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Mariinsky Theatre

'La Bayadère'

by Catherine Pawlick

April 7, 2009 -- St. Petersburg, Russia

Along with the rest of the traditional classical repertoire at the Mariinsky Theatre, “La Bayadère” holds a special place and continues to be performed by leading ballerinas of the company. Just last week, Tereshkina danced it with newcomer Denis Matvienko. And on April 7, Uliana Lopatkina’s display of virtuosity achieved new heights in both purity and line as she reprised what seems to be the role she was born for – Nikiya. In addition to an utterly flawless technical performance, this, the ultimate ballerina, added depth to her emotional delivery, resulting in a rare performance that can be considered an earmark of her career.

In Act I, we saw an elegant beauty, the untouchable temple dancer who quickly displayed pride of place in her firm refusal of the Great Brahmin’s advances. Her brief garden interlude with Solor, in contrast, expressed all the joy of new love. Lopatkina’s Act II solo was marked with soulful despair that shifted quickly to momentary joy (expressed notably in the crisp hops en pointe, flower basket in hand). An appropriate emotional shift then revealed comprehension of the malevolence done to her, as she mimicked the snake’s movement along the floor. Further, we witnessed her pristine classicism in Act III: arabesque turns as light as the veil that she held, her quick piqué turns breezing past in a blur, cut to match the quick tempo. Whether mournful adagio or sharp allegro, Lopatkina danced in a manner that sets new, higher standards for this role, both technically and dramatically. Based solely on this performance, any considerations that this terpsichorean creature is past her prime can now safely be put to rest.

Alongside her, in a gratifying execution of his own dramatic artistry, Danila Korsuntsev danced Solor as a young prince thrilled with young love, but forced to marry another, and intent on escaping his fate through drug and dream. Korsuntsev glided around the stage in his jeté manège, his long limbs slicing through space. Likewise his tours à la seconde were an essay in powerful control, turning as if by outside forces. The joy in his eyes, the discriminate smiles, and the enraptured gestures made him more than just a fairytale figure; he was an ill-fated prince joined by the higher powers of Love to his immortal partner.

Anastasia Matvienko danced a cruel Gamzatti, her demure pride palpable through cold stares that revealed only ill intent. As a dancer, Matvienko appeals for her light jump and slender physique; as Gamzatti she embodied the jealous fiancée in every glance and reached a level of emotion that she had not achieved as recently as one month ago in the company’s festival. Matvienko piques one’s curiosity: how would she fare in a more delicate emotional role?

Of the soloists, only Alexei Timofeev disappointed as the Bronze Idol, stumbling on each of three landings in the initial diagonal of airborne turns in double passé, and barely coping in the more simple grand jetés.

As Manu, Elena Vaskiovitch (listed as Elena Yukovskaya), etched a lighthearted figure teasing the two young Vaganova students in search of water from her jug.

In the Grand Pas, Daria Vasnetsova shone most prominently alongside year-old newcomers Lilia Lishuk, Yuliana Chereshkevich, and Valeria Ivanova.

As the Bayadères in Act III, Yulia Kasenkova’s high cabrioles were sharp and buoyant. Despite a light grand jeté, Elizaveta Cherpasova’s port de bras masked her face, while the relèvés en arabesque seemed unstable. She is capable of more; the dance needs some tidying.

Valery Obsyanikov conducted with utter perfection.

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