I rarely post on this forum, since I mainly take part in another one, although I am British myself, but I thought I should post here my review of the Stepanova/Rodkin Swan Lake that I saw a few nights ago.
It was a great evening for all Yulia Stepanova fans and although I have seen her dance Odette-Odile several times with the Mariinsky, this was her Bolshoi debut in the role. There is much to say, and so apologies in advance it this is somewhat rambling (!) - but to start with the first act, Denis Rodkin has all the hallmarks of a Perfect Prince - handsome, tall, strong, courteous in manner. The first act showed off his somewhat stately technique and natural presence on stage as well as graceful arms. The jester, ,Gusev, was light and frolicsome, for want of a better word, without being too irritating. He pulled of his final grande pirouette magnificently and to predictable applause. I liked Kokhlova's charming prince's friend, with fast light pointework, but Ana Turazashvili was miscast in my opinion with little charisma and stiff arms and spiky fingers. Rodkin partnered both of them ably, however! This was Yulia's debut though and many of the audience near me were excited to be seeing her for the first time. They applauded her entry and not surprising. She did look absolutely exquisite, and her undulating swan arms throughout were just amazing! She has soft, flowing movement and everything seems easy for her, with effortless extensions and beautiful lines in arabesque. She and Rodkin complement each other physically very well. She was a tender, feminine swan with expressions that were so natural and just made perfect sense, and she interacted well with all the other characters on the stage. The adagio in particular was real poetry and flow of movement, met by great applause and cheers. She does have wonderful legato movement quality, but she is also technically superb. Her tiny frappes sur le cou de pied at the end of the adagio were delicate and precise and that section ended with single, double and then quadruple pirouettes. I have to say, that Denis Rodkin's partnering was exemplary throughout, and the high lifts especially were just so strong and easy. However, I have seen him dance many times before, and I did feel he was slightly hampered by the smaller stage. His grands jetes en tournant in particular lacked the ultimate stretching out of back leg, although they were high and easy. The corps in general were well rehearsed and not a pointe shoe to be heard. Congratulations on that! They do not have the arms of their Mariinsky counterparts, but nonetheless, they were good. The four little swans danced with great precision and well synchronised in their dance but later on in the scene their arms were all over the place. I have to say that I found two of the three big swans decidedly lacking, especially Marchenkova, who displayed the most awful flailing, vulgar arms throughout. Horrible. The same mannerism also prevailed in her Spanish bride variation later. I do hate what Grigorovich has done in particular to the first white scene, where Odette and the prince are interrupted far too much by the Evil Genius., Igor Tsvirko, who displayed animalistic evil throughout and strong technique. I also wonder what has happened to the lake? The backcloth is murky brown.
The Black Act for me is very successful. I love the different variations for the brides with their retinues. Of the Brides, I enjoyed Yana Parienko the most. She to me represents good Bolshoi style, and she was strong, exuberant, stylish in her Polish dance. Loved her. The Russian bride, Yakusheva, was also excellent and musical, with charm and amplitude of arms and nice use of her head. Rodkin was acting well in this act and the Black Swan pd2 was fabulous. Yulia's difficult variation with its succession of single and double pirouettes was performed technically perfectly and with musicality also and her fouettes also were strong. She did single, single, double six times, and then singles until the last double, which she sailed round and then nailed dead perfectly in 5th. Characterisation was old fashioned glamour and seduction and Rodkin fell for it hook line and sinker! The last act contains some nice choreographic patterns for the swans, and the despairing Odette of Yulia was very moving. However, The ending of this version leaves much to be desired, with Odette apparently dying behind one of the irritating gauzy shells that feature in this production, while a sorrowing Rodkin is marooned in front . The people sitting near me were bewildered by this ending and actually asked "has it ended?" Having said this, the ballet was a triumph in artistry for Yulia Stepanova and she was met with cheers and much applause and two beautiful bouquets of flowers.. I heard many people say they had never seen anything like it, and several mentioned Yulia's beautiful arms. I waited at the stage door afterwards and Yulia was full of smiles and very happy when she came out accompanied by her coach, Lyudmila Semenyaka, and Denis Rodkin. Great evening! Great debut for Yulia, and I hope for a promotion for her very soon!