Sunday, April 20, 2008

Russian Flavor to a NY Staple

okay, my insomnia led me to my official review last night...should be up on exploredance soon

Russian Flavor to a New York Staple: Kirov Does Balanchine

To have the Kirov Ballet performing in New York City is a treat in itself. But to have the troupe of perfect bodies and technical epitome dance repertoire that is typical for New York audiences but with a taste of Russian flare is a sweetness like no other. Such was the case at Saturday evening’s all Balanchine performance at City Center, the last of the programs the elite company brought with them on their 3 week tour from their home at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The program commenced with “Serenade,” his first ballet choreographed in America (in 1934) after leaving Russia, where Balanchine himself trained at the Mariinsky Theatre. It was a fitting piece for the lavish corps de ballet and the delicious Tchaikovsky score, but if the evening were a decadent dessert to await, this ballet was the cumbersome course to get through before the sweet stuff. Though Ekaterina Osmolkina sparkled with her amiable interpretation of the Russian role (one of the lead parts of the ballet is so aptly named), the rest of the piece was no standout compared to the numerous companies that perform it.

One memorable moment of the choreography is when a male promenades a ballerina from her bottom leg hidden by her tutu, appearing as if she were impressively spinning independently like a dancer in a music box. Saturday it was disappointing. The partner’s hands accidentally wrapped the voluptuous skirt around as well, making a mess of the illusion. Often the ostentatious takes on Balanchine’s exaggerated upper body style were over the top for the proximity of the audience in City Center, though the overextensions may be appropriate at the company’s home theater.

A craving for something more was quickly fed with “Rubies.” The slinky, jazzy section from “Jewels” brought a tart spark to their fine technique. Olesia Novikova was outstanding as the crackerjack lead. Her carved lines could scoop gold out of thin air with their perfection. Balanchine’s staccato playfulness in her pas de deux with Leonid Sarafanov gave them a charming chemistry. Nadezhda Gonchar’s precision and strength kept her grounded in the quickness of the choreography while giving her the freedom to explore a unique flirtation with the audience. By far, this spunky side of the company was most enjoyable.

“Ballet Imperial” concluded the evening with a sugary rush of beauty. The work, which is now known in America as “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major,” is one of Balanchine’s more classically driven ballets. Cotton candy pink dresses melted into the taffy quality of the corps de ballet’s dancing. Weaving and intertwining patterns lent themselves gracefully to the languid arms of the Russians. However there were times when, along the sides framing the flavorful Uliana Lopatkina and Igor Zelensky, the corps looked comparably stale.

Yana Selina and Svetlana Ivanova were exquisite in their featured corps roles, raising the question of how a hierarchy structure is imposed on this company loaded with brilliant bodies, luscious movement quality, and a presence that serves any audience’s palate worldwide. New Yorkers must have an appetite for more of the Kirov after this 3 week glamour sampler.

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