I’m usually not a stage door person, but Friday night, after the Mariinsky Ballet’s second-to-last night performing in New York, I decided to follow some friends down into the bowels of the Met. Actually, now that construction has finished down there, it’s not a maze like before; you just take the elevator in front of the gift shop down and you exit onto an open street; mid-way down is the stage door.
I didn’t actually go to the Friday night performance. I watched the David Michalek slow motion films out on Lincoln Center Plaza (more about that later). But I’d planned to meet ballet-goer friends anyway for late dinner. At the stage door, several of the dancers came out – including our Diana Vishneva, who danced Carmen that night – but everyone (a mix of women, men and teenagers of both sexes) seemed to be waiting for someone in particular. Finally, at the tail end of the string of exiting dancers, he arrived. Vladimir Shklyarov. I knew he was the one everyone was waiting for by the outburst of giggles was followed by a mob-like rushing of the poor guy. Since I hadn’t gone to the performance, I wondered what was so great about him. He seemed like an ordinary guy. He seemed very American. He was wearing his hair in that kind of mussed-up style that is trendy here right now. And he was wearing American style jeans with the low-pockets, suede loafers, and a button-up shirt with the collar up at the top, preppy-like. And when he spoke (at least as much as I heard him), he seemed to have only a trace of a Russian accent. Seemed like a very nice guy.
The next night I saw him in Balanchine’s Symphony in C, and immediately understood why everyone was going to gaga over him the night before. He only had a small part in the third movement but he stood out so much, he really made that ballet. His jumps are enormous and, more, his personality – that endearing combination of cocky and charming- really shone through, even in the mere ten minutes I saw him dance. How much did I wish I’d seen more of his while the Mariinsky was here??? Well, I’ll know for next time…
Anyway, I found a couple YouTube videos of him:
Other reflections on the Mariinsky’s NY tour: also fell in love with Alina Somova, who danced the Saturday matinee lead in The Little Humpbacked Horse, a fantastical Ratmansky ballet based on a Pyotr Yershov tale. I’ve heard people express dislike of her, but I don’t know what they’re talking about. I absolutely loved her. She’s very flexible and very fast and fluid, so perhaps she can sometimes look a bit like a rubberband. But I loved her lines, and her speed, and her playfulness, and her sweet personality. She made that ballet for me. During lunch after the performance, my friend Art said it depends on what she’s cast in – and this, he thought, was her best. Everyone agreed it suited her. (So fun hanging out between performances with Art, critic Marina Harss, and Emilia from The Ballet Bag! Emilia is originally from Brazil, which I didn’t know 😀 ) Anyway, I’ll have to see Somova in other things, because from what I saw, I can’t imagine not liking her.
Here’s a video:
And here’s a video of her in Humpbacked, for which, apparently she won an award.
I also found myself smitten with Yevgenia Obraztsova, who seemed really sweet at the stage door as well, and who danced with Shklyarov in Symphony in C. She’s a tiny powerhouse who I imagine would dance well with our Daniil Simkin. She’s very lyrical as well.
I didn’t care much for Ratmansky’s Anna Karenina. (A big thank you to Marie Mockett for giving me her ticket to that by the way!) I have to agree with Sir Alastair on this one. There were some impressive stage theatrics – particularly a rotating train that you see from both outside and in, and some moving images on a background screen that were used to interesting effect – but overall the production didn’t really convey the story. It was more like a series of tableaux than a narrative, which has worked in other productions (a San Francisco Ballet production of an Ibsen play comes to mind) but didn’t work here – maybe because thematically and mood-wise, it was all so one-note: suicide, encroaching death, the aftermath of death, actions leading up to death, etc. But also, I really didn’t find the choreography interesting at all. It was really basic. I mean, many of the lifts were lifts I learned in the ballroom studio for my cabaret routines. You learn all the very basic lifts: the t-lift, the shoulder-sit, the fish, etc. etc. I’d get so annoyed with my teachers for not being more artistic, for not being able to come up with creative partnering that was more evocative of the story or mood we were trying to convey. That’s one reason I left ballroom – I got bored. So I feel like when I see those same basic lifts in ballets created by supposed choreographic greats and produced all over the world, I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. This is why I love MacMillan so. None of his partnering is something you’d learn in a studio lesson – it’s specific to the story and characters.
I also wasn’t too enthralled with the Mariinsky’s Carmen Suite, choreographed by Alberto Alonso. There was a big round mat in the middle of the stage where the dancing – most of it by Carmen alone, some of her dancing duets with men – took place. There were chairs setting on a raised platform that encircled the mat, and the men sat on the chairs and watched her. My Carmen was Ulyana Lopatkina (who was also my Anna Karenina), and her dancing to me looked, in Carmen, very gymnastic. But I think it was the way the stage was set up – it looked like a gymnastic mat – and she kept doing these standing poses that reminded me of a gymnast about to take off in a tumbling pass during a floor routine. It was another ballet that didn’t focus so much on recounting a narrative than creating a feeling, a tone, through vignettes. It worked a little better here than in Karenina, maybe because it was a shorter piece, but I think the gymnastic thing, and the overall creepiness of the men sitting in their chairs just watching her, didn’t really work for me.
Favorites were definitely Little Humpbacked Horse and Symphony in C.
Here are a few more stage door photos:
And princess Diana, who is even more beautiful up close than she appears onstage.
Wish now I’d have gone every night. Trip to St. Petersburg…