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Bolshoi Ballet - La Bayadere

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Look who's talking! Steve, I know you went. NextStage?

Ok, I went. I went on the one night one shouldn't have gone: Tues. night (opening night); had to trade my Sat. night subscription ticket. It was a disaster. The following night was apparently sublime. The review in the L.A.Times pretty much said it all. I was very disappointed that the only role in which I saw Alexandrova was as one of the lead Shades. The following night she danced Gamzatti and the review said she was wonderful. Such is my fate.


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Giannina, you have to tell us more than that!! Is that the review where Lewis Segal said something like "the Bolshoi hasn't looked like a world class company in 15 years?" I've thought that, too, but it's hard to judge, I think, from a touring company; they're never at full strength. But they're pretty raggedy at principal level and I wanted to get together food baskets for the corps.

What did you see? I think it was Bayadere? Who? Details details. Maybe that will coax the elusive Next and Silent Steve out to post :)

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I was at the Friday night and Saturday afternoon performances. La Bayadere is my favorite full-length ballet and I loved both performances. The corps was sigh-inducing in it's uniformity, placement and stylistic integrity.

The female leads on Friday (Galina Stepanenko as Nikiya and Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti) were the stronger of the casts, although Saturday's women (Anna Antonicheva and Maria Allash) were also quite good.

The choreographic additions, I assume by Grigorovich, often verged on silly. Gamzatti is attended by a group of fan-bearing slave girls whose dance looks like it was intended for circus clowns. (These were ecstatically happy slaves.) The Golden Idol was also attended by a fan club of what seemed like teenage groupies. The choreography for these girls would have looked entirely in place if performed by the fans in a road company of "Bye Bye Birdie."

Fortunately, the bulk of the familiar choreography was left intact, with none of the fussy flourishes that Nureyev threw into his production. I missed the pesky little girls in the Manu (pitcher) dance though. I was happy to see that Nikiya's second act solo included the "hootchie kootch" section; I've always been a sucker for that part.

The sets are nowhere near as opulent as POB's or the Universal Ballet's. To my eyes they looked a lot like the sets for the Makarova production. The interesting aspect of this production was the LACK of scenery for the shades scene; the stage was bare and the ramp, which consisted of a straight section across and two ramps down, was all black. Nothing to see here but the dancers. As far as I was concerned, they were all I needed to see.

A sort of epilogue was added after the shades scene where Solor goes to the temple alone and it collapses around him (apparently leaving him unharmed but still distraught). This part was pretty much unnecessary.

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Giannina, have you seen the new/old Kirov production? In that version, Nikiya enters Solor's chamber in the scene before and summons him, and he's awake when she does so. It has nothing to do with opium or a hallucination - an interesting difference.

As for Steve. . .well, just imagine a corps de ballet of alternating Darcey Bussells and Riolama Lorenzos snaking down the ramp, but also singing, singing singing!

"Hello Steve. . .well hello, Steve. . .it's so nice to have you back where you belong. . ."

Just think of Nikiya in this version as Dolly Levi.

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Originally posted by coda

Hello, Steve. Thank you for writing about the Costa Mesa performances.

Did you see the leading ladies only? What about the leading men?

I do tend to focus most of my attention on the women...

Friday night's Solor was Nikolay Tsiskaridze and Saturday afternoon's Solor was Sergei Filin. Both gave strong performances, and I couldn't say which I preferred. Friday night's Bronze Idol, Morihiro Ivata, was very impressive with strong and clean movements. Denis Medvedev on Saturday was not as precise.

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Okay, okay; yes, I went (same performances as Steve). Also saw their Swan Lake in Berkeley... much preferred La Bayadere. For what it's worth, I'll remark on the main dancers/dancing more than the choreography or production values, since that's what I tend to watch more.

Galina Stepanenko danced Nikiya to Nikolay Tsiskaridze's Solor, and Anna Antonicheva was Sergei Filin's Nikiya; I preferred the latter pairing. Stepanenko is a strong, solid dancer (her fouettes in Black Swan were doubles into à la seconde for the first half, on a dime...); IMO, perhaps too strong as Nikiya. I liked Antonicheva's softer edge and her characterization better. She did not bowl me over with anything in particular, but I thought she gave a technically secure and dramatically appropriate performance. While most of the audience went wild over Tsiskaridze, I was not as impressed. I can see potential, but was disappointed that he didn't seem to do justice with his physical gifts (above-average flexibility, long legs, good feet, nice overall proportions)... he was inconsistent in fully stretching his legs in jetés, and in fully pointing his feet (looked "sloppy" to me, especially in Swan Lake). To his credit, though, Tsiskaridze did make use of his potentially beautiful line during perfectly-placed double tours en l'air, and that was exciting to see (and he was much better as Solor than I thought he was as Siegfried). I quite enjoyed Filin's performance... his dancing was powerful and elegant – nice ballon, light landings, clean lines. He, too, did beautiful arrow-straight double tours. I felt that Filin was a stronger and more attentive partner than Tsiskaridze. Filin and Antonicheva had a satisfying rapport with each other, considering that I found, for the most part, a lack of dramatic expression and "chemistry" between the principals (both in 2002 and on this visit).

In all the performances, I most enjoyed watching the gorgeous Maria Alexandrova. On top of clean, elegant technique, she brings the "right" dramatic expression and a musical movement quality to her roles. In the Swan Lake I saw, she danced a warm "friend to the prince" and Spanish. She stood out to me as one who consistently invested in her characters. In La Bayadere, Alexandrova was a marvelous Gamzatti (Friday evening) and third solo shade. I was very surprised to find that she's not yet a principal, having remembered her well from the Bolshoi's visit in 2000.

On Saturday, Maria Allash also did a fine job as Gamzatti. Tall and regal, she was very secure in her technique and characterization. I was impressed by the clarity and precision of Morihiro Ivata's dancing as the Golden Idol. I wish I had seen him as the jester in Swan Lake (but NO, I don't like the jester in Swan Lake; it's just that their production has one...). As mentioned by others, the corps de ballet was notable for its stylistic uniformity and generally excellent unison. The company has been on tour in the U.S. for little over a month now, so I can forgive the few wobbles that existed (fatigue factor!). All in all, I enjoyed seeing the company again, and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to do so.

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Steve and Next Stage, thank you VERY MUCH for posting

Next Stage, I admired Alexandrova very much here -- the same roles you saw, plus Spanish in "Swan Lake." And I admired her two years ago in "Don Quixote." And she blew the roof off the Opera House in 2000 and in 2002. Why she's a soloist is one of the great mysteries of life. :) I had exactly the same impression of Tsiskaridze as well. (We didn't get Filin, nor Stepanova this time, although both here were in DC in 2000.)

Steve, I loved your "Bye Bye Birdie" line.

Steve and Next in the same week Gosh! Must be livin' right :)

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