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Lords of the dance

Published: March 17, 2006 (Issue # 1153)



  • Ballet star Igor Zelensky, one of three male dancers honored at the Sixth International Mariinsky Ballet Festival running this week.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

A reconstruction of a 19th-century French classic, a new cutting-edge piece set to music of Dmitry Shostakovich with the plot inspired by Nikolai Gogolss The Overcoat and a delicious cocktail of the choreography of Marius Petipa, George Balanchine and William Forsythe are at the heart of the Sixth International Mariinsky Ballet Festival which opened Thursday with Pierre Lacottes revival of Jules Perrot 1843 Ondine.

The event, launched by the Mariinskys artistic director Valery Gergiev in 2001 as a counterweight to Gergievs other brainchild, the Stars of the White Nights festival which runs each June, assembles a pantheon of ballet stars from Londons Covent Garden, the Opera de Paris, the New York City Ballet, the Bavarian State Ballet and Moscows Bolshoi Theater. The summer event, Stars of the White Nights emphasises opera and symphonic concerts, and balletomanes sometimes feel hard done by. But with this weeks sumptuous ballet fiesta nobody has cause for complaint.

During last years event, the Mariinsky restored the lost tradition of tribute evenings to its brightest ballet stars.

Before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the Imperial Ballet organized annual tribute performances to the companys brightest dancers and its corps de ballet. In 2005, the companys three principal ballerinas Diana Vishnyova, Daria Pavlenko and Ulyana Lopatkina took center stage to be honored in this way.

At this years festival, all eyes will be on male principal dancers: Igor Zelensky and Farukh Ruzimatov will be celebrated on Thursday and Friday (March 24) respectively. Perhaps due to the lack of a third obvious Mariinsky star, keeping them a company will be Bolshoi Theater principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze who occasionally comes from Moscow to guest at the Mariinsky. Tsiskaridze will be honoured on Wednesday.

Tsiskaridze will appear in Balanchines Rubies, Petits Le Jeune Homme et La Mort and Forsythes In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

Zelensky opted for Balanchines Apollo and Diamonds as well as a modern work to be announced later. The New York City Ballet ballerina Maria Kowroski will partner Zelensky in Apollo.

Svetlana Zakharova, who after parting ways with the Mariinsky was the companys biggest recent loss, returns to take part in the festival by partnering Zelensky in Balanchines Diamonds on Thursday.

After the long-limbed Mariinsky principal dancer left to join the troupe of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, her schedule has been too tight to allow for more than two appearances in St. Petersburg each season.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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