3 mal William Forsythe am Mariinsky-Theater

St. Petersburg, 05/03/2004

Maria Ratanova, die ich eingeladen habe, über die Forsythe-Premiere im St. Petersburger Mariinsky-Theater zu berichten, ist eine junge russische Doktorandin, die mit einem Stipendium des Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies an ihrer Dissertation über Bronislava Nijinska arbeitet. Sie hat an der European University in St. Petersburg studiert und einen Examensabschluss in den Fächern Geschichte und Theorie des Dramas. Sie ist Tanzkritikerin der Novaya Gazeta, Moskau, des Gorod Magazin und des Kalender, beide St. Petersburg.
(eine deutsche Übersetzung der Kritik folgt weiter unten)

Maria Ratanova: The Imperial Ballet Throws Itself Into Avant-Garde. The premiere of three famous ballets of William Forsythe opened on Friday in St. Petersburg the IV. International Festival „Mariinsky“. The very first introduction to the company of the greatest avant-garde choreographer of the present day came as a shock therapy for the dancers. However, the triumphal premiere made the company feel themselves the conquerors of the world. It seemed clear for the Mariinsky that, having mastered Forsythe, they would enter the 21st century as winners.

For this the company was ready to do everything: during two months the best soloists were screwing out their joints, agreed to step aside the vertical axis and learned the most complicated „supports“. Forsythe himself came a few days before the premiere. The atmosphere on the dress rehearsal became hot. The first ballet – „Steptext“, headed by the world-known star Diana Vishneva, – was interrupted nearly at every musical bar. After that a gossip spread that Forsythe took Vishneva off the premiere, having replaced her by Natalia Sologub. Surprised, but not embarrassed, Sologub opened the triumphal first night.

All pre-premiere arguments: whether they would manage this or not, whether the Mariinsky audience would „swallow“ this choreography or not, were simply ground into dust by the very first performance. Nobody could expect that the effect of presence of this „monstre sacre“, with all his aggressiveness and brutality, in the peaceful „house of Petipa“ would be so strong. The Mariinsky company has changed completely! The soloists danced as if in those two months they were taught how to walk on the rope over abyss, or to kill a bull on corrida. „We already feel no pain“, – said exhausted Uliana Lopatkina, citing one of the soloists in the end of the rehearsal marathon. After the premiere one could add: „They already have no fear“.

The beginning of the performance looked very much like a provocation. The audience was embarrassed: the lights are still on, no music, and a boy in black onstage is already dancing „Steptext“ – doing passes with his arms in silence. The phonogram with Bach's „Chaconne“ is played, then suddenly cut off. The music is cut in pieces, the same is done to the choreographic text: both look like being anatomically prepared. Laughter in the audience: somebody thinks the equipment came out of order. But the four dancers – Natalia Sologub, Igor Kolb, Andrei Merkuriev, Maksim Khrebtov – keeping cool, ignore the reaction of the audience, energetically letting know that this is nothing else but an abstract dialogue between choreography and music.

This montage of fragments results in a wild tension. Even the wildest one comes out of unbelievably beautiful and complicated duets. Sologub, pushing from the hands of Merkuriev, as if from the parallel bars, violently cuts the air with her legs with a whistle, having opened them in a vertical splits, while thrusting her body far to the side. Next moment the same legs draw the most beautiful circle in the air. A skinny devilette in a red leotard, Sologub put the full house to her feet. This thrilling dialogue between the audience and the stage was the most intriguing. The public, having made an attempt to hiss the performance off at its start, was completely disgraced in the next five minutes. Ten minutes more – and the audience was clapping in ecstasy.

„The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude“ as a tribute to classical ensembles came out as a more familiar piece in its structure. But the famous „In The Middle Somewhat Elevated“ turned the Mariinsky ensemble into vital, invulnerable heroes of interplanetary wars, being shot with metallic lustre. Who could only think of them feeling so much at home within precise mechanics of Forsythe's choreographic structures? Who could imagine those „sylphides“ looking so strikingly sharp and „brutal“? Probably they lacked a bit of extreme „dislocation“ of hips, or that powerful flexibility of feet, so important with Forsythe. But in general you could hardly recognize them! As, for example, Daria Pavlenko (a dramatic classical Nikia). Cold as a blade of a knife, in the central duet she was curving her body like Michelle Pfeiffer‘s cat-woman in „Batman II“, her legs flashing like lightning in her mortal battements.

At his first rehearsal at the Mariinsky Forsythe said to dancers: „Good morning! I am the pupil of Balanchine“. The company immediately felt he was the person it was really waiting for. Did Mr. Forsythe understand that he is the ideal choreographer for the Mariinsky?


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