There is a certain look performers sometimes have on their faces when things are just not going their way. There's a deflated look in their eyes, posture, and demeanor that makes it clear to the audience that magic is just not going to happen on this particular night, and they are being professionals by chugging through the remainder of the performance. That look was in abundance at tonight's performance of Swan Lake at BAM. The Mariinsky swans were as beautiful as ever, Andrei Yermakov was a terrifying Rothbart, the pas de trois was elegantly danced by Filipp Stepin, Nadezhda Batoeva, and Yana Selina (!!!), but the leads Ekaterina Kondaorova and Timur Askerov were just disappointing compared to last Friday's magical performance by Uliana Lopatkina.
Ekaterina Kondaurova is an excellent dancer. She was a wonderful Stepmom in Ratmansky's Cinderella. And on paper she should be an excellent Odette/Odile. She's tall, with long limbs and that proud, majestic Vaganova back. Really beautiful face too -- looks like a 1940's Hollywood femme fatale. With that being said, I think it was a combination of Odette/Odile not really being her role, and this simply not being a good night for her. Her White Swan act was fine, if not as exquisitely detailed as Lopatkina. But there was a tenseness in her upper body and it also seemed at times that she was distorting her hip in her developpés. Her arms, although long, don't have the boneless rippling quality of the best Odette/Odile's. Her attitudes and arabesques were slightly stiff -- her legs didn't sing.
The Black Swan act was where the real problems started though. At the very beginning of the Black Swan pas de deux in those split lifts/supported pirouettes she slipped through Askerov's arms and Askerov yanked her up in time from a total fall. After that she never seemed to regain confidence -- she danced the variation as if in a total daze. She ignored the musical markings and just pumped through the steps without noticing that she was often either several beats ahead or several beats behind. Gone were carefully the carefully prepared iconic Odile poses -- she just flailed her arms or legs up a certain way and that was that. In the coda she started traveling in a circle during the fouettes, and looked dizzy. She mercifully cut the sequence short, even if that meant finishing before the music finished.
I know she's capable of more:
Timur Askerov is an odd choice for a Siegfried -- Filipp Stepin of the pas de trois actually has the more classically proportioned body. Askerov has shortish arms and a habit of squeezing his shoulders that makes his arms look even shorter, and can look sloppy. His partnering was also sloppy --this is a hard thing to describe but good partners will hide the deficiencies of the ballerina. Yevgeny Ivanchenko of last Friday's performance was slow and tentative at times but there was a cleanness to his line and partnering that was valuable. Askerov and Kondaurova had little to no chemistry. In the final lakeside scene neither of them bothered to act out the apotheosis music -- both just traveled to downstage center and that was it.
I haven't seen much of Askerov, but I have seen enough Kondaurova to know that in the right role she can be real dynamite. Now Kondaurova and Askerov were both professionals. They didn't give a BAD performance by any means. It just wasn't a good performance either by Mariinsky standards, or even their own standards.
I go back from a final Swan Lake on Jan. 23.