writers on dancing


Glum Gala

An Evening with the Kirov - "Kirov Spectacular" #2
The Kirov Ballet, Opera and Orchestra of the Maryinsky Theater
Opera House
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC
January 19, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright © 2005 by George Jackson

The same program with a few differences left the same dour impression I had the first night. There was some alternate casting, a perceptible polishing by one pair of dancers, and one instance of a change in the conducting. Spectaculars, specials and gala performances ought to glitter! Not everything in the repertory that's worthwhile can do that when extracted from its context. Moreover the Russian touch, heartfelt yet heavy, was apparent. Could one expect otherwise? The Kirov/Maryinsky is a very Russian company.

Five of the program's eight items dealt with sad topics—death, deception, rejection, separation. Two of the three that didn't were brief. Mikhail Glinka's overture to the opera "Russlan and Ludmilla" is upbeat and the Kirov Orchestra sounded strong and colorful. Valery Gergiev's conducting took the score at a fast clip but also inflated it a little, which diminishes its ballon. The other short, untragic item was the pas de deux from "Le Corsaire" in Peter Gusev's staging based on Marius Petipa's choreography. Two of the company's youngest featured dancers, Alina Somova and Leonid Sarafanov, came out determined on this second occasion to erase the mistakes they had made the night before. Their adagio began smooth as silk. It was a joy to see two fresh, elongate bodies so polished. Came time for the lift in which she had slipped from his support the first night and again it was bungled. For this round Sarafanov couldn't get Somova much off the ground at all. The pair obviously had to prove itself in the rest of the number. He was not just impressive quantitatively but, as in his opening passages this evening, tried to imbue each step and transition with texture. She was much more in control of the diverse turns she had tackled insecurely the first night. The audience gave them a good hand. Why, one wonders, hadn't they just cut the bothersome lift? Apparently, that's not the Kirov way of solving a problem.

George Balanchine's "Rubies" was made to sparkle and the Kirov does give it a modicum of flash. Irina Golub and Anton Korsakov as the lead couple seemed to be having fun and yet their dancing had greater dignity than the more stellar but daft performances of Diana Vishneva and Sarafanov the night before. Korsakov, not as lightweight as Sarafanov, looked like a boxer in training, very much as the role's creator, Edward Villella, had. Sofia Gumerova as the singles girl was more of a character the second night than the first. I don't believe the corps de ballet has decided how much it should just "do the steps" and how much it should comment on them.

The other Balanchine work, "La Valse", one of the sad pieces, can yet sweep the audience up in its pulse. Very right on both nights was the trio of women known as "the Fates": Alexandra Iosifidi, Elena Androsova and Yekaterina Kondaurova. The expectation of pleasure and sense of danger they and the other dancers in vignette roles conveyed was not overdone. That this jewel of a ballet didn't glint, that one didn't grow dizzy, was due to Ulyana Lopatkina in the leading role. As the debutante seduced by death, Lopatkina moved sumptuously, too much so at the start. She entered in white but her features were sad already, and in her steps there was a reluctance to lilt lightly and sway in 3/4 time. She was doomed before Death (Soslan Kulaev) appeared and so we didn't protest her fate—especially the second night when Gergiev's heavier conducting only emphasized the dramatic excess. As "The Dying Swan" of Michel Fokine, Lopatkina was aptly doomed from the start. She performs this solo musically, tastefully but hasn't she danced it too often in Washington?

The Black Swan pas de deux (Konstantin Sergeyev after Petipa) as danced by Gumerova and Igor Zelenszky was a duel. He was forcing her to be something she wasn't and she was intent on distracting him from the truth. They dance-acted most convincingly but did not provide technical display for its own sake. Gumerova's supple torso flowed remarkably yet her strong legwork didn't strike sparks. And, Zelensky's plush landings that should have flowered into arabesques were cut off by the conductor's tempi.

The scenes from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's operas "The Czar's Bride" and "Sadko", and Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades" had the effect of illustrations cut out of bound books. "Sadko", the final item on the program, was so long and puzzling that the audience fidgeted.

Volume 3, No. 4
January 24, 2005
Copyright ©2005 by George Jackson


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last updated on January17, 2005