Different Casting Make a Difference?
Kirov Ballet of the Maryinsky Theatre
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 7:30 PM
© 2005 by George Jackson
in a row now the Kirov Ballet has given us a grotesque take on a traditional
topic. "The Nutcracker " last year and the just completed week
of "Cinderella" share a point of view, although they differ
as repositories of choreography. "The Nutcracker", dominated
by painter Mihail Chemiakin's concept and designs, was under-choreographed
by Kirill Simonov. The problems of "Cinderella" were essentially
those of choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, who hyperanimated a truncated
edition (by Valery Gergiev?) of Sergei Prokofiev's 1945 music. Mr. Ratmansky's
exaggerations affected nearly everything, yet he was negligent about the
basics of storytelling and structuring dances. In such circumstances,
could alternate casting make a difference? It did, to an extent.
The hero of the first Washington cast on Tuesday, January 11 wasn't Cinderella
but her Prince. He was almost human, although rather shy for a ruler and
surprisingly virginal for so prominent a young male. Cinderella was nearly
as much a caricature as every other character except the Prince. She was
the born victim, drab to the point of deserving the abuse she got not
just from her step family but her real father, a drunkard who disguised
the pressure he put on her with ineffective kindness. Saturday night,
Cinderella emerged as the title figure. She had brains, and didn't just
respond. One could sense her train of thought as she coped with what fate
dealt her. That she would act at the right instant became a conviction
that grew in strength. And when she did drop the object of the Prince's
search, the matching glass slipper, it was no accident that it practically
hit him on the head. This was a deliberate young woman.
Cinderella's intelligence also operated in the way she tackled her solos
and the supported dancing. Mr. Ratmansky's enchainments typically have
gaps. On opening night, the effect was that of vacuums, something that
art as well as nature abhors. Saturday night, one could see the questions
Cinderella asked herself. Why are there no steps here? Can I bridge them
dynamically without adding movement the choreographer didn't make? She
almost succeeded, at least she gave the impression that there were good
reasons for the gaps in the dancing, that they provided textural variety
like the holes in Swiss cheese.
The dancer responsible for this was Diana Vishneva. She has become a ballerina.
When the Kirov Ballet first featured her four, five years ago she was,
technically, a Sylvie Guillem clone, flaunting incredibly high extensions
whether they belonged or not. The ability to style a role or create a
character, which Ms. Guillem had, wasn't very apparent. Two years later,
Ms. Vishneva had learned to charm and pay attention to the fine points
of phrasing movement. Now, I'd like to see her in a dramatically rich
part. This Cinderella isn't that, yet Ms. Vishneva made one care about
the character, which Natalia Sologub hadn't on opening night. Ms. Sologub
didn't transgress the choreographer's apparent injunction that even the
heroine ought to be a caricature.
Ms. Vishneva's Prince was Igor Kolb. Sumptuously stretched, operating
with a strength gloved in velvet, he was visually and inwardly an anti-Prince.
His craggy features, spiky hairdo and pencil-thin mustache signaled a
Mafia gigolo. On opening night, Andrei Merkuriev had looked young and
vulnerable, and had danced ably. Which Prince is closer to the choreographer's
intent? Perhaps that of Mr. Merkuriev because his solo passages are the
only ones not distorted by eccentric balances, exaggerations of scale,
fractured lines and those vacuums in imagination.
As the ballet's principal gargoyle, the Stepmother, Alexandra Iosifidi
was almost as frantic as Irma Nioradze on opening night, but a bit more
a personality than an automaton. Probably Ms. Nioradze's variant was closer
to the choreographer's conception. On the whole, Saturday night's performance,
number six in this run of seven, was clearer in asides and details than
Events in Russia, past and present, have often been grotesque. Life there
isn't easy. Yet to this infrequent visitor, what has remained remarkably
human are the people. Mr. Chemiakin and Mr. Ratmansky have come to a different
conclusion. If you believe their ballets "The Nutcracker" and
"Cinderella", it is precisely the people who are what is wrong.
Both these Russian gentlemen have spent time outside Russia, and so can
see their fellow citizens comparatively as well as intimately. I can't
properly argue with their view of reality. As theater, though, so much
cartooning becomes pointless. Almost everyone on stage is bizarre. One
needs to see more balance, more beauty simply as contrast. In Mr. Ratmansky's
case, it isn't ideas he lacks. There are a dizzying number in "Cinderella"
but they appear unshaped. Mr. Ratmansky doesn't seem to value the know
how of building a scene, fashioning a whole dance, or of replying to the
music in a way other than mechanical.
3, No. 3
January 17, 2005
©2005 by George Jackson
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Kathrine Sorley Walker
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