Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Terpsichore Titles: Outstanding Female Dancer of 2016


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I have seen some great ballerinas this year as I mentioned in The Year of the Swans: My Review of 2016 27 Dec 2016.  Two great stars of the Bolshoi for a start:  Anna Nikulina in Swan Lake and Ekaterina Krysanova in The Taming of the Shrew. Amber Scott of the Australian Ballet in Cinderella (see Ratmansky's Razzmatazz 24 July 2016) and Robyn Hendricks as Odette in Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake (see The Australian Ballet's Swan Lake - Murphy won me over 17 July 2016). But there were three performances that stick in my memory and I will take them all in chronological order.

First, there was Anna Tsygankova in Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari (see Brandsen's Masterpiece 14 Feb 2016 and Anna Tsygankova as Mata Hari 21 Feb 2016). I wrote:
"As Anna Tsygankova stood alone on stage for her curtain call after last night's performance of Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari every single person in the Amsterdam Music Theatre or Stopera rose as one. She would have got a similar standing ovation anywhere - even snooty old London - for her portrayal of the life of the tragic adventurer and dancer (Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" MacLeod) was compelling It is not often that one sees theatre like that in any medium and I think the sounds and images of that performance will remain with me for the rest of my life."
It is not often that one sees a performance like that.

But on the 2 April 2016 I saw Lauren Cuthbertson in Giselle.  That ballet had always been a problem for me as I explained in Cuthbertson's Giselle 3 April 2016:
"In an interview with the journalist Mark Moynihan which is transcribed in the Royal Ballet's programme notes for this season's Giselle, Sir Peter Wright said:
'When I first saw Giselle way back in the early 1940s I used to think: 'That's silly. That doesn't make sense. So when John [Cranko] asked me to do Giselle my first reaction was, 'Oh no, I couldn't do that - that poor young girl going mad'. The ballet always seemed rather inconsistent to me and sometimes downright stupid.'
Until last night that had been my reaction too. I had always been troubled by the libretto (possibly for the same reason as Wright for he had been brought up as a Quaker and I have become one) as the second act is very dark, superstitious, even a little satanic, or so it had appeared to me for many years. My coping mechanism until last night had been to put the story out of my mind and concentrate on the dancing as though it were an abstract work like Jewels or Les Sylphides."
However, Sir Peter changed his mind on Giselle. He saw Galina Ulanova dance Giselle when the Bolshoi first came to London and realized what an extraordinary work it could be. I explained that that is because the libretto is coded or perhaps or rather subsists on more than level. I added: "Sir Peter needed Ulanova to unlock the work for him and it was Lauren Cuthbertson last night who did the same for me."

The third especially memorable performance was Bethany Kingsley-Garner's as Odette in David Dawson's Swan Lake in Liverpool on 3 June 2016 (see Empire Blanche: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016). I wrote:
"The star of Swan Lake is, of course, Odette-Odile. It is a role that not every ballerina can dance convincingly because it requires the projection of two personalities from the same body. I may be wrong but I should imagine the easier part is probably the seductress Odile despite all those fouettés because she is manifestly human. It must be far more difficult to become a swan. Bethany Kingsley-Garner, who has recently been elevated to principal, was perfect in both. She first came to my notice as Cinderella in Edinburgh (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015) and she has already entered my canon of all time greatest ballerinas. The only other Scottish dancer in that rare company is Elaine McDonand (see Elaine McDonald in her own Words 11 March 2014)."
So how do I choose between those three?  In my review of Giselle,  I asked myself what was so special about Cuthbertson's performance. I could not put my finger on it but, as I noted at the time, "I saw not a ballerina dancing Giselle but Giselle herself and for the first time I really understood the ballet." Eight months on, I would qualify that remark by saying that I am beginning to understand and appreciate that ballet but I owe my understanding and appreciation to Lauren Cuthbertson.

For that reason, Cuthbertson has to be my ballerina of 2016.

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