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For once, you may suspend Disbelief !
23 July 2002
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Originally published on ballet.co
For once, gentle reader, breathe a sigh of relief ! You will be allowed to believe what you read in the press, if only this time ! And it is good news ! Alina Cojocaru’s sudden rise to world renown is not the product of media hype. Clement Crisp, Jann Parry, John Percival, Louise Levene, Ismene Brown, Valerie Lawson and Luke Jennings have not been conspiring all to get you to buy newspapers, or theatre tickets, by building up the ballet world’s equivalent of the South Sea Bubble. Here is a young girl set to be come the Dinu Lipatti of the profession.
Dinu Lipatti (1920-1953) will be well known to musicians reading this page. The ability of the Romanian pianist was unique. In some respects, it has, perhaps, never been surpassed. He was a hero of my childhood, and in its sheer musicianship, the dancing of Alina Cojocaru reminds me of him.
Alina Cojocaru IS the face that launched a thousand ships. This is a person of true spiritual beauty, no matter how one might cavil about this or that aspect of her technique. She is neither young, nor old, neither cute, nor girlish, nor winsome. Her figure is nothing to look at, really, being excessively slight, and her face is in nothing remarkable. But her dancing is as thrillingly abstract, as it is warm, dramatic and in character. And unlike Gelsey Kirkland, whom in some ways, she may resemble, she is spontaneous.
The performance she, Johann Kobborg and Ivan Putrov gave on July 17th in Cranko’s Eugene Oneguin, is one of the greatest theatrical experiences in my forty years with the stage. This Tatiana, Oneguin and Lensky were strictly classical and thus far above the anti-Pushkin naturalism of a Marcia Haydée. Johann Kobborg’s acting is sober, but very effective, as is his partnering. He is also the only person I’ve seen in the role who has got the point, aptly defined by Clement Crisp, that Oneguin’s feelings for Tatiana in Act III in fact qualify as "psychosis, not passion".
As Miss Cojocaru’s constant partner, and "older" advisor, Johann Kobborg is doubtless responsible, to a great degree, for her recent breakthroughs as an artist.
To see three young people so identify themselves with this ancient art form gives one hope. This, despite the fact that John Cranko is most definitely not my cup of tea as a choreographer. I like firm floor contact, jumps and beats, and pas de deux where the man and the woman both dance, whereas Cranko has got his people crawling all over each other, tiresome after the first three minutes. How very bad the choreography actually is, was revealed on the following night, with the coarse, melodramatic Galeazzi/Cooper cast.
On July 18th, in the same ballet, Miss Galeazzi and Adam Cooper did all the things one had hoped they would not. It was romantic mush, and quite offensive, actually. Mr. Cooper has a very pretty face and figure, and is, clearly, keenly aware of that fact, a thing I always find intensely embarrassing. As he is also a great strapping fellow, why he miffed several lifts in the mirror pas de deux with a woman who is technically, quite competent, is beyond me.
My only regret is that the injury to Tamara Rojo prevented her from dancing Tatiana on the 18th, as it would surely have been a challenging and most exciting interpretation.
As for the corps de ballet, let me not be understood as saying that the RB corps cannot dance. They certainly can act, much better, in fact, than the POB corps, because they are not cynical. But, after years of watching the POB, to see the RB corps galumphing about on stage like a herd of baby rhinoceri is always something of a shock. By that, I do not mean that the ladies are fat ! They may be slightly more corpulent than the POB, but then, not everyone need look like a pet giraffe from Claude Bessy’s menagerie. No, what I mean is that, although one can indeed have too much of a good thing, a little technique now and then would do no harm !
FRAGILE - HANDLE WITH CARE !
Parents of young adults, read on ! Alina Cojocaru is manifestly a very mature young girl. She left her family in Romania hardly more than a baby, and went off to study in a strange, far-off country, the Ukraine, at the age of 7 or 8. Since that time, the career decisions she has made have been courageous and clearheaded.
All that being said, were I Ross Stretton, and no matter how much that may temporarily disappoint both the public and the money-men, I should think as a FATHER, and be careful not to allow that little beauty to dance too much. First, she is being given roles that are far too wearing on a very young girl, both physically, and mentally, despite the fact that she can, of course, do them. To have Miss Cojocaru dance Tatiana on the one night, and Olga on the next, as she did in the autumn, is madness. Surely, in a troupe of 85 people, which has skimmed off the very cream of English dancers, there is someone who could be given a chance ?
Secondly, Alina Cojocaru has the same sort of bone structure as Anna Pavlova, or Gelsey Kirkland. In a word, fragile. In the Ukraine, that other temple built to Agrippina Vaganova, they taught her to pick up the leg from the youngest age. As her bone structure is feather-light, the leg flies up easily, but the ligaments have nonetheless been weakened by such arrant foolishness.
Moreover, when one picks up the leg, no matter how light the bone structure, the centre cannot be firmly held. Thus, and even when one weighs but 40 kilos, as Miss Cojocaru does, the full force and impetus will bear down on the foot. I am not the first to remark that her feet are overly delicate, and indeed, sometimes not fully stretched. Nor is this helped by the Russian-style, narrow platform shoe, no matter how pretty that might look. On pain of sounding like a complete heretic, this looks like a case for those damned Gaynor Mindens !
Ross Stretton has in his hands the future of a person who, by normal standards, would be termed a genius. The girl needs help with certain aspects of her technique, or her career may be cut off by injury. Let him take care that considerations of business and international prestige do not lead to yet another singular talent being burnt out by the age of 25. The ballet world has seen more than enough of that in recent years.