Title: From Russia with style
Author: Hilary Ostlere
Date: April 22, 2008
Publisher: The Financial Times
The Kirov do not dance Balanchine as if to the manner born. But the all-Balanchine programme that concluded the Kirov's visit to the US proved that the company could dance his works as well as and sometimes better than, currently, New York City Ballet, the company that the choreographer founded with Lincoln Kirstein when he came to America.
These days, many troupes have acquired ballets from the strictly controlled George Balanchine Trust, and although they are staged by reliable lieutenants, noted dancers with the company when Balanchine was alive, few troupes perform them in a conformist way. To see the Kirov dance Serenade on the stage that NYCB called home before Lincoln Center was built gave a special air to this, Balanchine's first ballet choreographed for American dancers.
Staged by Francia Russell and Karen von Aroldingen, the ballet was a treat indeed, in spite of the casting of the tall, blonde Alina Somova, whose fixed smile, overextended arabesques and forceful presence hardly seemed appropriate. This role - although not delineated as such by Balanchine - is usually played as a creature who appears doomed after her carefree opening waltz variations (on this night with Danila Korsuntsev).
It is the corps de ballet who, in setting the style for Serenade with its constantly changing patterns, can make or mar it. The Kirov women danced with the occasional untidiness (or individuality) that Balanchine condoned. Ekaterina Osmolkina, full of joie de vivre , was a delight as she led the "Russian" section. Ekaterina Kondaurova's pure classical line, perfect placement and intense musicality were outstanding throughout: in Serenade as the "Dark Angel" (a label bestowed by the company and not by Balanchine), she then transformed herself in the Rubies portion of Jewels into a sexy minx who attracts three or four partners at a time, playing to them with cool, slightly amused indifference. In this oh-so-American vamp role Kondaurova's slashing leg extensions and feline smile were just right.
Stepping in for the injured Diana Vishneva, Olesia Novikova lacked the sassiness her City Ballet counterparts usually bring to the leading role. Her playful playmate Andrian Fadeev, although bouncy enough, did not produce the accelerated velocity that its originator Edward Villella and others displayed in the famed exit turns. The corps tried hard but still hasn't quite mastered the jazzy showbiz style that Stravinsky's Jewels requires.
Ballet Imperial , a work more in the Kirov's traditional line, had Victoria Tereshkina as the very royal princess and Igor Kolb as her poetic suitor. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 (pianist Lyudmila Sveshnikova) seemed natural ground for these dancers who, although costumed in Karenska's pastel chiffon rather than tutus, exuded a very courtly Russian ballet air. Osmolkina again sweetly soared and spun, and the corps de ballet was well drilled.