In Commemoration of Ekaterina Maximova

“Fragments of One Biography”
Bolshoi Ballet and Guests
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 01, 2024 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Fragments of One Biography” staged by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaOn February 1st, the Bolshoi Ballet’s prima ballerina, Ekaterina Maximova (1939-2009), would have celebrated her 85th birthday. A phenomenally successful (and multi-decorated) artist, Maximova’s fame reached far beyond Russia’s borders. After retiring from the stage of the Bolshoi in 1988, she continued to dance with other Russian and international companies—and sometimes even returned home to the Bolshoi. From 1990 on, Maximova worked as a coach, teacher, and member of several arts councils and committees. Every five years, Maximova’s husband, Vladimir Vasiliev, stages a gala at the Bolshoi in honor of his late wife. I was able to watch this year’s event on video.

2. V.Vasiliev, “Fragments of One Biography” staged by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova3. E.Maximova (Kitri) and ensemble, “Don Quixote”, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / V. Pchelkin 4. V.Vasiliev (Nutcracker Prince), E.Maximova (Marie), and ensemble, “The Nutcracker” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 1966 © Bolshoi Ballet / V. PchelkinVasiliev, a renowned former principal dancer of the Bolshoi and the company’s director from 1995 to 2000, has also been productive as a choreographer. Several samples of his ballets were shown at the gala. Much to the audience’s appreciation, for the first time, Vasiliev included film footage and archive photos of Maximova’s performances and private life, which testified to her dazzling talent and vibrant personality. The clips he chose depicted her in the very same roles that were subsequently performed live at the gala, allowing comparisons between her and today’s ballerinas. They left no doubt that Maximova’s performances should be considered a standard. Although forty years or so have passed, her style and technique still looked fresh and modern. Most striking, though, was her captivating charisma. How impressive must she have been alive and in person!

7. V.Vasiliev (Spartacus) and E.Maximova (Phrygia), “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Boslhoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / G. Soloviev6. E.Maximova (Katerina) and V.Vasiliev (Danila), “The Stone Flower” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / E. Umnov 5. E.Maximova as Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / E. UmnovUsually, guest dancers from different theaters join the Bolshoi company for this event. This time, they came from two Russian companies. Amanda Gomez and Mikhail Timaev from the Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre performed a scene from Vasiliev’s Fragments of a Biography. Gomez, a graduate of the Bolshoi’s ballet school in Brazil, seemed slightly tense as she stepped onto the Bolshoi’s historical stage, but moments later, she started to flirt cheerfully with the audience. In contrast to her light-hearted solo, her pas de deux with Timaev featured serious affection.
8. E.Sergeenkova (Giselle) and K.Efimov (Albrecht), “Giselle” by J.Perrot, J.Coralli, and M.Petipa (revised by Y.Grigorovich), Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova 9. E.Sergeenkova (Giselle) and K.Efimov (Albrecht), “Giselle” by J.Perrot, J.Coralli, and M.Petipa (revised by Y.Grigorovich), Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaSt. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Ballet sent to Moscow Renata Shakirova and Kimin Kim who contributed a pas de deux from Don Quixote. Both danced impeccably, but while Kim’s Basilio was a paragon of dash and charm, Shakirova’s Kitri was as calculating as Odile. She threw herself into smug poses and rattled off the choreography as if competing with a high-speed sewing machine.

Kitri was one of seven of Maximova’s iconic roles that the students of the Moscow State Academy of Choreography called to mind in their opening Entre. Another one was that of Giselle. Maximova’s mad scene on celluloid was continued by Eva Sergeenkova and Klim Efimov who performed a pas de deux from Act II. Compliments to them for conjuring up the Wilis’ ghostly realm from nothing.
11. A.Ovcharenko (Nutcracker Prince) and E.Sevenard (Marie), “The Nutcracker” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova10. E.Sevenard (Marie) and A.Ovcharenko (Nutcracker Prince), “The Nutcracker” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaOf Maximova’s Marie (from The Nutcracker), we watched a scene from the final in which the young Marie happily reunites with her Nutcracker doll. The pas de deux that Eleonora Sevenard (Marie) and Artem Ovcharenko (Nutcracker Prince) performed (Yuri Grigorovich’s version) rewound the plot to the couple’s journey toward the top of the Christmas tree. The journey’s climax was reached when the assembled courtly escort lifted both simultaneously from within their midst. I haven’t seen Ovcharenko for quite some time and was happy to find him in peak form. He nailed his pirouettes with the elegance of a pro and evinced a mind-boggling spring in his step.

12. I.Tsvirko (Phillipe), “The Flames of Paris” by V.Vainonen, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova13. M.Shrayner (Jeanne) and I.Tsvirko (Phillipe), “The Flames of Paris” by V.Vainonen, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaI also admired Igor Tsvirko’s daredevil Philippe in The Flames of Paris. If I were to describe the series of intricate jumps that he delivered as “terrific,” it would be an understatement. The eyes of Margarita Shrayner’s rebellious Jeanne radiated the same triumph as Maximova’s as she sat on Philippe’s shoulder.
Dmitry Smilevsky, who I recently watched in La Fille du Pharaon, danced the leading role this time in two excerpts of Vasiliev’s version of Leonid Lavrovsky’s latest major work, Paganini. His performance was a treat. Initially absorbed in a tender pas de deux with his muse (Elizaveta Kokoreva), a strike of genius later sparked an almost aggressive determination in him. Paganini was a legend, and Smilevsky also has what it takes to become one.
Paganini is set to music by Rachmaninoff, as is Elegy—a pas de deux by Vasiliev, which he and Maximova danced multiple times. Its many nuances of melancholy require sensitivity, whereas the many challenging lifts call for expert technique. Anna Nikulina and Egor Gerashchenko demonstrated both.

15. V.Lopatkin (Modest Alexeyevich), “Anyuta” by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova14. A.Stashkevich (Anyuta) and ensemble, “Anyuta” by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaIt’s always a gift to watch Vladislav Lantratov dance, and I consider it especially lucky that he appeared twice. He was the linchpin of five ballerinas’ Waltz Fantasy and the main character in Ballad, a poignant duet by Vasiliev set to music by Chopin. Ballad depicts the desperation of a man (Vladislav Lantratov) after having lost a beloved woman (Elizaveta Kokoreva): how he first hesitantly, then full of joy, recalls her and relives their mutual fondness and trust and how he tries to squeeze all that was precious between them into that fleeting moment of reminiscence. When he finally had to acknowledge that she was gone, he seemed to accuse the entire world of this loss.

16. A.Stashkevich (Anyuta) and ensemble, “Anyuta” by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova17. M.Lobukhin (Pyotr Leontievich) and ensemble, “Anyuta” by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova The gala concluded with an excerpt of Vasiliev’s bittersweet Anyuta, led by Anastasia Stashkevich in the title role alongside Vyacheslav Lopatkin as Anyuta’s husband, Modest Alexeyevich. Originally, Vasiliev was meant to appear as Anyuta’s father, Pyotr Leontievich. However, he suffered a serious injury backstage during the performance and had to be taken to hospital. Mikhail Lobukhin replaced him on short notice.

18. Ensemble, “Fragments of One Biography” staged by V.Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova

Links: Website of the Bolshoi Theatre
“Fragments of One Biography” – Ekaterina Maximova (video)
Photos: 1. Ensemble,Fragments of One Biography” staged by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
2. Vladimir Vasiliev,Fragments of One Biography” staged by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
3. Ekaterina Maximova (Kitri) and ensemble, “Don Quixote”, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / V. Pchelkin
4. Vladimir Vasiliev (Nutcracker Prince), Ekaterina Maximova (Marie), and ensemble, “The Nutcracker” by Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 1966 © Bolshoi Ballet / V. Pchelkin
5. Ekterina Maximova as Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / E. Umnov
6. Ekaterina Maximova (Katerina) and Vladimir Vasiliev (Danila), “The Stone Flower” by Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / E. Umnov
7. Vladimir Vasiliev (Spartacus) and Ekaterina Maximova (Phrygia), “Spartacus” by Yuri Grigorovich, Boslhoi Ballet © Bolshoi Ballet / G. Soloviev
8. Eva Sergeenkova (Giselle) and Klim Efimov (Albrecht), “Giselle” by Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli, and Marius Petipa (revised by Yuri Grigorovich), Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
9. Eva Sergeenkova (Giselle) and Klim Efimov (Albrecht), “Giselle” by Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli, and Marius Petipa (revised by Yuri Grigorovich), Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
10. Eleonora Sevenard (Marie) and Artem Ovcharenko (Nutcracker Prince), “The Nutcracker” by Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
11. Artem Ovcharenko (Nutcracker Prince) and Eleonora Sevenard (Marie), “The Nutcracker” by Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
12. Igor Tsvirko (Phillipe), “The Flames of Paris” by Vasily Vainonen, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
13. Margarita Shrayner (Jeanne) and Igor Tsvirko (Phillipe), “The Flames of Paris” by Vasily Vainonen, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
14. Anastasia Stashkevich (Anyuta) and ensemble, “Anyuta” by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
15. Vyacheslav Lopatkin (Modest Alexeyevich), “Anyuta” by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
16. Anastasia Stashkevich (Anyuta) and ensemble, “Anyuta” by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
17. Mikhail Lobukhin (Pyotr Leontievich) and ensemble, “Anyuta” by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
18. Ensemble, “Fragments of One Biography” staged by Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / Elena Fetisova
Editing: Kayla Kauffman