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Another Glowing Review! Sergei’s 2013 Mayerling

Another Glowing Review! Sergei’s 2013 Mayerling

Another glowing review of Sergei as the tragic Crown Prince Rudolf!  The ballet “Mayerling” is based on the horrific real life story of the Mayerling incident.  This review is from The Arts Desk in Moscow.

theartsdesk in Moscow: Sergei Polunin triumphs in Mayerling

Royal Ballet rebel leaves Russians numb as MacMillan finally reaches them

another glowing review
Never a “skull” moment as Sergei Polunin’s Rudolf terrorises his wife Stephanie (Anastasia Limenko) Photo: Oleg Chernous/Stanislavsky Theatre
Quite simply, the performance was one of those rarest of events in the theatre that will be talked about for generations – the Russian premiere of Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling, with the former Royal Ballet star Sergei Polunin making his debut as Crown Prince Rudolf.

This has been a “must-see” evening since the minute it was announced by Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet not only with Polunin now having rock-star status in Russia, but also for MacMillan’s choreography which is not found in any other Russian theatre. Extra chairs were put in, people were even sitting in the aisles. The full run of performances has long been sold out.

So I’ll begin with Polunin: though it will be impossible to do justice to what he showed us on stage. He started his journey as a troubled young man from the very beginning: after the arrogance of the wedding proceedings, his Rudolf emerged from the crowd and started his first solo with such fluidity that the change was imperceptible. In and out of the balletic gestures as he moved around the crowd, gradually revealing the reality of his circumstances: contempt for the courtiers, chilly distance from his father, his expectation still to have the pick of the women (married or not) and his terrible ache for his unresponsive mother.

These days, one expects a dancer to have the physique and technique to cope with Rudolf, one of the toughest roles for a male dancer; but merely doing the pyrotechnics simply isn’t good enough. Polunin is one of the most stunning technical dancers you could ask for, prodigiously talented with an innate physical beauty and all the proportions that classical ballet could lust after – but with his Rudolf, we discovered he’s also a highly intelligent, sensitive and dramatic performer.

yet another glowing review
Polunin as Crown Prince Rudolf. Photo: M. Logvinov

Moreover, he brought his inner soul to the performance, finely judging the disintegration of this Prince of the Hapsburg Empire, understanding that he had to take us with him through his journey on stage, to develop the tragedy organically, not give it away too soon – and never to wreck the nuances with grand guignol. And Polunin is only 23.

With good casting with MacMillan you will never see the same ballet twice; individual interpretation is paramount, and every dancer is required to find their inner reason for being the character they play. MacMillan himself wanted the audience to forget they were watching dancers and to be enveloped in the drama.

The Stanislavsky company is absolutely tailor-made for his work, with its roots in the legendary Moscow Arts Theatre, created way back in 1887 by theatre revolutionaries Konstantin Stanislavsky and his colleague Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, for a new kind of work which abandoned the hackneyed classical traditions to explore new ways with drama. The Stanislavsky has “dancing drama actors” – “method” acting translated into the ballet so the dancers live their roles and are the foremost contributors to create the drama.

another glowing review
Rudolf (Polunin) and Countess Larisch (Anastasia Pershenkova). Photo: M. Logvinov

So Polunin’s Rudolf evolves in a series of relationships and encounters: each of Rudolf’s ladies in turn firing on some pretty spectacular voltage as they relate to him. Anastasia Pershenkova’s Countess Larisch emerged as a really complex part of the Rudolf story: from a sizzling sexy seductress in Act 1, she became more than his ex-mistress and his procuress; we also saw her as the only one who has come to care for him as the person he is under all the bravado. 

As the Empress, Natalia Krapivina seriously changed the temperature from sunny dancing with her ladies to produce an arctic imperial distance from Rudolf in the scene in her closet. From which he could go on to his cruel and violent encounter with his new wife Stephanie, danced by Anastasia Limenko (only 18 months out of ballet school), both of them taking the pas de deux to a breathtaking edge of physicality. People looked pretty stunned going into the first intermission.

The one problematic element of Mayerling for me has always been John Lanchbery’s orchestration of Liszt, which all too often I’ve heard blasting over the top into the seriously vulgar. But I heard a quite different score with Anton Grishanin’s conducting. Nuances were shaded, climaxes tailored to what was happening on stage in the drama – and the tempi were fabulously alive.

another glowing review
Act 1 Ensemble in Moscow’s remake of the Georgiadis designs. Photo: M. Logvinov/Stanislavsky Theatre

Two other points on ensemble: the Stanislavsky Theatre presents both opera and ballet, but the orchestra doesn’t think it’s slumming for the ballet.  It too is signed up to the Stanislavsky ethos. I saw players watching as much as they could of the stage, where in other places they might only be reading car magazines while counting the rests before their next entry.

In the crowd scenes – particularly the Tavern scene at the start of Act 2 – a great deal of the electricity on stage emanated from stunning dancing from senior dancers in the company. Principals and soloists, who were eager to be part of the MacMillan experience, even down to playing whores and potboys. Apparently among the four Hungarian officers there were three Siegfrieds and two Albrechts, matching Polunin’s technical physicality. Never has the Mephisto Waltz in the tavern scene in Act 2 fizzed so joyously.

another glowing review
Anna Ol and Polunin. Photo: M. Logvinov

Then, after Maria Vetsera’s arrival in Rudolf’s bedroom, Polunin found ever more to show us of Rudolf’s deepest anguish.  His physical and mental disintegration in those series of extreme pas de deux. Anna Ol matching him all the way, obviously so well supported by and confident in his partnering that we were completely sucked into the vortex. 

At his final solo, Polunin gave us a terrible, futile, emptiness. How could it be possible to dance a nothingness?

A member of the audience told me that after Act 1, she was in a state of high tension and couldn’t believe that it could rack up more in Act 2. And yet again in Act 3 so that by the end she was choked by the experience. At the Royal Opera we’re used to wild bravoing erupting before the final drumbeat.  The Russian audience, more considered, went into their slow and measured handclap for 15 minutes.

Is this report way over the top? Polunin, by every standard, produced a performance that was superlative, even though Friday night was his first stab at dancing Rudolf and he is still only 23. Part of the back story is that since his sad departure from the Royal Ballet a year ago, he’s been mentored by Igor Zelensky, the Stanislavsky’s artistic director and one of the greatest dancers of recent times. With this kind of backing Polunin should continue to astonish us in the future.

Polunin however, is only one of the Rudolfs in the company. Igor Zelensky himself makes his debut in the role, and on the second night the theatre was again packed for the Stanislavsky’s star dancer Georgi Smilevski, with Natalia Somova as Stephanie, Erica Mirkitcheva as Larisch and Ksenia Shertsova as Maria Vetsera.

Smilevski’s was perhaps a slower descent to hell, his relationship with his mother reading as bitter, but his anger colder, his depravity more ruthless. Ksenia Shertsova’s Maria Vetsera was also chilling; we saw she knew exactly what he liked to do with skulls and guns and played him at his own game. From there on the two were on an unstoppable descent, the particularly Russian timbre of the brass section screaming an accompaniment.

another glowing review
Empress Elizabeth (Natalia Krapivina) with Mikhail Pukhov as her lover Bay Middleton. Photo: M. Logvinov

Rudolf’s tragedy is played in the context of a vast canvas: the decadence of the Hapsburg Court, intrigue, infidelity, betrayals, jockeying for advancement. Courtiers spying, denouncing, women available sexually, two-faced politicians: those who worked with MacMillan know he required everyone on stage to contribute, everyone to know their own back story, to inhabit their character.

For Julie Lincoln, and her colleagues from the MacMillan team who teach and stage the works, the task is not only to teach the choreography from the notation, but to help everyone to understand the importance of the characterisation, encourage them to develop beyond the steps. By night two, Lincoln’s encouragement was obviously working: dancers were already growing their characters: courtiers more nosey, tarts saucier.

You also get all the detail because the Stanislavsky is an intimate theatre even though it seats 1,500. No-one can get away with marking their performance and it also allows subtle details to register which might otherwise be lost in bigger theatres. For the first time I saw how Baroness Vetsera, a stately performance from Natalie Trubnikova, is horrified when she understands just what a terrible liaison Larisch is cooking up for her daughter. With this clarity of detail possible, the audience doesn’t need to struggle through the complexities of plotting they print in the programme book.

another glowing review
Zelensky as Rudolf with Ksenia Shevtsova as Vetsera. Photo: M. Logvinov

Zelensky’s artistic direction also bodes well for the Stanislavsky company.  This is his second season with them, the first of his own full planning with Mayerling his first big import.  He is also the catalyst for the Stanislavsky acquiring the rights to perform MacMillan.  While at the Royal Ballet, he danced in Manon and Romeo and Juliet.  The MacMillan estate which fiercely protects the integrity of the choreography trusts Zelensky.

Bringing it in to Moscow is a major commitment for the company.   The company has built its own sets and costumes from the original Nicholas Georgiadis designs with financial support from BP.  BP has chosen the Stanislavsky as one of their major partners in Russian culture.

Talk of classic Russian ballet and many would think only of Bolshoi and Mariinsky as the exemplars of the best of it.  Huge houses, huge companies with long traditions and highly political profiles, closely related to federal government. The Stanislavsky companies actually belong to the City of Moscow, which funds them.  They’re proud to be part of that city’s strong and living theatrical tradition. The ballet side has regular festivals showcasing new talent, and they work in partnership with other companies abroad.  General director Vladimir Urin said it’s interesting for the development of the dancers to work with a variety of styles.

And now they have the challenges of MacMillan, which is a considerable coup for the company and its national profile. Until now, Muscovites have only seen MacMillan live on stage when the Royal visited.

Mayerling will be in rep until July.  Manon will join it next year.  Again, there will be a new build of the Georgiadis sets and costumes.  More will follow thereafter no doubt.  Will it be said that MacMillan has found a new home?

Stunning Pics Of Sergei By Alessia Santambrogio

Stunning Pics Of Sergei By Alessia Santambrogio

Stunning pics of Sergei by Alessia Santambrogio

On Saturday, February 3, 2018 the famous dancer Sergei Polunin and company inaugurated the new edition of ParmaDanza at the Teatro Regio.  Natalia Osipova and soloists from some of Russia’s most prestigious theaters joined Polunin onstage.  A highlight of the performance was the national debut of Polunin’s work, Sartori.

The idea comes from Project Polunin , an artistic project that aims to produce new choreographic creations thanks to the collaboration between dancers, choreographers, musicians and artists from different fields.

For Sergei Polunin, Satori represents his own path of reunion with love for dance and passion for art.  It is the culmination of a personal journey.  He brought together a group of artists with whom he created a program that consists of three parts, including two new productions.

project_polunin_ © alessia-santambrogio-1

Sergei’s solo

On the stage of the Teatro Regio the program opened with First Solo , performed by Sergei Polunin.  It was created by the award-winning choreographer Andrey Kaydanovskiy.  First Solo tells of a man’s search for freedom through that same dance that makes him a slave.  It is profoundly personal for Polunin.  Its focus is the dualism between an artist’s life of commitment and his desire for freedom of thought and movement.

A rare treat

The show continued with Skriabiniana, a rare treat.  It is among the very few choreographies left completely intact by the great choreographer Kasyan Goleizovsky.  Finally, the evening ended with Satori, choreographed by Polunin himself.  Sartori is directed by Gabriel Marcel del Vecchio and boasts an original soundtrack by the award-winning composer Lorenz Dangel.  The production features scenes from works by photographer David Lachapelle.  Angelina Atlagic designed the costumes.

The public delirious for a chance to see Polunin brought about an immediate sell out.  The excellence of these international artists did not disappoint.  With their dance, they involved and excited the audience of the Regio di Parma.

Photographer Alessia Santambrogio

“My vision of the scene photographer is that of a silent and discreet presence that fits into the dynamics of the show, without interfering with them, but becoming an integral part of them. It is having its own artistic vision and being able to transmit it, knowing, however, to know and listen to the needs of those who create and put on show the show.”  – Alessia Santambrogio

A professional photographer, Alessia Santambrogio was born in Monza.  She was artistically and professionally trained at the Accademia Teatro alla Scala.  Alessia, graduating in 2011, immediately made an impact on the arts community.

She has photographed important productions and personalities of the national and international panorama of opera, ballet and theater.

Co-founder of the industry magazine Kairós Magazine , she actively collaborates as a photographer, author, copy editor and archivist. There are numerous publications in national newspapers such as Il Corriere della Sera , La Repubblica , Il Giorno and others.

She has participated in countless exhibitions, such as Birthday Album and La Scuola di Ballo of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala.  These works were promoted by the Bracco Foundation and the Accademia Teatro alla Scala.

All photos by Alessia Santambrogio.

 

Polunin Debuts Royal Bayadere 2009

Polunin Debuts Royal Bayadere 2009

Polunin debuts Royal Bayadere 2009 and presented below are two reviews of his jaw-dropping performance as “Solor.”

Itinerant Balletomane Reviews Young Sergei

Itinerant Balletomane Reviews Young Sergei

Itinerant Balletomane reviews young Sergei and the veteran blogger is blown away

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sergei Polunin at the Stanislavsky Theater

I am completely starstruck.  Last week I saw Sergei Polunin perform twice with the Stanislavsky Theater – first as Basil in Don Quixote and then as the Prince in Swan Lake.  I’ve obviously heard a lot about Polunin.  For the non balletomanes out there, he was made a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet at the age of 20, making him their youngest principal ever. After two years, he unexpectedly quit the company.  A few months later, he signed on as a principal with the (respectable but still not nearly as famous) Stanislavsky Theater in Moscow.  You can read an excellent article about him here.

itinerant balletomane reviews young sergei
Natalia Somova and Sergei Polunin in Swan Lake

Lucky to catch him

Since his move to Moscow, Polunin has become a more elusive dancer to see, and I obviously felt very lucky to catch him in two performances. I was especially eager to see if he lived up to any of the hype. The answer is that he completely surpasses it.  I really have never been so impressed by a dancer. The thing that strikes me most forcefully about him is his enormous charisma.  Whenever he is onstage, he draws the eye to him.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has a beautifully intense stare, but he has much more than that.  In every moment he is performing he is fully present in the role.  Every gesture no matter how small is done with acuteness and power. This is especially potent in his portrayal of the Prince in Swan Lake, a role that has to anchor the ballet’s narrative without having much opportunity for solo dancing.  Polunin’s prince begins somewhat lost and disaffected; his ardent love for Odette seems to give him something to hold on to in life. His eyes follow her across the stage, and he runs to her as though drawn by some outside force.  

Dramatic intensity with textbook-perfect technique

Polunin’s solo variations combine this dramatic intensity with textbook-perfect technique.  I’ve seen a lot of impressive male dancers here in Moscow. Many of them seem to lose a sense of their character and of the audience as soon as they have to perform impressive jumps or turns.  Polunin never turns off the artistry. So many other male principals land with the greatest of care in order to avoid falling over or take an extra step. Doing this takes concentration you can see on their faces. Polunin simply lands on the ground perfectly and moves into the next step or pose.  He draws us with him in a torrent of movement. His technique does not fixate, even though that technique is beautiful. In addition to having amazing height on his jumps and beautiful turns, Polunin also boasts an arabesque and a back attitude that most ballerinas would kill for.

Nureyev comparison is apt

I’ve heard Polunin spoken of as the next Nureyev and the comparison is apt.  Sadly, however, this is a Nureyev without his Fonteyn.  Both evenings I saw Polunin performing with Natalia Somova, who just isn’t cutting it on this level.  She can be sweet and charming, but she lacks charisma and simply doesn’t have the same level of technique.  In addition, sometimes their partnership seems strained.  In particular, there was a disastrous pair of flying fish dives in Don Quixote, during the second of which Polunin didn’t manage to tip Somova over at all, and they ended up sort of hugging standing up.  I’ve seen videos of Polunin paired with other people and doing it brilliantly, so I assume that this is not an inherent flaw in his dancing, but I’m not enough of a dancer myself to tell who’s really at fault.

My favorite ballet orchestra ever

The wonderful partner that Polunin does get at the Stanislavsky is its beautiful orchestra.  Having been to five ballets at this theater, I am now prepared to dub it my favorite ballet orchestra ever. It is better than New York City, better than the Bolshoi, and miles better than the Royal.  Felix Korobov, the chief conductor, likes a fiery brass section and a quick tempo.  He always manages to bring out a full and lyrical sound.  Even so when he tampers with the music to fit the choreography.  The instrumentalists are a dream, particularly the French horn section and the harpist.  Sadly I can’t name them because they’re not listed on the website. Everything in the ensemble provides the emotional background for Polunin’s portrayal.  I know that the orchestra isn’t the reason Polunin moved to this theater, but I deeply wish it were.

So, in sum: see Polunin at the Stanislavsky (especially in Swan Lake), but hope with the rest of us that they persuade some wonderful young ballerina to move to the company.

Stanislavsky Theater, Don Quixote, June 14, 2013.  Music by Ludwig Minkus, Choreography by Alexei Chichinadze, Kitri: Natalia Somova, Basil: Sergei Polunin, Conductor: Anton Grishanin

Stanislavsky Theater, Swan Lake, June 20, 2013. Music by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, Production by Vladimir Burmeister, Odette/Odile: Natalia Somova, Prince: Sergei Polunin, Evil Genius: Nikita Kirilov, Jester: Dmitri Zagrebin, Conductor: Felix Korobov
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Polunin “Miracle” in Ashton with Ananiashvili

Polunin “Miracle” in Ashton with Ananiashvili

Polunin Miracle in Ashton ballet with Nina Ananiashvili

Excerpts from a November 2015 review by Tatiana Kuznetsova

Frederick Ashton’s increasing popularity in Russia is shown in a new triple bill at the Stanislavsky Ballet, directed by Igor Zelensky, and starring Sergei Polunin in Rhapsody and Marguerite and Armand with Nina Ananiashvili. Tatiana Kuznetsova of Kommersant was swept away by the Marguerite and Armand, which she says has never before been so miraculously intimate in a Russian performance. It was like spying on the lovers through a keyhole, she says.

The artistic director of the Stanislavsky Theatre’s ballet company, Igor Zelensky, was at one time principal dancer simultaneously of three theatres, the Mariinsky, the Royal Ballet and the Balanchine company New York City Ballet. Since then his love for English-language classicism has only grown. He has regularly staged signature ballets of England and America on the Stasik stage, trying with mixed success to extract the right choreographic pronunciation out of Muscovite dancers.

Following on from the monumental dramas of the Scot [Kenneth] MacMillan, and the one-act lyricism and comic sketches of the American [Jerome] Robbins, we are now offered a group of the romantic poems of Frederick Ashton – the UK’s first and chief national choreographer.

One should add that the artistic director’s Anglomania is fuelled by the presence in his troupe of Sergei Polunin, with his immaculate English style: before he became the Stasik’s guest star, the young Polunin graduated from the Royal Ballet’s school and successfully danced with the company for several seasons, becoming the youngest male principal in Covent Garden’s history.

The choice of Rhapsody, set to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini, was targeted on Polunin, with its hellishly tricky male lead role: Frederick Ashton, captivated by Mikhail Baryshnikov’s academic virtuosity and Soviet athleticism, made the ballet in 1980 specially for him.

“On a theme by Paganini” is dropped from the title with good reason – there is none of the agony of creativity or the battle against obscurantism in this optimistic work (unlike the ballet Paganini that the Soviet classicism Leonic Lavrovsky choreographed long before Ashton). The protagonist’s profession is indicated only by the lightest gesture (just a couple of times stroking an imaginary bow across an imaginary violin), and perhaps too in his romantic quest for his one muse – the ballerina, hidden among six coryphees.

But Polunin had not forgotten Paganini; he performed the pirouettes and entrechats, the explosive, whipping turns and slides with a psychological subtext that hinted at some circumstantial challenge, which actually cannot be found in this radiant choreography.

La Valse is a well-populated, opulent victory ball: the men in frock coats, the women in full dresses and tiaras, chandeliers, liveried footmen, the riotous crescendo of the finale in which the swirling of the couples, the surrendering jumps and high lifts, all reach an ecstatic climax.

In Moscow the grand triumphalism was turned into a feverish pursuit of the music’s tempi, especially as young conductor Zangiev was getting carried away by Ravelian contrasts, making the brass roared like a military band, letting the strings spread into a lyrical intimacy. The frock-coated men coped elegantly with the music’s heedless turns, but the women were noticeably panicking, spraying out obviously strained arms and frantically bobbing on the simplest balances.

So it turned out that the highlight of the “Ballets of Frederick Ashton” evening was not the premieres but the ballet in repertoire, Marguerite and Armand, on Lizst’s music, which the Stanislavsky has had in its repertoire for several seasons.

Then the miracle happened…

This time artistic director Zelensky’s choice of Marguerite was Nina Ananiashvili, former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi and many other international companies, and currently artistic director of the National Ballet of Georgia. She is 52 years old while her partner, Sergei Polunin, is 25. Yet the age difference was no problem: at the end of the day, this ballet was created by Ashton in 1964 for 25-year-old Nureyev and 44-year-old Fonteyn, taking into account the capabilities of an older ballerina.

The first thing has to be that notorious question: ‘chemistry’. If the players can’t be convincing in conveying fateful passion, the ballet is exposed as a set of stilted tableaux and some more or less striking lifts. So far, no one on any Russian stage has managed to transmit the magic of this archaic ballet.

polunin miracle

At the Stasik the miracle happened. This Marguerite and Armand forced one to forget everything about the old-fashioned direction, the naivety of the choreography, and the technical performance. It was as if it was not of the slightest importance whether the ballerina’s back was so flexible, or her legs went so high, or she had a wasp waist or not, if the love story of a selfless, tender courtesan and an ungovernable young aristocrat mesmerised you as if you were watching them through a keyhole.

polunin miracle

Photo Credit:  Kommersant

The Royal Ballet: Sylvia, A Review

The Royal Ballet: Sylvia, A Review

The Royal Ballet: Sylvia, A Review

4/5 Stars

Royal Opera House, London
Judith Mackrell

Monday, 8 Nov 2010

sergei in sylvia
Debut lovers … Lauren Cuthbertson (Sylvia) and Sergei Polunin (Arminta) in The Royal Ballet’s Sylvia. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

The lovers in Ashton’s Sylvia barely get to dance together until the final act. And in the case of Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin – both making their debuts this season – that’s no bad thing. As a partnership their chemistry doesn’t really click – but in this particular ballet it doesn’t prevent either of them flourishing as individual performers.

The pleasure of watching Cuthbertson lies partly in her unpredictability. Aspects of her dancing are almost old fashioned: the neat straight lines of her technique; the detailed regard she has for style. But she can also be startlingly reckless. She goes full tilt at every challenge, practically leaping over the orchestra pit in her opening jumps, fizzing through the third act pizzicato variation with giggling speeds. In her acting, Cuthbertson never hides behind the easy, text-book gesture. She makes you feel the prickle of fear down Sylvia’s spine when she senses the threat of the predatory Orion. When she believes she has killed Aminta, her body appears to shrink with grief.

Polunin is cast in another mould: Russian on a grand scale. But he also dances with a detailed musical intelligence, shaping and finessing the big steps as succinctly as the little ones. Aminta can easily be sidelined as the ineffectual pretty boy waiting for fate to deliver Sylvia into his arms; Polunin gives the role romantic gravitas by the force of his technique. As a partner he needs to mature, however. While he and Cuthbertson can act a good love affair, in the grand and sexy imagery of the final pas de deux we are too aware of the mechanics, and the difficulty of the partnering. Otherwise theirs is a very promising debut, and it comes with some fine ensemble playing. The assorted naiads and fauns are excellent; Akane Takada is an unfeasibly witty, winsome goat.

A Fan Reviews Sergei’s Satori

A Fan Reviews Sergei’s Satori

This review appeared on the Official Sergei Fan Club Facebook page.  It was so beautifully written and so specifically detailed that I immediately felt it needed to be a part of this collective.  Upon asking permission, Maria Swardt graciously consented.  Thank you, Maria.

Text:  Maria Swardt
Featured Photo:  Aleksandra Muravyeva

December 13, 2017

PROJECT POLUNIN – SATORI

I have never been an unconditional fan of anyone as I believe change is the only constant. Yet, to my surprise, after being at the London Coliseum on December 9th and 10th I understood the ones who say “I love Polunin, no matter what.”
I flew from Barcelona to London with the only purpose of making a dream come true – I wanted to see Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin dancing together. I came back home yesterday feeling as if a lightening had struck me, turned me inside out, upside down. As if what mattered up to December 8th is no longer important. That’s how I feel, exaggerated as it may sound.

Saturday December 9th, Polunin was on stage for seven minutes with his FIRST SOLO, premiered in August in Switzerland. An explosion of strength, passion, precise movement and technique. Beautiful music, poetry and great choreography. The stage was too small for so much talent!

After that, SCRIABINIANA – the bodies of ten dancers, pas de deux, expressed so many feelings, so much beauty! They were excellent, perfect I should say. Their bodies spoke to the audience through every single movement. It was delightful and powerful to watch them. And then came Polunin and Osipova and as they danced, perfection turned into love. They absolutely complemented each other as if their bodies were the last two pieces needed to finish the puzzle. The ultimate beauty!

Last, SATORI – Very interesting, beautiful, clever “mise-en-scène”, if that can be said for ballet, great choreography and direction. It somehow reminded me of Le Cirque Du Soleil, don’t ask me why, and I really enjoyed it. Tree of life, mother, little boy (sweet Tom Waddington), shadows,fears and demons, woman/lover/saviour and the troubled seeker. Although SATORI is a Japanese Buddhist word for Awakening, to me it is a homage, a public love letter to Natalia Osipova. She saves him and shows him the meaning of Love, Forgiveness, Dance and Life. He is grateful, thankful and shows it to her. He has found himself, doesn’t need to seek out any longer. They can both rest, naked, in each other’s arms. This is how I understood it. Lovely performance. Very real too. As usual Osipova was brilliant and perfect! But gosh, what a responsibility to be your lover’s saviour!
Great applause at the end.

I was happy to see quite a few children in the audience. Beauty makes people’s hearts better and it’s a good idea to start at a young age.

Sunday December 10th, several wonderful pas de deux, a solo by a really, really good Cuban dancer, Miguel Altunaga, who got a huge round of applause. After that, “Take me to Church.” That’s when I started crying and haven’t been able to stop since, on and off. Cathartic effect. Very needed I believe! The lady sitting next to me, at the Coliseum, was very kind and handed me a perfumed tissue, very useful indeed!

Last, SATORI, once again.

On Sunday the audience was a lot more enthusiastic and the applause was louder. Lots of children too.

If you have the chance to attend the next performance of PROJECT POLUNIN, SATORI, please don’t miss it. It’s really worth it!

Last but not least: I once read Polunin believed Art belongs to everyone and should be within everybodys reach. Tickets should be much cheaper. Programme booklets should be free. Otherwise he will go on creating and performing for a privileged elite which would contradict the aim of his PROJECT.

To the ones who criticise Polunin, please give the man a break, allow him to be different and do whatever he feels like. He is STILL the best! “If you cannot help, at least do not hurt.” To the ones who are busy looking for a partner for Osipova, because you don’t like her being with Polunin, please mind your business and let her mind hers.

To the haters, there are a few on this page, please go boil your head! Like the Scots would say, Awa’ an’ bile yer heid!

 

 

Peter And The Wolf Review 2010

Peter And The Wolf Review 2010

Review: Peter and the Wolf & Faeries at Royal Ballet/Blind Summit Theatre Royal Opera House

WHILE there may a limited choice of Nutcrackers this year there is no shortage of high-calibre family shows and at Covent Garden one is spoilt for choice.

By NEIL NORMAN
Peter and the Wolf
Sergei Polunin as the Wolf in “Peter And The Wolf”

On the main stage, preceding Tales of Beatrix Potter (which I will review next week) is Matthew Hart’s lively production of Peter and the Wolf, which alternates with Les Patineurs.

Gaudily costumed and superbly danced by students of the Royal Ballet School, this suffers slightly from minimalist ‘modern’ staging – a giant tree stump covered in graffiti – and lack of an onstage orchestra which might liven up the visuals.

No problems with the work itself, however, or the execution which is exemplary. The two adults – Grandfather/Narrator (Will Kemp) and Wolf (Sergei Polunin) strut their stuff magnificently- Kemp is Jackanory camp and Polunin leaps and twists and stalks as a really menacing Wolf.

But it is the ensemble that attracts the eye – whether dressed in green Carmen Miranda-like grass skirts and headdresses for the Meadow or silver/blue Afro wigs and blue bodysuits for the Pond – they move as one organism, interpreting Hart’s collective choreography with ease and humour. Best of all is Chisato Katsura’s Cat whose feline grace and sudden pounces are sensuously authentic and will guarantee her the Pussycat role in every ballet.Downstairs at The Linbury Studio, Will Tuckett’s Faeries is a moodily magical confection performed by young dancers, actors and puppeteers. Like Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, it is set in Blitz-torn London where Johnny (Femi Oyewole) and his young sister Beattie (Alex Newton) are separated at a train station on the eve of their evacuation to the country. Johnny runs away and enters Kensington Gardens after dark where he becomes embroiled in a conflict between good and bad fairies.

Against Martin Ward’s engaging score for clarinet (Derek Hannigan) and keyboard (John-Paul Gandy) he joins the quest for a golden coffin that will render the finder immortal. Dark and primal, with a great villain in scary fairy Dolour (“When war causes chaos I lick up the carnage”) – a puppet so malevolent that some kids rush for the exit – it is riddled with mischievous humour. I loved the trio of naughty fairies and the fat old Drone fairy – a cross between Yoda and ET – and judging by the audience reaction, I was not alone.The stage sometimes seems overcrowded and the puppeteers (who also voice the characters) are clearly visible but neither seems to bother the younger members of the audience whose imaginations are fuelled to the max.

Verdict: 4/5

PETER AND THE WOLF  and FAERIES. Royal Ballet/Blind Summit Theatre Royal Opera House, 020 7304 4000 until tomorrow/December 19
Polunin Woos And Wins, Independent Dance Review 2013

Polunin Woos And Wins, Independent Dance Review 2013

Dance review: Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet – Russian ballet’s bad boy Sergei Polunin woos and wins

Polunin woos and wins… not only shows up, he shows everyone else up

Flawed romance: ‘Coppélia’ was disappointing but Polunin, with Kristina Shapran, excelled. 

Sergei Polunin has a reputation to live down, and another to live up to. After the spectacular no-show of the young Ukrainian at his last major London engagement (when he went Awol days before the opening of Midnight Express, in which he was due to star), even his most ardent fans may have thought twice before shelling out to see him again. And those who wondered what all the fuss was about will need to be convinced by some serious stage fireworks.

What’s more, Coppélia is hardly the obvious shop window for a guy with tattoos and a crippling ambivalence towards his artform. With it’s hummable score by Délibes (and  tunes that everyone finds they know), its requirement for tights and tutus and its reputation as a safe bet for end-of-year school productions.  It’s about as uncool as dance gets. Clearly Polunin is, for the moment, on his best behaviour.  He flies the flag for the Moscow company he now calls home, the Stanislavsky.

This Coppélia isn’t, in fact, a traditional treatment based on the 1870 original. It’s the 1975 rewrite by the Frenchman Roland Petit.  The rustic village setting is gone.  The character of old Dr Coppelius is a gruff, misanthropic toymaker. Petit recast Coppelius as a sexually predatory aesthete.  His smart apartment contains a cabinet of prosthetic body parts that he refashions at whim to resemble his latest love-interest. 

Franz (the role now taken by Polunin) is no longer a local oik but a lickety-spit young army officer stationed in a garrison town. Swanilda and her chums are the local girls who hope to snare a soldier husband. Knowing sexuality winks from every scene, which is perhaps to be expected from Petit, who cast himself as Coppelius in 1975, and as Swanilda, his wife Zizi Jeanmaire.  At the time, in France at least, she was a household byword for sex on legs.

But on the evidence of the current showing, what seemed sexy in 1975 hasn’t weathered well. Lines of girls puckering their lips and wiggling their frothy pink behinds now smacks of tacky tourist cabaret.  Coppelius’s peccadillo seems distinctly unpleasant. Even Ezio Frigerio’s sets look dated in their radical sparseness, which gives no spatial context for such naturalistic business as Swanilda’s pickpocketing of Coppelius’s door key so she can break into his flat.

Twenty-year-old Kristina Shapran is a human wonder of Bambi limbs.  She is taller than Polunin even off-pointe.  Shapran struggles to establish a character for Swanilda beyond the come-hither shoulder rolls and eyelash batting. I found myself wistful for the innocent Bolshoi production that visited in 2010. Shapran copes well enough with Petit’s choreography and can easily lift her leg up to her ear. But there are only so many times you want to see that trick, and Petit’s text rather overdoes it.

 In a ballet that should be full of comic moments, Petit lumps them all into one number – a duet for Coppelius with his “Swanilda” mannequin, her rubber-band legs tied to the ends of his shoes. It is very funny, and Anton Grishanin as the pervy dandy displays smart comic timing. But it doesn’t leave much for Polunin to do (his Franz, drugged with a potion, lies slumped over a table during this scene).  It misses the opportunities found by other productions for fairground-horror fun in Coppelius’s lair. In reaction, Polunin shows a new maturity in his acting, finding a stance (throwaway heroic) that does a fine job of glueing the joints of this curious production. You feel the story is in safe hands each time he steps into view.

But, ultimately, who cares about acting in the face of such dancing? If Polunin was ever off-form, he’s back on it with a vengeance. Sinews sculpted by pewter high-waist tights, he cannons into the circuits of barrel turns and fancy aeronautics.  His enjoyment is visibly heightened by each faultless execution. At the curtain, protocol dictated that Polunin present his ballerina and keep two paces behind. When, finally, he was sent out front (still in tandem) some elements of the audience emitted a noise I haven’t heard in years. Something between woooaar and aarghhh. Enough said.

Last performance at 2pm on Sunday

Bachtrack Article 2013

Bachtrack Article 2013

Sergei Polunin is the best thing about the Stanislavsky Ballet’s Coppelia in London

Coppelia is based on a story by a German (E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Sandman), was first turned into a ballet by Frenchmen (the music is by Delibes) and staged in Paris with an Italian ballerina, and was then revived and made popular by Russians. This production has choreography by another Frenchman, Roland Petit, and has been brought to London by Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet. The Stanislavsky is a more junior company than either the Mikhailovsky or the Bolshoi, who also have London tours in 2013, but it is one of the more exciting companies in Russia today; their dramatic heritage and the stellar international career of their current Artistic Director Igor Zelensky have helped them to bring the work of several major European choreographers to Russia for the first time, including Nacho DuatoJiří KyliánJorma Elo and Kenneth MacMillan. The company’s name might also be familiar to London audiences as the unexpected new home of Sergei Polunin, the stunningly talented Royal Ballet principal who walked out in 2011. Polunin could have had his pick of the world’s major companies, but opted for Moscow’s “second” company (after the Bolshoi) and the mentorship of Zelensky, who has helped him settle down and nurture his talent. Polunin’s turn as Prince Rudolf in MacMillan’s Mayerlingearlier this year was apparently electric; the ballet event of the year in Moscow.

Sergei Polunin and Kristina Shapran in Coppélia © E. Fetisova
Sergei Polunin and Kristina Shapran in Coppélia © E. Fetisova

Polunin was dancing Franz, the male lead, on the Stanislavsky’s first night at the Coliseum, making the performance a hot ticket for anyone who wanted to see the golden boy in his new company context. It was no surprise to see the Stanislavsky making the most of its asset – the curtain went up on Sergei standing alone, meeting the audience’s eye with a lopsided, heart-throb grin as if to say “I’m back. What of it?” before swaggering downstage, knocking out a couple of absolutely stunning cabrioles (a jump beating the legs together in the air behind), and sauntering off again. Every subsequent appearance had the same confidence, the jumps got bigger and better, and his comic dancing in particular was spot-on – darting around the stage teasing the girls, annoying the men, winding up his flirty girlfriend Swanhilda, and imitating old Dr Coppelius, he was fast, flashy, funny and footsure; an utterly charming hero.

Petit’s choreography is stylised in the extreme, highly reliant on mime, and in the crowd scenes largely based on folk dancing and music-hall gags (wagging bustles and kisses). This is a story, after all, about a life-sized doll, and the whole production has deliberately been given the feel of a toybox: all the men in the corps de ballet march around in identical military uniforms like tin soldiers, while the girls are either pink frilly music-box ballerinas or blue frilly china shepherdesses. They are, all of them, smiley and evidently anxious to please; they do a good job of the arch, flirty humour too, particularly the tutu’d girls who are Swanhilde’s friends. The crowd scenes in the first act crack along merrily; not always the most sophisticated choreography, but good fun.

The second act involves more acting and narrative, which relies largely on Anton Domashev’s playing of Dr Coppelius, the sad (or is it creepy?) ageing dandy/magician who is in love with Swanhilde and has made a doll that looks just like her (the Coppelia of the title). Domashev’s eye-rolling and wiggly French moustache raise laughs, but I found all the to-ing and fro-ing between him, Franz and Swanhilde a little tiresome after a while, not to mention confusing (the programme had no synopsis).

What a shame that Kristina Shapran, playing Swanhilde, was so nervous. You could see why she was cast in the part: she has a great repertoire of facial expressions, a superbly comic shoulder-shrug, and a lovely smile, and her long slender limbs are perfect for playing a doll. But her dancing was skittish in the extreme, which just about worked for the fast petit allegro sections, but led her to stumble out of turns. She and Polunin were sweet and sparky together when they were just dancing next to other, but in close pas de deux work they didn’t look matched or comfortable, with pirouettes in particular causing problems.

Nobody would dispute that Polunin is gold dust and worth seeing any time he’s here, the more so when he’s so obviously enjoying himself, as in this production. But whether you’d like the Stanislavsky Coppelia without him dancing depends on your taste in ballet: if you like comedy, mimic storytelling and jolly crowd scenes, go for it (and it’s short, over in two hours). But if you need refined classical technique, sophisticated choreography, or intellectual heft to get you going, maybe give this one a miss.

1 COMMENTS
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Posted on Saturday 13 July 2013 at 17:21

From Disqus user seejaybe:

Rather surprised that the reviewer found ‘all the to-ing and fro-ing between him, Franz and Swanhilde a little tiresome after a while, not to mention confusing’: surely she should know the story without need of a synopsis? All in all it was a charming evening and, although Ms Shapran’s performance was more vin mousseux than Champagne, this was, no doubt, largely due to opening night nerves.




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