The NYT T-Magazine blog just uploaded a delightful little blurb about Olga Smirnova who will be performing this Thursday night with the Stars of the 21st Century at Lincoln Center. The UIEX got a 50%-plausible tip that she and Semyon Chudin will perform Grand Pas Classique and Thais PdD. This will come as something of disappointment to those who were hoping to see them dance the PdD from Balachine's Diamonds. Ah, well, they'll just have to watch it here –– so very, very pretty.
A reader recently brought these clips to our attention via a comment elsewhere. However, upon review, the Haglund's Heel Compliance Officer demanded that they be fully disclosed to the public and that public comment be invited for 60 days.
AND, if that wasn't enough, there's this:
Osipova has just quit one of the world's premiere classical ballet companies to join a company that is now run by an anti-classicist because she and her BF didn't like being limited in their repertories including plum classical roles which the Bolshoi found them not yet suited to dance. So, apparently, to prove what an outstanding cross cultural phenomenom she is, she has become a feature on a TV program where she has performed a pole dance among other artsy variations. Nevermind that she has trouble with head rolls, hip rolls, and snapping her fingers - this is reputation-enhancing, classy, I'm-a-circus-pony, exhibitionist, I'm-too-big-to-fail, I-just-want-the-attention, any-exposure-is-great-exposure, can't-wait-to-do-Playboy-shoot, pathetic behavior. No time now to address classical ballet deficiencies. That'll just have to wait until she arrives for rehearsals at ABT. They'll take care of her classical needs - like, duh, who cares anyway. Besides look at all the publicity she's bringing with her. Never mind quality dancing. It's not important.
Thanks to H.H. reader "A" for alerting us to all to this material. I've moved his comments from the other post to this one.
That's what it seemed like at today's satellite transmission of the Bolshoi Ballet's new production of Sleeping Beauty. Thanks to Ballet in Cinema and Emerging Pictures, more than 500 cinema theaters in the U.S. received a live-stream transmission of the brand new Yuri Grigorovich production which premiered last week in Moscow.
It really seemed like a camera was positioned in the opera singer prompter's box near the foot of the stage which resulted in much of the performance being viewed with the cinema audience's sight line angled upward starting at the dancers' feet. It was great to be able to see the individual sequins on the tutus, but as the camera whipped from left to right and right to left following each soloist, it all became dizzying and sometimes blurry. The few shots from the back of the upper tiers of the Bolshoi Theater that captured the corps work revealed beautiful formations of perfect symmetry.
The ultra-close camera work also captured and magnified the dancers' physical stress which is usually masked with a smile that the audience sees instead of the stress. Worse, it did not allow the cinema viewers to watch the soloists in the context of what the other dancers on stage were doing. We got to see a lot of production details that we don't normally see (thank you) but we missed huge aspects of the performance.
But what a production! Is there anyone on the planet who does ballet spectacle bigger and better than Yuri Grigorovich? It's doubtful.
As Sleeping Beauties go, Grigorovich's effort is stunning in terms of production values, fine in terms of staging, but was somewhat dully danced - except for the new tall guy. The new tall guy, ABT's David Hallberg, performed with an elegance and refinement that probably hasn't been seen much at the Bolshoi in recent history. His dancing was big, too. Big, space-devouring jumps that were impressive in both their horizontal and vertical measures were a major part of Hallberg's soloist choreography. As usual, as expected, as treasured, he finished his variations as if he were the conductor's baton bringing the orchestra to a stop. However, the close camera shots didn't always bring complimentary images. Often Hallberg could be seen struggling to convey appropriate facial expressions and he appeared acutely aware of the cameras. But his dancing was fabulous. His few overhead lifts of Aurora were successful but the close-camera caught the strain of his effort and made them look slightly scary.
Svetlana Zakharova as Aurora was not exactly in her element. Right off the bat in Act I she made some unfortunate artistic choices which those who are familiar with her dancing guessed she would make. Every time she executed a developpe to the ecarte position, she chose a nearly 180 degree extension that completely destroyed any possibility of harmony with the arm on the opposite side of the body. The leg was high and turned out and the foot was strongly pointed, but what was the point of it if the position lacked harmony? Maybe total body harmony isn't important in Forsythe, Balanchine or Ratmansky choreography, but it is imperative in Petipa. [Witness harmony here.]
In the Rose Adagio, Zakharova did not raise both arms on the balances, and thus, really didn't do any balancing at all, and she did not engage the princes who were trying to impress her. This was a Bolshoi principal, a former Kirov principal and someone who the American Ballet Theatre has touted as a guest star? Haglund doesn't want to give the impression that Zakharova gave a bad performance. She gave a serviceable but undistinguished performance. Acting is not her strong suit, so we really didn't see a transformation of Aurora in Act I to Aurora in Act III. However, Zakharova is lovely physically and was perfectly beautiful in the costume. Her face had the glow of a beautiful woman who was beautiful on the inside as well. She gave Hallberg a fairly easy time in the partnering because she was securely on her leg during pirouettes and steady in the promenades.
Maria Allash is not Haglund's favorite type of Lilac Fairy – that being the Veronika Part/Stella Abrera/Christina Fagundes variety – but she gave a credible interpretation. Her port de bras lines are not long and can sometimes appear lumpy if she over-extends the elbows and hands. But the main objection is the lack of shape in her feet. Her face is elegant and her expression was one of benevolence and confidence. There are lots of different interpretations of the Lilac Fairy's demeanor that are completely valid, and Maria's was one of them.
The Bluebird and Princess Florine (Ovcharenko and Kaptsova) and all of the Fairies of Kindness and Jewels were a joy to watch – that doesn't mean they should be brought here to be guest artists – and all of the character roles, especially Carabosse (Loparevich right? not Savin as listed in the program), were portrayed with the degree of importance that you expect from the greatest of the Bolshoi generations. Try as some Western companies may, you cannot have an artistically successful Petipa story ballet without giving the character roles the respect and importance they deserve.
Without a doubt, the costumes by designer Franca Squarciapino and the scenery by Ezio Frigerio are the major triumph of this production. Bold, brilliant, complimentary, rich in color, sparkly without being gaudy, TASTEFUL – they enhanced all aspects of the choreography and never competed against it for attention. While some may not have been pleased with the white wigs in Act III, they looked so good from the mid-house camera angles (but, of course, not so hot from the close-up camera). From the camera near the middle of the house, Hallberg looked smashing in the wig and the rest of his costume.
The staging is not controversial - Haglund has no complaints whatsoever. He does prefer seeing the fish dives in the Act III PdD that we are accustomed to seeing here, but their absence in the Bolshoi version didn't make it less enjoyable. Haglund is grateful for Yuri Grigorovich and for the fact that he is still turning out these huge productions that are so full of fantasy and are respectful of the historical traditions of the art form. This stunning Christian Louboutin Golden Ankle Pump Bump Award (just $910) is bestowed upon Mr. Grigorovich:
NYT reports that David Hallberg will join the Bolshoi while continuing to perform with ABT and other companies on a limited basis.
Gillian will dance with ABT at the Met, but spend most of her time in New Zealand where next year she will dance the title role of Giselle in the new Stiefel/Kobberg version and Cinderella.
Stiefel's first programming choices for the Royal New Zealand Ballet include works by Larry Keigwin and Benjamin Millepied, and he hopes to build the company's talent, repertory, and capacity to enable more international touring - including a visit to the U.S.
Where are those ABT internal promotions to principal? We need to see no fewer than SIX.
This morning Haglund climbed aboard the M57 crosstown bus on Manhattan's West Side and road a few blocks to Moscow's Bolshoi Theater for a live (streamed) performance of Don Quixote. The theater was packed; so was the cinema. Thanks to the Ballet in Cinema effort by Emerging Pictures and the French company CielEcran, we were treated to spectacular live performances by Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev as Kitri and Basilio. Everyone expected the spectacular from them and they didn't disappoint. The surprise of the performance was how the character principals nearly stole the show. Kristina Karasyova as Mercedes, Andrei Merkuriev as Espada, Anna Leonova as A Street Dancer, and Anna Antropova as the Gypsy were like hot lava flowing through the streets of Barcelona melting everything in its path. Mercedes' fan = sex toy. Well, almost. What exactly was her message when she completely bent over backwards and slapped that fan on the floor?! Lordy, and on a Sunday morning no less.
Osipova and Vasiliev were their own steam explosion. Of the two, Vasiliev had the more "on" performance with easy multi-revolution pirouettes in which he changed body positions and wound down to a complete stop - finishing with a mischievous smile as if to say "I got you with that one." Osipova's performance was her basic fill-in-the-superlative, superlative, superlative Kitri – the most athletic interpretation that Haglund has ever seen with legs and feet as sharp as a bull's horns. In the Act II dream sequence, the arabesque line under the white tutu seemed to lack aesthetic but the top half was lovely. Together in the grand pas Osipova and Vasiliev were dancing as one, reading each other's moves, finishing each other's sentences – truly harmonious in every way. Vasiliev may be short, but he has paws the size of a bear and he pressed Osipova into one handed lifts like she was light as air.
The corps de ballet was just fabulous in the character scenes and especially in the dream scene where lines were stunning, everyone was together, and all had beautiful unstressed expressions on their faces.
Haglund's only complaint about the performance was the camera director's tendency to zoom in on faces while we missed the overall formations and actions on the whole stage. Zooming in meant that when the action did start, parts were blurred – which kind of made Haglund a little queasy after a while and irritable about what he was missing. The camera work was the worst of the three Bolshoi live-streams produced thus far by CielEcran. It would be better to see the entire scope of the stage from about 12 rows back in the orchestra with minimal zooming in.
Crummy camera work aside, this presentation was a great treat. There wasn't an empty seat in the cinema. Seating was very democratic. It didn't matter who you were - if you didn't get there early, you didn't get to pick your favorite seat. Political favors and media clout got you nowhere. This isn't Russia, you know.
So, thanks to the Bolshoi for such a spectacular performance from everyone. Haglund doesn't want to leave out Anastasia Stashkevich as Cupid, Yekaterina Shipulina as Queen of the Dryads, Alexander Petukhov as Sancho Panza, Olga Kishnyova and Victoria Osipova as Kitri's friends, and Alexei Loparevich as Don Quixote – all of whom gave wonderful performances. But the Haglund's Heel Bump Pump Award, this black lacy little character pump from Christian Louboutin, must be bestowed upon Kristina Karasyova for her steam-filled portrayal of Mercedes:
The Bolshoi website has just posted the casting for the live-streamed performance of Don Quixote on Sunday, March 6th.
Kitri – Natalia Osipova
Basil – Ivan Vaseliev
Gamache – Denis Savin
Queen of the Dryads – Ekaterina Shipulina
Cupid – Anastasia Stashkevich
Go to the Ballet in Cinema website and plug in your zip code to find a theater near you!
Even if you've been stuck under a big snow drift these past few weeks, chances are you're looking forward to the next Great White Act that is coming your way courtesy of Emerging Pictures Ballet in Cinema program.
First up, the Royal Ballet's Giselle (Marianela Nunez & Ruppert Pennefather) will be streamed LIVE in theaters next Wednesday afternoon, January 19th, at 2:30 pm Eastern time with Encore Presentations at other locations.
Then on Sunday, January 23rd, at 11:00 am, the Bolshoi's performance of Giselle (Svetlana Lunkina & Dmitry Gudanov) and Class Concert will be streamed LIVE.
To find the theater near you that is presenting either of these Giselles, follow this link to the Ballet in Cinemas website and type in your zipcode in the bar at the top of the page. The website is not perfect. So, if you're having trouble maneuvering through it to get your information, call 212-245-6767.
Come on, People – especially you complainers who complain about never getting to see other big companies' productions while you're complaining about what's available in your own town – get thee to the cinema. If you want to see more of this type of programing, you have to support it.