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Mariinsky Theatre

Gala Concert

by Catherine Pawlick

April 12, 2009 -- St. Petersburg, Russia

A series of short divertissements completed the mixed bill in Sunday night's Gala Concert at the Mariinsky. Despite the rather bright debuts of Evgenia Dolmatova and Anna Lavrinenko as Fanny Cerrito and Lucille Gran, respectively, in the famous "Pas de Quatre", it was in fact Ekaterina Kondaurova who outshone the other three ballerinas in her role as the proud Maria Taglioni. Each step and gesture of Kondaurova's was perfectly executed and her natural grace remains unquestionable. Daria Vasnetsova danced Carlotta Grisi, and sadly slipped to the floor during her variation. However, overall the lovely four utilised the stylistics of Vaganova épaulement so well that the slight mishap was easily overlooked. This piece remains a symbol of the richness of balletic tradition, and it is a marvel that it is still performed on this stage.

A particular spark came from Tatiana Tkachenko in the "Talisman" pas, along with Alexander Sergeyev. Her work with coach Ninella Kurgapkina was visible in Tkachenko's finely honed delivery, technical tidiness and warm dramatism. Sergeyev's ever upright pirouettes and soaring split jetés drew in the audience; the only regret was the Talisman male costume, whose one-shoulder drape and flowing material distracted from the lines of one of the most cultivated dancers in the company.

The hottest ballerina of the moment, Viktoria Tereshkina, appeared in a fresh magenta tutu with silver dragées to perform the Corsaire Pas de Deux with newcomer Alexei Timofeyev. Coping only slightly better than in his disappointing rendition of the Bronze Idol in Tuesday night's "Bayadere", Timofeyev danced with technical instability and expressive uncertainty in his solo sequences, despite proving a decent partner. Tereshkina, aglow, offered impeccable lines and a light mood that suited the piece well.

The second half of the evening moved at first towards classicism with the Grand Pas from "The Sleeping Beauty". Anastasia Kolegova and Evgeny Ivanchenko, both clothed in pristine white with sparkling silver accents, danced this ode to Petipa with accuracy. Kolegova, whose tendu devant in pointe shoes is characterized by the entire box of her shoe touching the floor, has a body that most gymnasts would envy, but she doesn't overuse her extension as is the fashion of late. Here she etched every line with careful attention. Ivanchenko's variation did not offer the equivalent in polished footwork but his performance was nonetheless pleasing.

A special treat came in Alexei Miroshnichenko's "Tango", a sultry piece of Mediterranean flair that presented Tereshkina again, this time in sheer hose, black heels and a low-cut fringe dress next to the sleek Sergeyev as her partner. As the pair's legs interwove themselves above, over and in between each other, it became clear that both choreographer and performers had met a moment of inspiration in this short mood piece.

Next came a unique pairing: Andrey Batalov and Elena Evseeva in the Grand Pas from "Don Quixote". If ever there was a risk-taking, no-holds-barred couple, this was it. Batalov deemed it prudent to pause in each of the first two overhead lifts for added effect, drawing additional applause from the audience. His turns and jumps seemed a vehicle for his boundless source of centered energy. In complimentary fashion, Evseeva's balances lasted through extra bars of music, and her variation--with fan--implied a dancer of not just technical but of dramatic mastery as well.

Ekaterina Kondaurova was the picture of serene mournfulness in "The Dying Swan", a role that fits her perhaps even more than she realizes. She ended her interpretation of the famous excerpt in a different pose on the floor than typically seen here. Rather than folded over as usual, instead her head and arms lay prone downstage, her legs upstage, all en diagonale, lending a more natural impression. Kondaurova's status as the next principal dancer in the troupe is already unquestionable, and now just need be recognized.

The Matvienkos-- Denis and Anastasia--crowned the evening with "Tarantella". Oddly, the finish was anticlimactic after enjoying Leonid Sarafanov's performance in the same role just a few weeks ago. Nonetheless the Matvienkos achieved the proper mood for the finale to what was an evening of true Mariinsky talents.

Mikhail Agrest conducted.


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