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Kirov Ballet

‘Raymonda’, ‘La Sylphide’

April 2005
St. Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

by Kevin Ng


© Natasha Razina

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In mid-April on a trip to St. Petersburg, I saw the Kirov Ballet in two different ballets which they seldom bring on overseas tours - "Raymonda" and "La Sylphide". As a matter of fact, "Raymonda", in this magnificent 1948 version by Konstantin Sergeyev after Petipa, is not performed very often in the Mariinsky Theatre.

In each of these two ballets, I saw a very young talented dancer in her early twenties who was fully in command of the ballerina role, and whose performance was a revelation to me. The Kirov still has an endless abundance of female talent which is unmatched by any other ballet company. As Raymonda, Viktoria Tereshkina, aged 22 and already promoted to first soloist recently, showed the phenomenal progress that she has made since I first saw her Odette/Odile two years ago during the Kirov's tour to Manchester.

Evgenia Obraztsova, a 21-year-old coryphee dancer, was exquisite in the title role in "La Sylphide". She was partnered by the 20-year-old Vladimir Shklyarov, another exciting male talent who has emerged after Leonid Sarafanov.

I start off with "Raymonda". It is really an ideal ballet showing off the Kirov at its most glorious - in classical dancing as well as in character dancing. Konstantin Sergeyev's production narrates the story in a straight-forward manner, and gives full value to the dancing. Viktoria Tereshkina, who only made her debut last year, was totally resplendent Act 1. Her pure temperament and her strong but unforced technique make her ideal for this demanding ballerina role. She sailed through with aplomb the several difficult solos in Act 1 - the first 'rose' solo with a lot of sharp legwork, the veil solo with those arabesques voyagees, and the last solo at the end with a lot of wonderful epaulement. In the pas de deux in which Raymonda dreams of her lover Jean de Brienne, Tereshkina was ecstatic in those lovely pas de bourrees and long supported arabesques.

 


Viktoria Tereshkina in Raymonda
Photograph by Natasha Razina ©


In the second act which takes place in the castle where the festivities culminate in Jean de Brienne killing the evil Abderakhman in a duel, Tereshkina sparkled in her variation with a lot of tricky off-balance pirouettes, and later in the coda which has a manege of air turns and chaine turns. In the grand pas in the final act, Tereshkina coped slightly less well and needed more stately grandeur, especially in that series of 'releves passes'. In this act Irma Nioradze, the second night's Raymonda, had the requisite aurthoriy.

Nioradze, who is technically formidable, impressed more in technical bravura than in expressiveness. Vladimir Shishov danced powerfully as Jean de Brienne and was a strong partner. Danila Korsuntsev on the second night was more polished technically. Ilya Kuznetsov made an impressive debut as the Saracen chief Abderakhman.

The supporting roles were also strongly cast. Tatiana Tkachenko was radiant in the first dream variation in Act 1. She executed those multiple relevees with perfect control. As the troubadour Bernard, Ruben Bobovnikov was dazzling in the brises voles in his solo. Xenia Ostreikovskaya danced impeccably the solo of Henrietta (Raymonda's friend). In the grand pas in the last act, Sergei Popov stood out among the eight men in the corps.

The character dances, as usual with the Kirov, were sumptuous. Islom Baimuradov was stylish in the Hungarian dance. Galina Rakhmanova was at her most fiery in the Spanish dance. Ti-Yon Riu and Nikolai Zubkovsky were exciting in the Saracen dance. The eight Vaganova Academy students were so delightful in their short dance.

I had only seen twice before the Kirov's version of "La Sylphide" - Elsa Marianne von Rosen's 1981 version revised by Elena Vinogradova. But the cast this time was the most satifying that I have seen from the Kirov so far. Evgenia Obraztsova is perfectly suited to this Bournonville ballerina role with her lightness and delicacy. Her dancing is bright and crystal clear. She has a beautiful face and a warm personality. No wonder she could lure James to leave his fiancee. She was vibrant in the pas de deux in Act 2 with the poisoned scarf. Her death scene was touching.

 


Evgenia Obraztsova and Vladimir Shklyarov in La Sylphide
Photograph by Natasha Razina ©


Vladimir Shklyarov was quite impressive as James. He has an easy high jump and the technique for Bournonville's intricate choreography. His acting was convincing, and he was intense in the tragic denouement.

Elena Vostrotina impressed as the lead sylph in the second act. The corps de ballet of 18 sylphs were dancing beautifully with harmony and uniformity. And this was only the Kirov's 'second' corps since half of of the company's dancers had already departed for the Cardiff tour that weekend.


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