‘What a Swan!’
Maria Alexandrova’s debut

L. Rozum

On May 15 Maria Alexandrova’s long reared dream came true – she appeared in the Odette-Odile double part. The debut had been expected in February but was postponed. All her time the ballerina devoted to learning the role of her dream with her constant teacher-tutor Tatiana Golikova. Not having been included in the cast for Yuri Grigorovich’s version of 2001 Alexandrova had been waiting for her time to come dancing in his Swan Lake the parts of Prince’s Mate and the Spanish bride. To do her justice she danced both roles perfectly well. She was no worse in her leading parts: Ramzea (La Fille du Pharaoh), Classical Danceress (The Bright Stream), The III part soloist (The Symphony in C), Juliet (Donnellan-Poclitaru’s version), The Empress (The Russian Hamlet), Street Danceress (Don Quixote). She was professionally strong, trendy, modern and if the role required, sprightly. It was evident, though, that the part of Odette/Odile doesn’t fit the ballerina’s physique. By the way the same is applicable to the role of Sylphide that she performed three years ago. The new work by Maria Alexandrova only confirmed the pessimistic forecast.

The new Swan didn’t appear very charming, but a bit too angular and swift. The white costume didn’t add to her beauty and it highlighted the imperfections of her constitution: the line of shoulders and her torso. The short, a bit too short, arms and indifferent face completed the "portrait" of the Queen of swans. The Bolshoi’s history has some examples when ballerinas whose physique was not ideal, for instance, Sophia Golovkina, Raisa Struchkova and Ludmila Bogomolova, performed the role of Odette-Odile. However, these dancers had succeeded in interpreting the role to their advantage. In this case there is no speaking of embodying the image. The movements of Odette in Alexandrova’s interpretation didn’t resemble those of a swan. In place of smooth and exciting trottings there were rough toe stabbings, her arms were angular and didn’t resemble soft and waving arms-wings of a swan-princess and on top of all the body was stiff and inexpressive. Alexandrova failed to share with her swan either shrill lyricism or tragical premonitions. Reserved and aloof Odette-Alexandrova didn’t show a bit of excitement at seeing Ziegfrid-Andrey Uvarov. Her uninvolvement made their relations fade, as well as the essence of the whole "white scene". In the Adagio her swan’s poses were fussy, split into separate "still–shots", as though the links between the poses and cantilena of movements were excluded deliberately from her dance. In the Variation the ballerina had some difficulty in keeping to the straight line of her rotations: she sometimes drifted to the left and to the right.

The Black Swan apparently was sadly lacking in technical perfection either. But the bodice of her costume designed by Virsaladze was decorated with flowers and she appeared onstage with her head crowned with a shining crystal kokoshnik. These complements made the refined decor of the costume fade.

Odile’s face expressed more than her movements when she appeared in the ball scene in the castle. She was dancing aggressively, with drive and again rather unmusically. Her only advantage was invariably high jumps. In the Variation, increasing the number of pirouettes, she stopped with her back to the auditorium and did her double fouttes, which travelled a threateningly long way across the stage from the point of departure. In Scene 4 she was unimpressive both choreographically and technically.

Ìària Alexandrova’s debut leaves much to be desired as well as leaves us to regret that the notion of ‘line’ or ‘emploi’ is lost in ballet practice. But parts are still divided into “categories” – for demi-charactere dancer and for danceur noble. It should be taken into consideration that not every ballet part will yield to a soloist, even a strong and bright one. Galina Ulanova, by the way, considered “Swan Lake” to be a sort of examination, a way to recognise, to discover the merits and limits of a soloist. Alas, the Bolshoi has neither Plisetskaya nor Bessmertnova in its troupe now. But there are Zakharova and Stepanenko, Gracheva, Allash and Antonicheva at the Bolshoi, who are really and unquestionably good at dancing Odette-Odile. So, perhaps, the management of the Bolshoi shouldn’t have complied with the desire of the ballerina who is certainly not destined to do this fantastically complex part. They should have explained everything to her and this way helped her to escape this career fault.

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