New York City Center: The Riches of the Kirov

Classic Arts Features   New York City Center: The Riches of the Kirov
New York balletomanes are in for a royal treat when the Kirov Ballet performs at New York City Center from April 1 through 20.

The grand scale of this event is merely hinted at in the statistics: 100 dancers from this 200-year old St. Petersburg, Russia-based company performing 19 works in six different programs. Some of the finest ballet dancers today will be performing during this substantial run, including Diana Vishneva, Andrian Fadeev, Uliana Lopatkina, Leonid Sarafanov, Alina Somova, Danila Korsuntsev, and Igor Kolb. The company's artistic director is Maestro Valery Gergiev, and Makhar Vaziev is the director of the ballet. The April 1-20 season is presented by Ardani Artists in association with City Center.

Naturally, the Kirov Ballet‹a descendant of the Russian Imperial Ballet, and known in its homeland as the Ballet Company of the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg‹will perform beloved classics and excerpts from full-length ballets, including Raymonda, Scheherazade, Le Corsaire (all three of which will use sets reflecting their respective sections' full productions), Le Spectre de la Rose, Chopiniana, La Bayadere (The Kingdom of the Shadows), and The Dying Swan, as well as pas de deux from Don Quixote, Diana and Acteon, Paquita, and more.

In addition to these canonical ballets, the Kirov will also perform a program of four works by William Forsythe, whose forward-looking work is regarded as the antithesis of the romantic story ballet. Members of the illustrious Kirov Orchestra will accompany the programs, with the exception of the Forsythe evening, which features Steptext, Approximate Sonata, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, and In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

As rich as dance offerings are in New York, for logistical and economical reasons the city is not a regular stop for many of the world's finest ballet companies. And when the Kirov has visited New York in the past, it has always performed at the larger Metropolitan Opera House. However, City Center has become a regular option for large companies to present shorter pieces or more experimental work. Producer Sergei Danilian of Ardani Artists cites a comparable model in American Ballet Theatre's fall run at City Center, which usually consists of mixed repertory, balancing its annual Met Opera summer season of mostly full-length story ballets.

Not only is this a chance to see the Kirov stretch its legs stylistically, but if not for the upcoming City Center engagement, "The break between the last Kirov dates in New York, and possibly the next, is too long. The company last performed here in 2002‹the next visit will probably be 12 or 13 years from then, which is a lot for ballet dancers. It's almost a generation," says Danilian.

The Kirov is renowned for its historic ties to the ballets of Fokine and Petipa, supported by an impeccably refiined classical technique advocated in its legendary school, the Vaganova Academy. The current company reflects not only this relatively naturalistic, clean style of ballet, but it keeps pace with the open-ended evolution of the prototypical ballet dancer to be more flexible, faster, soar higher, and adapt to different styles. Besides the ever-increasing physical demands, the Kirov dancers are lauded for their sensitive theatrical interpretations.

Many of the world's most famous and talented ballet dancers passed through the Kirov‹Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Rudolf Nureyev, to name a few. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union went the constant threat of dancer defections. It has become more common for star dancers to perform with companies around the world over the course of a year. Thus, New Yorkers in recent years have been lucky to see Diana Vishneva dance with ABT, where she is a celebrated principal dancer. The Kirov run will give audiences the opportunity to see Vishneva dance in works such as The Dying Swan and Scheherazade, as well as Forsythe's Steptext. (For complete program information, go to

New York City Center has gained increasing prominence as a stage for major international companies, and is the New York home for leading American companies such as Paul Taylor Dance Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Morphoses, Christopher Wheeldon's fledgling company which made its New York debut here last fall, will return next season, and San Francisco Ballet visits City Center this fall. Notes Arlene Shuler, president and CEO of City Center, (which also presents Fall for Dance, the densely packed dance showcase with $10 tickets), "New York City Center continues to be a major destination for dance, and the Kirov engagement gives us yet another opportunity to bring the best of dance from around the world to a broader audience." Be sure to catch the current stars of the Kirov now.

Susan Yung is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in dance and art.

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