The Kirov’s Modern Kick

Finally came the company’s all-Balanchine program. I didn’t think much of the Serenade. Too brightly lit, erratic in tempi and

Finally came the company’s all-Balanchine program. I didn’t think much of the Serenade. Too brightly lit, erratic in tempi and dryly staged, it had no resonance, no comprehension of what this profound expression of feeling is about. Individual dancers, though, brought something to it, in particular the lyrical and musical Ekaterina Osmolkina and the ravishing Ekaterina Kondaurova, that tall, lithe, copper-haired beauty whom New Yorkers in the know instantly adopted. The dread Alina Somova, with all her show-girl glamour, brought to Serenade all the vacancy she brought to just about everything else, smiling and casting coy glances at her (inadequate) partner as if she were in The Merry Widow. There was no transition to the “tragic” passages in the latter portion of the ballet, but this came as no surprise: Somova is all exhibitionism, never musical or expressive. Everything she dances looks like everything else.

“Rubies” might have fared better if the original casting had come off, but Vishneva was replaced by Novikova, Tereshkina was replaced by Novikova, Somova was replaced by Novikova—and, finally, Novikova was replaced by Novikova. She did, however, have a different partner for each performance. Andrian Fadeev was the best of them, pumping with energy and engaging with his ballerina, who has a lot of skill and charm but not much variety of texture to her dancing. The young virtuoso Leonid Sarafanov was far too boyish (girlish?) for this macho role. (He’s the Peter Pan of the Kirov.) “Rubies,” more than any other Balanchine ballet, depends on the personality and temperament of its stars, and the jubilant connection between them. Alas, Vishneva, who we know to be magnificent in the Patricia McBride role, wasn’t on hand to illustrate how it should look.

With that masterpiece Ballet I
, we at last had something to cheer about. At least two of the ballerinas who performed it were remarkable (and Somova was not at her worst). Tereshkina did indeed prove to be an exemplary Balanchine dancer. She sailed through the incredibly difficult opening passages without hesitation or blemish. Everything was lucid, articulated, airy. If she was challenged, you couldn’t tell. The ballet became translucent, and transcendent.

With Lopatkina, it became grand and dramatic. Tereshkina is a superb dancer; Lopatkina is a magnificent ballerina. With Igor Zelensky—the Kirov’s closest thing to a danseur noble—to partner her, she simply let the music carry her into its deeper currents and demonstrated why “imperial” and “joyful” aren’t mutually exclusive.

In the end, the hero of the all-Balanchine program was Balanchine. When you experience three great dance works like Serenade, “Rubies,” and Ballet Imperial one after another, you realize yet again what a supreme genius he was. Even the Russian contingent in the audience seemed to get it. You could sense that they were surprised by Balanchine and that they loved what they were seeing, even though there was hardly a pirouette or a barrel jump in sight.

The Kirov’s Modern Kick