Mariinsky Waves Goodbye

The final performance of Swan Lake at the Mariinsky was maybe the most old-fashioned of the three Swan Lakes I caught. Viktoria Tereshkina has a contemporary physique and line, but her facial expressions and portrayal owed a lot to silent movie acting. There was nothing subtle about it, but her Odile especially was tons of fun. The long-held balances, the doubles and triples thrown into the fouette sequence, and, finally, the old-fashioned milking of bows. She came forward for a bow whether the audience response warranted it or not. Her Prince, Vladimir Shklyarov, was the Siegfried with the most bravura technique. His boyish looks and spotlight hogging reminded me of the young Nureyev. He's one of those dancers that does that slow walk with his back to the audience before he begins a variation to drum up anticipation. Andrei Yermakov really camped it up for his last performance of Rothbart (the death scene convulsions!), while Vasily Tchachenko was by far the most appealing Jester of the run.

The Mariinsky closed out their tour with a limp triple bill of Chopin. Chopiniana/Les Sylphides premiered at the Mariinsky over 100 years ago and had maybe the most legendary "first cast" of all time -- Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Tamara Karsavina. Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky were renowned for their elevation and lightness. The leading couple today (Timur Askerov and Oksana Skorik) are the opposite of light and effervescent. Askerov has clumsy posture with hunched shoulders and sloppy arms. Skorik is one of those really tall, crane necked, scary looking Russian ballerinas -- she's a dead ringer for Maleficent. But she also has really hard, tough landings. Yana Selina and Anna Lavrinenko were exquisite -- beautiful, with those rippling Vaganova arms and airy jumps. The corps was wonderful, but the pianist was not -- she totally ignored all the markings and decided to make the polonaise, waltz, mazurka, nocturne all sound like a dirge. This is a Mariinsky trademark. They should have done better.

Benjamin Millepied's Without was next. It's one of those color-coded couple ballets. For the first 15 minutes I thought well, this is nice, pleasant, sort of derivative but at least it's pretty. The choreography is a lot of swoony duets with a few goofy moves thrown in the mix. Unfortunately the ballet went on for about 50 minutes. I thought it ended several times before it actually ended -- the lights dimmed, the audience applauded ... and the music started up again, and the swoony duets began again. It was endless. This was the ballet where the Mariinsky's rather rigid casting system was up-ended and we got to see some of their other dancers. Kristina Shapran and Andrei Yermakov were very lovely as the blue couple, as were Yana Selina and Filip Stepin (purple couple). The other couples were: Anastasia Matvienko/Konstantin Zverev (red couple), Tatiana Tiliguzova/Ernest Latpov (orange couple, in one of the ballet's few humorous moments), and Margarita Frolova/Xander Parish (green couple).

Jerome Robbins' In the Night closed out the program and it at least had the advantage of being brief and well cast. It's A- Robbins, but A- Robbins is better than A+ Millepied. The young couple (Anastasia Matvienko and Vladimir Shklyarov) were ardent and adorable. A bit like Romeo and Juliet. The middle aged couple (Ekaterina Kondaurova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko) were a bit stolid, formal, but that is how it's supposed to be. Kondaurova still seems stiff in the lower body, like she's working through an injury. Uliana Lopatkina and Andrei Yermakov were the older, passionate/tempestuous couple. Lopatkina was of course her usual extravagant, poetic self. Maybe no ballerina can be so unchanging at yet compelling in everything she dances. She didn't quite nail the occasional humor of the choreography but it was still a wonderful performance. Yermakov has really princely lines and looks. Why was he dancing Rothbart all week?

The afternoon wasn't a total loss though: during intermission in the lobby I saw the great Mikhail Baryshnikov, now old and decidedly gray. He was going incognito (black trenchcoat, sunglasses), but he gave away his dancer background when he started talking animatedly with a small group. He was apparently objecting to Timur Askerov's port de bras and demonstrated this, and then pulled his arms up in a proud fifth (probably to demonstrate how he thought it should be done). And all of a sudden, you saw Misha Baryshnikov, superstar again.

In other news, the New York City Ballet started its Winter Season with an all-Balanchine program and threw several debuts into the mix: Erica Pereira as the Russian Girl in Serenade, Megan LeCrone in the pas de trois of Agon, Ashley Bouder in First Movement of Symphony in C, Lauren Lovette in Third Movement, and Brittany Pollack in Final Movement. Robert Fairchild who's about to become a Broadway star in American in Paris was cast in the smallish role of the male in Serenade. The debutantes all acquitted themselves with professionalism (if not exact mastery yet) but that's the NYCB way -- there's no sure things. Just put on your big girl tutu and dance. Perhaps no other company is as unsentimental.


  1. Dear Ivy, would you please define "scary looking Russian ballerinas", what exactly did you mean? Did you mean she's bad looking or looking frightened? unsecure? Or something else?

    1. I meant she simply has the kind of face and physique hat isn't really right for Les Sylphides. She has one of those very angular, severe, serious faces and super thin, tall figures that just looks odd in this ballet.

  2. So as I take it you meant "weird, strange", didn't you.

  3. The first "anonymous" is a Russian lady who is proud of her knowledge of English. She was claiming that "scary" can mean "timid" in English... I argued, that it cannot (unless it is "scared", not "scary"), but she insists that you meant "frightened looking " when you said "scary looking"... Would you please kindly confirm to this lady what is very clearly expressed in your blog - that you meant "one of those Russian ballerinas who look "a bit frightenING" with their long thin bodies etc...
    There is a big battle on a russian ballet forum - regarding what you said - as far as I and all my English friends know - "scary" never means timid or frightened... but this lady insists, ignores all the examples and dictionaries, and spits offensive words on everyone who disagrees with her...

    Please, please, just for her - can you clarify that you did not mean "timid" or "frightened"... you will save our forum its sanity - you are a native English speaker and the author of the article, after all ;0

    Thank you for your amazingly precise description of what Lopatkina is like nowadays. spot on !

    1. Oh Jesus. To clarify: I meant that Skorik's look (very tall, skinny, with a sort of sharp nose and angular features, plus a stern face) plus her dancing style (not a great jumper, lacks lightness) made her sort of "frightening" looking. Like a Disney villainess. And I associate the ballet/role with a softer, more Romantic look and not such hard features (or style). I hope this clarifies.

  4. Thank you very much indeed :) and kindest regards

  5. Dear Ivy. There wasn't any battle about what exactly you said, the real sense of your words was clarified pretty quickly and thank you for that.
    There was a "battle" about the FULL definition of the word "scary" by Merriam Webster's dictionary (as well as by other dictionaries).
    Someone, apparently very stubborn, denied the obvious, claimed the dictionary was totally wrong..
    Here, above:
    ""scary" NEVER means timid or frightened... "

    But the word "scary" may indeed have several different meanings:
    "Full Definition of SCARY

    1 causing fright, alarming
    2 easily scared, timid
    3 feeling alarm or fright, frightened"

    At the beginning of discussion someone - and that even wasn't I - came up with different possible meanings of the word "scary"
    and the rest of discussion was NOT about your words,
    but about some linguistic nuances that are described above.
    I'm really surprised that some person rushed here to distort the sense of harmless discussion on that forum, and why all those lies here in YOUR blog...
    I just wanted you to know the truth.
    Sorry for intruding into your space, dear Ivy, all the best and thanks for your interesting writings.

    1. Ok I have read the discussion via google translate. I'd like to clarify a few comments:

      1. I don't mean to say all Russian ballerinas are "scary" looking. I would never, for instance, characterize Angelina Vorontsova (whom I saw as a wonderful Kitri) or Yana Selina as "scary" looking.

      2. I meant to say that Skorik and some other Russian ballerinas I have seen because of their physical features and physique work better in roles where that kind of severe face and physique are appropriate. Les Sylphides IMO isn't one of those ballets. i have seen the MT perform Les Sylphides. IMO Yana Selina has more of the Sylphides look.

      3. I love the MT company in general and went to as many performances as I can. I follow them whenever they tour the U.S. So I am not trying to be disrespectful, as the discussion seems to imply.

    2. Any person has the right to express any opinion.
      However, my point was to stress that the reason for so called "battle" was something else. I.e. linquistics and someone's stupidest denial of the obvious. Thanks for understanding.

    3. No I'm happy to clarify. I think it's great that I was able to clarify. I hope to see the MT again soon.

  6. You meant no disrespect, I knew it and had no doubt from the beginning. Sorry. Thanks.

  7. > And all of a sudden, you saw Misha Baryshnikov, superstar again.

    What a lovely anecdote! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Haven't really seen any Millepied ballet before, but just got to watch a full-length video (from a live broadcast I think) of his new work for POB Bright Loud Clear Forward,and was really impressed. The music, lighting, costumes, along with the choreography all felt contemporary and edgy but not overtly so. Great formal craft with the ensemble patterns emerging and dissolving so fluidly, and the pdds felt natural and genuine emotionally, with beautiful partnering. He used only corps dancers and I must say they did admirably well. The dancing was fluid, musical, crisp and nuanced. I enjoyed it much more than many recent new ballets by Wheeldon/Ratmansky. I'd like to hear your thoughts if you can get your hands on it.


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