Kirov History – V

16 Dec

The Classics: Still the Kirov’s Pride

“The technique is powerful, but unclear.”

Kirov soloist describing a Bolshoi soloist

29. We must keep in mind the treasure house of classics that remain the Kirov’s pride. The Kirov is justly famous for its 19th-century classics, not Vingradov’s cautious attempts to modern choreography. We would regard Swan Lake, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty as the big three. The Kirov has chosen, appropriately as its ultra refined Swan Lake to compliment Night in a Tiger Skin on its American tour. (Its third program for this tour will be an arrangement of three short one-act ballet or excerpts from longer works, selected from well-known ballets such as Chopiniana, Les Syphides, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, la Bayadere, Leningrad Symphony, and Paquita.

30. It is easy to think of these classics as museum pieces. But these ballets are not the same as when they were first choreographed. Perhaps the Kirov’s main contribution has been its consistent development of these classics. The sets and costumes are different, and the style and quality of the dancing has greatly changed. In some cases the choreography is identical. However, each generation has added something. In ballet, as in track and field, each generation improves on the technique of the previous one. Legs are stretched higher, elevation and speed increase, and leaps are more amazing.

31. The Kirov’s interpretation of Swan Lake, long acknowledged as the best in the wold, differs substantially from American productions. It features a court jester, mine has been removed, and it has been given (unhappily in our view) the happy ending that has become standard in Soviet versions of this work since the 1960’s. Prince Siegfried tears a wing off the evil owl Rothbart, who struggles briefly and dies: Odette and Siegfried embrace as the curtain falls. The “white Act” of Swan Lake, arguably the pinnacle of classical dance – with its incomparable music and the unsurpassed choreography of Petipa’s assistant, Ivanov – is finally what the Kirov corps de ballet does best. Here the swans signal their paradoxical condition – on the one hand, feminine softness and beauty; on the other hand, their loss of the warmth associated with that softness. Their execution mirrors this divided nature, creates a marvelous atmosphere of classical purity,
and communicates a powerful drama to the audience.

The Soloists

32. Following are sketches of a number of the Kirov’s Principal dancers:

33. Irina Alexandrovna Kolpakova;
Prima Ballerina of the Kirov Theater
People’s Artist of the USSR since 1965 (Third and highest of the Titles – first is “Honored Artists of the RSFSR (Russian Republic); Second is “People’s Artist of the RSFSR”; Hero

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