The thrill of exactitude
For lovers of dance, the 13th Mariinsky International Ballet Festival promises to amaze.
Published: February 27, 2013 (Issue # 1748)
Olga Yesina of the Wiener Staatsballet in ‘Swan Lake’ is set to be a highlight of the current festival.
Works by the groundbreaking American choreographer William Forsythe will take center stage at the forthcoming 13th Mariinsky International Ballet Festival, which kicks off Feb. 28.
March 3 will see the revivals of William Forsythe’s ballets “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” and “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” Almost a decade after these ballets originally premiered at the Mariinsky Theater, a completely new generation of Mariinsky dancers is learning Forsythe’s distinctive choreographic language. Forsythe is coming to St. Petersburg in person for a few days to supervise the final rehearsals of the ballets and attend the premiere of the revivals.
The choreographer is also bringing his Frankfurt-based troupe, The Forsythe Company, which he created in 2005, to the city to present his ballet “N.N.N.N.” Created for four male dancers, the minimalist piece celebrates masculinity and intensity.
“The imagery borrows from sports, martial arts, artificial respiration, and just plain goofing around,” wrote ballet critic Tobi Tobias in her review of the production for Artsjournal.com. “Fighting and bonding, Forsythe seems to be saying, that’s what men do, and the clue to their nature is that they do it simultaneously.”
The Forsythe troupe is Company-in-Residence at both the Hellerau European Center for the Arts in Dresden and the Bockenheimer Depot in Frankfurt am Main.
On March 9 the company is staging a creative workshop by young choreographers, at which aspiring Russian ballet masters will showcase their works. After the performance the Mariinsky will hold a discussion of the pieces, and if these choreographic experiments win enough critical support, they may enter the theater’s repertoire. The workshop starts at 15:00.
The festival also features gala performances by Mariinsky soloists Yekaterina Kondaurova (March 5) and Vladimir Shklyarov (March 8).
Kondaurova thrives on eccentricity, her most successful parts being tormented heroines of the likes of Anna Karenina in Alexei Ratmansky’s ballet, for which she was awarded the coveted Golden Mask prize, Russia’s most prestigious theatrical award; the vindictive princess Gamsatti in “La Bayadère”; and Alma Schindler in “Glass Heart,” the story of a love triangle between Schindler, her husband — the composer Gustav Mahler — and her teacher, composer Alexander Zemlinsky, to whose score the ballet was created.
For her gala, Kondaurova has chosen the George Balanchine ballet “Jewels,” where she will appear in all three parts: “Emeralds,” “Rubies” and “Diamonds.”
“When there is an opportunity to hold a ballet evening of your own, naturally, you aim to treat your audience to something special — a completely new work or a new role that will show your art from a different angle and give a different perspective on what you do on stage,” Kondaurova said. “I would be thrilled to do a whole evening of “Jewels” as this experience offers me a huge challenge. This will be a test of both my stamina and perseverance and my artistic skills alike. Stylistically, the three ballets are very different, and it will be tough having to switch from one to another.”
Kondaurova is also rehearsing the Forsythe works. “I am overwhelmed by this experience, and I am very much looking forward to seeing Forsythe at the festival,” she said. “He is an energizer of a person, and his ballets demand so much from you both physically and emotionally.”
Vladimir Shklyarov’s gala performance will mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the dancer’s professional career. Shklyarov will be dancing the “Rubies” segment from Balanchine’s “Jewels” with Olesya Novikova, “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort” with Yekaterina Kondaurova and “The Shades,” which is the final act of “La Bayadère,” with Dorothée Gilbert, a soloist with the Paris Opera Ballet. For Vladimir Shklyarov’s gala, the foyer of the third-level balcony will host an exhibition of photographs by Alexander Gulyayev, showing the dancer in various roles from his repertoire.
Shklyarov will also dance with the Mariinsky’s star soloist Diana Vishneva at the festival’s opening on Feb. 28, which will see a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky. The pair will take to the stage again in the same ballet on March 1, when the performance will be broadcast by the French TV station Mezzo.
Traditionally, festival performances feature the Mariinsky’s top talent as well as an impressive array of guest stars.
Guest performers at this year’s festival include Svetlana Zakharova and Ruslan Skvortsov of the Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater in “Giselle”; Vadim Muntagirov, Lead Principal at the English National Ballet, in “La Bayadère”; Olga Yesina of the Wiener Staatsballett in “Swan Lake”; and Chase Finlay from the New York City Ballet in “Apollo.”
Mariinsky prima ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina will be appearing as Titania in Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on March 6. Joining Lopatkina will be her fellow Mariinsky dancers Maria Shirinkina, Timur Askerov, Andrei Yermakov and Filipp Styopin.
At this year’s festival, the theater is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the birth of the legendary émigré dancer Rudolf Nureyev with a performance of “La Bayadère” featuring Oksana Skorik, Yekaterina Osmolkina and Vadim Muntagirov.
The show will coincide with two exciting exhibitions. The foyer of the theater’s Dress Circle will host the exhibition “Nureyev — Dance,” organized jointly with the Viktor Chernomyrdin Foundation and, from Feb. 28 to March 7, the foyer on the third-level balcony will play host to a photography display by Valentin Baranovsky.
Another exhibition of photography at the theater, titled “Nureyev — the Last Visit,” documents Nureyev’s well-publicized return to the then-Kirov Theater in the role of James in “La Sylphide” in 1989.
The festival ends March 10 with a gala performance featuring all of the starring dancers from the run of the festival.
For more information, visit the Mariinsky Theater website at www.mariinsky.ru