Vladislav Lantratov Promoted

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Vladislav Lantratov, whom I mentioned in the review of Pharaoh’s Daughter, was promoted from First Soloist to Leading Soloist of the Bolshoi Ballet on 14th December 2012.

Lantratov joined the Bolshoi Ballet straight from the Moscow Choreographic Academy – the Bolshoi Ballet’s own school –   upon graduating in 2006 (he was in the class taught by Ilya Kuznetsov).  He was given a fair few soloists roles from early on and took a principal role in The Bright Stream in 2009. He was promoted to soloist on 23rd September 2010 and was promoted again to First Soloist in September 2011.

He has noticeable stage presence, a very clear-cut technique and dances with apparent ease. His coach is Mikhail Lavrovsky and I can certainly see similarities in their light and yet strong styles.

With Bolshoi Ballet’s live streaming to cinemas in UK, we will hopefully have more chances to watch him in the future.

I am very much looking forward to seeing more of him and how he handles a variety of roles. I am curious to see how much further he improves; at this rate of progress he would appear to have what it takes to make it up the final step through the ranks of the Bolshoi to Principal Dancer.

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Don’t Be Candyfloss! Be Spinach!!

This is something I say in class that makes new people look at me as though I have lost my mind.

Not quite. This is the analogy I use to explain a way of feeling one’s balance, and it often works! Possibly because it comes across as sounding so bizarre.  As long as it works, I don’t really mind how.

http://www.hoodo.jp

http://www.hoodo.jp
Spinach sold in Japan

When dancing ballet, especially when doing upright pirouettes, one’s centre of balance should be very tightly gathered into the middle of the body in a straight vertical line. Many try to seek this by wriggling their bodies and by trying to “push in” some parts of their bodies into a straight line. I usually tell my dancers that they should feel their centre of balance gathering into the middle of their body and then pull it straight up through their heads.

http//www.daiei.co.jpSqeezing spinach

http//www.daiei.co.jp
Sqeezing spinach

This is the point when I explain to them how they cook spinach in Japan. Unlike the normal manner in the UK, spinach is sold in bunches and the leaves are a lot bigger than the ones you find in bags labelled “baby spinach leaves”. They would be about ten inches tall and thick. To cook them you would very quickly put them into boiling water for a minute or two until they are blanched. After that, they need to be squeezed. Hard! Usually you would hold the bunch of spinach up by the roots and squeeze it from the roots downwards, making sure the leaves do not twist or break. The bunch has to be very thoroughly squeezed so that by the time you have finished, it can stand up like a tree stump!

http//www.daiei.co.jpWell squeezed spinach, ready to be served

http//www.daiei.co.jp
Well squeezed spinach, ready to be served

I often describe this  process and tell my dancers to think of their centre of balance being squeezed in a similar way, but from bottom to top. Many find this quite useful. This image makes a really big impact because it is such an odd thing to hear in the middle of a ballet class.

http://www.cottoncandyconcessions.com/

http://www.cotton
candyconcessions.com

I have been trying to think of an opposite image to my analogy for a while and it dawned on me! Candyfloss! (Cotton candy to our American readers.) It has a stick in the middle and soft fluffy stuff loosely wrapped around it. Although it is pretty and is certainly delicious, our ‘balance’ cannot be loosely and widely wrapped around our body while we are turning.

So everyone, don’t be candyfloss and make sure you squeeze your balance like you would spinach!

Pharaoh’s Daughter – Bolshoi Ballet Live Transmission

What a big stage! What a big cast!

This ballet is performed with such grandeur it is staggering. As a friend of mine pointed out, it was like the opera Aida. Grand stage set, huge cast, elaborate costumes, and of course, set in ancient Egypt.

You can find a lot about this ballet on the internet, so I will just talk about what I thought of this particular production that was transmitted to cinemas around the UK.

What I like very much about the Bolshoi Ballet’s productions is the fact that they always give chances to many dancers within the company. Judging from their website, the dancers are categorised into five levels of seniority: principals, leading soloists, first soloists, soloists and corps de ballet. Currently, according to their website, there are eleven female and seven male principals, five female and four male leading soloists, five female and five male first soloists, twelve female and seven male soloists, over eighty female and over sixty male corp de ballet members. All together there are around 200 dancers at the Bolshoi Ballet company.

jr_bolshoi_skvortsov_jump_500

John Ross ©

Ruslan Skvortsov, who danced the male lead, Lord Wilson/Taor, was, as ever, so controlled, strong and yet elegant.  With his look, technique, and artistry he is becoming one of my favourite dancers of today. His technique is so strong and yet he dances with apparent ease. He has the quality of the danseur noble but he can also do a comic role superbly as he showed us in The Bright Stream a few months ago.

In the production I saw, apart from the two female and two male main characters, there were six individual solos for female dancers and two for male dancers. Of the female solos, one was danced by a leading soloist, another by a first soloist, two by soloists, and two by corp de ballet. The two male solos were danced by a first soloist and a soloist.  This, however, is definitely not due to a lack of good enough dancers! The Bolshoi Ballet puts on a staggering number of productions each season which allows plenty of opportunities for lower ranking dancers to have a chance of their talent being recognised. When they are talented, dancers can be given more prominent roles regardless of their rank within the company. The Bolshoi also has enough resources of coaches to make sure that all of the dancers are well rehearsed.

Lantratov in Don Quixote, from Wikipedia

Lantratov in Don Quixote, from Wikipedia

Of the many soloist roles there were in the Pharaoh’s Daughter, three stuck out in particular. First of all, Vladislav Lantratov, who danced the role of a Fisherman. He is tall, good looking and has a very strong technique that allows the audience to simply enjoy his performance without worrying that he might wobble or make a mistake. It was a shame that he had such a small role. He is still very young and I am sure he is on his way up. He joined the company in 2006 straight from the school, but he already has danced many soloist and principal roles. He makes me smile when I watch him. He is another dancer who has the quality of the danseur noble. I am very much looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Kaptsova in The Nutcracker (londondance.com)

Kaptsova in The Nutcracker (londondance.com)

The second one was the lovely Nina Kaptsova, dancing the role of Ramze, Aspicia’s Nubian slave. Kaptsova is already a principal of the company but this is another fantastic and enjoyable thing that the Bolshoi Ballet allows: a principal dancer often dances in the secondary role. Thus, equally good dancers dance two roles of equal importance. (A very good example of this can be found in the roles of Nikiya and Gamzatti in La Bayadere. Although Nikiya is the principal role of the ballet, if the dancer dancing Gamzatti does not have enough panache to carry out her role, the whole ballet falls flat.) Kaptsova was delightful. Her technique is so secure and her footwork so clear-cut. Her pointe work was nothing but delight. I have seen her in several roles so far but she was always so charming. I am looking forward to seeing her in a principal role.

The third was Maria Vinogradova. What light jumps and what beautifully strong and yet soft pointe work! And yet, she did not seem at all as though she was working hard. Everything seemed so natural when she danced. I could not find her biography on Bolshoi Ballet’s website but she certainly is a lovely dancer.

I Zaharkin ©

I Zaharkin ©

Just as exciting as all the soloists was the corps de ballet. There were so many of them in this ballet in so many different roles. The Bolshoi Ballet’s dancers usually are graduates of the Moscow Choreographic Academy (the ballet  school to Bolshoi Ballet) and although it means that the gate is very narrow to most non-Bolshoi trained dancers, it certainly has its benefits. Their corps de ballet is so unified in style of dance, physique and technical level that they are really dancing as one!

Although the original choreography of Pharaoh’s Daughter was by Marius Petipa, the version that the Bolshoi Ballet now perform was done by a French choreographer, Pierre Lacotte. He is well known for choreographing La Sylphide for Paris Opera Ballet and his wife, Ghilaine Thesmar. Lacotte said that although there was some “record” left from Petipa’s time, it was not useful enough to reconstruct the original choreography. He, therefore, created his own version trying to remain faithful to the spirit of Petipa. Lacotte found out that someone knew the solo of Ramze (Aspicia the Princess’ Nubian Slave) in the second act and used it in its original form (although he added four moor children).

Photograph by Mikhall Logvinov

Photograph by Mikhall Logvinov

The choreography had quite a distinct Lacotte style to it. However, the Bolshoi dancers seem to have taken to it very easily and they all danced Lacotte’s choreography beautifully. It was quite an interesting twist of events that Lacotte came to re-stage Pharaoh’s Daughter. While at Paris Opera, Rudolf Nureyev asked Lacotte whether he was interested in re-staging the piece and although they were both very keen, they could not find the budget then and the plan stood still until Vladimir Vasiliev, then Bolshoi Ballet’s director, asked Lacotte to come to the Bolshoi to re-stage it. It seems somewhat fitting that a French choreographer was invited to re-stage this ballet as it was initially choreographed by a French choreographer who went to Russia.

This ballet is full of fantastic dances and a lot of fun. It really shows off  the Bolshoi Ballet in its full. It is a big ballet for a big (Bolshoi) Ballet!