It has been a long time, if ever, since Haglund has sat through an entire evening of ballet during which the musical responsibility fell to a single piano. Two pianos, yes, but a single piano in the pit? It turned out not to be as tough as anticipated, and there were only a few minutes when he wished he could have been wrapped up in the harmonies of the magnificent Mariinsky Orchestra.
The Mariinsky Ballet’s final program of their visit to New York was a mix of choreographies by Michel Fokine, Benjamin Millepied, and Jerome Robbins all set to the music of Frederic Chopin.
Chopiniana, which we know better in its Western version as Les Sylphides, has long been identified with the Mariinsky Ballet. Its unparalleled corps de ballet carries the ballet with the unmistakable imprint of Agrippina Vaganova’s meticulous standards and styling. On Saturday evening, the company’s corps and soloists were a classic-lover’s sight to behold.
How perfectly Yana Selina interpreted her Waltz variation with softness and lilt in the arms and a gorgeous musicality. Washington DC is truly lucky to have the opportunity to see her dance the lead in Le Spectre de la Rose this week. When the Mariinsky Ballet allowed her to dance it during the 2008 tour to NY City Center, Selina was the highlight of all of the performances - all of them. The fantasy that she conveys in her dancing is infectious.
Oxana Marchuk’s Xenia Ostreikovskaya's Prelude variation offered the delicacy and stillness on pointe that one expects in a world-class performance. She, too, conveyed a believable sense of fantasy.
Our leads for the evening, however, Oxana Skorik and Timur Askerov, were less impressive. The Sylph danced and looked like a generic Russian-trained dancer along the lines of Polina Semionova with harshly etched features in face and limbs. Maybe this just wasn’t the right role for her, but she sure didn’t convey the Romanticism and beautiful Vaganova-based lyricism that we have come to expect in Mariinsky dancers who embody Sylph roles. Take a look at Altynai Asylmuratova and Konstantin Zaklinsky. This is a contemporary standard worth trying to equal. Skorik painstakingly executed every detail - but without nuance, without any sense of perfume, without any joy, and without any reason to make us like her performance. Askerov, tall and obviously strong, seemed somewhat nervous. He’s been more likable in other roles such as his Siegfried to Kondaurova’s Odette/Odile via cinema last year. As with Skorik, there was no particular beauty in his dancing and his landings from jumps were clunky.
Haglund was at the premiere of Benjamin Millepied’s Without in 2008 at the Joyce Theater when his company Danses Concertantes, a group made up of all ABT dancers plus Celine Cassone, presented an evening of Millepied’s choreography. At that performance, Maria Riccetto & Alex Hammoudi, Melissa Thomas & Thomas Forster, and Gemma Bond & Eric Tamm turned this ballet into the first clear and convincing evidence of Millepied’s potential as a choreographer. His penchant for imitating Jerome Robbins may have been clear, but there was more – a keen sense of lyrical phrasing, not overly-packed with detail but rich in sweep. There were the outlines of a story, but like so many emerging choreographers, he could not develop within the outlines.
The Mariinsky dancers brought an inherent elegance and style to Without and danced it impeccably except for an isolated fall by Margarita Frolova, who otherwise was a highlight of the piece for her vibrant, expansive dancing, and chic. Anastasia Matvienko and Konstantin Zverev made more of a story out of their central PdD than Haglund remembered from 2008, but it was still a little vague about what was going on except for the obvious loss of a life partner. Matvienko was a lovely dancer with theatrical qualities but didn’t come across as being more than a good soloist. She held nothing artistically unique that compelled one to watch her in this ballet or in her performance of Cinderella last week, which is a common problem for a lot of technically advanced dancers these days.
The final ballet, Jerome Robbins’ In The Night, illustrated where Millepied came up short. The three couples created vastly different characters and relationships, unlike the couples in Millepied’s work who all seemed to be telling the same vague story. Anastasia Matvienko and Filipp Stepin were a whirlwind of emotion. Viktoria Tereshkina and Yuri Smekalov were argumentative and comic. Yekaterina Kondaurova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko were grand elegance personified.
The formal evening length costumes, designed by Anthony Dowell, were both opulent and graceful. Kondaurova’s copper dress was magnificent with her copper colored hair. Haglund would love to know the story of how and why Anthony Dowell hooked up with Robbins to create the costumes for this ballet, but, oh, are we the richer for it. Every time Kondaurova and Ivanchenko left the stage, one waited for them to return. Their handsomeness was overpowering. Ivanchenko had more grace and effortless style in his partnering than we saw from anyone else in the Mariinsky’s lineup this time at BAM whether dancing in the Robbins ballet or as Siegfried with Yuliana Lopatkina. There was a confident generosity in his partnering that seemed to be missing from the upcoming generation of Mariinsky men.
The H.H. Pump Award, a Christian Louboutin stiletto of classic elegance that never goes out of style, is bestowed upon Yana Selina, for her lovely Waltz in Chopiniana.