The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

This is good. This is very good. November 18, 2016

Filed under: ballerina,Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:38 am
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Bolshoi’s newest prima in La Bayadere

She even makes sense of the manic dance!  And it’ll just get better from here.  Just imagine.

Side note: Good to see that Evgenia Obraztsova is back from maternity leave.  Congrats to her on the twin girls.


This is the Bayadere I saw November 10, 2016

Long, long ago, with this cast, I think, during a Chicago ABT residence (they used to do 2 to 3 week residences in Chicago once a year).  Maybe Gamzatti was danced by another ballerina** (this one has Cynthia Harvey, who originated the role in this production):  But the rest of the cast was the same.

La Bayadere, ABT

I’ve always really liked Makarova’s production of this ballet, as it doesn’t end abruptly after the Kingdom of the Shades, and the music during the “manic” part of Nikiya’s death scene makes much more sense than the music in most productions.  It flows better.  And the fight scene between Nikiya and Gamzatti is actually A FIGHT, not two primas pirouetting and jete-ing past each other and then all of a sudden a knife appears.

Plus, there’s the amazing clarity of Dowell’s acting in this particular performance, making sense of Solar.  A lot of Solar’s don’t make sense.  For that matter, in many productions the role of Gamzatti leaves the performer far too much leeway as to whether Gamzatti is evil or not.  This production leaves no wiggle room; here, Gamzatti is a spoiled brat at best and a murderous bully at worst.  (If she’s a just a nice girl caught in a bad situation, and motivated only by infatuation, why do the gods kill her at the end?)

I noticed that Makarova did not make it all the way through this performance; in the Kingdom of the Shades through the end, Marianna Tcherkassky took over.  I seem to remember that this particular performance was a PBS broadcast (?) and there was some obnoxious socialite doing backstage interviews, and at one point she interviewed Makarova (hideously mispronouncing her name, something like “matalica maccarrroova”), gushing “are you hurt???”  As I remember, Makarova just sort of stared at her before making a very terse reply…

As a side note, many dancers did not survive Baryshnikov’s reign as AD, which began a few years after this broadcast.  First casualty was a two-decade corps dancer*** (about whom it is said Baryshnikov made nasty jokes after her departure); there followed many others such as Martine Van Hamel and Anthony Dowell.  Gelsey Kirkland can also be counted among the casualties, but this was mostly her own doing.  And then there was the tragedy of Patrick Bissell.

On the other hand, Cynthia Harvey’s career soared after Baryshikov became AD.

**Memory kicked in.  Yes, Gamzatti was danced by another dancer in the performance I saw.  I can’t remember her name right now.  (See comments for clarification.)

***I had previously misidentified this dancer; the dancer I named was actually a soloist at ABT and the girlfriend of Patrick Bissell.  She had the awful experience of finding him after he died.  I apologize for the name mix-up.


Too Many Bayaderes February 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:47 pm
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I guess I’ll be doing this every February…remember when I spent a few days watching various versions of Swan Lake?  Well, this February it’s La Bayadere.  I’ve only watched two so far, and of course also watched a video of the death of Nikiya as portrayed by the newest Nikiya, Evgenia Obraztsova (very touching, but we expected this of her, didn’t we?).

I have to say that I don’t much like the Bolshoi’s La Bayadere.  One reason is that it cuts off after the Kingdom of the Shades.  The excuse given for this is that the Kingdom scene is almost a separate ballet and has “nothing to do with the rest of the story.”  I beg to differ.  The temple destruction scene brings the story to a proper conclusion.  The Kingdom of the Shades, awesome as it is, merely sets up that conclusion.  It is not a story in itself, although it does well as a stand-alone piece (as does the second act of Giselle, probably for the same reason).

I saw Natalia Makarova’s Bayadere live many, many years ago.  I believe Solar was Anthony Dowell, and Nikiya was definitely Natalia Makarova; Gamzatti may have been Magali Messac (as I remember it was not Cynthia Harvey, although she did originate that role in the Makarova production at ABT).  As I sat in the audience, I heard a steady stream of snide comments trickling from a very North Shore grande dame behind me.  She was making cracks about the over-wrought silent-movie acting and all the running around and gesturing rather than dancing.  I saw her point, even if I did not appreciate having to listen to her.

I also see the point that what’s portrayed in this ballet has nothing to do with India.  I’d be more comfortable if someone just set it in an “exotic land.”  There was a recent attempt in Europe to make Solar into a British officer and Gamzatti into a British colonial governor’s daughter.  This makes more sense to me than all this “Indians in India” pretense, since the story could then be told through Western eyes which are bound to get a lot of things wrong.

While watching these videos, I giggled when I finally realized, after all these years, that the High Brahman’s music is also used in the Beatles’ very silly movie Help!  After realizing that, I’m second-guessing my plan to see the Joffrey version of this ballet (opening later this year).  I might laugh out loud.

However, I still love this ballet and I love the WHOLE ballet.  Don’t like what the Bolshoi does to it; the truncation doesn’t work.  Having Solar appear to fall in love with Gamzatti doesn’t help anything.  Having Gamzatti be a helpless innocent just takes some drama out of the proceedings.  All in all, it’s not as much fun.

The versions I have watched so far were the recent Bolshoi broadcast starring (a somewhat weak-looking) Svetlana Zakharova as Nikiya and a powerful Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti, and a 1991 version from the Royal Ballet with Altnai Asymuratnova as a hopelessly innocent and pure Nikiya and Darcey Bussell as a wonderfully acid spoiled-brat Gamzatti.  You definitely wouldn’t put it past this Gamzatti to kill someone for taking her toys away. Anthony Dowell’s Brahman went way over the top, but what a joy to watch!

Going on to the POB version next, IF I can get myself to sit through a Rudolph Nureyev production…