Among the reviewers who wrote about a great talent of Irina Chistyakova weren’t only Russian prominent connoisseurs of art but also great people in art from the USA and a great number from other European countries.
One of the most prominent ballet reviewers of Russia V.M. Gaevsky called her «Ballerina Assoluta» which is the ultimate figure of merit for a ballet dancer. There are a lot of articles of art appreciation written about her where she is described as «a ballerina virtuosa not only regarding her techniques but also her artistic vision. In her well-thought-out roles she gains freedom through precision, her every single dance is a brilliantly performed and choreographed part.» (Inna Sklyarevskaya).
Technical abilities of Irina Chistyakova seem to be limitless; the most difficult leaps are in her control, as well as «vortex» dynamic spinning and phenomenal steadiness of the posing. Her theatrical characters have a wide range of different lines: starting from lyrics-romantic roles to the dramatic ones and even those of a sharp grotesque.
Cinderella by her sparkles all over; a little ragamuffin with the eyes of a fallow deer, she beatifically endures her sisters’ vagaries… But the most fascinating Chistyakova is in the ball scene. She is trembling, charmed by the dream and frightened to wake up from this fairy tale to the very moment of her big love duet with the Prince: only when she makes sure that this dream is the reality she is giving rein to her imagination and the choreography is fusing with the aesthetic delight… Chistyakova enriches this role with charming warmth which highly exalts her piece of creative work.»
«DAILYMAIL», Allen Robinson
«And if, in the role of Paris, I am ever to present a golden apple I’d prefer it to be Irina Chistyakova who has a great talent to create a game of light and shadows with her wide range of dancer’s skills.»
«TIME», Clement Crisp
«Womanly, gentle Kitri by Chistyakova. She shows up at once with her radiant figure and the dance - truly sparkling and fascinatingly virtuosic. Naturalness and charm are the most valuable that Kitri is characterized with. That is exactly what makes you be impressed. Her dance is full of splendor - in light and yet stinging rhythms of the pas de basque facets, in delicate presentation of small movements and in a crazy speed of the final spinning diagonal in the first act with red flying coats in the background. Her dance is full of restrained glee in the final grand pas. The main message of her final adagio is a concealed triumph during these long stopping poses in impeccable attitudes on toes, this chic which is calm inside».
«Mariinsky Theatre», Maria Ratanova.
Irina Chistyakova is a ballerina virtuosa not only regarding her techniques but also her artistic vision. In her well-thought-out roles she gains freedom through precision, her every single dance is a brilliantly performed and choreographed part.» (Inna Sklyarevskaya)
«A phenomenon of one duet» - Marina Ratanova (Mariinsky Theatre)
These are rare performances indeed where «Don Quixote» is a parade of virtuosity, a chain of spectacular charismatic and classical episodes yet not turning into the explicit divertissement but telling an intriguing story. The dance needs some special state of the actors’ soul marriage, some lucky concatenation of circumstances to make it happen.
This miracle came true when on March 12th Irina Chistyakova and Farukh Ruzimatov danced the main parts. Well known masters, though being able as well to enrapture as to disappoint, this time they both not only met the challenge of their professional skills but managed to demonstrate a rare in its cohesion seemingly electrified actor duet.
One of the most surprising facts was an unexpected artistic effect when two you would think absolutely incongruous individualities appeared in such a fascinatingly
harmonic duet. Temperamental, expressional Basil Ruzimatov is rather a bullfighter than a barber who is emphatically independent, emphatically elegant in a democratic and colorful Barcelonian crowd. And womanly, gentle Kitri by Chistyakova who doesn’t possess a staring temperament expected from a ballet dancer.
There was no brightly clear-cut character in that miniature Kitri. But her entrance in the first act in the square became the entrance of the heroine. She at once stood out of the crowd with her radiant image and her dance that was so sparkling and fascinatingly virtuosic.
Naturalness and charm are the most valuable that Kitri is characterized with. That is exactly what makes you be impressed. Her dance is full of splendor - in light and yet stinging rhythms of the pas de basque facets, in delicate presentation of small movements and in a crazy speed of the final spinning diagonal in the first act with red flying coats in the background.
Chistyakova approved herself in the role of Kitri already long time before that and this time she appeared on the stage being a self-confident ballet dancer. a smart actress who is clearly aware of her abilities and always successful in her own artistic vision of the role.
It seemed as if we were discovering Ruzimatov for the first time once again. Ruzimatov, a ballet dancer and an actor was believed to be well studied at that moment. His everlasting image of a gloomy Lermontov’s hero had already become habitual as well as his manner to stand apart on the stage keeping his original apartness from both the scenic masses and his own performance partner.
Here we were to see an oppositely different performance. Unexpectedly an artist showed a duet and as it seemed he changed himself completely. We hadn’t seen such natural, such vivid and triumphant Ruzimatov for a long time if not to say ever. His dance was full of foregone splendor and not only familiar overwhelming energy but he managed to bring a new form of live fire to his dance, festal and light-hearted merriment. His Basil does it all at once: he flirts enthusiastically, he feels a bit jealous, while dancing he conquers the stage as if it is a battlefield.
Thin and gracious, in a characteristic variation with castanets, in a delirious dynamics of the rhythm he bends some incredible poses, he is all over en dedans, all over furiously wildest croise. Yet his pantomime from the first act is full of gentle love game. As it turns out though being a proud man but yet a big admirer of pretty women. Yes, he is vain and ambitious, but under the power of women’s charm he goes through the changes to a courteous, attentive and gallant gentleman.
The duet of Chistyakova and Ruzimatov in «Don Quixote» is a truly unconventional, unusual duet. The most important is a romantic attachment, a big mutual feeling of the characters. And at the same time it is shown not in a monochromatic manner but in its dynamics which fascinates a spectacular.
Kitri by Chistyakova fully opens up not in the first act but in the second and in the fourth ones - in the scene of the Dream and the scene of the Wedding. Her Kitri carries on some playful cunning, teasing allure in the course of the whole performance.
But the scene of the Dream is there to discover her unconscious side of the character - a native Spaniard. The feature of her variation in the scene of the Dream is steadiness, gentle trembling and lightness but not just simply a width of her actions.
There is a subtle erotic subtext in her artistic vision of this role. Here she is Amour, the Love herself, a crafty Eros himself. She supports this duet by all those genius interpretations from her side. Their «Don Quixote» is a ballet with secretly suppressed feelings, a ballet with a happy mystery for two. And in each act they dance different shades of this love.
It can vary from the state of virtuosity in the first act, from the scene of a festal excitement in a pub leading to the soul rapture of the final act where their Pas de deux is their small masterpiece and at the same time is a logical final of that love, an apotheosis of this duet.
As in the previous acts, such a fortunately made up game of the opposites creates a unique effect in the final grand pas. Here Chistyakova is a classical Kitri. She arranges everything with steadiness which is royal indeed and can be called truly irresistible.
Her dance is full of surpassed glee. The main message of her final adagio is a concealed triumph during these long stopping poses in impeccable attitudes on toes, this chic which is calm inside
was stunningly emphasized with frantic as a whirlwind spinning and ascents by Ruzimatov. And Ruzimatov keeps surprising us. Though his role of Basil in «Don Quixote» was always his signature dance in that evening we failed to recognize the actor.
First of all he ultimately dropped the facade of a gloomy aloof hero. And as a result of it his individuality, instead of being harmed, was colored with the new shades. Thus, it turned out that the role and the image of a lonely hero wasn’t the only role that he was capable for, it appeared that he could ingenuously keep a dancing dialogue going with all his stormy dancing escalades making a truthful sense in a duet - it gave him a possibility for showing a romantic affection, together with the heroine who was an object of his poetic admiration.
His non-classical «irregular» attitudes and tours in the final act of the adagio sounded like ardent love confessions. And the whole Pas de deux was interpreted as a passionate adoration of the ballerina.
Secondly we take a risk to say that he even showed a better dance. He got rid of a heavy load of unnecessarily forced technical virtuosity which always pressed him to the ground. His dance now obtained a fabulous lightness which had never been so available for him before, his dance could be seen as a precise pattern, relaxedness and freedom.
… Tours being spinned as a vortex seemed to be endless with all those well-thought-out precise pauses as if they were pierced into the stage.
Rapid leaps flying and suspending in the air and then falling to the feet of the ballerina.
Jete en tournant was as a sent boomerang and a big pirouette seemed a violently unwind sling.
And yet there was something from a horseman in his smile who had temperated a restive horse, a careless and exult smile of his.
However, both of them performed that pas with a smile - as if it wasn’t worth their while at all.
The variations by Chistyakova performed on one breath turned into a rapid run which led to the feeling of delight leaving spectaculars impressed with its speed and impeccable precision of toe allegro.
The duet of Chistyakova and Ruzimatov is a union of two independent actors who are clearly aware of their worth. They both are virtuosic duet oriented. And as a rule they excellently compliment each other in a duet though they don’t always arrive at a perfect performance as well as being on the same page each time. We don’t always see such a vivid and immediate response from the partner’s side. That was the reason for a great admiration at that concert caused by a wonderful actors metamorphosis.
Vadim Gaevsky Gamzatti
A tribute to Irina Chistyakova
Strictly speaking, in «La Bayadère» there are two Gamzattis: the Gamzatti by Marius Petipa and the Gamzatti by Vakhtang Chabukiani.
These are two different parts, two dissimilar roles. Petipa made a constant reference to a traditional ballet scheme regarding the plots of Parisian melodramas; a rivalry of a talented plebeian and a splendid aristocrat. «La Esmeralda» is structured according to the mentioned above scheme which meant a lot to Petipa himself. He extended that scheme with one more psychological contrast, though a bit straightforward.
Here can be found a collision of the temperament but not only the one of social masks. There is an antithesis of women’s natures: Nikya has an irrational spirit, the passion itself, Gamzatti is flameless with her imperious character.
And if to follow Nikya’s metaphor and interpret it as a sacral symbol of fire in India then we are to see Petipa’s idea to interpret Gamzatti’s image as fire too but oppositely different: it’s rather a bengal fire not able to burn or harm anyone.
This way or another but quite close to what is said above it was how ballet looked like at the first night back to 1877 but it was a different concept in 1941.
At that time three acts were revived back by Marius Petipa and Vakhtang Chabukiani moved Gamzatti’s pas from the palace (and from the missing act) to the square in a new way which transformed a usual logics of the storyline in the performance.
Generally speaking back to those days old Petipa’s naive logics wasn’t considered to be something of a high importance. Thus it was quite a common idea to rearrange and restructure a classical ballet and as a result it was often practiced. But here it was a real demonstration, what’s more it was a double one. First of all it represented a demonstrative gesture sent to the dramatic ballet. That was exactly the same dramatic ballet which was still unwillingly worshiped by Chabukiani but at the same time it was the one which restrained him from an escape to the fields of freedom where a virtuosic dance could come true. It was felt when he danced himself and when he staged performances.
It goes without saying that from the orthodox point of view that transformation of a wedding duet to the square fest is a nonsense, an absurdity, an insupportable innovation or simply it is just a fudge but Chabukiani managed to complete that duet in such an excellent way and so brilliantly he figured out the very right precise spot for that scene that it led to an opposite perception of that orthodox point of view.
Their flight brought us a double association: short stories by Ernest Hemingway were floating up in one’s mind; and Mukhin sculptural group which was to crown the Soviet Union Pavilion at an international exhibition in 1937 - both elements could be observed in that dance in the pathos of the records so much glorified in the USSR as well as a risk of wild hunting together, such a safari instead of a proper honeymoon at some resort. We shouldn’t forget that Solor is a hunter and a warrior, that what was his character in Chabukiani’s interpretation.
In that way one more hidden meaning of the demonstration was opening up. When a ballet-master was thinking of a new pas he didn’t mean to sympathize too much with talented but miserable plebeians. He wasn’t fond of rhyparography, logical simplicity or plebeian sort of art. His negative attitude to one more genius ballet dancer Aleksey Yermolayev could be explained by the fact that Yermolayev (in his everyday life a man of high intelligence and with a good education) appeared on the stage in the image of a rebelling or mockingly impudent vulgar and at times even a street plebeian. It took its origin from a society oriented leftwing theatre in the early 20s. Chabukiani was far from all those ideas. He came to change the masks, to eliminate that stereotype by bringing a sort of a tradition for the choreography of a leading ballet dancer. What is the name of that kind of a theatre, of that ideal model which he was trying to present in «La Bayadère» in a classical grand pas? Imperial? Aristocratic? Mythopoetic? Legendary?
All of those terms are not quite right as they hardly correspond with the entire image and type of Chabukiani’s hero. At the same time it is definitely clear that it wasn’t the plebeian theatre of the 20s any more, it wasn’t a bourgeois one of the 40s either though some of its elements were taken up in the late 30s. Perhaps that was the reason why once having left the theatre in wartime Chabukiani never came back.
What does it all have to do with Gamzatti? - you will ask. So let’s continue our extended introduction for short while more.
As well as genuine craft can be opposed to the one full of superfluous emotions, the bright Gamzatti’s pas to some extend is opposed to the dance with a snake performed by Nikya. And what could be the explanation how a noble reserved style challenged the one born from tears, entreaties and plaints? There is no doubt that Nikya is a tragic character. It has always been like this but regarding great actresses only. However some of the scenes though directed by Petipa let some hysterical actresses sell fat-faced passions to the audience.
Chabukiani’s Gamzatti is full of true nobility in her grand pas and dancing episodes.
Irina Chistyakova understood it well. In her pas she demonstrates not only a required virtuosity and not only required excellence but delicate and absolute dansant style which can be called a modern Mariinsky neoclassicism in the language of art appreciation.
In the late 80s and the early 90s this style was very modern and for that reason Chistyakova was not attracted by the pathos of the records or any heroic epics. She dances with a flourish without any declarations, she’s full of magnificent dignity, of femininity and her dance is so light but at times it seems as if it is not her own fest and even maybe someone else’s wedding.
The clear dancing manner of Chistyakova hides unspoken drama, a secret wish not to follow her fate, to always be in shape. We thought about it when speaking about Mariinsky neoclassicism. With some of the qualities like the precision of the patterns Chistyakova reminds us of the best ballerinas of Parisian school. And almost each pose by her is a complete silhouette, almost each gesture has its strict position on the stage, nothing loose, atmospheric or unaccomplished can be detected in her dance. If it is a double or triple tour then it is vertical; the horizontal line is fixed for certain when making bounces on arabesque and if it is a leap then its path is perfectly traced in space.
It is not dry pragmatics that stands behind all this geometry, and it is not a Parisian melodiousness that accompanies Chistyakova’s dance. The most important is that her dance is a song of a passionate soul though Chistyakova doesn’t make it really obvious. That is why her irreproachable tours are not only technical tricks, for the same reason her Gamzatti is far from being a bengal fire, though hidden she is a true burning one. Being a Muscovite myself I have no literary right to describe Irina Chistyakova’s artistic portrait any more so I can’t give any detailed appraisement to her creations.
I haven’t seen the biggest works by Irina Chistyakova and only rarely seen her in solo performances. But all those little fragments of my impression were safely kept in my memory: preeminently her dance of the first variation from the «Shadows» scene in «La Bayadère» while being on tour in Moscow, her Gamzatti’s pas from the second act last season in Saint-Petersburg. With the passing of the years such dying out art is gaining more and more of its value.
Irina Chistyakova is one of those ballerinas who doesn’t let this art completely disappear.