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Queen of the Uh-Oh’s January 11, 2013

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 6:44 am

For a change, none of this was on RBV’s YouTube channel.  I found these videos on other channels: there was one of Oxana Skorik, and another of Keenan Kampa, both dancing the Queen of the Dryads.  I’m not going to share them unless asked, however, because…well, read on.

Skorik was, as usual, all flying arms and legs, making little sense in terms of classicism.  But she did okay (at least, judging from the extreme distance the video was shot at) until she flat-out fell out of a fouette.  I think I have yet to see a Maryinsky-related video of her where she didn’t look scared stiff (literally), and/or wasn’t making some big technical blunder.

I think the video of Kampa was shot by Zhiganshina’s father?  I don’t know.  It was very close up.  She did not stumble, but I wouldn’t call it a great performance.  Unfortunately it was a bit more like a jittery rehearsal under the too-sharp eye of an abusive coach.  As I said, she completed the steps, but only just.  She didn’t float and charm; she landed like a chunk of change and didn’t portray anything but worry.  She also apparently forgot she had an upper torso and arms to deal with.  (Watched the video again this morning; didn’t look quite as bad, but still nowhere near where it needs to be.)

Worse, she was immediately blown off the stage by little Zhiganshina, dancing the role of Cupid/Amour.  Talk about adding insult to injury!  For those who don’t already know, Ksenia Zhiganshina is a student at Vaganova, not a Maryinsky dancer.

Reports on Kampa’s other major debuts thus far are also rather dismal, but I’m not relying on reports because a lot of them are coming from RBV’s camp.  I have sensed, however, that both girls (Skorik and Kampa) seem to be almost collapsing from nerves.  Given the current prima-ballerina shortage in the Maryinsky, they are both under tremendous pressure and Kampa, at least, seems not to be dancing at anywhere near the capacity she seems capable of.  Skorik, on the other hand, may not have any more capacity left.  Certainly she seems physically weak and this never improves as time goes by.  Being run down mentally by continued bad performances in a hostile environment only makes a problem like that worse.  One shudders to think where it may lead.

As for Kampa, I still wish her the best, but the thought occurs that she may have to pursue her career with another company, well away from the xenophobic pressure cooker she is currently trapped in.  Maybe a coryphee-type position at ABT (they don’t officially have coryphees, but…) wouldn’t be a bad idea.  She could grow her dancing and her career in calm and quiet, and still have her Vaganova training as her calling card.  That is something no one can ever take away from her.

One also wonders if eventually Kondaurova will end up dancing all the performances, because two primas are out on maternity leave, two are either being retired or at least not dancing much (or at all), one — the icon of the Maryinsky — dances no more than one or two performances per month, and the last one, a true international superstar, has long been a part-timer at the Maryinsky.  That leaves Daria Pavlenko (who I never hear a lot about; is she injured?) and Yekatarina Kondaurova as the sole full-time primas.  To make up the slack, the Maryinsky has been giving Kondaurova a ferocious performance schedule and also placing previously-ignored dancers in lead roles — about time, because they have long since had the reputation of having a corps full of potential primas.  But for some reason the bulk of the pressure seems to be falling on Kampa and Skorik.  This may be sponsorship-related (I still have no proof that this is actually happening), or publicity-related.  Whatever it is, it is happening, and it is not fair to anyone — least of all Kampa and Skorik.

I hear that our other odd girl out, Joy Womack over at the Bolshoi, is debuting (or maybe already has) in a solo role this month (EDIT: just read her website; it seems she made her initial debut with the Bolshoi on December 31; no mention of a solo).  So far she seems so blissfully happy that you can practically see the glow all the way over here.  It will be interesting to compare her reception to what’s happening to Kampa at the Maryinsky.  I daresay that Womack is doing a great job of becoming Russian, and thereby may be inoculating herself against most of the types of attacks that seem to be affecting Kampa so badly.  However, this month will tell us a lot about how true that is.

All in all, it sounds like the Maryinsky is playing a cruel game with its dancers.  What the Bolshoi is doing remains to be seen.

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7 Responses to “Queen of the Uh-Oh’s”

  1. atlantic Says:

    I agree about Womack. She seems like she can hack it. She seems mentally tough. She also seems to be embracing being Russian. But above all, she does appear to be a very good dancer that does appear nervous on stage ( granted I have only seen videos of her school performances). I can’t explain it, but she definitely has the stage presence needed to make it. I think it was said before, but I think the Bolshoi will be more accepting and she has the best chance of making it there. No RBV to constantly rip on her.

  2. Jennifer S. Says:

    Bolshoi fans are just as opinionated as Mainsky fans but they aren’t as rabid and venomous on yt, if you notice it’s usually so-called Vaganova-Marinsky purists who spew such bile on yt. However if you check out thd ballet forum on balletfriends, a Russian forum for Bolshoi fans ( but has discussions on other companies ), there are just as many opinions, most favoring homegrown dancers like Zakharova and Osipova. But these opinions are not as personally nasty as some on the Marinsky counterpart, marinka (sp?). So Womack will be probably more accepted in Moscow. So far reactions to Hallberg have been good. Can you imagine the venom from Marinsky fans if Hallberg was principal there instead? Heads would explode.

    I’m still not sold on Zhiganshina though. I see still a lot of emphasis on technique from her. There is no individual touch or presence yet that I’ve seen. Also the uploader who films her performances (her father?) and uploads them on yt, is not above promoting her as second coming of next great ballerina while writing personal attack on a current, popular ballerina’s recent video. Maybe he wants to tear her down in order to promote his daughter? At the start of her career, she had similar emploi as Zhiganshina but was at Vaganova all hef training.

    I have to go back and rewatch those Kampa and Skorik videos.

  3. atlantic Says:

    I was looking at the profiles of the Mariinsky primas and I also noticed that they never seemed to be scheduled to dance. I know a few are out on maternity leave. Is it normal that primas rarely dance? I thought dancer generally want to get on stage as much as possible, and part of the perk of being a prima is that you get top billing all the time. It seems that some are never scheduled. Is the management putting an undue burden on the soloists to pick up the slack?

    Does Yulia Makhalina even dance anymore? All the other primas that are not on leave are only dancing about once a month. Does this seem strange or is that normal?

    • theworstat Says:

      I know that primas in Russian companies USUALLY (not always) dance what primas in Western companies would consider a “light” schedule. Once or twice a month seems pretty standard, whereas in non-Russian companies the primas are on stage all the time.

      Right now the one with the heaviest schedule at the Maryinsky is Kondaurova, who, it seems, has been taking up the slack for everyone else for a few months now. And she doesn’t always get top billing. In one performance she’s playing second fiddle to someone else, if I remember correctly.

      It’s remarkable that with the depth of talent at the Maryinsky, they are in this ballerina-shortage at present. As you mentioned 2 or 3 of the primas dance rarely or not at all. One, Lopatkina, dances maybe once a month. Two are out on maternity leave. That leaves three active — or rather, 2-1/2 because Vishneva is a part-timer — and one of the two is not scheduled for any performances that I can see while the other has at least 4 performances and possibly more this month alone.

      I did hear a rumor that while the Maryinsky has incredible depth of talent, they are struggling with their dancers’ technical abilities — that is to say, that while many of the girls are gifted enough to be primas, they can’t dance at a prima’s technical level.

      I don’t know how true that is, but it’s interesting.

      • atlantic Says:

        That does seem like a light schedule. I’ve read that NYCB dancers are pretty much on every night, even the principals. I think the Mariinsky is about twice the size of NYCB, so it would make sense that they are not on each night.

        So prima status is almost more like pre-retirement? I guess first and second soloists are the work horses and the primas generally only work a few nights a month. That does sound very light. Almost like she isn’t even a full time dancer. I guess this saves the company in payroll if they can get a prima role out of a soloist or coryphee.

        I think an issue for the lack of talent is the type of ballets the MT produces. Story ballets have one prima role and there is a huge gap in responsibility between Odette/Odile and a corps swan. They may have difficulty getting training in intermediate roles because there are not many. More modern ballets, especially Balanchine, have corps and principals dancing full out (think Concerto Barroco, Serenade). It would be difficult to train a girl from standing in the back to dancing Odette with no intermediate roles.

  4. theworstat Says:

    Great point!

    BTW just went over to the NYCB’s site. They have an astounding TWENTY-FOUR principals. The Maryinsky has thirteen, and the company is twice the size. Of course, they have 32 soloists of varying levels (NYCB has 9), and 26 coryphees (which the NYCB doesn’t have).

    Back when I was studying I remember hearing often that any girl in the back row of the corps at NYCB was possibly a technically strong-enough dancer to be a principal in any company in the world. As you have mentioned, a lot of this is probably due the nature of the choreography. Balanchine wanted no stars, so he gave everyone principal roles. The Maryinsky’s more traditional repertoire, on the other hand, maybe tends to erode some of the corps dancers’ abilities because they spend a lot of time doing simple steps and just standing around.

  5. Amy Says:

    The video posted of Skorik there was her 2009 Dryad debut- it’s on the channel of HelgaMaq. Very selective, given that she has danced the same role many times since and it is now four years later. The thing I find interesting about Skorik is that the hate is spewed forth without much to back it up- there is very little footage of her out there actually. Some of her recent clips are very good, such as Corsaire (on the channel of rafzak61) and her 2012 Giselle (which proves she can indeed act and hop on pointe, on the channel of TheBalletRussian). She has wonderful audience reviews and her body is incredible. She photographs beautifully (just look at the shots on her Mariinsky profile) and I really find it hard to believe that she is so terrible. IMO she has the goods, she just needs to work on her projection to the audience and connection with partner. More and more, I see that channels showing Mariinsky dancers (such as rafzak and novodevis) are closing the comments because of what is spewed forth. Also someone posted a video of Stepanova’s italian fouettes and they certainly were not pretty. Who gets the last laugh now?!


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