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Friday, November 22, 2013

Ballet Break III: The Great Ulyana Lopatkina

Ulyana Vyacheslavovna Lopatkina  (Ульяна Вячеславовна Лопаткина), was born October 23, 1973.  Although Russian, she was born in Ukraine (USSR), where she lived the first ten years of her life. While her parents were not at all thrilled about it, she was sent off at that age to Russia to the Vaganova Academy.  After 8 years of training,  Ulyana graduated from the  Academy in 1991, and  joined the Mariinsky, where in a remarkably short period of time she was promoted to principal dancer (1995). In 1999 she was awarded the State Prize of Russia, and in 2005 she was awarded the very prestigious title Peoples’Artist of Russia.  She is now married, and has one daughter, Masha, born in 2002. 

Today, after a fair number of years of both triumph and heartache, Ulyana, having been sidelined for years with a broken ankle, is back in force, and is considered by many to be the greatest of the modern classical ballerinas, greatly gifted with a near perfect, classically lithe and slender body, capable, through long training, of great purity of posture.  She is also remarkably musical.

While it may be perfectly legitimate to concede to others—most notably Diana Vishneva—a superior attainment in the area of modern avant garde, very athletic dancing, most balletomanes will stand by the classically inclined Lopatkina, whose elegant, classical virtuosity seems unrivaled. Her repertoire tells her story:  Giselle, Le Corsaire, Bayadère   Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, The Legend of Love: A veritable textbook of traditional ballet.

There is perhaps no better or clearer introduction to Lopatkina’s virtuosity than her stunning presentation of Mikhail Fokine’s  eternally popular “Dying Swan,” originally composed for Anna Pavlova on Camille Saint Saëns’ cello solo from The Carnival of Animals:

Isn’t that simply magnificent!   The quintessence of balletic classicism.  If one were to look up “classicism” in a good encyclopedia of ballet, there is a good chance they would find a photo taken from that film! The very long and slender limbs, coupled to the absolute control of the flow of their movement, is, I think it quite fair to say, hypnotic.  I can think of no better word.  And of course her posture, from the port de bras to the ram-rod straight elevated reach; from the arched back so beloved by the Russians, the back-flex of the wrists on the very long arms; all are text-book clean.  The truly important thing, of course, is how this astonishing collection of abilities and gifts is put to use in artistic creation, which is quite extraordinary and very moving

Here is a good chance to see the more aggressive and energetic Lopatkina, in the 3rd act pas de deux from Swan Lake, with Danila Korsuntsev, featuring Lopatkina performing 32 fouettes en tournant as smoothly as can be imagined:

A marvel of elegance, precision and traditional style.  There is little more to say in a brief celebration such as this.  Ulyana is 40 years old now,  and let us hope for more years from this extraordinary ballerina!




Anonymous said...

My goodness, Edmund, I didn't realize you were so knowledgeable about ballet, as well as opera! I don't know much about it, I admit, but I certainly enjoy looking at the beautiful sets, listening to the beautiful music and watching the amazing dancers, although I don't know a lot of the terms you use. Anyway, I enjoyed it and learned something about this ballerina. I especially enjoyed the Dying Swan, which as you say is quite hypnotic!! Thank you,


Edmund St. Austell said...

No, no, thank YOU, Martha. If you enjoyed looking at the videos, then you do in fact get it! Beauty, that's what it's all about! And I'm certainly no authority, it's just been a love of mine since I was very young. Ballet is another of those art forms that puts the "bellas" in "bellas artes"! I've done three of these now, and they are mainly, to be honest, just appreciations from a devote! Thank you so much for your faithful readership. It really means a lot to me. Edmund

JD Hobbes said...

Her lines are exquisite. Her expression fabulous. What more can we say?

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you very much, Mr. Hobbes! Yes, indeed; you have hit the nail on the head--exquisite line and fabulous expression, that is what lies at the core of Lopatkina's genius! Thank you so much for your faithful readership over the years!

Anonymous said...

Edmund, you summed up the essence of Uliana’s art in this article.
“The truly important thing, of course, is how this astonishing collection of abilities and gifts is put to use in artistic creation, which is quite extraordinary and very moving”
I totally agree with it. For many ballet fans Lopatkina represents the ‘spirit’ of Russian school, and the main thing in it is that great technique is not enough to become a great artist. A great ballerina must be an intellectual and an actress, who can ‘breath life’ into traditional movements. Lopatkina does it, and she is a true intellectual, judging by her interviews.


Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you so very much, Natalie! That is an excellent comment, and absolutely correct! "A great ballerina must be an intellectual and an actress." Perfect. And that, as you indicate, completely describes Lopatkina! Thanks again for a superb comment!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks, Edmund, for this posting. She's just wonderful; poetry in motion.
I could look at her dancing all day!

my very best wishes from a frosty, wintery Basel!


Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you Sally, so nice to hear from you. "Poetry in motion" is a fine description of Ulyana! And my best from a frosty, wintry Indiana:-)

RETA said...

Dear Sir - thank you for your post - and your beautiful tribute to this angel . . Ulyana.


Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you very much indeed; I appreciate your comment! And yes, the great Lopatkina is indeed an angel!