Evgenia Obraztsova


On Thursday evening the Russian ballerina Evgenia Obraztsova made her debut with this ABT.

June 21, 2015

Ms. Obraztsova is petite with long limbs and a soft, effortless style; she epitomizes personal innocence and stylistic radiance. New York has had little acquaintance with her until now, but she has been admired for years in St. Petersburg, Moscow and London. A Mariinsky (St. Petersburg) dancer who moved to the Bolshoi in 2012, she seems made for poetic classicism. (I admired her at the Bolshoi in March 2014 in “Marco Spada” in a performance — internationally broadcast — that also starred Olga Smirnova and David Hallberg.)

When I saw her dance MacMillan’s Juliet with the Royal Ballet in London in November 2013, I simply wanted to see her other roles, Giselle and Aurora (“The Sleeping Beauty”) above all. On Thursday, watching her lovely but docile and too-ballerina-like manners again, I wanted her to extend herself as an artist by addressing the sheer oomph of this Juliet. She is all loveliness and all potential; I hope we see more of her soon.

Alastair Macaulay "The New York Times"

American Ballet Theatre – Romeo and Juliet (Obraztsova/Cornejo) – New York

June 19, 2015

American Ballet Theatre
Romeo and Juliet
New York, Metropolitan Opera House
18 June 2015

In Fair Verona

Another night, another Juliet takes the stage at American Ballet Theatre. The spring season at the Met is like that: each week brings a new evening-length work, with a different cast of principals featured at practically every performance. Tonight it was Evgenia Obraztsova’s turn, alongside the Argentina-born company principal Herman Cornejo. After ten years at the Mariinsky, the diminutive Obraztsova is now a principal at the Bolshoi. This was her first guest appearance with ABT; before today, her performances in New York had been limited to a few galas. Even then, sandwiched between a Black Swan pas de deux and an excerpt from Don Q, one couldn’t help but notice her charm and the sparkle and lightness of her pointework.

Physically and temperamentally she is well-matched with Cornejo, though on pointe she is just a tiny bit taller. Like him, she is a disarming performer, unaffected and unfussy in her technique, which is nevertheless prodigious. It’s particularly impressive to see how she phrases movement, using gravity and the pliancy of her frame to scoop through the air with apparent ease. A certain fearlessness works to her advantage.

Obraztsova’s Juliet is childlike, almost pre-pubescent; at the start, skittishness and obedience are the predominant colors. Gradually, as she begins to grasp the seriousness of her situation, she becomes increasingly grave, without ever quite losing this girlish purity. She fights no end, even in the arms of the Capulets’ chosen suitor, Paris, in a pas de deux that has the callousness of a rape. Her tiny, backward-traveling bourrées come across as an attempt to escape to the more innocent world of her childhood.

With every passing season, Cornejo’s performances become warmer, more ardent; there is now an echo of Julio Bocca’s fervor in his dancing. Once admired for his jumps and beats, he’s now a presence onstage; he dances with his whole body, his eyes, his fingertips. His renversés in the balcony scene became a swirl of movement, three-dimensional and lush. His musicality caught accents and syncopations in Prokofiev’s layered score. He was happily engaged with everyone onstage, particularly the most spirited of the three wild-haired harlots in the street scenes, Isadora Loyola. Cornejo has undeniable panache.

On this night, he was given a run for his money by his two partners-in-crime, Mercutio and Benvolio. The first was danced with pyrotechnical flash by Daniil Simkin; Joseph Gorak displayed his usual purity of line as the second. Gorak’s feet, as pliant as a paint brush, could make a ballerina cry.

One could imagine a fine partnership developing between Cornejo and Obraztsova. Both are generous and open-hearted performers. Let’s hope she’ll come be back soon.


Marina Harss

Romeo and JULIET

June 19, 2015

Evgenia Obraztsova was only 19 when she performed her first Romeo and Juliet at the Mariinsky. She was an instant sensation. It's not hard to see why. She looks like the Juliet of your dreams -- the huge saucer eyes, the radiant smile, the flowing Renaissance locks. For several years she seemed to be on a path to becoming a Mariinsky prima ballerina -- she was given roles in reconstructions of Ondine, The Awakening of Flora, and Shurale. I saw her in Little Humpbacked Horse and Symphony in C when the Mariinsky toured the U.S. about four years ago. She was adorable.

But then ... the roles stopped. Why this happened, no one knows. In 2013 she finally left the Mariinsky for good and became principal at the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet doesn't currently have a Romeo and Juliet in its repertoire so chances to see Obraztsova in her signature role are big events indeed.

Obraztsova almost singlehandedly lifted this tired, gazillionth revival of Romeo and Juliet into something special. Technically, she's stunning. Her backwards pas de bourreés were so fast and silky smooth, she made this routine move into a "wow" moment. It was like she was a pebble skimming water. Her arabesque is also beautiful -- she's a tiny, petite dancer but she's able to project into the audience not only with her face but with the stretch of her legs. I'm reminded of Alexandra Danilova reminding her students that in arabesque, the audience must see the movement upwards. Obraztsova always showed you the arc of the shape she was creating. Her jump has the bounce and spring of a young, coltish teenager. I could go on and on about her gorgeous feet, her pliant back, her rippling arms, and what not, but let's just call it a great performance.

Obraztsova's characterization of Juliet is definitely in the "lady-like" Ulanova/Fonteyn/Bessmertnova tradition (as opposed to the more veristic, passionate Seymour/Ferri/Vishneva/Osipova strain). But she's not for a moment disengaged. In fact, her Juliet has some interesting touches that I had never seen done before. In the Tomb Scene many Juliets will pick up the dagger, stare at it, contemplate, and then stab. Obraztsova runs around the tomb, stumbles over the dagger, and quickly stabs herself. It's a reminder that Juliet is still an impulsive teeenager. Obraztsova is also one of the few Juliets I've seen in recent memory to follow the stage directions and sit absolutely still on her bed as she's contemplating her fate. So many Juliets feel the urge to devise a little mad scene. Not Obraztsova -- she let the music do the acting for her. Obraztsova unlike many Juliets doesn't overtly fight against Paris when her parents announce their engagement. Instead, she ducks and skims away with her pas de bourreés, with such speed that all of a sudden she looks like an unattainable sylph.

Obraztsova's Romeo was Herman Cornejo. Cornejo's been plagued by injuries over the years and there are sometimes signs of it -- his jumps are still powerful, but he's lost flexibility in his legs and back. One notices that he can no longer really stretch during his arabesques, and that his split leaps don't have much of a split anymore. His overhead lifts are impressive for a guy his size but again, he's been better. There wasn't that much chemistry between him and Obraztsova and they are obviously dancers from very different schools and training, but both are musical and conscientious enough as dancers to make MacMillan's somewhat overwrought choreography work.

Danil Simkin (Mercutio) and Joseph Gorak (Benvolio) completed the trio of Montague males. They are all short and slight, and looked very harmonious standing as a threesome. But they're all actually very different dancers. Simkin's Mercutio was full of bravura tricks. His solos were full of interpolated moves calculated to generate applause. His death scene reminded me of Sylvia Plath's line "Dying is an art, like everything else, I do it exceptionally well." Wow he milked that death for all it was worth. Gorak is all about elegant lines. I look forward to seeing his Romeo eventually. In fact, I commented to a friend that Gorak's Romeo might look great with Obraztsova's Juliet.

The revival was otherwise a tired affair. The orchestra was slow, ponderous and horribly out of tune. The corps, so drilled and together during the Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty, looked tired and out of it tonight. In the Act One sword fighting scene many of them did not even bother looking at the person they were supposedly fighting, they just absentmindedly flicked their wrists and made some motions with their plastic swords. One of Juliet's friends took a tumble. Devon Teuscher (Lady Capulet) thankfully did not make Mercutio's death scene an over the top flailing extravaganza.

But really, the night belonged to Obraztsova, who had throng of admirers waiting for her at the stage door and was practically mobbed when she exited. She's even more beautiful in person. ABT often relies on guest artists to fill gaps in scheduling that quite often comes across as lazy -- it's as if they simply have neither the time nor the care to coach one of their own dancers in a role. Nevertheless Obraztsova is the kind of guest artist worth having -- she's been in NY rehearsing for over two weeks, and she was a star, but did not dance like this was a star turn. I hope she returns soon.

Ivy Lin

BWW Reviews: Youth America Grand Prix's Starry Night of a Gala

April 22, 2015

"It's like an NFL combine," announced emcee Jared Angle at the Youth America Grand Prix Gala on Thursday, April 16th at the David H. Koch Theater. New York City Ballet principal dancer Angle shared "Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow" hosting duties with American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Julie Kent. In a video-illustrated program the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) leadership underscored the tremendous network of resources necessary for young dancers to thrive. Founders Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev distinguished YAGP from other competitions by focusing on relationship building and collaboration. Their passion for their work and this night strongly resounded in the script, accented with their gregarious demeanor in the theater. The gala night celebrated the potential of the dance community and affirmed the legacy of YAGP alumni.

Angle and Kent acknowledged the tremendous support of teachers and parents before announcing each winner performing a variation. Eleven year old Brazilian dancer Antonio Casalinho's Don Quixote variation in celebration of his receiving the Hope Award started the performance. MorningStar Dance Academy of Atlanta's Chinese fan dance was a fluid kaleidoscope of green and pink. Junior division winner Shin-Yong Kim's Esmeralda displayed flawless extension. Eighteen year old Matheus Vaz Guimaraes of Brazil in a contemporary piece brought capoeira elements to ballet in languid strokes. Ellison Ballet represented strongly with their ensemble in Danse Boheme from Carmen Suite and Theophilus Pilette and Juliette Bosco's exquisite pas de deux from Grand Pas Classique, where Ms. Bosco's formidable balance en pointe brought the audience to cheers. The other dynamic pas de deux paired second place senior winner Austen Acevedo and Kennedy Kallas (both fifteen) in an abstract work following their recent Mariinsky Ballet festival experience. Shogo Hayami of the John Cranko School (Stuttgart Ballet) showed a fun whimsy as first place senior winner in his solo. Of Japan, first place senior winner Yu Kurihara's Paquita cemented the joyous note of the evening. A special tradition, Grand Défilé, brought over 250 YAGP finalists from 30 countries together for a victory parade choreographed by Carlos dos Santos, Jr.

The shared bill of YAGP winners and professional dancers defined the arc of development in dance performance. Of the artists from around the world, the audience noticeably reveled in Bolshoi Ballet stars Evgenia Obraztsova and Semyon Chudin's pas de deux from The Pharoah's Daughter. The Bolshoi dancers' exceptional batterie turned the smallest of actions, like Obraztsova's sur le coup de pied and Chudin's entrecôte jumps into magnificent moments. YAGP alumni and NYCB dancer Zachary Catazaro's traveling lift of Teresa Reichlen's piked body showed the complexity of Emery LeCrone's world premiere, Minuet from String Quartet No. 15. Xander Parish of Mariinsky Ballet gave the most comedic performance in the New York premiere of Eric Gauthier's Ballet 101, with vocal prompts for immediate execution of spoofed ballet poses. Other world premieres included the Joffrey Studio Company in Alexei Kremnev's Windy Sand and YAGP alumni Calvin Royal III with Kristina Shapran of Mariinsky Ballet in Anton Pimonov's untitled work.

A very full evening, bursting with talent and possibility. Like an NFL combine in terms of scouting and recruiting, but with the power of collaboration. Unlike most industry competitions, the YAGP community demonstrated its generous core wherein artists overlook geography, language, and background in the pursuit of bettering themselves and their art form. In addition to being an incredible highlight of YAGP's work, what other night can one see the best of the best and the best to be on one stage? From quivering port de bras of an eager eleven year old to the stoic grace of Paloma Herrera, YAGP proudly endorsed its place in supporting generations of premier artists.

Melia Kraus-har

Swan Lake review – duets to die for in Royal Ballet’s disco hell

March 18, 2015

Royal Opera House, London
Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova have an exceptional rapport but it doesn’t always serve the story – and the garish gothic of the set designs looks dated.

The on stage pairing of Steven McRae with Bolshoi ballerina Evgenia Obraztsova is a far from regular thing, the consequence of her very occasional guest appearances in London. Yet watching them together in Swan Lake, they look as though they’ve been partners for years.

As dancers they’re technically well matched. Obraztsova’s sweet lyricism draws qualities of vulnerability and inwardness from McRae’s cool finesse that many other ballerinas fail to elicit, and between them they have an exceptional musical and physical rapport. Interestingly though, as lovely as that rapport is to watch, in the case of Swan Lake it doesn’t always serve the story.

From the moment that Siegfried encounters Odette, he enters a world whose logic and consequences are beyond anything he’s known in his short, rackety and entitled life. Yet while most interpretations portray Odette as a victim, a trapped princess waiting over aeons of fairy-tale time for a prince to rescue her, Obraztsova’s Odette seems almost in control, as if she’s drawing Siegfried into her world and teaching him its rules. With every delicate inflection of her foot, every ripple of her arm, she shows him how to read her; and with every touch, glance and breath he responds. It’s a beautifully intimate portrait of a love affair, but it lacks the high stakes of tragedy that normally define this ballet.

Rapport … Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Rapport … Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian
In Act 3, even where Obraztsova is dancing Odette’s evil double Odile, she seems unable to distance herself from that intimacy. Rather than lethally toying with Siegfried she has gleeful, impudent fun with him. And while she and McRae whip up a storm in their climactic pas de deux – his fantastically clean pirouettes hitting the musical stress every time – they seem to be playing together rather than dancing on the edge of an apocalypse.

Still, in this particular Act 3 it’s hard to see much beyond the disco hell of its designs. Most of us will be cheering that the Royal’s 1987 production is soon to be replaced; even 28 years ago the clutter of its costuming and the garish gothic of its set designs looked dated. But I hope no one messes too much with its carefully researched choreographic text. It is one of the clearest and most detailed Swan Lakes we have, and in this performance, with the spirited musicality and buoyant uplift of Maya Magri and Marcelino Sambé in the Act 1 pas de trois, and with the elegance of Claire Calvert’s Big Swan, it’s being honoured with some fine dancing.

Judith Mackrell

A dazzling Steven McRae and a ravishing Evgenia Obraztsova made the dance blaze

Nov. 17, 2013

Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet is returned to the Opera House – not that it has been long absent in the five decades since its creation. Its massive popularity has brought inevitable encrustations of habit in performance, received interpretation, and “that’s how we’ve always done it” conservatism. But it was clear from this tremendous showing that there has been vital rethinking of manner, and that yellowed varnish and over-painting have been removed. The lighting was clearer, more dramatic; characterisations had gained focus – the Veronese whores were considerably earthier and have lost a former eagerness to show the boys the finer points of hockey.

And at the heart of the performance, Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova, a guest from Moscow and known to us from dazzling appearances in Sleeping Beauty and from inspiring interpretations with both Mariinsky and Bolshoi troupes. One might have anticipated that Obraztsova, with her exquisite style – radiant line, ravishing articulation, unerring integrity of means – would be a memorable Juliet. And so it proved. Emotion was delicate, sprung from the heart of the dance: the portrait not as headstrong as Lynn Seymour, onlie begetter of the role, or Natalya Makarova, but wholly commanding of its nuances and heart-tearing.
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As Romeo, McRae revealed exceptional dramatic integrity when given a ballerina worthy of his salt. It is, I believe, the finest, truest thing he has done at Covent Garden. Choreography was stated with a dazzling but entirely focused bravura. The dance blazed: McRae’s eager virtuosity of utterance – speediest tempi, cleanest line, brightest enunciation of the dance – meant MacMillan’s ideas everywhere shone. Romeo lived, as roaring boy, youth impetuous in love, tragic victim, because McRae drew his portrait with an eager truth.

For every artist involved in this grand event, tremendous admiration: with this renewed Romeo I see our national ballet at its truest. As I did in the intense performance of MacMillan’s Rite of Spring on the previous evening, with the youthful and gifted Claudia Dean making an admirable debut as the sacrificial victim. Tireless amid its demands, piteous, she gave the role its proper force. Cheers for her and, again, for the company. And for MacMillan’s powerful vision.

Clement Crisp

Bolshoi Ballet's La Bayadère in London

Aug. 3, 2013

There can be no lovelier and mystical moment in classical ballet than the sight of 32 ethereal ‘Shades’ in a ribbon of white, slowly descending from a darkened mountain range, down a zigzag ramp to the stage. These spirits of another world, in pristine tutus with chiffon scarves attached to the nape of their necks and wrists, enter one at a time to pose, then follow the other dancers in a simple but effective exercise of two steps into a high arabesque in plié, followed by a backbend, with right leg pointed in front. This they do with their legs at equal height, until all dancers are one stage (the first girl has done 46 arabesques all on the same leg.) There they form four straight lines and stand on pointe, legs and tutus quivering. It is truly a breathtaking sight when done well, and the Bolshoi’s corps de ballet deserves plaudits for the precision and discipline that was on show at the Saturday matinée.

This Kingdom of the Shades scene is the start of Act III of La Bayadère, a ballet created by Marius Petipa, that was first performed in 1877. With many elements to make it of interest to most: a good, improbable scenario that is dramatic, romantic, has skulduggery and tragedy; brightly coloured sets and costumes; much mime and of course, fastidious classical technique, it has remained popular over the years.

Set in old India, it tells the story of Nikiya, a beautiful young bayadère — a temple dancer — who loves the young handsome warrior Solor. However, just after he has sworn allegiance over the holy fire to be true to her, he returns home to find that he must marry Gamzatti, the stunning daughter of the Rajah Dugmanta. On learning of Solor’s love for Nikiya, the Rajah plots to have her killed and when she is called upon to dance for the bridal couple at their nuptual celebrations, she is bitten by a snake that has been hid in her basket of flowers. She dies and Solor, filled with remorse, smokes an opium pipe and dreams of meeting her again. They tenderly dance together before she leaves him forever to return to the other world, leaving him prostrate as the curtain falls. This production, revised with some new choreography, was created by one-time Bolshoi director Yuri Grigorovich, and premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in January 2013. The new designs and costumes, based on originals, are by Nikolai Sharanov, with music by Ludwig Minkus, richly played by the Bolshoi ‘s own orchestra, under the baton of Pavel Klinichev.

Nikiya is a perfect role for Mariinsky ballerina Evgenia Obraztsova, now a principal with the Bolshoi. Though petite and delicate-looking, she offers strong and fluid technique. Her small face is pretty, symmetrical with large, expressive eyes, and there was a definite intake of breath from the audience when the High Brahmin removed her veil to reveal her beauty for the first time. As a dancer, she is thoughtful and intense, a perfectionist in all she does. She demonstrated clear, neat lines, her jumps and turns were light and impressive, and she has a supple body, especially evident in her solo in the betrothal scene, when she had to dance wracked with sadness. As a Shade, she was truly ethereal, floating in her steps or zipping across the stage on the diagonal in super-fast turns and bourées.

Anna Tikhomirova’s Gamzatti, was one of the best I have seen. The young ballerina has a commanding presence, is assured, radiant and strong. She has the looks of a film star with large luminous eyes and a smile that would light up the National Grid. Tall and slim, she possesses eloquent arms, with legs that shoot (tastefully), up to her ears, and her balances are secure and well placed. However, it’s the combination of her fine technique with her clear, convincing dramatic input that makes her such a memorable dancer on stage. Her dedication and love for ballet permeates her performances, and everything is done with detailed attention and a clear idea of what the character should convey. Unlike most other interpretations where Gamzatti is cunning and cruel to the innocent young Nikiya, Anna gives her character much detail as well as a heart. She relays to Nikiya that she is after both riches and Solor and therefore will not give him up to a mere temple dancer. She watches him with eagle eyes each time the young girl appears and manages to distract him. But she is genuinely shocked when Nikiya dies, and quickly works out that it was her father who had decreed it, and so she runs away disgusted.

Solor has to work hard to come anywhere near the excellent performances of the two women and Alexander Volchkov had his work cut out for him. He has an easy, pleasing leap that skims the floor, and some nice jumps, though he doesn’t achieve the electricity of some other male dancers. However, his partnering was firm and careful. Sadly he is nursing an injury, which not only caused him challenges in some big steps, but was obviously to blame for the lack of fire in his acting.

Fortunately there were others who brought out drama and sparkle to the production: good acting from Alexander Fadeyechev as the High Brahmin; spritely leapings from Anton Savichev as the fakir, Magedaveya, while the Act II celebrations showed colourful performances from Kristina Karasyova, Denis Savin and Alexei Matrakhov in the exuberant drum dance; fun from Anastasia Stashkevitch’s Manu as she balanced her water jug on her head; and of course the powerful and muscular Golden Idol, performed by Mikhail Kochkan. All in all it was a spectacular performance.

Margaret Willis

The bling ballet: the Bolshoi Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary with new production of Sleeping Beauty

July 16, 2013

When the historic Bolshoi Theatre re-opened in Moscow after a six-year £500 million refurbishment two years ago, a magnificent new production of The Sleeping Beauty was chosen to show off the transformation.

This summer it is getting its first performances outside Russia as the company comes to the Royal Opera House to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first visit to Covent Garden under the banner of London promoters Lilian and Victor Hochhauser.

British audiences who have come to adore the company thanks to the Hochhausers will undoubtedly gasp as the giant golden and cream set is unveiled. It is a production as fairytale as any first-time ballet-goer might wish for.

And Galina Stepanenko, the Bolshoi’s acting artistic director, is hoping that, for once this year, when the velvet curtains go up at the end of this month, the focus will finally be on the stage and not on scandal.

The company has been besieged by allegations of vicious in-fighting and feuding since Sergei Filin, the leader for whom she is stand-in, was the victim of an acid attack outside his Moscow home in January. One dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, is to stand trial over the attack and the director-general of the company, Anatoly Iksanov, was replaced last week.

It has not been easy to work in the circumstances, Stepanenko concedes, but now the dancers just want to get on with the job. “We all hope that this terrible time will pass and that people will stop suffering. The event itself is horrible and tragic but somehow we just have to face it,” she says. “It’s great that we have this possibility to dance — and to dance classical productions.”

And they don’t come bigger and more classical than The Sleeping Beauty, originally choreographed by the great 19th-century ballet master Marius Petipa to the score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and now in a new production by Yuri Grigorovich. As a former artistic director — choreographing shows such as Spartacus — Girgorovich is proof that disputes are not new to the company; he was ousted in a squabble, but has since been rehabilitated. This is his new blockbuster, Stepanenko says. “It is quite a big spectacular, with splendid set designs and very elaborate costumes in the best tradition of classical ballet.”

It is no small feat to get the Bolshoi to Britain. A typical visit — they were last here three years ago — involves four or five giant sea containers taking the passage from Moscow to St Petersburg through to Sheerness. For the extravagant Sleeping Beauty, this summer they need a dozen of the 40ft beasts.

There will be a company of more than 200, including technicians, 250 wigs, a further 300 items of headwear, 350 costumes, 180 pairs of tights and 450 pairs of shoes for a programme also including Swan Lake, La Bayadère and The Flames of Paris, which will see former Bolshoi dancers Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev return as guest stars.

And it will be a chance for the company’s own prima ballerinas to shine. When I caught up with some of them in a bitterly cold and snowy Moscow in March, they were keen to show off what they can do.

Evgenia Obraztsova, 29, says Princess Aurora — which she first danced seven years ago — was the loveliest of roles. “It’s like Swan Lake or Giselle, this is a part that ballerinas must dance. These are the golden ballets without which your biography cannot exist. Ballerinas cannot imagine their lives without such parts.”

But it is, nevertheless, “one of the most complicated performances, one of the hardest” and particularly strict on detail in Grigorovich’s version. The wigs are designed to provide a quite specific outline to the head. The skirts are longer, in the imperial style, rather than the shorter skirts that showed off the legs in Soviet times. And there’s lots of glittery bling. “Of course I feel like a princess,” she smiles.

She sees the visits to London as “a very responsible thing” because “London is a very theatrical city” — with a lot of critics who are “pretty tough”.

But she loves it — and her job. “All these difficulties that we have, they don’t alter the satisfaction you have after a successful performance. It’s like a woman giving birth to a child. When she takes her child in her arms, she forgets how she suffers before.”

Artem Ovcharenko, 26, who has risen rapidly through the ranks to become a star in Russia, is Prince Desire. “As Russian dancers, we must do Sleeping Beauty right,” he says.

He contends — and on the strength of watching rehearsals, I am willing to believe him — that there is a precision in the Bolshoi approach that is their USP.

Sitting in the central internal courtyard of Bolshoi HQ, he demonstrates minute adjustments to the angle of his elbow and the tilt of his arm to give a sense of what is involved in conveying the regal masculinity and courage of his part.

“This hand, I move like this” — slight movement — “it shows the time period of Sleeping Beauty. The hands you need all the time for this production. This position” — another shift — “if you move the elbow, it would look like a chicken. More straight, it would look like a stick.”

He spends maybe 10 minutes making the tiniest of moves, all designed to capture the spirit of the prince. And it is not just the arms. “There’s a special particular meaning to every jump,” he insists. His gravity verges on the precious but isn’t. He is just very serious, measuring every word with care.

Asked whether Prince Desire is a dream to play, he says, earnestly: “I cannot say for everybody, but for me it’s very interesting and a great pleasure to create this part. I love it very much when there’s a story within the ballet and you can play it on stage.”

And in the current context, he will dance it for his boss. “What can I do in this given situation? How can I help Filin? I can help him in the theatre where I can do this production in the way it should be done by the Bolshoi. I would like to ask the people coming to the theatre to be interested in what is happening on the stage and not what is going on in the corridors of this building. What I’m seeing now is that the accent is on the wrong things.”

Stepanenko agrees and hopes British audiences will help them put that right. “We do have something to be proud of,” she says.

Louise Jury

Crime and enchantment

July 5, 2013

When London was introduced to Evgenia Obraztsova in 2005, she was the Mariinsky Ballet’ s youngest-ever Juliet, all youthful radiance and classical purity, drawing comparisons with Soviet legend Galina Ulanova. Eight years later, she has followed in Ulanova’ s footsteps in a more unexpected manner: in 2012, she left her alma mater to join the rival Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow as a principal.

Unlike Ulanova, however, who was transferred manu militari by Stalin himself, Obraztsova made the move of her own accord at the invitation of one man: Sergei Filin, a former Bolshoi principal who had recently been appointed artistic director. In January, on the day of Obraztsova’ s 29th birthday, Filin was the victim of a vicious acid attack as he was returning home at night, unleashing a hurricane in Russian ballet that shows no signs of dying down.

It’ s the middle of the afternoon in Paris, and Obraztsova, who is in town to rehearse La Sylphide ahead of her debut with the Paris Opera Ballet, looks tired. The day before, she went straight from the Palais Garnier to the train station to spend the night in Aachen, Germany, where Filin has been treated since February. She brings back worrying news: the Bolshoi director retains only 10 per cent vision in one eye, and doctors are still unsure whether the other will remain permanently blind, despite extensive surgery and implants.

The medical facts haven’ t stopped the bloody war of words in the Russian media from raging on. A Bolshoi soloist, Pavel Dmitrichenko, and two accomplices are currently detained for the crime but a number of Bolshoi artists claim their colleague’ s confession was obtained under duress. Last week, star principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze was let go from the theatre after giving currency to a rumour that Filin had faked or exaggerated his injuries. " It’ s inhuman and absolutely incorrect to say such a thing," Obraztsova says wearily. " These people just don’ t put themselves in his or his mother’ s shoes. I saw his eyes, his skin — it’ s a tragedy." It is a disturbing conversation to have with a ballerina but Obraztsova handles it with unflagging grace.

She has sweetly given up the chair in her Paris dressing-room despite my protests, and is curled up on the coffee table. Even clad in a thick body warmer and sweatpants, she is a luminous presence, with dainty, finely drawn features. For a modern Russian ballerina, she is unusually petite: a natural Aurora rather than a long-limbed swan. This fact had seemed to limit her at the Mariinsky, where, the current wisdom goes, you need to dance Swan Lake to be considered for promotion to principal.

" I think it’ s just a fad, and it’ s changing already," Obraztsova says. " It’ s mad. [Mariinsky star] Ulyana Lopatkina is very tall, for instance, and for that reason she has never performed Don Quixote or The Sleeping Beauty. Can you imagine anyone telling her: you haven’ t done Sleeping Beauty, so you can’ t be a prima ballerina?"

When asked if this was the reason she last year left the Mariinsky, however, she shakes her head lightly. Petite or not, until a few years ago, she seemed well on her way to stardom in St Petersburg. A native of the city, born to a family of ballet dancers, she graduated in 2002 from the Vaganova Academy straight into the Mariinsky, " a fairytale world" in her young eyes. Former ballerina Ninel Kurgapkina, one of Agrippina Vaganova’ s last pupils, immediately took her under her wing — a crucial alliance in Russian ballet, where personal coaches oversee and promote a select number of pupils.

Under Kurgapkina’ s guidance, she soon showed the rarest of gifts on stage. An enchantingly warm performer, she brings genuine charm and sweetness to the Romantic repertoire, from La Sylphide to Giselle. Her technique also caught the eye of two specialists of 19th-century ballet reconstructions, Pierre Lacotte and Sergei Vikharev, who both set works on her in St Petersburg, and international invitations started to land at her door. As Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, she dazzled the FT’ s Clement Crisp, who compared her to " a bird throwing off impossible roulades of notes".

Treacherous company politics, a recurring theme in today’ s Russian ballet world, put the brakes on her career. In 2008, Valery Gergiev appointed Yuri Fateyev, a former dancer and ré pé titeur, " acting head" of the Mariinsky Ballet, a title he still holds today. Since his arrival, unrest has been brewing in St Petersburg. In 2011, dancer representatives sent an open letter to the Russian minister of culture to complain of poor working conditions and unfair management practices; instead of joining the company, top Vaganova graduates have increasingly chosen to start their careers elsewhere, among them Olga Smirnova, the Bolshoi’ s bright young star.

" There was no dialogue at all with him, just a monologue, and I couldn’ t evolve," Obraztsova says. " The Mariinsky needs a very strong leader, someone who has a mind of his own, but Yuri is easily influenced. He has made the company very flat." By then a first soloist, she stopped getting new roles and, on one instance, was excluded from a ballet already in her repertoire, Balanchine’ s Apollo, on the grounds that casting her had been a " grave mistake". (She would later return to the role at the Bolshoi with the blessing of the Balanchine Trust.)

She met Filin in 2009. " He has played a very special role in my life. Every artist needs a guide, a father-figure, and he’ s just that for me." A few months after he took over at the Bolshoi, he invited Obraztsova to join him — not at her Mariinsky level but, in a very unusual move, straight as a principal.

Now that she has changed sides, so to speak, I ask what she thinks of the rivalry between St Petersburg and Moscow. " The differences be­ tween the two cities are exaggerated," she replies. " The Mariinsky shaped me as a ballerina but the Bolshoi is still the Russian school. The difference is one of temperament — Moscow is more dynamic, St Petersburg calmer."

Still, as a recently arrived Filin proté gé e, I venture, the acid attack must have made Moscow a rather hostile environment. Obraztsova sees it as an isolated criminal act, she says, and denies feeling any anxiety at the Bolshoi. Like many company dancers, she has thrown all her energies into work. Less than two weeks after the attack, she made her debut in one of the great classical roles, Nikiya in La Bayadè re, which she repeats in London in early August. This month she will be Tatiana in John Cranko’ s Onegin, a Bolshoi premiere. She’ s used to dividing her career into creative periods, and says the current one is " the best of my life. I can finally explore the experience I’ ve already gained freely, in a large repertoire. Filin has monumental plans for the company."

Obraztsova has also looked to other arts for inspiration amid the turmoil. Acting was one of her first passions (she portrayed a young ballerina in Cé dric Klapisch’ s 2005 film Russian Dolls), and for the role of Tatiana, she is working with Russian actress Alisa Grebenshchikova, a close friend.

Literature is another inspiration, including religious works (she is a devout Orthodox believer). What does she make, then, of the fact that the sublime seems to mix readily with criminal sins in Russian ballet? She pauses before answering. " The Russian mentality is composed of so many contrasts: something magnificent will stand alongside something terrible. And people remain very spiritual. Russians are often represented as a kind of enigma for foreigners," she says with a smile. " Maybe that’ s the reason."

Laura Cappelle

[Chronique] La Sylphide, Evgenia Obraztsova/Mathias Heymann

July 2, 2013

La Sylphide de Pierre Lacotte par le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, au Palais Garnier. Avec Evgenia Obraztsova (la Sylphide), Mathias Heymann (James), Mélanie Hurel (Effie), Stéphane Phavorin (la Sorcière), Alexandre Gasse (Gurn), Muriel Zusperreguy et Emmanuel Thibault (les Écossais). Vendredi 28 juin 2013.

Evgenia Obraztsova est de celle des Grandes. Elle est, à elle seule, une leçon de pureté de la danse et de style. Chacun de ses mouvements de poignets, chacun de ses dégagés, est d'une grâce absolue et d'une totale musicalité. Elle danse, la salle s'éclaire. C'est une pure ballerine, la représentation exacte - en encore plus belle - de l'image que l'on a d'une ballerine.

Au-delà de sa technique et de sa si belle danse, Evgenia Obraztsova est une Sylphide on ne peut plus exquise. Loin des clichés, son personnage a de multiples facettes, à la fois nymphe des bois un peu naïve, être de l'air immatériel, femme enjôleuse et esprit diabolique. Sa Sylphide est avant tout une femme qui aime séduire. Le premier acte est ainsi une petite leçon de torture du pauvre James, pourtant visiblement amoureux de sa fiancée Effie. Evgenia Obraztsova semble presque effrayante quand elle apparaît et disparaît dans la maison, se jouant des êtres humains. Mais elle est aussi une petite fille mutine, qui aime jouer à cache-cache et à Attrape-moi si tu peux, un être qui ne se rend pas compte de ses actes, un esprit qui a du mal à comprendre les humains aussi. La Sylphide est mi-ange mi-démon, mi-femme mi-être immatériel. Ces différents visages varient au fur et à mesure du ballet, jusqu'à cette mort cruelle, où la Sylphide semble à peine comprendre ce qui lui arrive.

À ses côtés, Mathias Heymann apparaît comme un jeune fou-fou, mais plus complexe là aussi qu'il n'y paraît. Le jeu théâtral n'était pas forcément le fort de l'Étoile avant sa blessure, il a su ce soir camper un personnage crédible. Sincèrement épris d'Effie, il rêve secrètement d'une vie plus surprenante. L'apparition de la Sylphide est pour lui plus la promesse d'un monde enchanteur, magique, surprenant, qu'une véritable histoire d'amour. Il est d'ailleurs charmé par la Sylphide, il n'en est pas forcément amoureux. En grande forme, Mathias Heymann montre lui aussi toute la beauté de cette école de danse, même si - retour sur scène récent ? - il semble marquer une toute petite crispation au moment de démarrer ses variations. Variations magnifiques, mais cette minuscule hésitation coupe ces moments de bravoure du fil du ballet.

Musicale, précise, Mélanie Hurel campe une Effie convaincante. Alors que la Sylphide est la fille de l'air, elle joue la fille de la terre, la réalité, le monde réel.

L'association de ces trois artistes, si bien dans leur personnage, atteint son plus beau moment lors du pas de trois. Il y a la magie, la réalité, et James au milieu qui hésite. Ce pas de trois est la clé du ballet, son point culminant, à la fois mystérieux et infiniment touchant. Le deuxième acte fait place aux Sylphides. Difficile de ne pas s'émerveiller face à ces êtres volants (véritablement), ce corps de ballet délicieux et parfaitement en place, cette leçon de style, de danse et de romantisme. James, voulant garder pour lui cette Sylphide qui s'envole un peu trop souvent, lui offre un voile - donné par la sorcière - qui lui coupera les ailes. Mais en perdant ses ailes, elle y perd aussi la vie.

Pourtant, malgré ce cast magique, malgré la grâce d'Evgenia Obraztsova, malgré cette pure beauté de la danse, cette Sylphide a du mal à ne pas ennuyer. Cette version de Pierre Lacotte est une leçon d'école, c'est là où elle est magnifique. Mais elle n'est trop souvent que ça, une leçon de style. L'histoire en elle-même a finalement très peu de place au milieu de ces deux heures - un peu de pantomime au début du premier acte, le fameux pas de trois, la sorcière (excellent Stéphane Phavorin) et la mort de la Sylphide. Difficile ainsi de s'attacher aux personnages, de s'intéresser à ce qui leur arrive, même d'être ému-e face à la mort de la Sylphide, pourtant si joliment interprétée. Difficile de frémir réellement, comme peut le faire Giselle par exemple. C'est extrêmement beau, mais c'est presque trop, et je n'étais pas loin d'être en overdose de petits pieds tendus, de bustes délicatement penchés et de doigts finement posés sous le menton.

Le style, justement, est aussi quelque chose auquel on doit s'habiter. Cette façon de danser, la pure représentation de la danse romantique, ne se voit finalement que dans ce ballet. Il faut donc le temps à l'oeil et à l'esprit de s'y faire, qui, pour la première fois, a du mal à voir autre chose qu'une oeuvre un peu muséale. C'était donc une soirée paradoxale. J'ai rarement vu quelque chose d'aussi beau sur scène, ce qui ne m'a pas empêché de regarder ma montre un peu trop souvent.


La Sylphide du Bolchoï à l'Opéra de Paris (Lefigaro)

July 1, 2013

Evguenia Obraztsova, danseuse principale au Bolchoï, a dansé lundi avec Mathias Heymann au Jean-Marc Ayrault était présent avec son épouse, mais pas Sergeï Filine. Le directeur du ballet du Bolchoï était pourtant attendu lundi soir au Palais Garnier: l'Opéra de Paris donnait un gala d'hommage à Pierre Lacotte, ami cher au cœur de Filine. Le chorégraphe français, né en 1932, a remonté pour lui La Fille du Pharaon au tournant des années 2000. Svletana Zakharova dansait le rôle titre. Devenu directeur du Bolchoï, Filine a programmé à son tour un festival Lacotte pour cet automne: le ballet de l'Opéra de Paris viendra y danser Paquita tandis que le Bolchoï dansera Marco Spada. «Sergeï, que j'ai régulièrement au téléphone, fait preuve d'un courage extraordinaire. Jusqu'aux derniers jours, il a pensé pouvoir venir, mais les médecins ont refusé. De toutes façons qu'aurait-il pu voir? Après dix huit opérations, il a récupéré un dixième de son meilleur œil et rien de l'autre!», dit Pierre Lacotte désolé.
Lacotte est à la chorégraphie, ce que Champollion est aux égyptologues: l'archéologue qui donne la clé des énigmes. Il ne crée pas les ballets, il les reconstitue. En 1968, «par miracle» de son propre aveu, il mettait la main sur les archives de Marie Taglioni, créatrice de La Sylphide en 1832, premier ballet maîtrisant parfaitement l'art de la danse sur pointes. Coupures de journaux, descriptions des pas, partitions annotées, correspondances de Philippe Taglioni, son père et chorégraphe... lui permettaient de remonter ce chef d'œuvre du ballet romantique avec la machinerie d'époque: trappes, vols, forêt et brouillard. La Sylphide avait fait rêver Théophile Gautier, Musset, Sand, Lamartine et Victor Hugo et enchanté les publics de Saint Petersbourg à New York, avant de disparaître totalement. Le 1er janvier 1972, Lacotte recréait ce ballet à la télévision. Depuis, La Sylphide a reconquis la planète. Ainsi a-t-il procédé depuis pour recomposer les joyaux disparus du répertoire. Sa connaissance très fine des différents moments du style français lui permet de lier les parties et de combler les blancs.

Une actrice des Poupées russes

Pour honorer son ami français, Filine a envoyé à Paris Evguenia Obraztsova danser La Sylphide. Formée à Saint Pétersbourg, cette danseuse d'aujourd'hui 29 ans, a tourné dans Les Poupées russes de Cédric Klapisch. Elle s'est fait une spécialité de ce ballet qu'elle danse depuis 2002. Elle en possède l'espièglerie, la fraîcheur mutine et la légèreté. En revanche, son extrême vivacité malmène le lyrisme du rôle. Ses gestes ont du moelleux mais pas le savant ralenti qui souligne l'apesanteur et l'immatérialité du personnage. Or, au delà de son tutu blanc avec des ailes dans le dos, c'est cet art du mouvement en suspens qui permet à La Sylphide de se distinguer des écossaises de chair et d'os autour d'elles. Après Taglioni, Ghislaine Thesmar, créatrice du rôle, Elisabeth Platel, Fanny Gaïda ou aujourd'hui Aurélie Dupont atteignaient le sublime dans ce ralenti onctueux et quasiment surnaturel qui définit le legato du ballet romantique.
Aux côtés d'Evguenia Obraztsova, Matthias Heymann au meilleur de sa forme faisait voler son kilt. Le rôle de James qui multiplie les figures de batterie et les grands sauts, exige du ballon. Heymann campe un écossais volant. Cependant, La Sylphide mérite mieux que deux leçons de technique menées en parallèle. Ce ballet, inspiré par les grandes forêts d'Écosse, conte une histoire au charme fort. Lacotte lui a redonné vie avec des moments d'anthologie: apparitions, disparitions, sorcière lisant les lignes de la main ou cet incroyable pas de trois entre James, sa fiancée et La Sylphide. On aimerait que les interprètes la jouent avec, au lieu d'un joli sourire, les battements de coeur, les tiraillements, les connivences, les inquiétudes et les mystères même qu'elle requiert.

Ariane Bavelier

La Sylphide, Paris Opera Ballet, Palais Garnier, Paris – review (The Financial times)

July 1, 2013

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The world knows La Sylphide mainly through August Bournonville’s 1836 ballet, carefully preserved in Denmark and in the repertoire of companies from Covent Garden to St Petersburg. The original Sylphide, however, was French: a showcase for Marie Taglioni that was choreographed by her father Filippo to a different score and soon lost to the vagaries of history. Forty years ago, choreographer Pierre Lacotte set out to recreate it using limited archive material. Pastiche or not, the result is among the best classical productions in the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire, an elaborate variation on the Romantic style, and it has made a welcome return to the company’s stage after a nine-year gap to close the season.
Bolshoi Ballet principal Evgenia Obraztsova, a guest artist for the run, is one of a handful of dancers to have danced both versions. In the Bournonville she was a butterfly, a joyous fantasy born of the hero’s dreams, but Lacotte’s Sylphide is a different creature: deception is part of her vocabulary, too. Obraztsova captures her capricious nature with inimitable charm in Act I, her eyes gleaming as she lures James away from his fiancée Effie and into the woods.

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This version finds the Bolshoi star at the apogee of her stylistic powers. Obraztsova, who first danced the role with Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet in 2011, has been a muse for Lacotte in recent years, and hers is a definitive interpretation, exquisite in step and manner, a true meeting of minds between choreographer and dancer. No other ballerina today so effortlessly masters both the Russian and French styles: her footwork is a wonder of expressive clarity. To see her is to be drawn into her world, just like James: she floats through Lacotte’s punishing, intricate variations with the grace of a Romantic lithograph come to life, unconcerned with gravity or effort, delighting in her art every step of the way.
Matthias Heymann was her high-flying James, but the role saw an even finer performance the next day with the debut of Pierre-Arthur Raveau: an able partner, this young dancer displayed a lightness and elegance of means that promise future greatness. As Effie, both Mélanie Hurel and Muriel Zusperreguy gave a masterclass in precision and simplicity, and the POB corps de ballet showed again that it is at its finest in Romantic works, despite a rogue trio of Sylphs in Act II. Bournonville’s Sylphide may be the more concise and enduring masterpiece, but with its ornate divertissements and old-fashioned stage tricks, including flying sylphs, this production is a worthy French alternative.

Laura Cappelle

L'effet « Sylphide» (Lesechos)

June 30, 2013

Bien avant les superhéros des comics, la danse inventait une superdanseuse capable de voler dans les airs du théâtre. Son nom : « La Sylphide ». Née le 12 mars 1832 à Paris, elle est unique en son genre : elle impose le ballet romantique - le tutu long qui va avec - et les effets spéciaux. On la voit disparaître par une cheminée, glisser sur le plateau. Elle séduit le commun des mortels, mais semble n'avoir de véritable passion que pour la danse... Cette drôle de sylphide créée par Taglioni, avec sa fille Marie dans le rôle-titre, a failli être perdue à tout jamais. Triomphe de son époque, elle disparaît du répertoire de l'Opéra de Paris en 1863. Comble de l'injustice, c'est une version alternative signée Bournonville qui deviendra la norme.

La VO retrouvée
L'histoire de la danse est pleine de revers, mais aussi de chevaliers servants prêts à réveiller les ballets endormis. Il en sera ainsi de Pierre Lacotte, danseur et chorégraphe, qui se prend de passion pour « La Sylphide » disparue. Après moult recherches, il découvre les souvenirs de Marie Taglioni et déniche son journal dans lequel elle relate des anecdotes et histoires merveilleuses autour de « La Sylphide ». La reconstitution en 1972 est un choc. Ce que l'on voit, en 2013, tient du miracle : une oeuvre au romantisme diffus, raccord avec les vives couleurs des tartans - l'action se passe en Ecosse - puis virant au blanc immaculé. C'est le monde des sylphides et leur domaine Sylvestre. Ces danseuses à la folle allure, presque aérienne, nous emportent dans un ailleurs.

Lors de la soirée de gala du 23 juin, face à l'étoile Mathias Heymann, on a découvert Evgenia Obraztsova, danseuse principale du Bolchoï, incarnant la sylphide idéale. Pointes parfaites, port de bras d'une rare grâce, elle impose son élégance doublée d'une technique jamais prise en défaut. Seconds rôles ou corps de ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, tout concordaient ce soir-là. Le règne de « La Sylphide » ne fait que (re) commencer.

Par Philippe Noisette

La Sylphide, Obraztsova/Heymann

June 30, 2013

Palais Garnier
28 juin 2013
Pierre Lacotte d’après Philippe Taglioni
Direction musicale : Philippe Hui
La Sylphide : Evgenia Obraztsova ; James : Mathias Heymann ; Effie : Mélanie Hurel ;
La Sorcière : Stéphane Phavorin ; Pas de deux des Ecossais : Muriel Zusperreguy, Emmanuel Thibault.

En 2009 je découvrais la danse avec Onéguine, l’année suivante je vois mes premiers Noureev, Casse Noisette et La Bayadère. Deux étapes importantes qui m’ont fait découvrir différentes visions de ce qu’on appelle des ‘classiques.’ Et ce soir avec la Sylphide, je découvre un grand ballet romantique, vu comme le premier des grands ballets classiques. C’est donc avant tout une découverte de style que Pierre Lacotte a choisi de remonter.

Légère déception donc de passer ma première soirée découverte de l’œuvre avec un couple aussi accompli que Heymann et Obraztsova, j’aurais sans doute préféré les voir un peu plus tard dans la série, une fois que je m’étais davantage approprié l’œuvre. Mais quelle introduction ils m’ont donnée! Tout ce que j’avais pu lire sur le style romantique semblait ici s’illustrer comme un cours d’histoire !

La plus grande innovation est la différence avec la plupart des grands ballets au répertoire de l’Opéra, comme les Noureev et les néo-classiques. Les premiers sont tellement explosifs, feu d’artifice, époustouflants d’énergie. Les deuxièmes retiennent notre souffle avec leur force dramatique. La Sylphide n’a rien à voir ou même à envier à ces deux catégories, tout est plutôt dans le raffinement, le détail, la minutie et la légèreté, là où les Noureev me paraissent parfois plus imposants. Les pointes ne sont pas évidentes, j'en apprécie encore plus l'élancement qu'elles offrent à la ballerine.

Alors que James doit épouser Effie, un petit être malicieux se glisse dans sa maison, inatteignable mais désirant jouer. Le jeune homme en devient fou et finit par délaisser sa fiancée. Comme le prince de la Belle et la Bête, il chasse une sorcière venue se réchauffer, qui lit l’avenir dans les mains des jeunes personnes. Effie n'épouserait pas James, mais Gurn un ami. James finit par partir à la poursuite de la Sylphide. Au deuxième acte, James continue d’essayer de l’attraper, elle s’est réfugiée avec ses amies volantes dans les bois. Il demande conseil à la sorcière pour attraper la jeune femme. Elle lui donnera un châle qui enlèvera les ailes de la Sylphide, la tuant alors. James s’effondre alors que le corps s’élève porté par les êtres blancs.

Ce qui me frappe le plus est la capacité d’Obraztsova de paraitre à la fois légère et féerique tout en gardant un caractère mutin. Elle ne semble pas amoureuse de James, elle veut s’amuser, elle sort par la cheminée, disparait dans le sol, s’incruste dans les pas de deux et pique les anneaux. Elle nous offre avec cela une technique impeccable pour la petite batterie et le bas du corps. Elle semble avoir mis de côté ses feux d’artifice de danseuses russes (en gardant les applaudissements néanmoins!). Le long tutu, les arabesques à moins de 90 degrés, me rappellent une phrase d’une professeure de Claude Bessy qui lui disait qu’elles n’étaient pas là pour danser le cancan mais un ballet. La mousseline du tutu aidant, c’est avant tout ses gestes de mains et ses mouvements de tête qui la rendent tout à fait aérienne.

En face, un Heymann en grande forme comme je ne l’avais jamais réellement vu. James est bien plus terre à terre et j’ai trouvé l’opposition entre son affirmation sur scène et l’aspect volatile d’Obraztsova tout à fait adapté et réussie. Ses manèges sont époustouflants de virtuosité et d’énergie en le combinant avec une certaine grâce : mix entre le réalisme d’Effie et l’idéal sylphidien. C’est un jeune homme mature qui désire atteindre un idéal mais ne réussit pas à l’attraper, il a un très bon air de désespéré ou plutôt de romantique qui ne sait pas qu’il l’est. Il conclue parfaitement avec une époustouflante série d’entrechats quelques instants avant de s’effondrer.

Pour revenir sur le réalisme d’Effie, je trouve que c’est un rôle qui va plutôt bien à Mélanie Hurel, danseuse que j’apprécie dans des rôles bien terre à terre. Elle semble bien innocente et amoureuse lors du superbe pas de deux (plus un) auquel nous avons droit.

A l’exception de Stéphane Phavorin (dont j’ai appris que c’était la dernière saison !) merveilleux dans les rôles de caractère comme Madge, le reste de la compagnie m’a un peu décu. Les Sylphides s’ennuyaient presque, les trois demi solistes n’étaient absolument pas en rythme entre elles ou avec la musique. L’orchestre m’a d’ailleurs bien ennuyé, la partition n’est déjà pas très amusante, une direction stimulante et mieux organisée serait appréciable. Toutefois, le pas des deux des écossais apporte une dose de fraicheur avec Zusperreguy et Thibault en bonne forme !

J’ai donc passé un bon moment avec deux danseurs de talent, interprètes jusqu'au bout des pieds, mais le ballet ne m’a pas laissé une impression impérissable. J’ai certes ressenti une idée de début XIXème devant les décors, costumes, machineries (les Sylphides volantes dans le deuxième acte) et la chorégraphie, ce ballet représente l’essence du classique. Mais les scènes du corps de ballet ne me ravissent pas plus que cela, trop de sylphides qui ne me paraissent pas bien oniriques. Je relève enfin la tête devant la course poursuite incessante et alléchante de James avec son idéal, qui finit par l’envol du corps de la Sylphide dans les cieux : l’inatteignable disparait définitivement.

Loge d'Aymeric

Don Quixote, Royal Opera House, London

Aug. 5, 2011

This production showcases the brightest of local colours and the dedication of the entire ensemble

As a young man, Marius Petipa danced in Spain, and was not averse later to incorporating Spanish dances in his ballets. His sunniest statement is Don Quixote, more than tenuous in its relationship with Cervantes, but the jolliest exercise in Hispanic flummery and flaunted skirts — and all in the best possible taste.

What we know today is Quixote at one or two or, more likely, three removes, various historic hands having been at work on the text, but the Mariinsky staging, as shown on Tuesday and Wednesday, is best fun, and because St Petersburg has always had an elegant way with national dances, given with most impeccable abandon. I love it for its academic sequences, shown with such grace of means, its brightest of local colours and its vivid energies.

Tuesday’ s performance was dominated by Denis Matvienko’ s Basil, a character drawn with the happiest good humour and the most fizzing bravura. He spins, he soars, he jokes, and you want him never to change, never to do anything other than brilliantly, wittily be Basil. His Kitri, Anastasia Matvienko, eager in bravura, did not otherwise match him, but I was much impressed by such incidental delights as Yekaterina Kondaurova as a smouldering street dancer, and by Oksana Skoryk, a dragonfly Dryad Queen amid a ravishing classical ensemble.

It was on Wednesday night that we saw an ideal Kitri in Yevgenia Obraztsova, so light, so charming, sparkling in dance as in character, adoring her world and her role, and making us adore her with infectious delight. Everything she did, step and drama, was diamond-bright, and she had a most promising Basil as partner. Alexei Timofeyev is young, boasts a big, brave technique that carves massive shapes in the air, and plays with a charming sincerity.

A tremendous evening, and one further illuminated by Kondaurova as the noblest of dryads, by Sofia Gumerova as a street dancer, and by the dedication of the entire ensemble to this unlikely but irresistible romp. Bravo!

Clement Crisp

Balanchine/Robbins, Mariinsky Ballet, Covent Garden, review

Aug. 5, 2011

On a stage bare except for a backcloth of stars, to the sound of four Chopin piano nocturnes, three couples appear in turn. The first (Yevgenia Obraztsova, Filipp Stepin) seem to be in the first swooning throes of love - she approaches him tentatively, softly feeling her way into his heart as he raises her aloft in high, swooping arabesques. The second (Alina Somova, Yevgeny Ivanchenko) are more formal, but her emotion is revealed by the way her legs tremble as he holds her, the manner in which she teases him with her arms, leading him on. The third (Uliana Lopatkina, Daniil Korsuntsev) arrive in the middle of an argument, all tempestuous lifts and high, grumpy jumps. But they can’t quite part, and suddenly she stands before him and touches his body before kneeling at his feet - then he picks her up and drops her gently into his caressing arms.

Sarah Crompton

Mariinsky Ballet - Balanchine/Robbins bill: Seven Magazine review

Aug. 5, 2011

…The three pas de deux explore a trio of relationships with Robbins’s athletic, yet easygoing classicism, beginning with the ardent, uncomplicated exchanges of Yevgenia Obraztsova and Filipp Stepin and climaxing with the night’s most memorable duet.

Louise Levene

Mariinsky Ballet: Balanchine/Robbins triple bill – review

Aug. 5, 2011

…Equally compelling is Yevgenia Obraztsova, portraying a young woman lost to romantic love. Not only is her dancing sublime, but its expressiveness is movingly transparent as we watch her body shaken out of tender girlishness into huge, hungry triumphal arcs of passion.

Judith Mackrell

Stanislavsky Ballet

April 23, 2011

Aesthetic trends are powerful beasts, and no 19th-century ballet has been more affected by them than Swan Lake. The tall stature, streamlined extensions, and sense of verticality favored in today’s ballerinas have found a home in the double role of Odette/Odile. Russian companies in particular have embraced these changes with almost fanatical reverence, and at the Kirov (Maryinsky) Ballet, where the role is a must to be considered for promotion to Principal, this has created a peculiar impasse for petite ballerinas. Like Diana Vishneva before her, Yevgenia Obraztsova therefore decided to make her debut in the ballet with another company, Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet, where she has been a guest soloist since 2010.

And despite the stakes, her single performance turned out to be an eye-opening event. We need to be reminded that Odette was originally a fairytale creature, not a tragic queen performing her greatest monologues, and Obraztsova does just that. A natural soubrette who cannot rely on her long limbs to do the work, she goes back to the core of Russian lyricism in Act II – arms flowing fluidly from deep in the back; still, organic poses; delicately shaped transitions. Ever the thinking dancer, she compensates for her shorter lines by stretching into fondus on pointe or drawing attention to her filigree Vaganova ports de bras. Her swan is a frightened, tender princess, a natural interpretation for a dancer better known as Juliet or Giselle, but with room for development.

Her Odile was the real surprise, and this 1953 production by Vladimir Bourmeister allowed her to delve deeply into the sinister side of her character. An idiosyncratic take on the ballet, it emphasizes dramatic coherence over bravura set pieces and takes the notion of deceit much further than usual in Act III. The Black Swan makes fleeting appearances during the darkly exotic national dances performed by Rothbart's court, a dangerous illusion-made-woman who lures Siegfried into a pas de deux performed mostly to the usually discarded original score, made famous by Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky pas de deux.

And who would have thought the sweet, luminous Obraztsova had such a sensual Odile in her? She projects with attack and accents what it takes powerhouse technique for others to achieve. Her luscious account of the pas de deux was a masterclass in acting, with just the right staccato épaulement and exultant response to Siegfried and Rothbart. Her extraordinary use of her eyes, in particular—their ferocious, unerring focus throughout—combined with a technique she has fine-tuned over the years to credibly take on virtuoso roles (fast, strong fouettés, a buoyant jump), made for a bewitching Black Swan, as theatrical as the production itself.

Semyon Chudin, a tall dancer endowed with a remarkably smooth technique, was an appropriate Siegfried, and the corps de ballet gave a remarkable account of the white acts and the national dances. Given the new repertoire the company has acquired under Sergei Filin, it’s high time we saw them again in the West. Their Swan Lake, an elegant, no-nonsense alternative to the Maryinsky and Bolshoi versions, even provides a credible happy ending in which Odette is turned back into a princess—a conclusion tailor-made for Obraztsova, who is only waiting for her own fairytale ending at the Kirov.

Laura Cappelle

The Kirov's glowing gem: Yevgenia Obraztsova brings effortless classicism and a sense of drama to her roles

Feb. 1, 2011

The Sleeping Beauty’s fairies must have been around when Yevgenia Obraztsova was born, for she, like Aurora, has been endowed with remarkable qualities-beauty, grace, generosity, musicality, and sweet temperament. Today, she is one of the shining stars in the crown of the Kirov (Maryinsky) Ballet. She constantly proves herself with fleet, nimble footwork, flowing lyricism, and spontaneity in her dramatic expression. While beloved by her numerous fans in St. Petersburg, she is also a welcome guest with many international ballet companies.

Obraztsova, 27, was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Both her parents were dancers, and she was brought up watching class and rehearsals from the earliest age. Apparently she had to be tied to a chair to stop her from participating. «My parents had no baby-sitters,» she says, «so I had to go with them each day and I loved it.» (They were with the Mussorgsky Ballet, the Russian city’s number two ballet company—also known as the Maly and today known by its original name, the Mikhailovsky Ballet.) Everyone assumed that Yevgenia would automatically become a ballerina. But there was a time when the young girl had other dreams.

«I loved the theater and thought I would study to become an actress instead,» she says. But she changed her mind and was admitted to the Vaganova Ballet Academy, where she studied for eight years. «Nothing came easily. Everything should be difficult if you are to do it correctly. Only when you work hard is it possible to dance technically well.» Her favorite ballerina has always been Ekaterina Maximova («she remains it forever!»), but she also admires Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, and Paris Opera etoile Aurelie Dupont. She graduated in 2002 and joined the corps of the Kirov.

Her coach during her first season there was Ninel Kurgapkina, one of the Kirov’s most spirited ballerinas of the 1950s and ’60s. She had partnered both Nureyev and Baryshnikov before their defections, and had helped Nureyev to stage La Bayadere in Paris just before he died. She took the young Genia, as she is called, under her experienced wing and started preparing her for future roles—Shyrin (The Legend of Love), Aurora, the Sylph, Giselle, Kitri. That same year, Obraztsova made her debut in Romeo and Juliet—after spending six months preparing it. «It was the first time in Maryinsky history that someone of 18 had been entrusted with this dramatic role,» she reports. This was the role that made everyone sit up and take notice.

When she performed Romeo and Juliet with the Kirov in London in 2005, many compared her to the great ballerina Galina Ulanova, whose name will always be synonymous with the role (see sidebar of «Swept Away,» page 35). Obraztsova’s Juliet vividly evidenced changes from doll-loving child to the passionate and tragic teenager. In her meeting with Romeo in the garden, she flew across the stage with such joyous lyricism—her movements so light and velvety—that it seemed as though her feet never touched the ground. Her Juliet, which can be seen on a YouTube clip of a documentary directed by Bertrand Norman called Ballerina (see «DM Recommends,» Dec.), earned her a place in Dance Magazine’s 2006 «25 to Watch.»

«Juliet is my favorite role,» she admits today. «I live it, I suffer and cry, I love and struggle, just like her. My dream is to dance MacMillan’s production. I performed the balcony scene with Mathieu Ganio in Tokyo this past summer in the Etoiles Gala, and it was an unforgettable experience.»

In 2005, Obraztsova won the gold medal at the renowned Moscow International Ballet Competition. It was one of those risks she felt she had to take, though she had no encouragement from the then Kirov director Makbar Vaziev. He did not want her to compete and gave her an ultimatum that it had to be gold or nothing! The pressure was on. «I just knew I had to win gold—nothing lower—or life in the theater would be very difficult for me,» she says.

Yet even after she brought this high honor to the company, her success was not instantly recognized. She immediately had to fly off to join the other dancers on tour in Washington, DC—back to her old spot in the ranks. But the international crowd at the competition had spotted her, and she was invited to guest with many companies, one of the first being the Rome Opera Ballet, where she has danced the leading roles in Carla Fracci’s productions of Cinderella and Giselle.

That same year saw Obraztsova doing what she had once longed to do—act in a film. «I was rehearsing in the theater one day when a visiting Frenchman asked me to say something—even just my name—in front of his camera.» The man was film director Cedric Klapisch, and he offered her a part in his new film, Russian Dolls. «I played the role of Natasha, a ballerina who was the fiancee of a French boy, and I had to do some speaking in English as well as Russian. I really enjoyed the experience, but as I was also rehearsing for my debut as Shyrin, there was a lot of flying back and forth, and it was hard work.»

She admits that her relationship with Vaziev was often difficult, but she found him a receptive director. «I am very grateful to him because he showed an interest. He gave me all the roles I now dance in the theater before I was 24. It was possible to carry on a dialogue with him, which doesn’t happen in the company today.» (Vaziev left in 2008 to direct La Scala Ballet.)

During the following year, she continued to increase her repertoire of classical roles, also dancing Ratmansky’s Cinderella. When Pierre Lacotte came to the Maryinsky to stage his revival of Jules Perrot’s Ondine, he chose Obraztsova to be one of the ballerinas in the title role of the water nymph. It’s a role she calls «maddeningly difficult» because of the fast footwork on pointe, but it won her the most prestigious theatrical prize in Russia, the Golden Mask Award. And in 2008, she was promoted to first soloist. Today she is still not a principal despite all her principal roles. «Tradition in the theater says that a ballerina has to dance Swan Lake to be a prima ballerina,» she states wryly.

She made her debut with The Royal Ballet in 2009 when she was invited to Covent Garden to dance Aurora with David Makhateli as her Prince. The critic Clement Crisp gave her rare praise, calling her enchanting, brilliant, and dazzling. «She won the audience by the sweetness and grace of her temperament and the freshness of dancing unclouded by mannerism, natural ... as a bird throwing off impossible roulades of notes.»

While she is recognized as the archetypical Romantic ballerina, Obraztsova shows a different facet of her talent in works by Balanchine and Forsythe, where her gentle lyricism gives way to strong strutting and rigorous physicality.

Former Bolshoi star Sergei Filin has named her principal guest artist at the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet (official name: the ballet company of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater), which is Moscow’s second ballet company. Here she gets to dance ballets by Kylian and others, and in March, makes her debut in Swan Lake. She also joins Vladimir Malakhov and Friends for a gala in Berlin this month.

Last spring Larissa Saveliev, director of Youth America Grand Prix, invited Obrazstova to perform in their star-studded gala in New York. «I was hearing buzz, from different parts of the world, about this beautiful new Kirov girl,» says Saveliev. «Everybody said she was not only a technician, but was special for her acting. For years I tried to bring her to YAGP, but it never worked out. Then one of our board members saw her Romeo and Juliet at the Kennedy Center and was blown away. He said, ’Oh my god, this girl, you have to see this girl!’»

So Obraztsova performed as part of YAGP’s gala, which paid tribute to Soviet great Vladimir Vasiliev (See «Dance Matters,» Aug. 2010). She danced her iridescent Sylph—she is a born sylph—as well as the lovesick dreamer in Vasiliev’s own work, Sentimental Waltz. Saveliev reports that for the 800 YAGP finalists (ages 9 to 19) present, Obraztsova was one of their favorites. «She has such unbelievable artistry,» says Saveliev, «and that’s the message we want to send to the kids. You can be very special onstage even if you don’t do a million fouettes.»

Obraztsova has become a firm favorite with her audiences over the past eight years—delightful offstage as well as on. The big question that they now have is whether, after her debut as Odette/ Odile with the Stanislavsky in Moscow, she will be given the opportunity to perform Swan Lake on her home stage and hopefully rise in rank. All eyes will be on her performance in March.

Margaret Willis has been writing on Russian ballet since the 1970s. Her book, Carlos Acosta: The Reluctant Dancer, has just been published by Arcadia Books.

COPYRIGHT 2011 Dance Magazine, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning

Margaret Willis

The Sleeping Beauty, Royal Opera House, London

Nov. 20, 2009

I have been visiting the realm of King Florestan XXV as shown to us by the Royal Ballet (the monarch impersonated with notable intelligence by Gary Avis) where various royal personages and fairy-tale visitors have been appearing for the first time. The most immediate cause has been the arrival of Yevgenia Obraztsova, whose Aurora we first saw during the Mariinsky Ballet’s summer season. She is all virtue in the part, noble, exquisite in technique, displaying the dance’s brilliancies with unaffected charm, greeting the role as she greets her court with a radiant ease. She is, thanks to St Petersburg traditions and native talent, at home.

We have also had two princely debuts, though, alas, their Auroras lacked everything of Obraztsova’s command. Sergey Polunin has the physical allure the role needs; he is handsome, takes the stage in noblest fashion, can brood and be ardent. Here is a true premier danseur, even if he attempted too much bravura in his variation (double-double tours) – the aristocrastic image shadowed by the need to prove prowess. But a prince, a prince!

So, too, Steven McRae. His reading is elegant in all things: in the way he moves through the Hunting scene, in clarity of response to Aurora. In these he resembles an earlier prince among danseurs, Anton Dolin, who had been educated in this role by the example of leading men of the Imperial Ballet in Petersburg. In technical terms, McRae’s dancing is diamond-clear, brilliant-cut, superbly stylish as he places dazzling effects on the air with no suggestion of haste.

Other pleasures have been the account of the Bluebird duet from Yuhui Choe and Brian Maloney, buoyant, sparkling, light-hearted. I offer my apologies to Maloney: he was a late replacement for an indisposed Paul Kay as Bratfisch in a recent Mayerling, and my praise for this admirable interpretation in these pages is owed to Maloney. I must also mention the appearance of Xander Parish as the Lilac Fairy’s cavalier, not a role about which much is said, but Parish’s elegant line and his eloquent feet merit a laurel or two, and many more, I hope, in future.

Clement Crisp

Kirov Finds Unsentimental Heart Of Soviet-Era 'Romeo and Juliet'

Jan. 18, 2007

If it’s grand-scale love you crave — and beauty, sweetness and heartache enough to drive away whatever else is on your mind — the Kirov Ballet’s «Romeo and Juliet» offers it all. It’s as hopeful and cruel as that love affair you once had, the one that changed your life, only it’s set to better music.

Music was the key to this production, which opened Tuesday night and continues at the Kennedy Center Opera House through Sunday afternoon. The Kirov performs the version that Leonid Lavrovsky created for the troupe in 1940 to the majestic Prokofiev score, and even though the Opera House Orchestra muddied it up at several key moments, the music comes through with unaccustomed force. You hear it — and focus on it — exceptionally clearly in this production, as opposed to, say, in the Bolshoi Ballet’s lengthier, more textured account of the same choreography (performed here in 2000), or Kenneth MacMillan’s fevered, lusty version, occasionally on view from American Ballet Theatre. Here, the clear, open style of the dancing allows Prokofiev’s music to deliver its own energy and heat.

Additionally, those smart Kirov dancers know they don’t have to screw their faces up to convey the emotional stress. It’s already there in the music, whistling around them like gathering winds. With Tuesday’s cast — perhaps versed in Stanislavsky-type naturalism — there was no wrinkly-brow «acting,» but distinct emotional connections.

Just as rewardingly, this production, with its energetic pacing and dramatic pull, brings you quickly to the heart of the story. On opening night, that heart pulsed with extra fervor through the efforts of a young, little-known dancer named Evgenya Obraztsova, who turns 23 today. Her Juliet combined childlike innocence and spontaneity with a mature sense of scale. Leaps and turns flew out of her, yet she didn’t smudge a step. Her emotional clarity and the quality of her dancing — light and silky, rather than forceful — suited the soft tone of this ballet.

As Romeo, Andrian Fadeyev matched Obraztsova’s ease, with his own natural elegance and fluid style. He was tender and naive, rather than aggressively passionate, and wholesome down to his toes. He was such a good guy, in fact, that in his duel with Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Dmitry Pykhachev) he threw away one of his own swords when his opponent lost a weapon.

That moment fit in with a curious distinction that this production drew between the Capulet family, to which Juliet and Tybalt belonged, and the rest of Verona. Far from being refined and correct, as they are usually depicted, the Capulets were a brash, nasty lot, more Mafia than nobility. Juliet’s father (Vladimir Ponomarev) wore a permanent sneer and a big, god-awful wig, which didn’t seem to discourage him from smooching with various partners at his ball. (Smooching was going on all around him, besides.) Tybalt had screaming orange hair and looked like a punk, garbed in clashing colors. Paris, Juliet’s intended, was a narcissistic twit.

In contrast, Fadeyev’s Romeo was modest and well mannered. He’s a perfect match for Obraztsova’s Juliet, not just because the story is scripted that way but because so many details of the production make their union logical.

This production showcased a noticeably and agreeably nuanced Kirov; it seems to have blunted the razor’s edge that past visits have highlighted, where physical excitement has often supplanted movement quality.

Yet despite all the aching poignancy and sympathy contributed by the dancers, this «Romeo and Juliet» is not a gentle tale. Yes, you could say the two ill-fated lovers bring about a reconciliation of their warring families at the end, as Messrs. Capulet and Montague embrace over the bodies of their dead children. But this was clearly an afterthought here; if you blinked, you missed it, and then the curtain fell.

There’s little time spent on the «love triumphs over all» message that infuses the Shakespearean source material. In fact, there’s no triumph here. The hasty dismissal of the hug, and the focus on the young bodies sprawled on the marble steps of Juliet’s bier, teaches instead a harsh lesson: Look what happens to you if you buck the system, if you defy your parents (substitute Stalin here — we’re talking 1940, after all) and try to outwit them. You wind up deader than a chicken Kiev.

Interestingly, an «original» version of the Prokofiev score has apparently been unearthed in Moscow, with the happy ending — love’s triumph — that the composer was ultimately prevented by Soviet officials from performing, according to the Mark Morris Dance Group. Morris announced yesterday that he is working on his own version of the ballet. It will be accompanied by the earlier Prokofiev music and will follow the composer’s written instructions.

After the new work’s unveiling, slated for Bard College in 2008, will Russian companies like the Kirov reexamine their own versions?

It’s hard to say. In the dance of history and art, as in the heart, changes are not so easily made.

Sarah Kaufman


Dec. 16, 2005

PARIS — A young ballerina from the Mariinsky Theater is becoming an international star on stage and screen.

Yevgenia Obraztsova, 21, has found herself very busy after a recent promotion from coryphee dancer (a rank above corps de ballet) to second soloist.

She is currently making a guest appearance at the Baltimore Ballet in «The Nutcracker,» while last week she made a fine impression during the Mariinsky’s season in Paris dancing in four different programmes.

She is also striking out in movies with a role in «Russian Dolls,» directed by Cedric Klapisch.

Endowed with a well-proportioned body and a beautiful face, her dancing is lucid and has a youthful freshness and radiance.

Obraztsova met with The St. Petersburg Times in a restaurant near the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris last week where the Mariinsky Ballet were performing part of the company’s Balanchine programme.

Obraztsova was surprisingly unfatigued by her hectic routine, but was glad to be relaxing in the restaurant for an hour.

«Paris is a wonderful and beautiful city,» the dancer said.

Paris was one of the locations for «Russian Dolls,» which was released earlier this year and is now available on DVD. The film is a sequel to Klapisch’s earlier hit (known variously as «L’Auberge espagnole,» «Euro Pudding» or «The Spanish Apartment») about the romantic adventures of an international cast of langauge students.

How did Obraztsova get this acting role?

«One day I was in the Mariinsky Theater, and the director of the film came up to me and asked: ‘Can you please do something in front of the camera? Just say something like, Hello, my name is Yevgenia.’ I followed his suggestion, and he said to me, ‘OK, I hope to see you.’ In the film, I spoke in English as well as Russian. It was great, and I really hope to get another acting role in future.»

A lot has happened to this young star in the last six months.

Last month Obraztsova danced for the Rome Opera Ballet in a new production of «Cinderella» with another guest artist, Giuseppe Picone. Carla Fracci, the renowned Italian ballerina who is now the company’s artistic director, extended the special invitation to Obraztsova.

«Perhaps Carla Fracci heard about me winning the Moscow International Ballet Competition. I think that [Mariinsky principal dancer] Andrian Fadeyev recommended me to the Rome company to dance Cinderella. He guested in Rome earlier this year.»

This is a big milestone in Obraztsova’s career.

«It was the first time I had been a guest at another company. I had not danced with a partner from outside the Mariinsky Theater before,» Obraztsova said. More significantly, it was her first created role, and in a full-length ballet at that.

«This production is based on an earlier La Scala production of 1956, but some of the choroegraphy has been revised by Carla Fracci this time.»

Obraztsova added: «The classical choreography wasn’t hard for me at all. What was more difficult was to be alone abroad for the first time, and for four weeks. I seem to have lost half my weight! The first two weeks were hard, but after that I felt very much at home in the last two weeks. Giuseppe Picone is a perfect and wonderful partner. I like him so much.

«I was slightly nervous for the premier, but I danced with more and more confidence in the other three performances.»

Obraztsova said she had an extremely busy schedule during the engagement.

«I had no time to do any sightseeing in Rome.»

Barely a week after her return to St. Petersburg, Obraztsova left for Paris with the Mariinsky Ballet.

On the last day of the Paris tour, right after her performance in Mikhail Chemiakin’s production of «The Nutcracker» with Fadeyev on the previous night, she flew to the U.S. for her engagement with the Baltimore Ballet.

«I will only spend five days in Baltimore, dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy in their production of ‘Nutcracker’,» Obraztsova said in Paris before she left for the States to perform in Baltimore last Saturday and Sunday.

Obraztsova returns as a guest with the Rome Opera Ballet in April.

«I’ve been invited to dance in a new production of ‘Faust’ to be created by [artistic director of the English National Ballet] Wayne Eagling.» Fadeyev will again be her partner.

Obraztsova’s rising profile was boosted in June when she won the gold medal in the senior women’s category at the Moscow International Competition. Was she surprised by her triumph?

«Of course I was surprised, and I am so glad that I succeeded. [Mariinsky ballet director] Makhar Vaziyev was very happy that I had won,» Obraztsova said. «After the competition, I flew immediately to Washington to join the Mariinsky tour.»

Obraztsova’s coach is the well-known former Mariinsky ballerina Ninella Kurgapkina, who also coaches Mariinsky prima ballerina Uliana Lopatkina.

«Kurgapkina is a great teacher,» Obraztsova said. «She is wonderful. She always tells me what do with my legs, my face, my hands; and she has taught me a lot about acting.»

Her regular dancing partners include Andrei Merkuriyev, Vladimir Shklyarov, Igor Kolb, and Fadeyev.

«I dance with Merkuriyev the most often,» Obraztsova said. «I like Fadeyev a lot; I’ve danced Juliet with him twice.»

Obraztsova’s Juliet (in Lavrovsky’s version of «Romeo and Juliet») is distinguished by her naturalistic acting.

«Juliet has more acting than dancing in the role,» Obraztsova said. «Technically it’s not too difficult, although I wouldn’t describe the first act as easy. I can really imagine myself living in Verona as Juliet.»

Despite her labor-intensive vocation and busy professional schedule, Obraztsova has wide interests outside ballet.

«I try to draw, and I like art very much,» she said.

«I also like classical music and jazz, but not so much pop music. I watch old classic films too.»

Obraztsova looks eagerly towards future work.

«I really hope to dance ‘The Sleeping Beauty.’ I’ve learnt Aurora throughout the past year, rehearsing with Vladimir Shklyarov. He’s helped me a lot. I am ready now and am waiting for my debut.»

Kevin Ng. Special to The St. Petersburg Times.

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