Title: Kirov Ballet challenges dancers, viewers at City Center
Author: Robert Johnson
Date: April 16 2008
Publisher: The Star Ledger
Conviction and daring are not qualities one associates with American ballet these days. The Kirov Ballet, however, still owns them in full measure. ??The Russian company, which performs at New York City Center through Sunday, believes completely in what it does. It seems untroubled by the encroaching banalities of modern life, and its self-confidence and integrity explain why even less than perfect performances remain compelling. The Kirov expects mature consideration from its audiences to match the dedication of its dancers, and expects both dancers and viewers to make fine distinctions. ?
Take programming, for instance. This season the company has organized most of its programs around individual choreographers. We have had Petipa evenings that measured the distance between "La Bayadere" and "Raymonda"; Fokine evenings that balanced "Chopiniana" with "Scheherazade"; and most recently a Forsythe evening of uncompromising seriousness. People who genuinely admire the work do not shy away from immersing themselves in it, and the Kirov thrives on such enthusiasms. ??Yet even Harald Lander's virtuosic "Etudes," included as a tag to some of the Fokine nights, was a test of sorts. Unadorned by narrative or high-minded concept, "Etudes" showcases the dancers' technique. It fascinates people who love the beauty of this visual language and thrill to see it exquisitely rendered, but that's not everybody. ??Insufficient attention was paid to the mystery in Fokine's ballets. The dancers' lyricism and unity buoyed "Chopiniana," although by so marvelously attenuating their gestures they risked ironing out choreographic accents. The Kirov doesn't seem to have a man for "Le Spectre de la Rose," since the ideally suited Anton Korsakov indulged himself by altering some pirouettes. Both he and Igor Kolb made their dancing so liquid that they did not complete key poses. While spectacularly voluptuous, "Scheherazade," depicting the trespass of sex-starved prisoners in a harem, needs to be restaged. ??"The Dying Swan," however, gave Fokine his due in two unforgettable interpretations. Uliana Lopatkina found a metaphor in full stops where her arms seemed pinned to the air, conceiving of death as the interruption of lyrical flow, but Diana Vishneva's Swan differed in temperament and physicality. Vishneva's muscles stretch wonderfully but not without resistance, which accounts somewhat for this ballerina's dramatic insight and for the way viewers sense her movement. Beating the air with proud but desperate wings her Swan struggled to the last breath, when her head bowed reluctantly to the ground. ??Vishneva's athleticism, passion and fearlessness also brought terrific humanity to Forsythe's "Steptext." In the otherwise spooky work, music and lights flash on and off unpredictably inspiring viewers to fill the emptiness by imagining a life that continues elsewhere or on another plane. ??Less consistently inventive in "Approximate Sonata," Forsythe stages the rehearsal process and the boundary between reality and art fades. Only Leonid Sarafanov took naturally to "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," yet the Kirov dancers' style and hopeful grace made this ballet's concern with speed seem shallow. Ekaterina Osmolkina also danced superbly here. ??A classroom ballet of sorts, "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated" recalls "Etudes," except that while Lander happily shows us steps Forsythe emphasizes the pitilessness and narcissism of the milieu. A tough contender, smoldering Victoria Tereshkina devoured this ballet's every challenge.