Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bolshoi Balet Episode 6, Part 1

Episode 6 is all 21st-century choreography, and I love it. There’s a deeply-held belief across American, British, and German writing that Russian ballet is divided into two camps: those who want to modernize by looking to the West and those who want to hold on to the Russian tradition. One of the things that I enjoy about Bolshoi Balet is that it quickly explodes that argument, demonstrating how complicated these categories can be and how much people who believe, for example, that ballet companies should commission from foreign choreographers can still believe that ballet is inherently Russian. Or that people who want to hold on to tradition also want to incorporate French or American traditions. It’s not that these tensions don’t exist in Russian ballet - of course they do - but that it’s far to simplistic to claim that modernization inherently lies on the Western side (and who said Western ballet was one monolithic influence anyways?) and that tradition and Russianness lie on the other.

The judging panel is the same this week as it was last week, which is such a relief because Edur and Vasiliev are the best judges that the competition has had thus far.

Inna Bilash and Nikita Chetverikov
duet from Variations on a Rococo Theme
music: Tchaikovsky
choreography: Alexei Miroshnichenko

Bilash and Chetverikov have a lovely sense of connection here, despite the fact that they’re not always in contact. I wonder if they took into consideration the criticisms from the judges after their Peri duet. They are very sensitive at following the musical phrasing. Bilash’s lines are beautifully flexible, soft, and always subtly-shifting. Chetverikov is an excellent partner. Choreographically, I have to admit that I don’t really understand all the upside-down lifts in this piece. They seem a little abrupt, in contrast to the long, elegant lines in the music (and the rest of the choreography). Maybe Miroshnichenko had something else in mind when he staged them, or maybe they just always look this awkward.

Lefèvre says that, as always, she finds it a pleasure to watch this pair. They have such an amazing feeling for the dance. She rarely gets that feeling when watching choreography that she doesn’t already know. The choreography is not virtuosic, nevertheless it’s very romantic. Tchaikovsky’s music is so strong and she wishes they had shown more of that. (Y)

Edur likes Miroshnichenko’s musicality and phrasing, and he thinks that the dancers understand it. Sometimes, almost accidentally, they looked into the audience and the connection between them faltered, and they can’t allow that. It was nevertheless remarkable. (Y)

Xiao Suhua thinks that this isn’t really right for choreography of the 21st century, but it is a number that suits them very well. He really likes Bilash- she seems a little sad, a little romantic. He wants Chetverikov to show a little more heart. (Y)

Vasiliev says that he knows Miroshnichenko’s choreography; he is a neo-classical choreographer and he doesn’t have to try to be revolutionary. He mentions that all of the judges expressed some feeling of disappointment in the emotion that the pair showed in their performance. When the notes are held, the dancers need to stretch out in their movements, carry them out along with the sound. On the other hand, he likes this pair because. They have a kind of fragility. (Y)

Total: 4/4

My scores:
Bilash: 9
Chetverikov: 8

Midori Terada and Koya Okawa
“Kick the Bucket”
Music: Aaron Martin
Choreography: Ivan Perez

Terada and Okawa’s performance looks somewhat similar to their last contemporary performance, which I’m not particularly pleased about. I wish their had been slightly more tenderness in the gestures sometimes. I think this seems to be about a dysfunctional relationship, and while they got the disfunction, they didn’t seem to always have the relationship down. Their digestion of difficult contemporary movement, though is very impressive - the lifts and partnering are so different from what they’re used and yet all executed with a real fluency.

During the interview, Terada and Okawa talk about how the choreographer told them that there doesn’t have to be emotion in the piece. He asked them not to hide emotions but also not to try to express them.


Vasiliev says it’s very difficult to speak of the dancers rather than the choreographer. He thinks that if a choreographer had told him what he had told these dancers, Vasiliev would have said - “Ok, thank you, goodbye, I can’t do that.” As for the performance, they did what the choreographer said - they did it very well. He’s going to wait to hear what the other judges say.

Lefèvre says that to her, it’s always important to keep tradition. They are in a very difficult period of dance, especially as pertains to the relationship in pairs. Speaking personally, she finds that contemporary pairings have extreme difficulties. She really liked the beginning of the duet - the two come out and recognize each other, but there wasn’t anything after that. She really liked Terada’s performance; she has intuition. She showed something new that she hadn’t showed in the earlier pas de deux. Okawa, on the other hand, seemed a little formal. (Y)

Edur says that Terada was more contemporary. From beginning to end, she was profound, interesting, and he really wants to give his vote, but sadly will not, because he only saw one person living on the stage and the other was too reserved. (N)

Xiao Suhua really, really liked the number - he was in raptures. It was subjective, but the relationship between the two was absolutely apparent. Either the man is terrorizing the woman or the other way around. Every movement was very interesting. He bows to them for their decision to choose real contemporary choreography. In contemporary choreography, we are more interested in the movement of the body than the face, because the body can express so much more. If he had two votes, he would give them both. (Y)

Vasiliev disagrees with Xiao, saying that everything is important in every performance - body and face and eyes. He will give his vote to the dancers. (Y)

Total: 3/4

My scores:

Terada: 8
Okawa: 7

Darya Khokhlova and Igor Tsvirko
pas de deux from Bells
music: Rakhmaninov
choreography: Yuri Possokhov

There’s a beautiful arc to this performance, a real sense that it leads up to the climax in the middle in which the two dancers move in unison. It’s striking from beginning to end, and Tsvirko and Khokhlova do a good job playing with and emphasizing the musical phrases. I liked the way that Khokhlova showed both vulnerability and strength in the performance, and I thought their connection was palpable.


Lefèvre says that she’s already talked about how much she likes Tsvirko - his feeling, manliness, strength. As for Khokhlova, she wants to learn everything, understand everything. Lefèvre has trouble understanding them as a pair - they’re so different. For her, they are two separate dancers. There was a formality to the duet. (Y)

Xiao Suhua says that Khokhlova was amazing - she danced with her whole heart. In this choreography, you can see the soul of Rakhmaninov’s music, and they danced it. He liked that Tsvirko supported Khokhlova the entire time. (Y)

Edur liked the choreography a lot, and it’s visible that there’s a foundation to the choreography - a Russian foundation. There was lightness, musicality. It seems like a difficult dance for the ballerina. He thanks them. (Y)

Vasiliev says that they sang the Rakhmaninov - it was very musical. So that they won’t be nervous, he gives them his vote at the start. (Y) He does say that Khohklova did more for the number than Tsvirko. Khokhlova was the better singer.

Total: 4/4

My scores:
Tsvirko: 9
Khokhlova: 9

This post continues in part 2, here.

1 comment:

  1. Love Vasiliev's comment about what he would do if a choreographer told him not to show emotions. Thanks again for these translations.