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In this issue | Short summary


N 6 [126] November-December 2003


NOTA BENE

According to what has become a tradition, this year’s final issue addresses the readers with the New Year’s greetings and kind of a report as to how the promise has been kept to dedicate the covers and features of this year to the choreographic art of St. Petersburg, which has recently celebrated its tercentenary. For its ballet is not only its own glory but the glory of all Russia and the entire world culture. Among the year’s actions is the publishing of a special album, St. Petersburg’s Mirrors, and of an additional special issue of the Magazine (within the series Materials for the History of the 20th Century Ballet: Contemporaries’ Testimony) dedicated to the development of Russian choreographic training in the 20th century.

During the year, six issues of the children’s version of the Magazine, Studia Antre, and ten issues of the newspaper Linia Zhurnala Ballet, the Magazine’s monthly supplement, have been published. The editorial board is closing another year of its never all too easy life with the traditional, again, announcement of The Soul of Dance award winners. It is the 10th anniversary of the award. The price-giving ceremony is scheduled for February 9, 2004, in Moscow.

BALLET TIME

THE BALLET TIME column presents the article A Master of Military Dance about a remarkable choreographer, chief ballet-master of the A. V. Alexandrov Soviet Army’s Academic Song and Dance Ensemble, the People’s Artist of Russia, Ousher Penkhovich Khmelnitsky. His son, Peter Khmelnitsky, shares his remembrances of this bright and involved person, the Master, the Artist.

“It’s been twelve years since my father passed away, but his choreographic pieces live and touch the 21st century’s audiences and remain a basis of the famous ensemble’s repertoire.” The choreographer’s artistic legacy is vast and diverse. With the Alexandrov Ensemble alone, where he had worked since 1961 and bad irremovably been chief choreographer since 1966, he had staged over fifty performances.

The writer contemplates the genre of military dance and its artistic significance for Russian culture. He related of his father’s artistic path-way, of his aesthetic views and human qualities, of his war years and the routine work at the frontline concert teams. He also analyzes specific works and recreates the atmosphere of their creation.

BALLET CLUB

THE BALLET CLUB COLUMN features the article Seeking the Diaghilev Time that presents in detail a round table discussion on Problems of Contemporary Choreography, which took place within the framework of the first international festival The Diaghilev Seasons. Perm’, St. Petersburg, Moscow.

It was a serious analytical discussion in which many ballet critics, educators performers and theater persomalities took part. Among these were Larisa Barykina, a ballet critic from Ekaterinburg; Marina Nestieva, PhD in art history, editor-in-chief of the musical theater department of the Musykal’naya Academia magazine; Georgi Isaakian, artistic director of the Perm’ Opera and Ballet House and of the Diaghilev Seasons Festival; Vladislav Ivanov, PhD in art history, assistant professor of the Perm’ Institute of Arts and Culture; Oleg Levenkov, PhD in art history, director of the Diaghilev Seasons Festival, assistant professor at the Perm’ University’s Philosophy Department.

Actively participating in the discussions were our guests from abroad, acclaimed ballet critics Lynn Garafola, professor of Columbia University, and David Vohan, deputy editor of the Ballet Review magazine, the principal custodian of the Cunningham troupe, professor of the New York University. Judging by their speeches, the problems of contemporary choreography don’t only beset our compatriots. There are plenty of similar problems in the practice of the world dance culture.

Facilitating the round table discussion was Ballet magazine’s deputy editor-in-chief and art director of the State Theater of the Nations, Sergey Korobkov, PhD.

On the basis of historical facts and contemporary productions analysis, the experts were seeking answers to such thorny questions as the following:

What is primary – the crisis of the choreographic thought as an artistic idea, or the crisis of choreography per se? What exactly is “modern choreography” – is it new productions in academic theaters using the classical lexicon or is it works in the genre defined as “contemporary dance” or is it something else?

Using specific examples, the participants were addressing such questions as why do we witness a fixedly “goodly”, statistically average repertoire but never a headstrong conceptual breakthrough into the future – is it due to what the culturologists call “cultural fatigue” or is it because the theater is unable to keep pace with conceptualization of the fast-flowing time?

Many of the speakers were of one mind in that the ballet theater suffers from the all too obvious isolation from what is happening in other domains – in opera, drama, and other kinds of audio-visual forms of culture.

Where are producers like Diaghilev – risk taking, and eager to seek out real talents in music, painting, and performing arts? Where, lastly, is real criticism, able to digest all these processes, both those that belong to history and those that still worry us today: what is happening to dance, both traditional and contemporary; why are the links between the obvious periods of its progress being severed; why is the choreographic and, broader still, artistic culture lost in a labyrinth, trying in vain to find an exit? Why are the links being severed and continuity being lost?

The Ballet magazine’s editorial board believe that the questions addressed by the round table participants may become a subject for a serious debates among those who is concerned with the future of the contemporary choreographic art.

Valery Rom’s article deals with two subjects. First, ballet competitions, which are “merely a tool allowing to more lucidly spotlight short-comings and lapses in choreographic training and to seek ways of solving the problems.”

Secondly, the writer discusses the choreographic situation in the Russian regions, which has significantly changed during the last decade. He talks about the state system of professional choreographic training; about the status of opera and ballet as well as of musical theaters; about the principles of a ballet repertoire formation; and about amateur training. Towards the article’s “curtain fall” he lists the names of winners and judges at a young performers’ competition in Novosibirsk.

BALLET THEME

THE BALLET THEME COLUMN carries on publications dedicated to the tercentenary of St. Petersburg. The first of those presents excerpts from interviews with Oleg Vinogradov, whose name is linked to the City on the Neva not only due to his artistic activities in its two most famous ballet troupes – the Mariinsky (then the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theater) and the Modest Moussorgsky Theater (so called “Maligot”), but also because Vinogradov is a St. Peterburgean par excellence – by birth, by mindset, by artistic preferences, by the perception of the surrounding reality and by the manner of reflecting that reality in his works. In 1990, Oleg Vinorgadov founded Universal Ballet Academy whose training system is based on St. Petersburg school.

The choreographer’s biographer, Arsen Deghen, presents an old interview, which, however, is still topical. Oleg Vinorgadov relates of his long-term programs for ballet troupes with which he had worked; he muses over their strengths and weaknesses, stresses the importance of each theater’s individuality and the need to form their repertoire according to their specifics. He recalls how he was trying to solve the problem of attracting the young audiences to the ballet theater; shares his thoughts about the Sergey Prokofiev’s ballets, particularly, Romeo and Juliet, recalls the time when his production of Yaroslavna was being born.

The St. Petersburg theme continues in an excerpt from Galina Ulanova’s book A Ballerina’s School in which the great dancer reflects upon Soviet choreography. “It wasn’t that music was adjusted to the task of creating brilliant dances but, to the contrary, the ballet-master and the artists were drawing on the idea of the music, which warranted a more profound subject matter of the ballets and serious tasks for the performers, which would be organically following the characters’ musical sketches.”

Galina Sergeevna then goes on to recall her work with the composer Boris Asafiev and the choreographer Rostislav Zakharov on the ballet The Fountain of Backhchisarai. “We were trying to find the truth of human relations, without which it is impossible to unfold Pushkin’s purpose, to recreate his wonderful characters… Pushkin’s Maria made me reexamine much in my previous parts and perform them in a new way. It affected even such a part as Geselle.” Later it also helped in creating the role of Juliet. “Just like in Maria of The Fountain of Bakhchisarai I felt obliged to base my work on music. The ‘pithiness’ of music, the precious thing that the Soviet composers gave our choreography, a melody that reveals the characters’ spiritual world – that’s what was for us most important when selecting expressive means of dance.”

Sergey Radlov’s article Pantomime is the Yeast That Raises the Dough of Dance first appeared in 1932 in the Sovetskoye Iskusstvo newspaper. Here it closes the column’s St. Petersburg triptych.

“The Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater considers the ballet The Flames of Paris a milestone production, a work that is to give a start to great battles for a creation of a new ballet style… Essential in this struggle for a meaningful, thoughtful, and affecting ballet spectacle is a revision of the relations between dance and pantomime. Not quantative one, though. Indeed, dance has been and remains the principal part of a ballet production… Still, pantomime, which must not supplant dance, must nevertheless affect it qualitatively, stimulate it, prepare and precondition its dramatic tension.” The article gives examples of various proportions between the elements of dance and pantomime within the framework of one production.

IN MEMORIAM

THE IN MEMORIAM COLUMN pays tribute to the outstanding ballet artist and educator, professor of the A. Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy Constantin Vasilievich Shatilov, lately deceased.

NAME IN BALLET

A NAME IN BALLET COLUMN’s first article is by Vera Mikhailovna Krasovskaya. A portrait gallery of our country’s dance personalities constitutes a significant part of the scholar’s legacy. Among many images of famous artists and choreographers there are also sketches of those who trained and brought up the “stars” – their teachers.

This issue features a 1997 unpublished article of hers, The Artistic Pathway of Yu. I. Gromov, taken from the Krasovskaya’s archives and dedicated to the work of the Trade Unions’ Higher School of Culture’s (now Trade Unions’ Liberal Arts University) choreography chair holder, People’s Artist of Russia, professor Yuri Iosifovich Gromov who had recently celebrated his 70th birthday. The article presents in great detail his work both as a staging choreographer who had created dance episodes in drama and full-scale ballets on the country’s various stages, and as an academician and theoretician of the art of choreography. Of special interest is the part that relates of his training techniques he used while teaching at the Stage Motion Department of the Theater Institute in Mokhovaya Street.

The second sketch in the column, one by Igor Stupnikov, is about Svetlana Zakharova, a ballerina, formerly of the Mariinsky and now of the Bolshoy, “an amazing new talent”. Special attention is paid to the part of Giselle, which has become the ballerina’s “identity card”. “Zakharova’s dancing in this production is marked by clarity and a peculiarly vibrant youthful purity”.

One might say that Zakharova has easily mastered the St. Petersburg classical repertoire, except it’s hard to speak of any easiness when the ballerina’s track record includes such parts as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Kitri in Don Quixote, Medora in Le Corsaire, Nikia in La Bayadere, the solo part in Chopiniana, Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. Each one required different stylistics, imagery, spiritual fullness. The writer talks about the way the ballerina dances Balanchine’s ballets and comes to the conclusion that “now one might say that Balanchine is her choreographer and she, his ballerina… With each new role Zakharova proves that she is not only a virtuoso dancer but also an eloquent actress.”

Yelena Presniakova in her sketch paints a portrait, both as a professional and as a human being, of Tatiana Ustinova, the People’s Artist of the U.S.S.R., multiple State Award winner, professor, chief choreographer of the M. E. Piatnitsky State Academic Russian Folk Choir. The writer recalls her childhood, her school years at the Moscow Choreography School, her first staging works, her educational activities and her many field trips in which Ustinova bit by bit had been collecting the dance lore. She believed that the Russian folk dance is highly diverse and there is no such thing as a uniform manner of performance. Indeed, the motions are defined not only by the people’s lifestyles, which are different in the North and in the South and in Siberia, but also by the costume, which is different almost in each village. “She was loved by everyone – students and artists, colleagues and officials, watchmen, ushers, dressers, and janitors at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, which has been her daily workplace since 1940.”

Stanislava Shchukova’s article is dedicated to the artistic work of Leonid Yakobson, one of the most distinguished figures of the passed century, who has largely defined the image of our country’s art of ballet in the 20th century. Each one of his works turned into a high spot.

The ballet-master’s favorite genre was that of choreographic miniature. Accordingly, the major part of the article is dedicated to an unusual 1959 production, in which Yakobson combined a number of miniatures from the old repertoire, added a few new ones, and named it all just so: Choreographic Miniatures. “The production included a great deal of interesting pieces, one of which was the Rodin’s Sculptures cycle… The music of Debussy, Prokofiev and Berg seems to lead Yakibson along its paths: the lissome plastique of the dancers reacts to minute musical nuances. Yakobson found a way to join, in the same performance, two seemingly contrary trends. On the one hand, the audience can’t help the impression of static harmony characteristic of marble statues rather than living humans. On the other hand, the dancers move unceasingly, following all the ‘wriggles’ of music, as if giving life to the cold marble, making it radiant with feelings. They still charm the audiences, epitomizing what people have dreamed of since Pygmalion – of granting life to beautiful sculptures, not by the will of gods, but rather by the creative thought of humans.”

BALLET WORLD

THE BALLET WORLD COLUMN presents a coverage by Pavel Yashchenkov of the Covent Garden Royal Ballet’s tour in Moscow, where one of the world greatest and most reputable ballet companies has visited for the first time in sixteen years.

Having analyzed in detail all the visitor’s performances, the writer comes to these conclusions: that Covent Garden is not at its best right now trying to collect artists from all over the world and engaging the world stars. …That a crisis of the national school has led to a leveling of once famous English style. …That the company, nevertheless, has a judicious repertoire policy offering both classical and specifically English repertoires. Beside Swan Lake, the British has shown productions of major choreographers Frederic Ashton and Kenneth Macmillan, which form a basis of the Royal Ballet’s repertoire.

…Even thought the tour proved somewhat disappointing, having demonstrated a universal crisis of the genre at the break of the millennium, they, nevertheless, have been interesting and offered quite a few useful lessons.”

Yelena Solominskaya of Dusseldorf shares her impressions of a magnificent gala-concert that took place on stage of the Hamburg Opera as a conclusion of the XXIXth Hamburg Ballet Days. These yearly events “always close with a gala, which are traditionally dedicated to Waslaw Nijinsky and also to one significant event or personality in the history of ballet – this season to the outstanding dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev.”

The writer vividly presents the speech by the Hamburg Ballet’s maitre, John Neumeyer, who knew and highly appreciated Nureyev. For him, Nureyev was, above all, one who had tirelessly aspired for things new and experimental.

“The guests and hosts alike were dancing various pieces that different choreographers have dedicated to Nureyev. …Crowning the evening was the magnificent ‘Shadows’ act from La Bayadere, the Hamburg Ballet’s next-to-last production staged by Natalia Makarova. The acclaimed ballet star was ‘passing a baton’ to a new one, an 18-year-old Moscow Choreography School graduate, Paulina Simeonova of the Unter den Linden Theater. She presented a technically perfect Nikia, unchildlike, serious and Western-Nordic.”

But the main choreographic offering of the night was, of course, dedicated to Nureyev. Neumeyer defined its genre as “improvisation”: two girls and four youths in an space full of light performed a dance – new, philosophical, dynamic, reproducing the artistic spirit of Rudolf Nureyev himself.

INFORM-BALLET

THE INFORM-BALLET COLUMN presents three Moscow art exhibitions:

- A coverage of the second one-man show of Dmitri Yevtushenko, who delights in the images of people linked to arts. Among the paintings are portraits of Igor Moiseyev and Ilse Liepa, and “ballet” sketches.

- A story about Gina Lollobrigida’s show A Life in Arts. The Italian movie star presented images of Esmeralda’s fiery dance, almost bacchanalian postures of Prima Ballerina, A Little Dancing Girl, and a romantic composition The First Sentiment that is reminiscent of Picasso’s Girl on a Globe.

- The ballet subject as presented in Lyubov London’s exhibition. Here we have encountered many a legend of Russian ballet as “interpreted” by the painter and sculptor: Anna Pavlova, Natalia Bessmertnova, Marina Semyonova, Natalia Dudinskaya, Maya Plisetskaya, Yekaterina Maksimova.

- One of the sketches relates of the 10th anniversary of the Fouette Children’s Choreography School in Zelenograd near Moscow. The anniversary concert included a number of choreographic miniatures by Leonid Lebedev, who has been long cooperating with the school. While visiting the Ballet magazine’s desk, the choreographer himself and artistic director of the school Oleg Sokolov talked about the history of this cooperation.

- The Ballet in Gnezdnikovsky company has shown at the GITIS Theater a program by three graduates of the Russian Academy of Theatrical Art’s Choreography Department – O. Stekolshchikova, E. Nazarova and P. Apatonov.

In a Paris of Near East is a sketch dealing with the Kremlin Ballet’s tours featuring Yuri Grigirovich’s productions of Romeo and Juliet and Ivan the Terrible. These were the opening nights at the Days of Russian Culture in Bulgaria and also at a newly opened theater in Beirut.

The young Republican Choreography School of Yakutia and its principal, Natalia Poselskaya, have initiated a health study of children’s choreography school students in Yakutsk and Krasnoyarsk. The results were discussed at the First Scientific and Practical Conference on Specifics of Physical Development of Choreography School Students in the Conditions of the Extreme North, Siberia and Far East. The issue of ballet artists’ social welfare was also discussed. Featured at the conference, besides scientific papers, were demonstration lessons, master-classes and collective concerts.

- On the International Dance Day, Vakhtang Chabukiani’s museum apartment received its first visitors. The initiative of the museum’s creation belongs to David Djangveladze. The museum plans to establish contacts with the Bakhrushin Museum and with Balanchine and Nureyev Foundations.

- Natalia Sheremetievskaya’s article informs of the 6th International Step-Parade Festival in Moscow, which featured a competition and master-classes by American and French instructors. The writer concludes, “A trend towards creation of a variety of images is prevailing in what has been shown. Success has been achieved due to performers’ expressiveness and a happy staging idea. Unfortunately, the latter has not been encountered all too often. One only hopes that choreographers would, finally, take notice of the intensively developing and promising step-dance theater.

- Pavlova’s Heirs by Galina Belyaeva-Chelombitko presents the history of the creation of the Russian National Ballet under Sergey Radchenko. The sketch also analyzes the troupe’s repertoire and quotes its leader’s remarks about the propagation of the classical traditions in ballet.

BALLET-PARADE

THE BALLET-PARADE COLUMN informs of three ballet performances that have been shown within the framework of the Moscow A. P. Chekhov Festival:

- Jean Juan by performers from Taiwan. “The performance’s very choreographic style was unordinary. Everything here was based on the major features of the oriental martial arts, which is what shapes the composition… This is an interesting phenomena in the framework of the ever expanding contemporary plastique: a combination of a static body, when a performer seems to root himself into the ground, with motions that are always filled with inner energy.”

- A City Map of the West by the Italian troupe Theatrical Machines. It is made up my means of multimedia, where beside the dance and pantomime there exists music, and also spoken word, all of which naturally blends with a deliberate lighting, whose power and uniqueness are overwhelming.

- The Kaze international spectacle. “Kaze” is the Japanese for wind. The wind, as everybody knows, may be different: lights as a baby’s breath; tender as a loving hand’s touch; unstoppable as a crowd in a carnival. That was the kind of many-facetedness that the members of the international troupe have shown in Moscow. The troupe consisted of a composer from Japan; a choreographer from Finland; and musicians and dancers from Japan and Senegal. “Musicians and barefoot dancers constantly exchanged roles, and it was impossible to realize who was in charge: African and Asian rhythms and contemporary plastiques, while intricately interweaving, freely coexisted, as if bringing forth pictures from our subconscious.”

BALLET SCENOGRAM

THE BALLET SCENOGRAM COLUMN features Sergey Chuyanov’s report on the premiere performance of Captain’s Daughter, a ballet to the music of Tikhon Khrennikov based on an A. S. Pushkin story. The writer demonstratively explains why it has proved a high spot in the life of the Nizhni Novgorod’s Opera and Ballet House named after great Pushkin. This version’s author, Vataly Butrimovich, has created a dynamic performance in which scenes impetuously replace each other.



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