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The Bolshoi under Vaziev

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Hmm here are the facts:

Maria Alexandrova by her own account suffered a devastating Achilles heel injury in in 2013. When I saw her in the Bolshoi tour a year later she was pretty clearly limited in her movements. Her once buoyant jump was no more. She turns 40 this year. Her career would have likely winded down with or without Vaziev with the combination of age + injuries. Before Vaziev arrived she wasn't dancing that often. If anything her career probably got a second wind because she is the offstage partner of Vladislav Lanatrov.

Olga Smirnova is not a Vaziev find. Smirnova was heavily promoted by Sergei Filin, to the point where during Pavel Dmitrienko's trial all sorts of accusations of Smirnova sleeping with Filin were thrown around. Vaziev has simply kept Smirnova in place as one of the prima ballerinas at the Bolshoi.

Yulia Stepanova is also not a Vaziev hire. She was hired by Sergei Filin towards the end of his tenure as AD after having spent several years at the Mariinsky where she was given roles like O/O and Firebird. She was offered a contract as a soloist and would likely be dancing the same amount if Filin was still there.

Ekaterina Kryasanova's career does not seem to have been harmed by Vaziev as AD. If anything she's been headlined more as she's had two HD's so far (Le Corsaire and Ratmansky's R + J).

Evgenia Obraztsova's career is an odd one -- she left the Mariinsky AFTER Vaziev left. In this interview in the FT she makes it clear her beef was with Yuri Fateyev:

https://www.ft.com/content/3638845e-e323-11e2-bd87-00144feabdc0

"There was no dialogue with him, no monologue, and I couldn't evolve. The Mariinsky needs a strong leader, someone with a mind of his own, and Yuri is easily influenced. He's made the company very flat."

She was a favorite of Filin's BUT even when Filin was AD she wasn't dancing much. She's since married and had twins, and is dancing about as much as she was dancing when Filin was AD, which is to say some but not that much. 

The only real Vaziev "finds" are Alena Kovaleva, Jacopo Tissi, and Margaret Shrainer. Those are the three he has pushed very heavily since he's become AD.

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37 minutes ago, Fleurdelis said:

So, if the leg is raised in front of the body, it is tasteful. And if behind, it is vulgar. Is this how it works?

And let's remember that there was a claim made earlier that technique itself can be vulgar. So, if that's the case, context shouldn't matter, right?

It makes a difference, because if the leg is raised directly to the side, and the pelvis is tilted sideways, the spine will necessarily be more off-center, hence the line is more distorted. This is obvious in Zakharova's Carmen photo. (Also, the alignment of Guillem's supporting leg is better.)

I won't make arguments for anyone else's position lest I should misrepresent it, but when I mention context I mean that some ballets are more tolerant of deviations from proper technique than others. But just because a 190-degree split is less glaringly out of place in Carmen Suite than it would be in Sleeping Beauty still doesn't mean it looks any less vulgar there. Only in Carmen Suite it could be argued to fit the character. There is no possible way it suits Princess Aurora.

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Hmm here are the facts:

Maria Alexandrova by her own account suffered a devastating Achilles heel injury in in 2013. When I saw her in the Bolshoi tour a year later she was pretty clearly limited in her movements. Her once buoyant jump was no more. She turns 40 this year. Her career would have likely winded down with or without Vaziev with the combination of age + injuries. Before Vaziev arrived she wasn't dancing that often. If anything her career probably got a second wind because she is the offstage partner of Vladislav Lanatrov.

 

Video of Corsaire and Bayadere from well after the New York tour inclines me to think she made a better recovery from her injuries than the New York Kitri suggested. Either she needed more time to recover (that tour was just one year after the injury) and/or Kitri was just more impacted than Gamzatti or Medora. But even her jump seems in better form in video from  performances that at least on youtube are dated well after the NY visit. (I saw the Kitri in New York and in those performances I agree she could scarcely jump at all.) I also agree that her career would have wound down in the coming years, but many ballerinas have a lot to offer at 39-40 and even older. So, I think it's a shame Alexandrova's Bolshoi career has been cut short (or very limited) whatever the reasons.  For me, it's not really a question of whether Vaziev is a good guy or a bad guy or could have handled things differently--she's a terrific ballerina of a particularly "Bolshoi" kind, so I'm still kind of bummed about it.

2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWAI-NTIzjY

2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdSDoR-D_wU

(It's not that these are my favorite Alexandrova performances, but I decided to link to them because she is jumping better than I remember seeing in New York in 2014.)

Edited by Drew
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Thanks Drew. I agree that she is jumping better in these clips than what I remember seeing in 2014. I still see a carefulness and preparation that wasn't there previously. Her jump used to be one of those light, buoyant wonders that only the Bolshoi could produce.

Here she is right before her Achilles tendon injury:

The Achilles heel injury is devastating and it's rare for dancers or athletes to fully recover. Jennie Somogyi never really recovered after her two Achilles heel injuries.

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On 1/25/2018 at 9:36 AM, mnacenani said:

Do excuse my ignorance but if what I have been seeing at the Bolshoy over the last three years had "a dash of vulgarity and inelegance" ..... I loved it, couldn't get enough !  To my mind Bolshoy ballet is alive and exciting and full of spirit in a way I fail to detect at the Mariinsky, maybe my shortcoming.

This has been an ongoing topic since Petipa sent Gorsky to Moscow -- long before any of us were born.

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19 hours ago, mnacenani said:

As she defected to "contemptable choreo" Guillem is a counter-revolutionary and an enemy of the people and should be sent to the gulag !!

Pardon me?

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On 1/25/2018 at 8:40 AM, canbelto said:

That was Edwin Denby's reaction upon seeing the Bolshoi in 1959. The Bolshoi having a dash of vulgarity and inelegance is nothing new.

This discussion (not canbelto's comments in particular) reminds me of Croce's comments on Farrell's late-early years at the NYCB (late '60s), after Farrell's return post-exile (mid-'70s): "She wasn’t joyously vulgar, like an old-style Bolshoi ballerina; she was carelessly vulgar, with no idea of the difference between one ballet and another" (can be found in the New Yorker archives and/or Croce's Writing in the Dark collection; essay is "Farrell and Farrellism"). I don't think Croce meant any of that as a stab at the Bolshoi's performance traditions; rather the opposite. They're not the Mariinski; there's a flamboyancy there, and that's good - it's part of the theatre. And there's joy there. Isn't that something? 

I adore the little film we have of "vulgar" Farrell, but it seems quite different to me than the "vulgarities" discussed here. Though maybe not; just a different era's "vulgarities."

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I actually witnessed Alexandrova's dreadful injury as it occurred in London but when she returned in 2016 she appeared fully recovered.  I don't understand ageist attitudes towards 40+ dancers, their abilities don't fall off a cliff.  I think we've had this age discussion before, but once again I'll nail my colours to the mast and say I have a strong preference for older artists, so do others here if I remember rightly.

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I also think that Alexandrova fully recovered, she is not going to dance any better. I saw her Legend of Love less than a year ago, I saw her Gamzatti a year ago, and also her Fée des lilas. She was consistent in all three performances. She was demonstrating her current best form. By my standards the stage presence and acting were great, the execution was on the crude side (mildly speaking), in the Legend of Love she was essentially dancing to her own tune, largely ignoring the musical accents that are strongly emphasized by the choreography, and with muffled, lacking crispness, articulation, as compared to the currently best performers of the same role in Bolshoi. I will continue attending her performances given a chance because she was and is an artiste (in February she will be dancing twice principal roles at Bolshoi).

I refuse to order dancers on a linear scale and I am unable to sympathise with those who do, ballet is not one-dimensional. I have tender feelings for Osipova, who has been called vulgar more often than any other ballerina of her stature, who has no lines to talk about (unlike, for example, Smirnova, who has very pronounced lines, very mannered, yes, but she has lines, nevertheless), but I also hold Zakharova as the living canon of academism, tainted, but only slightly, by the corrupting influence of Guillem. When Zakharova was dancing a few years ago Aurore in Opéra Bastille, this created a commotion among the ballet people in Paris, she was representing an unattainable level compared to our own Aurores. The professeurs de danse present at that memorable representation had nothing but praise for Zakharova.

Regarding Goudanov, another dancer mentioned. For Moscow connoisseurs, Goudanov was unique as being the only male dancer at Bolshoi representing what can be termed "the culture of dance", he was viewed by them to be their only true danseur noble. I saw him twice before his retirement, in Giselle with Nikulina, and as Prince Desiré, partnered by Kaptsova. On both occasions, he felt a spent force. He seemed to be little interested in what he was dancing, and who he was dancing with.

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I understand the concept of line in ballet, indeed in Britain, line and musicality are the cornerstone of what was once called the English Style, but I am puzzled by the plural usage, it seems to imply that a dancer is somehow separated into parts and the intrinsic flow is lost as the limbs display line of their own, is this why the once admired flow of movement is lost?

 

Who calls Osipova vulgar?  I would call her exciting and extraordinarily versatile.

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I also saw Alexandrova's Legend of Love (and Kitri) -  I generally do not like her as a dancer as she is too aggressive and lacking in refinement for me - but I did  enjoy  her performance as Mekhmene Banu.  Her execution IS crude and honestly she has horrible lines - she is very muscular and short limbed - but she has undeniable presence and command of the stage,.    I would like to see her dancing more of the roles appropriate to her, but honestly within the last two years, her Sylphide and Aurora were both just miscasting in my opinion.  

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I actually admire her attack in the punchier roles, it compares well to the listless presentation I detect and deplore among certain of her colleagues.  I see nothing "horrible" about her and having watched her since she was a student and I particularly admire most is her mastery of allegro.

To describe her as "short limbed is patently absurd - as this picture testifies

maria-masha-alexandrova-bolshoi-ballet.j

 

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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.

 

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Her Odette is a revelation, feral, passionate and tragic, she makes you feel you are seeing the ballet for the very first time.

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That photo of Alexandrova clearly cleverly uses light and shade to thin down Alexandrova's muscular legs- and it is her muscularity that makes her look stocky.  She certainly is not an elegant dancer, but one with a bold, passionate presence on stage, and I do like her in some roles, but for me she will never be a Petipa ballerina.  

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59 minutes ago, MadameP said:

That photo of Alexandrova clearly cleverly uses light and shade to thin down Alexandrova's muscular legs- and it is her muscularity that makes her look stocky.  She certainly is not an elegant dancer, but one with a bold, passionate presence on stage, and I do like her in some roles, but for me she will never be a Petipa ballerina.  

You may of course think that; Petipa himself might have begged to differ: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierina_Legnani#/media/File%3ACinderella_-title_role_-Pierina_Legnani_-1893.jpg

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Maybe I should have added "for today's standards."  Of course, Petipa was working with the ballerinas he had available, who for the most part, had vastly different physiques from the ballerinas of today.   

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I don't understand an objection to muscularity, I always thought it was inevitable that their profession built up muscles in the legs.  I don't see Alexandrova as stocky as she isn't particularly short.

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And isn't that just getting back to another facet of the disquiet about Vaziev's leadership? That the present day Vaganova/Mariinsky (and incidentally, when you're talking physique, NYCB) ideal should prevail?

Edited by Liza

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Alexandrova is not short and she isn't fat. The other day she was standing about a foot and a half from me in her evening civies, and she looked slim by "normal people" standards, but certainly more robust than the average ballet dancer. She has broad shoulders and a muscular build. The conventional "strapless" classical tutu doesn't do her any favors. Sometimes the musculature of her thighs seems to rival that of some of her male partners. Presumably this is the source of her enormous jump. Alexandrova also doesn't try to move in a particularly delicate or "feminine" sort of way, which also influences the way audiences perceive her body. If you look back at films of her from her early 20s, you can see that she strove to dance in a more conventionally "graceful" sort of way, perhaps conscious of the fact that by ballet standards she was considered "big." But somewhere along the way this disappeared and her manner of moving became more brusque.

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1 hour ago, volcanohunter said:

Sometimes the musculature of her thighs seems to rival that of some of her male partners.

Nyet prablyem !  Her stage presence and excellent technique for me far outweigh any less than perfect form she may have. I have seen a prima or two who have perfect form but failed to execute the "32 fouettées" properly on more than one occasion ..... :o:D:D:D

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3 hours ago, Quinten said:

Bolshoi was quite strict about weight, even before Vaziev.

Sure, but weight and build/body type are different things.

 

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On 1/28/2018 at 11:09 PM, mnacenani said:

Nyet prablyem !  Her stage presence and excellent technique for me far outweigh any less than perfect form she may have. I have seen a prima or two who have perfect form but failed to execute the "32 fouettées" properly on more than one occasion ..... :o:D:D:D

O.K., once again: untidy fouettés happen regularly even to the fouettés specialists, it seems you are not aware of that. Stable execution of the fouettés requires, beyond proper technique, constant practice which is dangerous for the feet. Last time I saw her fouettés, they were lousy, and the "technique" that you imagine to be "excellent" has markedly loosened up. Normal circumstances of ageing.

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Deeply saddened that this thread has descended into the rubbishing of one particular dancer, particularly as she is one of the very best out there.  Sad also that it is her compatriots that gleefully put the boot in.  Once again I'm reminded how  standards of excellence vary from country to country, in the UK she is massively popular and by common consent gave the best performance during the last Bolshoi visit if you judge by applause.  London also enjoys a love in with Krysanova and Tikhomirova, two ladies possessing  the qualities the Brits adore, strong personalities and seamless dancing, but despite playing second fiddle to Smirnova who opened with an embarrassingly bad Don Q,  Alexandrova  showed us there is still life in the company on the second night.

Any thoughts on the males?  Saw Tsvirko dance last night, he was tremendous but not a principal I'm told,  Now why is that?

 

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I didn't attend Smirnova's "Don Quixote" in London but I know for sure that it could not be "embarrassingly bad", I also know that a uniquely gifted, and technically very refined, dancer cannot be the "nadir", "mediocre", etc. I know a couple of long term ballet goers in London, and they have a strong preference for finesse and refinement, not crudeness, not in-your-face acting, they prefer pure classical lines, not approximate. Talking about the ballerina as if she was ten years younger invites testimonies of those who saw her multiple times recently.

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