What a fabulous Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema transmission on Sunday – and impressively attended! The Bolshoi dancers did fairly well with their two company premieres, Robbins' The Cage and Lander's Etudes, and showed that they are as fluent in Ratmansky's lexicon as any other company with their extraordinary performance of his Russian Seasons.
If the lady insects in The Cage weren't as bitingly aggressive as what we enjoy seeing at NYCB, just give them a little time. They'll come around. Let's hope they don't invite trouble by using theatrical makeup to make either of the intruders look like a less-than-beloved local politician. Uh-oh, we probably shouldn't have said that, but it's too late now... Perhaps our own home company could do something similar, especially if the NEA gets slashed and dismantled. The audience and the dancers would derive much more satisfaction from that than a simple burning in effigy.
Olga Smirnova acquitted herself well in Etudes. Bolshoi Superwoman spokesperson Katerina Novikova explained beforehand that we would be seeing the "1952 version" but didn't explain what that meant. We figured it out though, oh yes, we did. It was the pre-Toni Lander version of Etudes, you know, the one without the bells and whistles. But honestly, Olga was a pleasure to watch in what she did. In this ballet, her extensions a la second were a lot more turned-out and properly placed than what we saw during her unfortunate visit to ABT some years back. She also had those ribs under control.
Johnny Eliasen staged Etudes on the Bolshoi at Lise Lander's request. (She was the 3rd Mrs. Lander immediately after Toni Lander. Without question, Toni is the ballerina most identified with this classic, but Lise didn't mention her during the intermission interview with Novikova.) Eliasen still has some clean-up to do with the ladies in the early tendus section.
The men, Semyon Chudin and Artem Ovcharenko, had mostly successes with their variations but were not especially brilliant. Poor Semyon – the tempo of his first grueling variation was at a pace slower than a Pestov men's class. After that test, though, he was fine. Ovcharenko muffed his series of double tours, but impressively saved them.
All during Etudes, Haglund thought about Devon Teuscher, Christine Schevchenko, and Gillian Murphy. Since ABT now has enough ballerinas who can dance this spectacular piece, why aren't we seeing it? At yesterday's Bolshoi screening, some people were standing up at attention in the aisles to watch the last half of it. We need to see this ballet again in New York, and ABT needs to dance it in order to toughen up and clean up the ranks. These days every dancer there seems to have his or her own version of tendu and personal placement of legs a la seconde. The reality is that a la seconde is a la seconde. Side is side. If the dancer can't get the leg there, he/she shouldn't be in the ballet. At the screening yesterday, those dancers were so perfectly placed to the side that their legs looked like they were plotted on graph paper.
Speaking of lapses of discipline in today's ballet dancers, Diana Vishneva has now followed Paloma Herrera in publicly criticizing the current generation's distractions with the internet and over-focus on its own happiness rather than classical ballet. She also inferred that the students and young dancers are being coddled.
Most importantly, Diana ripped Nikolay Tsiskaridze and Makhar Vaziev for claiming that the Bolshoi and Mariinsky styles are "the same." In recent years, we've seemingly lost a lot of the cherished Vaganova style and perfume in the Mariinsky. That's lost art. To hear that Tsiskaridze and Vaziev claim that the styles are the same is like hearing someone claim that churches, mosques, synagogues, and all houses of worship are the same. Hopefully, when Diana finishes her flirtation with contemporary dance, she'll settle down and help restore Vaganova at the Mariinsky and wherever else in the world they value it – before it's too late.
After the Bolshoi in Cinema screening yesterday, Haglund ran up to Lincoln Center to catch the evening performance of Paul Taylor Dance Company with guest company Lyon Opera Ballet performing Merce Cunningham's Summerspace. Also on tap was Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels. Both were danced in the spirits of their creators and revealed the distinct paths that led to Taylor's own brilliant, very American choreography. Our greatest joy of the evening, however, was in seeing the season's single performance of Taylor's Promethean Fire to music by Bach. Created in the months following 9/11, this dance still packs an emotional punch after 15 years. As the dancers swirled in darkness, piled atop one another, rose from their human rubble, and lifted their arms, the most haunting images of the past still came to mind.
Haglund was unable to get to the Ashley Bouder Project over the weekend but he spoke with people who saw it and who were quite impressed with both Bouder's own choreography and Liz Gerring's. The NYT review of it, however, raises certain serious questions:
Why does Alastair Irrelevant plop down in his theater chair and proceed to watch every ballet on stage through his penis instead of his eyes? He spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on where his big boy might fit in the action on stage. Most every review these days obsesses over whether or not there is same-sex partnering in the choreography. When there is same-sex partnering in the dance, he now questions whether it's sincere or simply gratuitous. He needs to open his eyes when watching ballet and leave his zipper closed. And that's the straight up truth.
My goodness, we've covered a lot of territory on the blog today.