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The DanceView Times, San Francisco Bay Area edition

A Transcendent "Diamonds"

Kirov Ballet
Zellerbach Hall
Berkeley, California
October 17, 2003

By Rachel Howard
Copyright ©2003 by Rachel Howard

Overheard walking out of the Kirov’s Fokine program at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall: "If that’s ballet, I’m there!"

The enthusiastic convert was a man, probably 35-ish, and seeing as we’d just been treated to a particularly lustful rendition of Scheherazade, I guessed his newfound zeal was inspired more by the scantily clad physiques on display than by the stunningly recreated Bakst sets, or the Maryinsky Orchestra’s lush sound, or, one coudl only hope, the dancing itself.

But perhaps I am too skeptical. For if that man had returned to see Jewels the following Sunday, I’d lay bets that he, like so many in attendance, would have walked out of the far more demure "Diamonds" spouting equal zeal. With Daria Pavlenko in the lead and a crystalline corps, this sometimes perfunctory finale to Balanchine’s only full-length abstract work was one of the best I've ever seen.

Pavlenko is not the most technically dazzling of the Kirov’s current crop of ballerinas. Her fouettées momentarily clung for dear life and her petite allegro steps often wanted greater buoyancy. But her musicality and her inimitably sweet brand of grandeur made even the most deliberate of Balanchine’s phrases electrified with suspense. Interpretive taste shone in every ports de bras.

Pavelenko’s features are exotic and dark but her face is round, winningly babyish. And her presence is not the icy edginess of Suzanne Farrell, but a fascinating combination of warmth and aristocracy, suggesting an ideal Aurora. Igor Zelensky, as her cavalier, partnered like a lover and landed like a cat. The fairytale aura of this "Diamonds" had Kirov stamped all over it.

As for "Rubies," one word: Vishneva. Forget the flirtatious twinkle in her eye--it was the sheer verve and attack in her famously well-shaped legs that riveted the attention. Leonid Sarafanov, vivacious and sensuous, led a sometimes sloppy male contingent while the corps women jutted their hips like born Vaudevillians. Sofia Gumerova played the tall girl with kittenish appeal rather than the haughty command to which many Americans are accustomed, to mixed effect.

I’ve seen only two other Jewels--Miami City Ballet’s and San Francisco Ballet’s--and I wasn’t present for enough of New York City Ballet’s history to be a stickler for any particular interpretation. Still I think it’s safe to say the Kirov’s "Emeralds" is just plain wrong. The Kirov dancers don’t understand the sadness that gives deeper meaning to its perfumed atmosphere, which explains the company’s decision to lop off the pensive coda Balanchine added after the work’s premiere.

Deaf to its subtle tragedies, Daria Sukhorukova used her unbelievably long arms and arched feet to play a Giselle-like game of hide and go seek with Victor Baranov. Sofia Gumerova made the soulful "walking" duet look more like a debutante ball than an elegiac vision of transience. But Yana Selina, Ekaterina Osmolkina, and Vasily Sherbakov formed a sprightly and engaging pas de trois.

Photo: Pavlenko and Korsuntsev in "Diamonds." Photo by Marc Haegeman.

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 4
October 20, 2003
Copyright ©2003 by Rachel Howard




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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on October 20, 2003