo, and if looking carefully, one can even see that certain movements start from her head and neck down to her pointes. It is simply amazing to watch this amazing body control in which you SEE the head of a ballerina guiding the rest of the body with such beauty.

I am sure that Bessmertnova's age played an important role in how this subtleties were achieved, and I also know that I am attracted to ballerinas who are not too young anymore. That was the usual case during my formative ballet viewing days, so I guess I started to absorb very early the unique way in which experienced dancers approach roles, particularly if a dramatic portray is required.

RIP Natalia Bessmertnova,

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Just remember that the Sergeyev version of Raymonda has some different choreography. Overall, Raymonda's variations are pretty much the same, although there are slight differences. The style is also very different. Grigorovich created a much more athletic and "strong" version, in my opinion. Sergeyev has Raymonda coming out picking up flowers which, in my opinion, says a lot about the differences in style between the Bolshoi's version and the Mariinsky's version. I feel they are very different. Raymonda seems like a dainty, joyful young girl in the Mariinsky's version in Act. 1 and eventually becomes a full woman of the world by the final variation.

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Gorgeous. But I do like it when the claps are audible, it gives a more distinctive feeling for me. I remember an interview with Freddie Franklin saying that Danilova (who would have remembered the old Mariinsky version) said they should be real claps, and the Balanchine version uses them too. The Nureyev 1-act version that he set for the Royal Ballet had loud claps, so presumably the more stylized ones are comparatively recent. Mary

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