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Petipa Gala

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On 6/2/2018 at 9:43 AM, mnacenani said:

As a result, "Dedication to Petipa" was somewhat disrespectful to the classics. Twenty years ago, no one would have noticed: in those years, Russia had not yet thought about the authenticity of the performance, nor about the restoration of the choreography - it was considered normal to "perfect" the dance and staging the needs of the current moment and specific performers. However, at the turn of the century the Mariinsky Ballet - just during the time of the director's office there Mahar Vaziev - committed an artistic revolution: Sergei Vikharev presented his "Sleeping Beauty", recreating the appearance of the performance of the XIX century. Later, the artistic director of the Bolshoi Aleksey Ratmansky was carried away by restoration works, and his successor Yuri Burlaka also took pains. There are also quite scientific "Corsair", "Esmeralda", "Coppelia" and "Paquita" in the repertoire of the theater. None of these productions were presented in the jubilee gala: Mahar Vaziev seemed to have returned to the era when Petipa served as a canvas for free fantasies of "editors" and teachers - the public always approves of various technical innovations, revering stuntness virtuosity. So it turns out that the anniversary of "our whole" is celebrated only in America, where Alexei Ratmansky, armed with prerevolutionary records, reconstructed one of Marius Petipa's disappeared ballets - "Millions of Harlequin". The millions allocated by Russia for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the choreographer are spent, as we do, noisily, loudly, internationally. Now it is possible with a clear conscience to forget about the Russified Frenchman and his 19th century

Thank you for posting a translation of this Kunetsova review -- I can't read Russian and so don't follow along with the critics very closely.  I've been working on an essay about reconstruction for a group of philosophers (big topic is authenticity) and have been squirreling away a lot of commentary about the topic. 

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On 6/5/2018 at 5:42 PM, Gnossie said:

What any Russian critic says about French dancers or contemporary ballet I really care NOT, one has to always bare in mind that Russians seem to suffer from some kind of lubotomy that makes them believe Ballet is a russian art form

Dear Gnossie :  if you will excuse me, after seeing ballet in Russia since January 2015 I also believe that ballet over time has become and IS a Russian art form. There is a HUGE athletic and artistic chasm between what I see in Europe and Russia. Just a couple of recent examples I can quote :  the "rising star" of the RB who replaced the injured Hallberg for the second act of Giselle whose entrechats petered out after 10 seconds (he had danced the role the week before !), last week's awful Bolshoy gala Don Kixot PdD by Pagliero-Heymann. OK, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, and logistics could prevent most people from seeing ballet in Russia regularly, but if one can then there simply is "no contest". The quality of ballet at the Vaganova and Moscow graduation shows I find way above what one normally sees in London, or even Paris (if you can find any classical ballet to see !)

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Pagliero and Heymann are consummate artists. I don't know what has happened in Moscow, the rake of the stage or something else ? Don't make sweeping judgements based on a gala performance of some showcase piece. Ballet is not about it. In fact, Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, hated the circus tricks introduced by Italian touring ballerinas that contaminated and deformed ballet, which are today mistaken by many so called ballet fans to be the ballet itself. Ballet is not about the number of entrechats six or fouettés. Otherwise Anna Pavlova and Galina Ulanova would not be ballet artists according to your criteria. It is about the harmony of body movement and the beauty of lines, it is about movement filled with meaning. I saw Pagliero and Heymann on many occasions, Heymann, actually, has no counterparts in Russia, in terms of finesse of his dancing.

There are as many talented children in France or in America who dream of becoming ballet artists as in Russia. The real problem is with the coterie of ballet troupe directors and unscrupulous newspaper critics praising mediocrity, and preventing the public from seeing that the king has no clothes, like the recent two weeks of mediocrity on display in San Francisco. I had hard time finding a single critic saying that only one out of 12 works presented was actually good, a few were bearable, and the rest — from bad to dismally bad (sorry, Mr Pita and Mr Dawson). Nothing of the kind, the whole venue got mostly good press, as if San Francisco for two weeks became the capital of the world ballet. This is what is killing ballet in the West, what deforms the dancers, makes them incompetent in classics. There is every sign that ballet is dying in the West, and the only kind of "ballet" left will be those ugly, futile contortions performed by muscular athletes and praised by rotten critics.

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8 hours ago, mnacenani said:

Dear Gnossie :  if you will excuse me, after seeing ballet in Russia since January 2015 I also believe that ballet over time has become and IS a Russian art form. There is a HUGE athletic and artistic chasm between what I see in Europe and Russia. Just a couple of recent examples I can quote :  the "rising star" of the RB who replaced the injured Hallberg for the second act of Giselle whose entrechats petered out after 10 seconds (he had danced the role the week before !), 

I'm sorry, mnacenani, but I feel your comment about MATTHEW BALL in reference to the 'entrechats' is simply unfair.  Of course blame a dancer if he is supposed to do 32 - or let's say 'a mass of' - entrechats ( and Sarafanov I agree can be totally brilliant at this) .... but NOT if the choreographer (here Sir Peter Wright) ONLY allows them (e.g., the dancers currently dancing Albrecht in THIS production as it currently stands) about 12 to a very explicit count BEFORE the variation is broken up.  IF anything 'peters out' (and I agree with you - I feel that variation - as it currently stands - does) it is the CHOREOGRAPHER'S VARIATION.  Whatever else it may be THAT IS NOT THE DANCER'S FAULT. 

Of course, I realise you may not be familiar with the production - and Wright has and will (he's in his 90's) continue to tinker with it ... Dancers will tell you he does this constantly.  Just don't blame the messenger, mnacenani, in this regard.  Matthew Ball is strong; VERY strong; he's also a fine musical actor which makes such a difference.  He is young - there is oh, so much to come from this lad ... and he has come oh, such a distance.  Please keep your eyes peeled.   It will pay off heartily.  Promise.  

Edited by meunier fan
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7 hours ago, Laurent said:

Pagliero and Heymann are consummate artists. I don't know what has happened in Moscow, the rake of the stage or something else ? Don't make sweeping judgements based on a gala performance of some showcase piece.

Mathias Heymann had just danced la Fille mal gardee in Tokyo with Birmingham Royal Ballet on May 27th before he came to Moscow. And now he is injured and out of La Fille mal gardee at POB. So I guess he might be not the usual self after crossing continents. I agree that Heymann and Pagliero are fabulous artists, and Heymann in La Fille was so fabulous, polished technique with elegance.  

And as meunier fan has pointed out, the Peter Wright version of Giselle, Albrecht is supposed to do 12 entrachats and then do some saut de basques, this is his choreography. Speaking about artists in Russia, Kimin Kim is one of the best male dancers in Russia but when I saw him in Giselle guesting in Universal Ballet of Korea he did not do entrachats but did some beautiful brisees, and that did not harm the quality of his amazing performance. 

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I'd be grateful if one of our posters from Seattle could tell us how it's done in Peter Boal's production.

I'm partial to the brisés myself. They strike me as having more dramatic purpose, whereas the entrechats-six can come across as merely a trick. For example, I remember Karl Paquette doing 36 of them, and that was impressive, but I'm not convinced the scene gained anything by his going past the allotted music. From that standpoint I can understand what Peter Wright was trying to accomplish, even though I don't like how he slows the music way down so that the entrechats can be made as large as possible. Theatrically, I think this decelerando defeats the purpose.

For the record, in the Royal Ballet film from 2014 Carlos Acosta did ten. In the film from 2016 Vadim Muntagirov did eleven. In both cases the tempo was excruciatingly slow.

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Few more impressions from the Petipa Gala. I always treat the Bolshoi's in-house ballet star galas with suspicion, since they are often poorly produced and lack a coherent concept, basically offering a hastily thrown together hodge-podge of dance pieces. For this reason, in the last several years I had tried to avoid them, but this year I let my curiosity get the better of me and I was seduced by the star pull of the names promised, ignoring the obvious signs that the lack of concept problem would still be there, even more so, because for an event supposedly dedicated to Petipa, the program had little to do with Petipa.

I should have trusted my instincts and judgment. This event would be best described by the Russian word khaltura (халтура). Its English equivalents slapdash or hack-work do not adequalty communicate its connotation. Rather than just poorly done work, khaltura means work that could have been done well, but was not not for lack of ability, but simply because no one cared. I feel very sorry about having squandered away the steep price of a Bolshoi ticket, because even talented international stars were powerless to rescue such a poor production. The few bright spots that came mainly from the local ballet artists were not enough to compensate for the producers' overall poverty of thought. 

Impressions one by one.

Kovaleva/Tissi in Balanchine's Diamonds: A performance worthy of a high-school talent show. It was a shame to see such good looking dancers having such a subpar outing. This time Kovaleva did not show her trademark confidence, and Tissi looked more confused than usual. I especially noted, to my dismay, how bad Alena's arms were becoming. They looked neither like Balanchine arms, nor Vaganova arms, I would call them Chenchikova arms: listless and flaccid, with uneven, disinterested and unfinished movements, lacking expression. She is not blessed with the most exquisite hands, they are too large even for her proportions, and the way she so carelessly places them as if they were brooms emphasizes this flaw, whereas she and her tutor must figure something out to extenuate it. The girl has a lot of promise, but I fear she encountered the wrong tutor in Chenchikova. Hope she realizes this soon enough and is saved the fate of a Somova by working with someone who can help her develop more gracefulness and expressiveness, someone like Adyrkhaeva or Semenyaka.

Khokhlova/Belyakov in the Bluebird pdd: technically Khokhlova did everything well, but showed litte character, while Belaykov was too tentative in a part that would otherwise be a showstopper in the right set of hands (or, better said, legs). Overall impression: okay, but unremarkable

Kretova/Ovcharenko in the Margot/Rudolf duet from Possokhov's Nureyev: The duet does not really resonate as a standalone piece, and in my view the dancers did not invest enough psychologically into it to make it memorable. I wonder how Lantratov and Alexandrova perform this work, they probably add more substance to it.

Kondaurova/Smekalov in the duet Preljocaj's Le Park: Solidly executed, but offered nothing new to a piece that is so often performed that I have become numbed to it.

Stashkevich/Lopatin in the pdd from Talisman: Now this is where things started getting alive and exciting. The pair were true to their nature as engaging, impactful and charismatic dancers with superb technical skills,  distinctive bodily plastics and feathery jumps. One of the high notes of the evening.

Smirnova/Vogel in the bedroom scene from Cranko's Onegin: Now, I understand that Vogel is an international star, brought, I'm sure, at no small expense, to impress and educate the Russian masses on how the Onegin part should be danced in the enlightened and progressive West. I may be uncouth and unwashed, but breaking up the strong, well-established and well-rehearsed connection between Smirnova and Lantratov in this work was a major mistake, since Vogel showed nothing to justify the trouble and the expense of bringing him in over the legitimate home-grown superstar that is Lantratov. Smirnova probably knows no equals as the most authentic embodiment of Pushkin's Tatiana, but without an authentic Onegin it was pointless.

Lacarra/Dino in white pdd from Swan Lake: Whimsical to the point of bizarre. Instead of showing swan wings, Lacarra intensely twisted her wrists in the best flamenco traditions and did small steps en pointe with such violent tapping against the floor, that left no doubt that her Odette escaped from some town in Andalucia. Dino was an effective partner-holder, but not much else

Osipova/Kittelberger in Cherkaoui's Qutb: Other than that Osipova does not look good in rolled up jeans and there was little grace in this ultra-modern opus, I really cannot say much, best to withhold judgment. I understand that this is an excerpt from a larger work, which might leave a very different impression if seen complete.

Guerin/Legris in Petit's Le Rendez-Vous: Manuel's passion and movement are incredible, but otherwise the work did not engage, looked monotonous and boring, the most anti-climactic on-stage murder I can recall.

Pagliero/Heymann in Nureyev's Don Quixote pdd: Placing Kitri and Basilio on the set from Marco Spada was plain goofy. While a town piazza somewhere outside Rome could pass for a Spanish landscape with some imagination, seeing a pair in such an energetic pdd on a deserted sun-flooded town square set the wrong mood. They looked as if they were a couple of village idiots dancing away on their own while the rest of the town was taking a happy siesta nap. The dancers  from Paris looked markedly weaker than their Russian counterparts, though from seeing them before I believe that they are capable of a much better showing. In my view, their biggest handicap was Nureyev's choreography, which is as unsightly as it is complicated, so as to leave the dancers' effort and skill unappreciated by anyone except experienced ballet professionals.

Tereshkina/Shklyarov in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky pdd: Dynamite! Tereshkina showed her usual steely technique, while Shklyarov was the most loveable ballet rascal in what was probably a very un-Balanchine demonstration of bold and irreverent virtuoso jumps and turns.

Lacarra/Dino in Twisted Spiral: Back in their own element, they were mesmerizing. I find the continuous movement of Lacarra's delicate weightless body and limbs captivating, and the contrast with Dino's manly powerful build striking. Beauty in motion.

Ferri/Gomes in After the Rain: I found it somewhat similar to the preceding work, except without the same aesthetic quality. Ferri's physical shape is very commendable for her age, but she is no Lacarra. If there was any meaning in this work, it completely escaped me. Felt like the audience was dozing off to this long and boring piece. It would have lost nothing if danced by lesser talents, so the expense of bringing such renowned names to dance something like this feels like money ill-spent.

Shrayner/Tsvirko in pdd from Flames of Paris: A welcome pick up from the previous work. Both artists danced very well, but showed no fiery revolutionary drive and devil-may-care attitude, without which this pdd turns into just an assembly of neat tricks.

Novikova/Sarafanov in pdd from Sleeping Beauty: Performed as brilliantly as one could ever perform it. But also felt that these two had mastered this pdd so thoroughly, that hey were dancing it almost in auto-pilot mode, without putting much feeling into it. Still, one of the best showings that night. During applause someone from the audience shouted out "Khaltura!"but I am sure they were not referring to these two dancers.

Sae Eun Park/Ovcharenko in Grand Pas Classique: Was looking forward to Ms. Park giving a master class in how to dance GPC as a worthy heiress to the French greats of the past. Turned out okay, but lacked the brilliance and sparkle that I expected. She had some  trouble in the first part, tipping off balance a bit and not landing on one knee synchronously with Ovcharenko. Her solo bit was decent, but I wanted to see more of a grand dame there. I would have probably preferred Hannah O'Neill in this piece because of her more marked stage presence. Ovcharenko did admirably as well, though I wish he were a bit less restrained.

Legris/Guerin in the de Bana's Farwell Waltz: I found it similar to the Petit work that the pair danced earlier, except Guerin traded high heels for pointe shoes, while Legris might have stayed in the same white shirt. I enjoyed this work more than Petit's, because there was more beauty and passion, but it also felt somewhat overlong, probably the late hour and the excessive length of the gala started getting to me at that moment.

Zakharova/Lobukhin in Tristan and Isolde: I could never get tired of admiring Zakharova's long chiseled legs and her slender willowed body being framed by the sexy masculine Mikhail Lobukhin in Tristan and Isolde. Set against a screen with a blue sky with white clouds, this duet looked heavenly. For a moment I forgot that I was on earth, it was like flying through the stratosphere!

Smirnova/Chudin in the grand pas from Raymonda: What's to say, this was classical ballet in its finest and purest form! Gorgeous, aristocratic and noble Olga and Semyon set the standard on how to dance in Raymonda. Shrayner's showing in a solo variation was clean, sharp and eye-catching. Her Coppelia yesterday would have benefited if she had a similar sharpness and sparkle. One drawback: the piece was set to a background from Marco Spada, with its Italian neo-classical arches and columns not being even remotely related to the chivalrous era of Raymonda. But other than showing a crisis with basic cultural knowledge at the Bolshoi, this anachronism did not detract too much from the performance.

Edited by Fleurdelis
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1 hour ago, Fleurdelis said:

I feel very sorry about having squandered away the steep price of a Bolshoi ticket, because even talented international stars were powerless to rescue such a poor production. The few bright spots that came mainly from the local ballet artists were not enough to compensate for the producers' overall poverty of thought

I feel doubly sorry since pulled by the gravity of the constellation I squandered away the steep price of two tickets !  Thanks for the time and effort you put into your comprehensive review - setting an example really. I am generally in agreement with your takes, just a couple of points :  I thought Kovalyova and Tissi looked very elegant, but I may not be attuned to the finer details of execution. Re Novikova will repeat my view that her sissones on both evenings were badly executed. Re Park :  OK the sync was not millisecond-sharp but I thought she was very good, and after all she won the Benois didn't she ?? Re the Bana and Pastor pieces :  can't even recall how these went - the second one a classic case of "Wagner having its glorious moments and long hours in between" !  The "perpetrators" of these two "Petipa Galas" could be prosecuted for misleading consumers if RF has anything like a "Trade Descriptions Act".  What these could have been, and what they turned out to be ...... sad !

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