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|About the Change|
by Jennifer Delaney
| The Russian balletomane and critic Vadim Gayevski summed it up in a recent Channel 4 documentary Dancing for Dollars when he said "Uliana Lopatkina is a gift from God".
The 23-year-old Kirov principal does not look much like a ballerina - she's 5'9" with a copper bob. Like most of her contemporaries, she's almost painfully thin, with phenomenally long limbs. Even her fingers seem longer than the norm.
As one of the Kirov's clutch of "baby ballerinas" she wowed London audiences this summer in a variety of roles including Symphony in C, the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Zobeide in Schezerade and, most strikingly of all, as Odette Odile in Swan Lake.
Her ethereal figure suited the Adagio in Symphony in C, easily carrying off what is probably the most difficult movement to dance well. Her bored pout, a cliché of a Russian ballerina, was a refreshing change from the fixed half-grins of most interpretations.
Similarly in Schezerade, she was every inch the disdainful harem queen, writhing sinuously around Farouk Ruzimatov's awed Golden Slave. Her performance dominated the stage, even when she was sulking at the side, yet she does not come across as a conspicuous upstager.
She is also one of the Kirov's best actresses, capable of expressing herself clearly to the entire audience, with the flick of a wrist.
In Swan Lake, with Igor Zelensky as Siegfried, she was breathtaking. Her Odette was a barely mature swan, with remnants of the cygnet about her, as she tried to grasp the perpetual sorrow of her situation. It was as Odile, however, that she dominated the stage. Sexual menace in a tutu is a hard trick to pull off, but Siegfried was not her only entranced spectator. A knowing glint in her eyes - a total contrast to her demure and sorrowing Odette - showed that Odile was loving her moment of fame. In the pas de deux, Lopatkina and Zelensky literally fought to outdo each other before coming together in a triumphant swirl. After that, I suspect Siegfried was going to be slightly unhappy with his comparatively boring Odette.
If Lopatkina has a fault, it is in her height. She lacks the motor control that shorter, quicker dancers have. Her serres were ragged whereas Monica Zamora of BRB, for example, produces a beautiful clear interpretation of that particular combination of steps in the white pas de deux. However, my minor quibbles are very minor. Sell your granny to watch her dance - your grandmother would probably agree with you!
Seeing her isn't easy. She has no intention of leaving the Kirov, even to guest elsewhere. The Kirov on tour is notorious for erratic and inaccurate casting information. Watch her in anything, but particularly as a villainess. She is an exquisite romantic heroine, but she is a bad girl par excellence.