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The Bolshoi under Vaziev

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I first saw Etudes danced by ABT with Toni Lander as the featured ballerina and from then almost to the present day by English National Ballet (nee Festival) with amazing casts, not least Margot Miklosy whose chaine turns were so fast she turned into a blur, incidentally the last Bolshoi dancer I saw with that turn of speed was Ananiashvili, at her peak a good twenty years ago.  I think Russians can't dance it, I saw the Maryinsky screw it up when they danced in it in London too.

I've watched the Bolshoi for well over forty years and the female principals have never been such a sorry bunch as they are today.  My interest is live performance not mulling over endless videos on you tube, only of value to watch historic performances in my view.  Ballet is a performing art, if the audience doesn't turn up the art dies.  It doesn't exist for a tiny elite that can tell a pas de chat from a gargouillade or for a moneyed elite that can afford the front row of the stalls.  The Bolshoi had a unique identity and it danced full out for its audience and its impact was felt throughout the theatre regardless of where you happened to be sitting, no half baked dialled in performances back then but full blooded vibrant performances that made people love the art and that is what I want to see.

Very little mention of the Bolshoi males, dancers in the one company where the men were virtuosos one and all, despite my suggestion to widen the conversation,  Jayne has also raised questions worthy of discussion on this thread,  Socio- political influence on the company anyone?

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The Russian forums are becoming burdensome and tedious.  I'm monitoring them, and they are in danger of being shut down.

But I'm willing to see if the following guidelines work before doing anything drastic:

1. Say what you have to say once. 

2. Having the last word doesn't make it true: we can all read and decide which argument is convincing, and that's not automatically the last.

3. We're not a fan board, so don't treat this as one.

4. If someone announces their opinion as if it is scripture from on high, that doesn't make it any less of an opinion.

Of course, cheap (or maybe even free these days) discussion board software can be cheap.  (Ours isn't, because it covers two boards and thousands of members.)  Anyone is welcome to start their own English-language discussion board about Russian Ballet or all ballet and moderate it as they will.

 

ETA:  We're also not a chat board: that's what PM's are for.

 

 

 

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I'll keep it brief then, have seen Lopatin live a number of times and he is very good indeed, Oscar Frame is due to debut as Bluebird.

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Lopatin is a fabulous dancer - he has maybe the best technique of all the males.    He is not tall though, so needs a short ballerina.  

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If I may take a stab at your original question: I think MadameP hits it right on the head when she says it is important to look at various aspects of a dancers performance, including correct technique, epaulement, arms, musicality, phrasing, presence, and ability to inhabit a role.  I would add to this that technique is only a means to an end, in classical ballet it allows the dancer to move beautifully, strike beautiful poses, make smooth transitions and, most importantly, express and play a role in a way that moves you. And the better command of technique a dancer has, the better they are able to do that. But technique cannot be an end in itself. If a dancer possesses sound technique, but is completely devoid of any expressiveness, personality or acting ability, watching just this technique will be bland and boring, like drinking distilled water that feels dead on the lips. What's great for an exercise in a ballet class may not be so great on a stage in front of an audience. Here I am not talking about performances of plotless pieces that emphasize technical virtuosity, a truly virtuoso performance still requires a dancer to be expressive in addition to possessing technical talent. 

I agree that it is incorrect to approach ballet as if it were figure skating, scoring it primarily on the difficulty and quality of execution of a certain element. Having said that, if a dancer has poor technique, her or his dancing would visibly appear as incomplete, sloppy and unsatisfying, even to an untrained eye, and this would also mar the impression of the dancer's role. So would a consistent inability to perform certain standard elements in a classical dancer's arsenal. If someone repeatedly stumbles on fouettes night in and night out, it is a serious problem indeed. But if you have just seen one of the most breathtaking Odiles or Kitris of your life, why would you care whether she then makes 32 spins and not 30 or even 28? (as long as they are in synch with the music) Conversely, if she has just delivered a bland and lifeless performance with hardly any personality or conviction behind her role, spinning 32 perfect rounds would be just as meaningless and useless.

I think Vaziev's goal at the Bolshoi is to maintain the core beauty of classical ballet where good technique and compelling expressiveness are finely balanced. Which is why I think he favors dancers like Smirnova, who, despite whatever anyone claims here, is the epitome of a ballerina with graceful beautiful technique in a graceful beautiful body form combined with incredible acting ability that is not just compelling and convincing - it is spellbinding!

Edited by Fleurdelis

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12 hours ago, Quinten said:

Yulia Stepanova has a blurringly fast chain turn.  Somebody who saw her last Etudes in person actually complained it was too fast, like a circus trick.  :P

If this was the October performance, I can see why because I was there. She was sweating so profusely that sweat drops that were flying off her spins could have splattered over the front rows, I certainly regretted sitting so up close as being able to see it.

On 1/29/2018 at 4:48 PM, Mashinka said:

I last saw Alexandrova a matter of months ago in Raymonda pas de deux, plenty of finesse there .  For me performing steps accurately rates highly and Alexandrova gives the choreographers text without cheating through flawed technique.  

I saw a younger pre-injury Alexandrova in Raymonda (Zakharova had just given up on dancing it, so I had no other choice). While her technique was indeed flawless, her characterization had all the finesse of a sledgehammer, which she unfortunately brings into every single one of her roles, whether appropriate or not. And no, this is not Bolshoi style, you could never say the same about Ananiashvili, Maximova, Bessmertnova or even Plisetskaya.

Edited by Fleurdelis

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12 hours ago, Quinten said:

Has anybody actually seen Lopatin in  a live performance?  Is he as wonderful as they say?

Must have seen Lapatin in some supporting roles at the Balshoy but have to look up. However I remember seeing him at the gala on 22Oct16 when he and Hahlova danced the opening number Talisman PdD and the video of this is on Dailymotion :

 

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Not at Bolshoi, but Mariinsky's Olesya Novikova has some of the fastest chaine turns I have seen!  

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12 hours ago, Quinten said:

I wasn't there to be sweated on, unfortunately, so it would be nice to have your confirmation that at least one of the current Bolshoi ballerinas can do chaine turns [nearly] as fast as Ananiashvili.  Thanks!

 

I can answer your question: the chaînés were done with rapid acceleration, precisely with the music, and while the dancer was doing them not a drop of sweat could be seen on her face or body, the dancer just a moment before emerged from the wings, and each time a soloist returns to the wings, any sweat is wiped out with a towel, this is a common practice.

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On ‎1‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 3:40 PM, Helene said:

I've never seen her live as Odette or Aurora, but I have seen her Nikiya and Medira, and I thought she was gorgeous to behold in Bayadere Act III and Jardin anime, even if my favorite Alexandrova moment was in Petite Corsaire.

 

Your "favorite Alexandrova moment" performed on the 24 April 2016

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHxbzMINB4I

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Toweling off in the wings or not toweling off in the wings, when I'm sitting close, I've seen the droplet fling often enough, and I've even been hit once or twice.  Sweating is what some people do, and chaines generally happen at the end of an arduous variation.  Live theater comes with its rewards and consequences.

In Flamenco, I learned that many male performers dip their hair in buckets of water to encourage the spray, but I'm sure that isn't ballet practice.

 

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28 minutes ago, Helene said:

Toweling off in the wings or not toweling off in the wings, when I'm sitting close, I've seen the droplet fling often enough, and I've even been hit once or twice.  Sweating is what some people do, and chaines generally happen at the end of an arduous variation.  Live theater comes with its rewards and consequences.

In Flamenco, I learned that many male performers dip their hair in buckets of water to encourage the spray, but I'm sure that isn't ballet practice.

 

Maybe that's one reason I prefer the fifth row. Haven't seen or been 'rained on' yet.  :)

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14 hours ago, Quinten said:

I wasn't there to be sweated on, unfortunately, so it would be nice to have your confirmation that at least one of the current Bolshoi ballerinas can do chaine turns [nearly] as fast as Ananiashvili.  Thanks!

 

I believe the question was addressed to me, as it came in response to my message.

I cannot comment too much on the speed of Ananiashvili's chaines. I saw her several times and they were good, as far as I can recall, but is it really the speed of the chaines that she is best remembered for? Anything is possible, but I am not so sure about this.

If you meant Stepanova, looking at the diagonal of lead ballerina's chaines in Etudes, pretty much every Bolshoi dancer I saw in that role did them pretty fast, including Kovaleva, I can't say that I saw Stepanova do it any better or faster than anyone else. When it comes to speed and precision, my money would be on Krysanova, now there is some real virtuoso technique, maybe if there are videos out there it is possible to compare and contrast.

As for the sweat, of course, all dancers sweat, it can sometimes even be sexy and attractive. What I am referring to is that Stepanova's October Etudes was a particularly sweaty, arduous and joyless affair, her partners very inexperienced and somewhat careless, which seemed to cause extra stress and strain on her, understandably so, and left a tortured impression with me. Which, unfortunately, overshadowed the chaines and things like that.

Edited by Fleurdelis

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One fouette more or less, one chainee more or less, one double or triple more or less ... honestly i prefer to look at the whole picture of a performance. 

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Please do not misquote me, I absolutely did not say 'no Bolshoi ballerina since Ananiashvili has been able to do fast chaine turns'.  I wrote the following:

 I first saw Etudes danced by ABT with Toni Lander as the featured ballerina and from then almost to the present day by English National Ballet (nee Festival) with amazing casts, not least Margot Miklosy whose chaine turns were so fast she turned into a blur, incidentally the last Bolshoi dancer I saw with that turn of speed was Ananiashvili, at her peak a good twenty years ago.  I think Russians can't dance it, I saw the Maryinsky screw it up when they danced in it in London too.

I was writing about Margot Miklosy in Etudes and my experiences of watching that one ballet.

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Re:  deleted posts:  unless those expert opinions are public-facing, ie, official, do not post about them here.

 

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On 2/1/2018 at 11:53 AM, Helene said:

chaines generally happen at the end of an arduous variation.

 

In "Études" the chaînés happen at the very beginning. The soloist enters from the wings at the far back of the stage and begins with a diagonale of accelerating chaînés that end in the middle of the stage, far from the proscenium, then proceeds in reverse. The Bolshoi stage is huge, taking into account the separation of the front rows by the orchestra pit, even if the artiste just emerged from a pool, she would not be able to splatter anybody in the audience. Leaving this aside, the artiste begins the chaînes after being absent from the stage for 7 full minutes. If we are to trust the witness that the artiste appeared on the stage swimming in sweat, I suppose the artiste must have decided to spend those 7 precious minutes taking a relaxing sauna. What a nice personal touch...

It goes without saying that I wasn't able to observe a single drop of sweat during those chaînés. The remaining revelations of the same trusted witness ("arduous and joyless affair") everybody can verify himself, there is a HD video that contains a big portion of the "Études" debut. If anything, the October reprise was only better. Expressions like "arduous and joyless" arise in my mind when I think of performances of Smirnova.

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52 minutes ago, Gnossie said:

But yes, given the treatment given to Gudanov, Alexandrova and Kaptsova, yes, Skvortsov (and also Shipulina) are probably next on the demotion list. 

And yet when Skvortsov took to the Bolshoi stage on Wednesday night, the audience roared with approval from the beginning of his performance to his last curtain call.

On the applause level, the whole evening was very telling. First Stepanova's Lilac Fairy appeared to entrance applause from a small group seated together, but it didn't catch on through the house. The other prologue fairies, all corps members being advanced by Vaziev, most wobbly, could barely muster any applause at all. I felt terrible for those young women and ended up starting the applause for nearly every variation, and I was the last one still clapping as they made their exits.

In Act 1, Zhiganshina began her extremely premature debut as Aurora. There was basically no entrance applause, her performance was very nervous and stiff, and whatever bravos were heard came from the same claqueish voices heard during every Bolshoi broadcast. 

Then Skvortsov came flying onto the stage in Act 2, and the theater just exploded. Perhaps after the tenseness of Zhiganshina's performance during the previous act, the audience felt like: "Finally! Now we'll get some real dancing." In his case, the audience was enraptured. Practically every time he emerged from the wings, there was applause. Every time he completed a diagonal or a manège, there were cries of "bravo!" coming from every corner. He received lots and lots of rhythmic clapping, and it was entirely deserved.

Prior to the performance, the woman seated next to me was having a conversation with a friend who had come by to say hello. "So what did you think of Onegin?" "Oh, Skvortsov was sensational. I don't care for Lantratov in that ballet. And Rodkin is a big zero. He just doesn't understand the character. But Skvortsov was magnificent. Today he's playing a prince, and I don't know whether he's a prince. We'll see." She was among those who poured on the entrance applause; after all, she'd loved him in Onegin the week before. And by the end of his entrance variation she was beside herself, and so she continued hollering and applauding through his performance. Amazing to think that she hadn't known him as a ballet prince, but Vaziev hasn't cast Skvortsov in Giselle or Swan Lake for a long time. Maybe the thunderous reaction to his entrance was a collective realization: "Heavens! That's how a ballet prince looks! We'd almost forgotten."

Meanwhile Vaziev sat alone in a box scowling and kneading his knuckles.

It should be said the audience reaction to Act 3 was miles away from what it had been during the prologue. All the storybook characters, most played by company veterans, received loud ovations. Anastasia Stashkevich as Florine was particularly well received. Perhaps consciously or unconsciously the audience felt that she should have been the one making her debut as Aurora.

So from where I stand, Vaziev's approach is mistaken and pigheaded. Evidently he thinks that by sidelining, for example, Nina Kaptsova and not giving her Aurora to dance, the audience won't have a basis for comparison, and they may be fooled into thinking that Zhigashina is doing a good job out there, even though she's barely managing. Kaptsova should be out there dancing Aurora and showing Vaziev's young favorites how it's done, and Zhiganshina needs to spend a few more years dancing fairy variations and Princess Florine. And honestly, you'd think Vaziev would be thrilled to have artists like Alexandrova, Kaptsova, Shipulina and Skvortsov in his ranks. But he's not. What a tragedy.

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39 minutes ago, Laurent said:

The Bolshoi stage is huge, taking into account the separation of the front rows by the orchestra pit, even if the artiste just emerged from a pool, she would not be able to splatter anybody in the audience

Etudes is performed on the smaller new stage, and there the front row is closer to the edge of the stage.

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The Moscow claque is notorious. It even merited a NYTimes article. I wouldn't necessarily trust the applause meters in Moscow considering you don;t know who has paid their "dues" and who hasn't.

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It's a wonder only if you believe what's being written here, like "Shipoulina the legend", "Zakharova's Aurora as an abomination" and so on. It's so off I will not even attempt refuting it.

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What's a wonder is that with such bitterness expressed by fans, claques that distort the audience response, hit-man YouTube videos, what could have been a fatal attack on a director, a company divided in response, the administrative turmoil of at least the last decade, and a change in administration that predictably undermined the hierarchy, that any productive dancing gets done.

 

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