Mariinsky's Dreamy La Bayadere

Tereshkina and Kim and Shades
A quick day-trip to D.C. yielded great rewards: an absolutely gorgeous performance of La Bayadere from the Mariinsky Ballet. Because of schedule constraints I could only see one performance but I'm confident I ended up with the best cast because, honestly, it's hard to imagine a greater Nikya and Solor today than Viktoria Tereshkina and Kimin Kim. They were awesome. Amazing. Stupendous. I could go on with the superlatives but I'm sure it will get boring fast, if it hasn't already gotten boring.

I last saw the Mariinsky dance La Bayadere in full about 10 years ago. I remember Uliana Lopatkina was the Nikya and she was a delicate, fragile, sad creature. I remember her exquisitely tapered hands and feet, her peerless adagio work. I remember how her entire wedding dance was a song of grief, and her arching back seemed to scream "Feel my pain!" She was a special, one-of-a-kind dancer. But alas, she has retired. Viktoria Tereshkina's Nikya is so opposite from Lopatkina's that it might as well be a different ballet. I first saw her dance Nikya a few years ago with ABT but this performance with her home company was simply in a different league, simply because in the Mariinsky production she has more dancing to do than Makarova's streamlined version.

Tereshkina and Kim, photo @ Dave Morgam
First of all, Tereshkina's technique is jaw-dropping. She can do anything. She can rise on pointe, lift one leg in high unsupported arabesque/developpé/attitude, stay on pointe and balance in perfect stillness, as if she were a statue. During the lifts you can see how strong her core is -- she lifts herself higher and then stays there, airborne, apparently oblivious to the demands of gravity. In the shades scarf duet she lets go of the scarf and then completes three consecutive triple pirouettes like child's play. In addition she has that uber-flexible Russian back and those soft, expressive arms.

Here is a clip that gives you an idea of the incredible strength of Tereshkina:

All this would be for naught if it didn't contribute to her portrayal of Nikya. But oh, it did. In this case, technique served artistry. Her strong technique allows her a certain freedom and boldness in her dancing that is immensely appealing. Tereshkina was the fiercest temple dancer I've ever seen. There was fire in her belly from the very first scene. In the wedding scene she rose on pointe, lifted her leg in a high unsupported arabesque pencheé and balanced without any difficulty. She seems to be showing off her strength to Solor, as if to say, "See? This is what you could have had." In the Shades scene her independence made her elusive, like something Solor could touch but never hold. This was not a forgiving spirit. One could easily imagine her destroying the temple in the 4th act which has been dropped from the Mariinsky version of the ballet.

Kimin Kim was just as impressive in terms of technique. He has amazing elevation and ballon and can do those famous double assembles en tournant with each one seeming higher than the last. Centered turns, pointed feet, an ability to get the crowd screaming with excitement. He's a decent partner too, and had no trouble with the lifts. His portrayal was a bit bland. I didn't feel Solor's torment at having to choose between Nikya and Gamzatti, nor his despair as he smoked opium to begin the Shades scene. But really, one can't complain about this quality of dancing.

Matvienko and Kim, photo @ Jack Devant

Anastasia Matvienko as Gamzatti is one of those dancers with perfectly acceptable technique, who doesn't take a wrong step, yet whose stage persona is simply not fierce enough to make the battle between Gamzatti and Nikya seem real. Tereshkina is so ferocious. If she's Bette Davis, she needed a Joan Crawford. She needed a Steph Curry to her Lebron James. A Frazier to her Ali. But Matvienko seemed only mildly perturbed by the actions onstage whether it was almost getting stabbed or watching her rival die. In the wedding pas de deux the Italian fouettés were a bit clunky but she got them done, and her single fouettés were very fast and centered.

Other shout-outs: May Nagahisa as a charming Manu, the three shades, all so proficient (Valeria Martynuk, Yana Selina and Anastasia Lukina), Roman Belyakov who made the slave duet with Tereshkina rather compelling (and it isn't always so). And of course, the life-blood of the Mariisnky: their unbeatable corps de ballet. In the Shades scene they were so calm, so eerily still, with nary a wobble in site, that the scene had a hypnotic beauty that simply isn't present in, say, the ABT's version. Just to see those 32 shades come down a double-sided ramp, one after another, in arabesque pencheé, and having them line up in those perfect rows, was worth the price of admission.


  1. Ivy, you nailed it, [and read my mind with your comments] but you left out Grigory Popov, the fantastic fakir character. He impressed us every night. And as for Victoria, if anything, she was even more fabulous in her second performance. Most of us felt it was the highlight of the week.

    1. Andrea thanks for your kind words. I know there were many people I was missing but the overall performance level was so high.

    2. Thanks for your great review on Tereshkina. And I have to tell you that I've seen Tereshkina Lebron James vs Noveikova Steph Curry Bayadere show down once. Olesya came out as a naive young girl and slowly growing into one fierce femme fatale yet vulnerable.Solor was Shklyarov, his cambres derrieres in his GP variation or Kingdom entrance showed us his complete surrender each time. It was a miracle Bayadere in my life.

    3. bnesque, thanks for that memory! Novikova is a real Steph Curry. She looks so fragile and delicate, like a porcelain doll, but I've seen her dance and she can really dance everyone off a stage. So much speed and power behind that china doll look. And with Shklyarov, you really just had Kevin Durant and it was probably a great ballet/basketball game.

  2. Ivy Lin, excuse me for being so chatty in here. Yes, Novikova is a real Steph, her Gamzatti began her GP entrance with mesmerizing epaulement nailing her entrelaces completely holding her face to the audience, finished her coda with very willful double turns in grands fouettes. I thought I could see nothing better than this.But Viktoria came in with huge presence like you descrived in here. And another miracle happens, she nailed her assembles after one grand jete in basket dance with shaking her head like saying "what is this nice gesture? No, no, this doesn't work, I
    can believe nothing." I had/have never seen such emotional explosion in this dance and was completely devoured into her world. In the next act, she was so distant yet shimmering with sadness and longing, sometimes teary. This Bayadere final ended up the complete victory of Lebron. Thanks to Durant/Shk played on both team. So nice to talk about ballet in comparison with basketball both are my huge addiction.

    1. One thing the Russians do in La Bayadere which other dancers don't (and I don't know why because it's so magical) is in the Shades scene. The Russian Nikyas I've seen snap their arms upwards, as if to say, "Victory is mine."
      To see what I'm talking about look at this at 22:48

      It's as if (Viktory)a just won another NBA championship.


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