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It's Her Party, But.

ANASTASIA VOLOCHKOVA WITH THE RUSSIAN STATE BALLET AND THE POLISH NATIONAL BALLET SADLER'S WELLS THEATER LONDON, ENGLAND SEPTEMBER 25-29, 2001

Anastasia Volochkova's credentials look good: a Russian beauty--tall, blonde, with film-star features--Vaganova-trained with both Kirov and Bolshoi connections, and an aura of mystique surrounding her. Moreover, she has a wealthy patron who endlessly funds her ventures both in London and in Russia and has given the partnership a focus for speculation and publicity (" `Wicked' Russian Ballerina Scuffles With Tabloids," Presstime News, Dance Magazine, September 2000, page 32).

But while she receives opportunities that other dancers would envy, Volochkova lacks the essential ingredient for stardom--true artistry. She dances from the book, performing the steps but without musicality or phrasing. Her stiff, unyielding upper body makes it hard to color her roles with real, heartfelt emotion. On the plus side, she has tremendous stamina, great bourrees, and a high, swiping kick. And she is always dressed in the finest costumes. Her early one-night stands, where she changed quickly and danced every number, have now progressed to a full week at Sadler's Wells, where she cleverly chose several Russian party pieces that had not been staged in London before. She also invited the Russian State Ballet and dancers from the Polish National Ballet to share her stage; but alas, these guests also served to highlight their hostess's faltering technical skills.

The week opened with Alberto Alonso's Carmen Suite, created in 1967 to show off the Bolshoi's dazzling Maya Plisetskaya. Though danced on pointe, the choreography is more gypsy than classical: Feet are flexed, the hips and bottom are stuck out, legs are crossed in twisted poses, and an ankle is grasped at nose level in six-o'clock splits, with one leg grounded on pointe and the other shooting skyward. The short, sharp episodes demand audacity in dance and drama, but unlike the sizzling sensuality of Plisetskaya, who made spines tingle at the Bolshoi, Volochkova's Carmen lacked the necessary passionate fire. Her performance was the dance equivalent of paint-by-numbers--she followed the steps without taking the risks that would make the work her own. (The flashing diamond rings and silver nail polish didn't help the characterization either.)

Volochkova seemed more at home as the Black Swan, though it was obvious that her jet-setting lifestyle is depriving her of her Russian teachers' careful nurturing. Technique was again rushed, and fouettes were off-center on the first night, although her charm attack on the Prince (Evgeny Ivanchenko) was strong and predatory. This marked London's first glimpse of Irek Mukhamedov's Swan Lake for the Polish National Ballet, which debuted in Warsaw in May 2001. This third-act sequence showed a turn-of-the-last-century setting where the prospective brides danced their national dances, in character shoes rather than on pointe, with aplomb and spirit. With excellent dancers to work with, the extract was slick and colorful, and made one look forward to seeing the whole work some day.

It was Volochkova's guests who brought the excitement to the program. Kiev Opera and Ballet Theatre dancers Olena Filipyeva and Denis Matvienko seared holes in the floor with their spitfire attack and outrageous variations in Le Corsaire, while the dancers of the Russian State Ballet, under the direction of Viacheslav Gordeyev, brought contrasting serenity in Fokine's ballet suite for Glinka's opera Ruslan and Ludmila. A charming and attractive short ballet for sugared-almond-pink tutu-clad dancers in an enchanted garden, its groupings and gentle solos evoked Fokine's Chopiniana and would certainly enhance Western repertoires. On the jolly side, there was Petipa's Cavalry Halt, an Austria-based tale of amorous entanglements between the hussars and local girls. Lots of heel clicking and moustache twisting. Great fun!
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Title Annotation:Anastasia Volochkova with Russian State Ballet, Polish National Ballet
Author:Willis, Margaret
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:606
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