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January 08, 2014


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Grigorovich's Swan Lake is the tackiest version alive today in my opinion. None of the potential Odette/ Odiles on that list particularly thrill me, I have seen Smirnova, Zakharova and Krysanova in that role. Zakharova did her usual stretching exercises onstage and pay occasional attention to character. Zakharova is always better as Odile than Odette, at least that's my take from seeing her in Swan Lake twice live and from video as well. Krysanova gave a musical but otherwise rote performance, it was obvious being dramatic wasn't her strong point. She was good but just there is something generic about her dancing. I had high expectations for Smirnova because of all the press hype. In a way, Smirnova gave the most disappointing yet interesting performance. Disappointing because, sitting in the fourth row I got to see the shakiness of certain basic aspects of her technique up close. She had some problems keeping her legs properly turned out in classical ballet placement, not just when she danced on her own but even when partnered. I'm talking about both her supporting leg and working leg. I especially remember her Odette variation, in which she quickly loses supporting leg turnout after rond de jambe into developpé a la seconde. As Odile she had obvious effort in jumping and again lost her working leg turnout in supported developpé a la seconde. These faults tell me that maybe Smirnova is being pushed too fast. A little more time honing technique doing various soloist roles would help a lot. But her performance was interesting in that she had a way of drawing out the phrases to suit her mannerisms, especially in her upper body. It wasn't musical like Krysanova but it was interesting because it was unexpected. Though I can see how taking liberties with music, such a Russian thing to do, can be taken further into ridiculous disregard, I mean Smirnova is young and already she is doing what some aging Russian divas are known to do in order to mask technical deficiencies.

I think I will skip Swan Lake and Don Q with the Bolshoi, they brought these two ballets to California recently. I have not much desire to see Spartacus, at least not enough for me to travel to NYC to see it exclusively. I might think of making the trip for their Giselle though. If it was Giselle I might trek to NYC and see that and see Swan Lake with a post-injury Alexandrova. Alexandrova is the most classical dancer on the cast list Bolshoi is confirming.

Thanks, Genna. I'm looking forward to seeing Alexandrova, too, but I'm not convinced that she'll show. It will have been less than a year since her Achilles tear and surgery. Having been down that road more than once, I know that it's a long and very challenging recovery that often goes on for much longer than a year. I enjoy Alexandrova's performances so much, but I wouldn't want to see her show up when she's only 75% recovered.

It's early in the year; so much could change by mid-July.

So the Bolshoi is gracing our shores with their presence again - with a really boring choice of ballets ( I never want to see another Russian company dancing DQ and Swan Lake - which they tell us is by "Petipa" ) - why not the Burlaka/Ratmansky reconstruction of "Le Corsaire", and the reconstructed "Coppelia" ? Or perhaps Crankos "Onegin"and "The Flames of Paris" ? Of course not ! The prices charged will be outrageous , the dancing mediocre with a few exceptional "superstars" , and the theater crowded with boorish Russian emigres talking during the performance and then screeching at every bizarre trick - these people otherwise never go to the ballet because , according to them , "Russian dancers are the best" !



Hi, Friedrich.

It's a curious choice of ballets that the Bolshoi is bringing especially considering they are dancing in the smaller Koch Theater instead of the Met.

I remember seeing the Bolshoi's Spartacus on the Met stage during a week when U.S. Marines and Iraqi insurgents were engaged in particularly intense and brutal battles. I was in no mood to watch any of it play out on a stage. But I dragged myself to the theater, and in the end, I found the production thrilling, if at times nerve-exposing. And of course, it was all danced in a well-defined Bolshoi style. I'm not interested in seeing the company's "globalized" style - which is no style at all.

I don't know what to expect in ticket prices, but we can bet the prices won't be as high as if the company was dancing in the Met Opera House. If the prices are similar to what we had to pay for POB, I'll be happy. I guess we'll know in a week.

Haglund, I think you should go see Smirnova. She was not technically correct let alone perfect but she was a quite unorthodox Odette, she held my attention with oddly phrased passages which did not align with how they are usually phrased. Did not work all of the time but kept my eyes glued to her. She was better as Odette because the role allowed her more freedom to do her lyrical business, you could tell she enjoyed Odette more. It was her Odile which was more disappointing since it demands more of a pure classical technique than Odette and which she does not have at this time. As with many young Odiles, she turned in the usual cartoon vamp schtick, her hands took on a masculine von Rothbart look, maybe that was her intention, hmmm. Finally, you know the most defining aspect of Smirnova's dancing is? Surprisingly for me the most noticeable is the way she uses her eyes. Her eyes in most everything she dances but especially in Swan Lake, her eyes are cast downwards. By downwards I mean every gradation of downward glance, look, whatever you want to call it. Couple that with quirk of her head jutting ever so slightly outwards and chin pointing up. This is what I mean about mannerisms, and I've only just described her head and neck!

Go see her for yourself, this is a dancer who gets people talking whether one likes her dancing or not. Watch her back to back with Krysanova, makes you wish if both dancers would trade some aspects of their dancing with other. Krysanova gives Smirnova a bit of unassailable technique, and Smirnova gives up some overly abused mannerisms.

Hi Genna. I will probably go to see Smirnova and will keep an eye out for the issues you mentioned.

It is such a shame that she left St. Petersburg because it sounds like she's trying to be something that she's not meant to be whereas if she had taken the natural path into the Mariinsky, she would have had a much better chance to actually improve the quality of her dancing as opposed to just landing more hefty roles to dance. I keep hoping that she will go back. Despite her shortcomings, she does have some unique and beautiful qualities that will never be fully developed outside of the Mariinsky. And we definitely need more beautiful Mariinsky ballerinas. Lord help her if she decides to come to a U.S. company.

I think Spartacus is a really poor choice for the Koch theater. The shallowness of the stage is going to cause a lot of traffic jams in all the marches, and the shortness of the proscenium will diminish the big diagonal leaps and overhead lifts of the choreography. Spartacus IMO needs a big stage that can fill all the spectacle.

The Bolshoi will definitely have to work around a few problems. Paris Opera Ballet did pretty well, but the squeeze was noticeable.

Just as bad - perhaps worse - is the stuffing of the Bolshoi Opera into Avery Fisher Hall for the concert version of The Tsar's Bride. The audience will mostly be those accustomed to hearing opera in the Met Opera House, and they will be miserable in AFH. It is such a shame that the Met Opera has become so difficult to work with in connection with the Lincoln Center Festival. When they fail to accommodate other great opera companies, they do a disservice to their own core audience.

Avery Fisher Hall has the worst acoustics for such a well-known venue. For some reason the strings sections don't come off well, always seem to sound either too puny or too thin. Is there a valid reason why the Met won't accommodate Bolshoi opera?

I heard Bolshoi will do Giselle in DC, if that's correct then I will most definitely go. I have not seen their version before even though past couple of years have been Giselle overdose both from home companies and foreign tours.

Rumor alert has Olga Smirnova adding on to her lead roles, specifically Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and oddly enough Kitri in Don Quixote. Nothing substantiated just talk within certain circle of Russian super fans and supporters of hers. I believe the current Russian tendency to want to produce an instant prima is very foolish. Besides stunting the mastery of solid technique, it also prevents natural maturation of the ballerina as artist first, star second. At the Mariinsky, even Lopatkina had to develop her ballerina art slowly and not be proclaimed star overnight just by virtue of being given lead roles. I believe Lopatkina spent at least three or four years in soloist roles. By the time she was given Swan Lake after that time, her artistry had deepened and become refined. Diana Vishneva was not given Swan Lake until ten years into her career there. She should have made her debut earlier. But I miss what I appreciated about the Russian companies especially Mariinsky's refined and utterly classical styling be wasted away to today's instant star mentality.

I agree with you, Genna, about the negative effects of the instant star mentality within companies. Kondaurova spent a lot of years simmering at the Mariinsky and had to wait 7 or 8 years before dancing her first Swan Lake. Somova, on the other hand, was thrown into a lot before she was ready. Look at the results.

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