The Bolshoi Ballet! But WWNOD? (What Would Natalia Osipova Do?)

20 Jun

I went with my friend Hilary to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform Le Corsaire.  Now before I continue, we both feel cheated (and rightfully so) because we were slated to see Natalia Osipova perform when we purchased our tickets, however (and I’ve mentioned this before) that they changed the principal casting after we bought our tickets.  Yes, I know it’s a fact of life and they always write “casting subject to change,” but indulge me and allow me to be a little bitter about it.  In the end, it’s still Bolshoi, so you know whoever performs is still going to be glorious, and I was excited to see a famous Russian company put on a production for the very first time anyway.  When you’ve lived in Columbus, Ohio almost your entire life, opportunities to see a Russian ballet company virtually never happen, unless you’re the St. Petersburg Ballet and you perform Swan Lake in New Albany (the middle of nowhere) for ONE night, on a Tuesday of all nights (no joke and obviously I didn’t get to go).

As a complete side note, Hilary and I go way back, to high school, where we partook in such activities as band and orchestra together.  I mentioned a nightmare I once had about trying to hold 8 or so flutes in my lap, and because they kept slipping off and falling to the floor I was panicking from dropping them and the orchestra director started yelling at me, except there was nothing I could do.  Turns out she still has nightmares about playing the oboe too, so I’m not entirely crazy.  Seeing (and hearing, duh) the pit orchestra for the ballet made us nostalgic and yearn for our art.  But I digress.

Medora was danced by Yekaterina Shipulina, who was lovely overall (beautiful pencheé), although I was a little disappointed that in the coda she did regular fouettes instead of throwing in some doubles (or if you’re Katherine Healy, throwing anything from a quadruple up to seven pirouettes) for a little variety.  It made me think, what would Natalia Osipova do?  I’ll tell you what she’d do…she’d do pirouettes a la seconde and throw in some doubles before doing 16 counts of regular fouettes.  Normally pirouettes a la seconde are a bravura move for the men, but I’m sure Natalia does them just to prove she can.  After all, if she can do double tours and leap her heart out into the rafters like the men, there’s no reason not to.  Interestingly enough, youtube videos of her performing the Le Corsaire pas de deux/variation/coda have her doing the Gamzatti variation from Le Bayadere instead of the “true” Medora variation, probably to showcase her leaps (like her beastly huge saut de chat) since the latter (also being what the Bolshoi uses) is mostly a series of turns (including the heinously evil en dedans turns a la seconde).

You can compare Bolshoi principals Nikolay Tsiskaridze and Maria Alexandrova’s coda (which is basically what I saw, except even Maria threw in some doubles!) to excerpts of Natalia Osipova’s variation she performed at a festival for yourself. 

And embedding is disabled for Natalia’s video (which for the record I don’t get in general why people don’t like to have their videos on youtube embedded…but, at least it’s out there for us to enjoy anyway), so you’ll have to put in the extra strenuous amounts of effort to click on this link:

Now that I think about it though, even if I didn’t get to see Natalia, perhaps there’s a chance the Bolshoi wouldn’t have let her do the Gamzatti variation or a la seconde turns anyway, just for artistic purposes or authenticity.  Which for the record, I appreciated the Bolshoi’s integrity in really producing Le Corsaire as a story of Mediterranean pirates, and not all “Pirates of the Caribbean meets Aladdin,” which ABT kind of did.  The Bolshoi actually had Conrad perform the “Slave Ali” variation, meaning no nekkid torso with shiny blue pants that is typically seen in other productions as a pas a trois with Conrad and Medora or as a single variation in ballet competitions.  So thumbs up Bolshoi!  There’s nothing really wrong with having the slave Ali as a separate role with shiny blue pants per se…after all, that’s what Rudolf Nureyev did, but there was a certain integrity to the Bolshoi production that I really enjoyed.

On the topic of that variation, tonight’s Conrad was danced by Alexander Volchkov.  I don’t know if it was an off night for him, but he wasn’t exactly the most gifted turner.  Both times in the variation and coda he kind of zonked out on finishing his turns…the first of which just didn’t quite finish cleanly and the second which was supposed to be an en dehors attitude turn that never really came to fruition (although I sympathize, because en dehors en attitude is pure evil).  He is however, a gifted jumper and got some major airtime.  In all the variations I’ve seen on youtube and the recordings I have on my ipod, I have never heard the orchestra slow down that much, so you know he can fly.  He has good feet too, which isn’t exactly easy to show in character boots.

Some lovely moments with the corps, although Hilary has a thing against them.  Most of the good stuff happens in the first act, and the second (and third if applicable) typically involves a lengthy scene showing the corps, and as she put it “ghosts and/or enchanted forests” (I told her Giselle would probably drive her nuts then).  To her, those corps scenes could be done with less people and in less time.  And the garden scene in Bolshoi’s production was quite long.  At one point there were around fifty people on the stage waving wreaths around and when the melody repeated I too wondered if it was going to ever end.  It was during this scene where disaster almost struck though as Medora danced around a set of four wreaths beneath her, she stepped on them twice in a series of furious turns and the second time was about an inch away from doing a pique right onto the wreath which could have sent her spiraling to her doom.  There were some audible gasps in the audience, but she was unphased.  Hilary joked that if she was a true diva she’d be yelling at the corps members backstage for misplacing the wreaths. Ha! Oh to be a fly man backstage…

All in all, a wonderful performance, with excellent dancing, beautiful sets, ridiculously ornate costumes, and a GREAT venue.  The John F. Kennedy Center in DC is just gorgeous, with these crystallized starry light fixtures that I am somehow going to have to figure out how to get some of my own.  Just outside of the theater some of Suzanne Farrell’s original costumes (I didn’t get to see them up close, but I’m pretty sure one of them was the tutu from “Diamonds” in Jewels) were on display as well.

I have so much more I could say, but tired I be for now.  But what a wonderful feeling to be tired from a day filled with ballet at its finest!

Oh and because this doesn’t fit anywhere else, one of the variations included gargoulliades!  Sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh!!!

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6 Responses to “The Bolshoi Ballet! But WWNOD? (What Would Natalia Osipova Do?)”

  1. Hilary June 20, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    Here’s the Washington Post’s review. I’ll draw your attention to sentence three: “At one point there are nearly more tutus onstage than the Kennedy Center Opera House can hold.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/17/AR2009061703654.html

    • youdancefunny June 21, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

      Haha, oh Bolshoi. (<—ooh that could be another good swear word!)

      This review is something else…"big, crotchy leap" is a new one to these ears.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Squirrel Burglar strikes again…and “What Would Natalia Osipova Do?”-Answered! « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - June 30, 2009

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  2. Sumptuously Ominous…or Ominously Sumptuous? « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - October 30, 2009

    […] with one L (who you may remember hates enchanted forests and she’s the one I went to see Le Corsaire with).  She is also the author of her own blog, The Cupcake Avenger, which includes a great […]

  3. To make, remake or not to make. What is the question? « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - December 1, 2009

    […] (pirouettes with the leg held straight out to the side) which was something I loved about her when I saw a video of her doing the coda before, but in the female variation instead of a series of pirouettes along a diagonal at the 6:00 mark, […]

  4. Time for 2010 « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - December 31, 2009

    […] the year I started blogging.  It all began when at the beginning of the summer, I went to see the Bolshoi perform Le Corsaire and The Royal Ballet perform Manon in Washington DC.  Two major ballet companies within one […]

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