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The Bolshoi under Vaziev

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I also saw Smirnova's Kitri in London. Well, I saw two-thirds of it because I abandoned the performance before the final act. I'd say the fault for that was about 50% Rodkin, 40% Smirnova and 10% their terrible chemistry together. The performance wasn't convincing, and Smirnova in particular looked miscast.

I generally try to pass over things I dislike in silence, but both Smirnova and Rodkin are dancers who really stick in my craw, so I can't restrain myself in their cases. Needless to say, their current prominence at the Bolshoi doesn't leave me jumping for joy.

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On 1/29/2018 at 3:04 AM, Laurent said:

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.

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.  Her age doesn't bother me in the least.

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26 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

I also saw Smirnova's Kitri in London. Well, I saw two-thirds of it because I abandoned the performance before the final act. I'd say the fault for that was about 50% Rodkin, 40% Smirnova and 10% their terrible chemistry together. The performance wasn't convincing, and Smirnova in particular looked miscast.

I generally try to pass over things I dislike in silence, but both Smirnova and Rodkin are dancers who really stick in my craw, so I can't restrain myself in their cases. Needless to say, their current prominence at the Bolshoi doesn't leave me jumping for joy.

That was first night, what does it say for Vaziev's judgement that those two danced it?  Critics usually only attend the first nights of most things so all the boss managed to do was ensure lukewarm reviews.

You don't mention Dryad Queen, I won't mention her name but she was appalling.  After that I felt like packing up and going home too. 

 

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Surely there is more to evaluate in Vaziev’s term than the circumfrance of a dancer’s thighs?  

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I’ve been watching the video of Boris Akimov teaching his class at the Bolshoi during World Ballet Day.  I guess he’s already a legend after having taught for over fifty years. It’s a pleasure to see someone like him behind the scenes. He has a gentle and warm presence and his own dance ability is almost magical.

Also viewing Olga Chenchikova, Makhar Vaziev’s wife, coaching Alyona Kovalyova, she seems kind enough and respectful.

This is the sort of thing that I would hope for at a great art institution such as the Bolshoi.

Added:

I guess I have to get this off my chest, although I didn't want to. I watched the video clip of Makhar Vaziev coaching what looks to be the corps de ballet of La Bayadere during World Ballet Day. Although he doesn't look that overbearing, I have no idea what he's saying. The main thing is that I've never seen so many unhappy faces among the dancers. Not good.
 

Edited by Buddy

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"Cheating through flawed technique", an so on : these outright lies are verifiable, links to complete recordings of the recent Odette/Odile and to an hour long HD recording were posted in this forum, everybody can see for himself.

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I am generally not a fan of Russians dancing Balanchine as I think they don't get the speed and quick footwork but I saw Smirnova's Diamonds live and this video confirms my impression of her live is that there is nothing egregious about her dancing. It might not be to your taste but I don't see any "cheating through flawed technique." If someone wants to give me specific instances in this clip of her terribleness I'm ready to be enlightened but I don;t see anything horrible about this.

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Smirnova's hands are indeed bad, this is already manifest in the still cadre of the posted video, all those awkward "angles" have no right to be there. As I said earlier, this is nearly impossible to correct if it wasn't corrected at school. This is, by the way, the last thing that would be noticeable in "DQ". Other than that, her "Diamonds" are polished, they project a certain image and demonstrate that she put a lot of work into them. In my experience this is her most successful piece. Smirnova is generally recognized for the amount of thought and effort she puts in every role. I prefer a more natural, less laboured approach, yet her dedication and hard work must be acknowledged.

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8 hours ago, Laurent said:

"Cheating through flawed technique", an so on : these outright lies are verifiable, links to complete recordings of the recent Odette/Odile and to an hour long HD recording were posted in this forum, everybody can see for himself.

I didn't refer to any specific dancer, I was giving my impressions  of Alexandrova.

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I find Smirnova angular and mannered, with ungainly hands, bumpy pointe work (the rises onto and descents from pointe are not smooth) and an ugly à la seconde. I hate that so often her arms are held behind her back because it gives them an insect-like appearance. Of the roles I have seen her dance--Odette-Odile, Lilac Fairy, Nikiya, Kitri, Tatiana, "Diamonds"--I found her "Diamonds" the least bothersome, and I think it's because she received better coaching from Merrill Ashley. The same was true of her partner Semyon Chudin, who has a tendency to disregard the music, although in "Diamonds" his timing was right on. Normally, though, it would appear that Smirnova's coaching reinforces her worst instincts. I remember watching the cinecast of Don Quixote and how Marina Kondratieva hovered over her during the intermission, issuing corrections until the last minute. It didn't seem to help. Her Queen of the Dryads that day was pretty terrible, and she received tepid applause. With that sort of overbearing, micro-managed coaching, it's not surprising that Smirnova comes across as studied, laboured, unnatural and completely unspontaneous. Her Tatiana, for example, looks and behaves as though she were 40 years of age. I imagine she's quite good as Marguerite Gautier. I could see her as MacMillan's Manon Lescaut. But in the 19th-century classics I find her performances poor, vaunted Vaganova training notwithstanding.

Edited by volcanohunter

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I agree with others posting here, Diamonds is by far her best role of what I've seen.

There are coaches and there are coaches, I've heard that Ms Ashley is one of the best.

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31 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

I agree with others posting here, Diamonds is by far her best role of what I've seen.

I feel duty bound to wade into this discussion, disregarding my limited knowledge and well proven vulgar tastes. I saw and reported on both Bolshoy galas on 22-23 October 2016 and on both evenings Smirnova and Chudin danced the Grand Pas Classique as the closing number. On both evenings they stole the show and got BIG applause from the house - I certainly thought it was well deserved. Video of the first evening is still available on Dailymotion (in addition to other videos from these galas) and I would appreciate hearing from the members who discussed above their technique regarding what they think of this GPC : 

 

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23 hours ago, Quinten said:

It's evident that he prefers dancers whose bodies look beautiful on stage (like Zakarhova, whose body he often describes admiringly) and who dance with classical refinement.

You mean like this?

I've deliberately chosen Anna Nikulina's most recent performance as Medora, not her debut, after quite some time under Ms Chenchikova's tutelage. Under Vaziev many beautiful dancers get only scraps, while Nikulina is cast in all sorts of roles to which she is patently unsuited. Do her extremely long arms and legs really outweigh her obvious shortcomings?

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Balanchine went against what people described as his type again and again.

When a school can vet children at a young age and predict future body type, and weed them out when their predictions fail, and these graduates are hired, there is much more homogeneity in body type,  The Bolshoi Academy seems to have more diversity among its top graduates than, for example, the Mariinsky or Paris Opera Ballet.

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29 minutes ago, Quinten said:

 In spite of her evident shortcomings, Nikulina has long been a favorite of Grigorovich, apparently because of her physical resemblance to his late wife, Natalia Bessmertnova.

It's a pity that she doesn't dance like Bessmertnova.

I think Nikulina has gotten very far on the length of her extremities. It's difficult to understand why else the company would have given a gawky 19-year-old Odette-Odile to dance if not for the fact that the Bolshoi likes its Swan Queens as elongated as possible. The tragedy is that 14 years later she's still gawky. Etudes, Diamonds, Carmen, Kitri, the Sylph?! With that footwork? All this has been under Vaziev. And she was cast in Etudes before that dreadful broadcast, so it couldn't have been the leverage used against Vaziev.

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Anna Nikulina was dancing a lot before Vaziev. She's a favorite of Grigorovich and also of Tsiskaridze and both remain influential at the Bolshoi. She's also the preferred partner of Denis Rodkin. During the 2014 tour to NY she got leading roles in Swan Lake and Spartacus. 

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32 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Anna Nikulina was dancing a lot before Vaziev.

No, not really. I think if you were to go back and count performances, you'd see that her workload was smaller than that of other dancers because her repertoire was narrower. It made sense to take her to New York in 2014 precisely because the rep also included Spartacus. The company hadn't taken her to London the year before even though most of the ballets were in her repertoire, and she wasn't injured. In the five years that Filin was nominally director, she made debuts in nine roles. Vaziev has been director for under two years and she's made debuts in six roles already.

I remember Tsiskaridze making a strangely backhanded observation about her Giselle, something about young artists today being unafraid to look ugly on stage.

It doesn't matter what Rodkin thinks of her. He's assigned pretty much permanently to Zakharova. Grigorovich loves both Nikulina and Rodkin, so they dance together frequently in his ballets. Otherwise, not so much.

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10 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

Her Queen of the Dryads that day was pretty terrible, and she received tepid applause. 

Tepid applause, really? More like your pants are on fire...:D

 

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3 hours ago, mnacenani said:

That'll be the day ...... currently I can only tell the difference between a perfect "32 fouettées" and a rather imperfect one ..... :D:D

It's easy enough to count, and I have seen Alexandrova, Smirnova, and Stepanova ALL executive them, although not recently in Alexandrova's case.  However, correct academic technique, epaulement, arms, musicality, phrasing, presence, ability to inhabit a role  ... so many factors make up a true ballerina.  There is no such thing as a ballerina who never makes a technical mistake, but that is only part of the whole picture of what makes up a true artiste.  

Edited by MadameP

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41 minutes ago, Fleurdelis said:

Tepid applause, really? More like your pants are on fire...:D

Yes, tepid. It lasted less than ten seconds, and you hear the same claquer over and over again.

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Smirnova has a strange tendency of overcrossing her fifth position when on flat to the extent that her legs look like a 8 shape.

Just playing devil’s advocate here...The  timer on the video actually registers the duration of applause as~10 sec. 

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8 hours ago, MadameP said:

There is no such thing as a ballerina who never makes a technical mistake,

Sure thing, even Zaharova is not millisecond-perfect at times. But if by chance you have seen a certain dancer in 3 galas within 2 months, and she danced the same Medora-Ali PdD in all three, and failed to execute a proper "32 fouettées" on all three occasions ???  Don't worry, I will not name any names, wouldn't you also acquire a negative outlook ? My simplistic logic goes like :  either get your 32 fouettées in shape, or get something else as your showpiece !!

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On 1/30/2018 at 9:53 AM, volcanohunter said:

I think Nikulina has gotten very far on the length of her extremities. It's difficult to understand why else the company would have given a gawky 19-year-old Odette-Odile to dance if not for the fact that the Bolshoi likes its Swan Queens as elongated as possible. The tragedy is that 14 years later she's still gawky. Etudes, Diamonds, Carmen, Kitri, the Sylph?! With that footwork? All this has been under Vaziev. And she was cast in Etudes before that dreadful broadcast, so it couldn't have been the leverage used against Vaziev.

According to what I know, Nikulina was picked by Grigorovich for his drame-ballets, like "Ivan the Terrible", and for many years those ballets remained her specialty. Occasional classical parts were a bonus, I think, and, at least initially, the desire of the management to see her potential in classics. Later, she was dancing classics more by default or by inertia, than by anything else. Elongated lines for Odette and Odile, by the way, seem to be preference everywhere, and for obvious reasons. Maximova and Kolpakova, with one exception or two, didn't dance "Swan Lake", while Bessmertnova, who did, didn't shine in it.

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Could it be that she has been placed with Chenchikova and given more opportunities to mollify the Grigorovich faction?  Or did Vaziev/Chenchikova spot something in her that prompted them to give her another chance?  Whatever the reason, I doubt it has anything to do with the length of her extremities.

To switch the pedagogues was Nikulina's own decision. It helps her to improve her classical technique that never was her forte, and simultaneously to be more in spotlight. I, for once, saw a marked improvement since she switched to Tchentchikova, but I rarely have an opportunity to see her performing. I was utterly unimpressed with her Giselle two years ago and I am not keen on attending her performances.

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Vaziev's spectacular failure with the Etudes broadcast , which weakened him.

You know, Vaziev in the trade is considered to be a top notch professional. . With "Etudes", I think, he intended to make a point. And he did. It didn't weaken him. It actually strengthened his case versus the local opposition, self-satisfied with themselves and steeped in 'we are the best in the world' attitude. To them he amply demonstrated that the corps de ballet and the soloists of the Bolshoi were in urgent need of improvement and refinement. In less than two years, I noticed a very marked improvement occurred. Two years ago I could not even watch Bolshoi's "Les Émeraudes", last October I was surprised that I liked them perhaps better than how they are danced in Paris, there was across aboard so much refinement compared to what was less than two years ago. A great amount of attention and work accomplished was evident.

Concerning his forces, when he arrived, there were no more "many beautiful dancers" at Bolshoi that waited to be developed. During Serguei Filine's tenure, only a few dancers were seeing green light. His energies were focused on promoting Olga Smirnova as the next big thing, as a result the theatre invested so many assets into Smirnova that it is understandable it cannot now simply back down. To my knowledge, and I have been a long time observer, refined young dancers like Okouneva who, ten-seven years ago, were showing promise, under Filine were not given an opportunity to grow. In the ballet world, if you don't grow, you wilt. I saw less than two years ago, for example, Tchinara Alizade, dancing Nikiya, this was after she left Bolshoi, what I saw told me that whatever talent she had before it was already essentially extinguished. I am glad she has at least a career of a principal in a decent company. Anna Tikhomirova is a case apart. In several big roles, and some smaller ones, she was literally unable to complete her performance. This was shortly before Vaziev's arrival. One of the first things Vaziev did was to give Tikhomirova another chance, against the advise of those who witnessed the previous cases of her meltdown, he gave Tikhomirova a debut in "Giselle", one of the easiest and least strenuous full length roles, and this happened again. Tikhomirova may forever remain a specialist of small forms. I have been keenly observing Turazashvili and Karpova and, in all honesty, I have little desire seeing either one dancing big parts.

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The Bolshoi position has different expectations than the AD at NYCB.  The government relations, pleasing billionaire patrons (and their spouses’ favorite dancers), the legacy of choreographers, etc.  

Vaziev has inherited most of his principals.  The Bolshoi has always been known as the “redblooded” company, and Mariinsky as the “blueblooded”.  

In his favor, I think his working relationship at Mariinsky and La Scala with Ratmansky helped bring the choreographer back to Moscow to stage R&J.  And a Ratmansky festival was mentioned at one point.  I hope it comes to fruition.  

The relentlessly negative criticism (and threatening to yank roles) on Alexandrova backfired.  Artists are sensitive souls, and I profoundly dislike this treatment of any professional.  

I have no way to evaluate Vaziev’s government or donor relations.  But mire scandals have not erupted, Tsiszkaride is far away in St Petersburg, and the Nureyev ballet seems to have threaded the needle of pleasing artists and conservatives.

Surely there is a better way to set up principals for retirement?  An exchange with other Russian theatres that would give Bolshoi stars every opening night, worshipful applause and gala fees?  

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18 minutes ago, Laurent said:

In an informal gala, by the way, an artiste with established artistic credentials is allowed all sorts of freedoms, essentially is allowed to do whatever she pleases.

Sorry, cannot accept any such thing, certainly not in front of a paying audience - there is something wrong here. Can one ever imagine, say Zaharova or Krysanova not showing their best in any gala they take part in ?? There should be respect for the paying audience, the dancer cannot, should not say "these are amateurs and tourists and won't notice or care".

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