Category Ballets Russes

Natalia Makarova in contrast with Alina Somova.

Makarova is a fully mature artist of great beauty and lasting inspiration. In my last blog, I gave you Alina Somova, a very young artist. It is not how high your extension is that is important, but rather, where the most aesthetic choice of how to place your leg can be achieved. It is like a great painter who knows where to put his mark. It is not about how many turns, but rather whether your turns maintain the character you are portraying. The Maryinsky was noble for its control in these dimensions; the whole was never sacrificed to the part.

Here is Makarova in ‘Swan Lake’:

And last, Makarova with Dowell:

Oh, that the Royal Ballet could return to this standard.

Le Spectre de la Rose

Spectre was premiered by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on April 19, 1911 at the Theatre de Monte Carlo. The original roles were danced by Nijinsky and Karsavina (Do Read ‘Theatre Street’ by Karsavina).The choreographer was Michel Fokine to music “Invitation to the Dance’ by Carl Maria von Weber. The costumes were designed by Leon Bakst. It is a virtuoso piece for a male dancer. Of course, Nijinsky must have been stunning. Below, I will start by showing Nureyev and Barishnikov dancing the roles. I do not believe these are the best performances. Then I shall give you other performances that I consider excellent and explain why.


In Spectre featuring Dmitri Gudanov and Anatassia Goryacheva, Gudanov is very light on his feet and graceful, almost feminine, with a precision in his movements. Note the turn ,as the different male dancers will use different choreography here, some starting with arabesque en tournant, some with attitude en tournant, etc. Anastassia is particulary expressive and beautiful in what is a secondary role.


Ananiashvilli and Ruzimatov: Ananiashvilli creates a beautiful little cameo that almost stills the show. Ruzimatov is technically excellent, but less like a spirit because he seems a taller man and his movements are more vigorous.


Mathias Heymann  and Isabelle Ciaravola from the Opera Gambier dance with a sensitivity toward and re-creation of the mannerisms and style of the Diaghilev performance. Heymann is a smaller and more airborn dancer. Ciaravola is beautiful. I did not know either of these dancers.


Herman Cornejo is 5 feet 6″ tall and beautifully built for this role. I loved what I imagined to be the Nijinsky-esque mannerisms which may have been part of the original Fokine choreography and which can be gleaned from photogrlaphs of Nijinsky in this role. His technique and height of jumps is outstanding. Alas, I thought less of Reyes’ performance here and felt that she wasn’t so sensitive to the stylisation. The performances weren’t in harmony with each other.


Igor Kolb is a principle dancer in the Mariinsky Ballet. He is tall and long which gives a less Nijinsky look to the choreography, but he is elegant and accomplished. Zhana Auipova is charming and beautiful, and they work well together. Igor Kolb is appearing at the Sadler’s Wells in London in an all male programme at the end of January.

Mikhail Fokine’s Firebird and Petruchka- ‘We did stagger the world’.

I particularly like Nina Ananiashvilli as The Firebird  because she  is a wild bird- like creature.

On this site I have shown the exotic pas de deux from Fokine’s Sheherazade. Fokine’s ability to contribute ballets about the Russian soul leaves us with arguably ballets richest legacy. While Petipa borrowed ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from the Brothers Grimm, who collected folklore and did research into cultural history from the turn of the Eighteenth Century, Fokine  was to look closer to home. in keeping with the Romantic period, of which they were part, the Grimm brothers tales were dark and violent. Fokine’s later explorations were part of a Russian movement at the turn of the Nineteenth Century to establish a national identity.

Fokine is often considered Romantic but this is a mistake. ‘Here was a new dance drama of the twentieth century, shorn of the automatic trappings of the old ballet of Imperial Russia, reaching out directly to the public in movement that told the story through the actions of the dance rather than the gestures of conventional mime. The choreography spoke, and created a world through collaboration with its music and design. This new expressivity was owed to Mikhail Fokine.’ [Clement Crisp in ‘Mariinsky Ballet, 50th Anniversary Season’ in London]

Designer Alexandre Benois and choreographer Fokine wrote the scenario for ‘The Firebird’ which was an adaptation of two old Russian fairytales, ‘The Firebird’ and ‘Kostchei the Immortal’ . Stravinsky put aside other work between September 1909 and March 1910 to work on the score. The premier choreographed by Fokine with designs by Leon Bakst and Alexandre Golovine  premiered at the Paris Opera on 25 June 1910. Karsavina and Fokine danced the original roles.

Margot Fonteyn  captures the spirit of the Firebird:

Ekaterina Kondaurova is technically beautiful but doesn’t seem a firebird. I think the music may be played more slowly which reduces the impact of Stravinsky:

In 1911, Fokine, Benois and Stravinsky jointly created ‘Petrushka’ for Diaghilev. In this ballet , they sought to recreate the Petersburg Butterweek Fairs. I will show you the versions I prefer.

Nureyev and Pontois in 1976: