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Irina Kolesnikova & the St. Petersburg Ballet


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She is dancing in Swan Lake at BAM on February 16 & 16 and I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to go. I haven't been able to find much online - just that their Swan Lake is a standard Russian version though with somewhat reduced sets and scenery.

Has anybody seen her O/O and this production? Is she an O/O not to be missed, or just average?

Any info would be appreciated as I debate whether to trek out to Brooklyn on a Sunday afternoon...


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Of these touring Russian companies St Petersburg Ballet Theatre is about the best.  Kolesnikova is Vaganova trained and for many years she was coached by Alla Osipenko, her style is very much 'old Kirov'  I find her soulful and beautiful, a few find her mannered.  The production is very much based on the Mariinsky version, no nasty deviations from the basic plot, the sets and costumes are traditional.  One's reaction to any dancer is subjective so I imagine it depends on how keen you are on Russian dancers as to whether she's worth a journey.

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Sadly, NYSusan did not opt to go to Kolesnikova and the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, instead attending NYCB's "Swan Lake".  I did go on the Saturday opening night (I did a double header "Swan Lake" weekend with NYCB "Swan Lake" on the Sunday matinee with Mearns and Côté.)  

First of all, it is a nice traditional and conservative production - basically a cut down bus and truck version of the 1950 Konstantin Sergeyev "Swan Lake" from the Kirov-Mariinsky Theater.  The sets are almost identical designs.  If you remember, the Mariinsky brought the actual Sergeyev "Swan Lake" to the BAM Opera House five years ago.  Though it was thrilling to see the dancers, the sets looked like they were pushed too far forward on the shallow BAM stage and the dancers looked cramped.  This smaller scale copy fits ideally on the BAM stage.  There are 22 swans in Act II, with 16 usually onstage and the Act III national dancers usually have four to six dancers in toto.  It works fine.  The company looks like a pickup group - the corps and soloist women were better than the men.  The corps lack the unity of style and precision of the Mariinsky or Bolshoi corps but looked well-drilled.  Denis Rodkin of the Bolshoi was borrowed to dance Prince Siegfried on the SPBT tour which proved a definite asset.  It would impossible to identify the other dancers in the Act I pas de trois, cygnets or national dancers since there was no program distributed for the performance - not even a digital e-program one could access on your mobile device.  There was a deluxe souvenir program you could purchase from the gift shop but I passed on it.

Irina Kolesnikova who is in her late thirties is an elegant old-school dancer of the Kirov school.  She has long arms and a pliable back but very strong legs and feet.  Her extensions are strictly textbook and there are no 6:00 developpes out there.  Her Odette is very slow, liquid and stately in the old school with languid adagio phrasing.  Kolesnikova manages to work in some variety and emotional nuances into this slow phrasing and has a certain straightforward vigor that keeps her White Swan from lapsing into mannerism.  Her Act IV Odette was particularly moving.  (There is the mandated Soviet happy ending.)  Her Odile is well danced without being as individual.  Again, she has strong pointes and is a solid turner and hit 32 (or thereabouts) single fouettés in the side kick Russian style ending on a multiple with the music.  I will not criticize the Odile solo (the traditional Kirov one) since the orchestra at that point totally fell part leaving Kolesnikova stranded at times not knowing where to come in.  Kolesnikova was a total professional:  she posed and waited until a recognizable phrase emerged she could dance to and kept it together.  Rodkin was a handsome, noble and attentive partner who didn't get an Act I reflective solo - was it dropped or does this production not have one?  He was a great partner to Kolesnikova in each act and really put emotion on the stage.

A certain Chamber Orchestra of New York was in the BAM pit, they started out well in Acts I and II.  I suspect that was all they had rehearsed.  But by Act III there were whole orchestral parts being left out or coming in at different times.  I started to hear shouts, loud shushing and singing emerging from the pit and thought a madman had wandered in there.  Well it was the conductor Timur Gorkovenko going insane attempting to restore musical sanity and get something resembling Tchaikovsky out of this band.  

I thought that Kolesnikova was lovely and preferable to many Odette/Odile interpreters in major companies, a friend felt she was the prima ballerina of a second tier company, no more, no less.   I found the company, the ballerina and the production charming and refreshingly unpretentious and satisfying.  I was glad I went.  A largely local Russian audience were very enthusiastic at the final curtain calls.  Hopefully the production will continue to cohere and that orchestra will get their act together.


Edited by FauxPas
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