27 April 2011

Alla Shelest: Nikiya, La Bayadere

copyright (c) 2010, Sharon Edmunds
Alla Shelest: Nikiya, La Bayadere, Acrylic on Canvas Panel, 24" x 18"

Alla Shelest was considered to be one of the most lyrically perfect, dramatically mesmerizing, and technically correct ballerinas of the Kirov Ballet. She was adored in the Soviet Union. Hardly known in the West. Sad timing. She was born in 1919, and graduated from the Leningrad Choreographic School in 1937. She became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet directly upon graduation. At that time, life for anyone in Leningrad was beyond difficult. She would be a Kirov star during the seige of Leningrad. She danced during the war years and later was included in one foreign tour with the Kirov, to London, in 1953. The Kirov's Artistic Director at this time was Konstantin Sergeyev. His wife was Natalia Dudinskaya, the Kirov's Prima Ballerina. Alla Shelest would not receive the attention her talent deserved. She would rarely be assigned Opening Night performances. And yet, when people heard that she would be scheduled to perform, lines would immediately form for tickets.

Rudolf Nureyev would graduate from the Leningrad Choreographic School in 1958 and immediately become a soloist with the Kirov Ballet. Alla Shelest was his favorite ballerina. He would not miss seeing one of her performances. He adored the lyricalness of her dancing and her gift to truly inhabit the roles she would perform. He would partner her in performances of 'Laurentia'. They would also dance 'Giselle' together. He didn't dance 'La Bayadere' with her at the Kirov. She would not be included in the 1961 Kirov Tour to Paris and London. He would make his Paris debut dancing a solo as Solor from 'La Bayadere'. The Paris audience went crazy. He was called 'The New Nijinsky'. He would not be on the plane to London. He would seek asylum in Paris. Throughout his career in the West, he would choreograph and dance 'The Kingdom of the Shades' act from 'La Bayadere' many times. He would rely on his memory of performances seen and performances danced from his time at the Kirov to reconstruct the Petipa choreography. The lyrical beauty of his choreography for Nikiya bears a resemblance to Alla Shelest's style. He would need to wait until 1992 to finally choreograph and produce his complete three act 'La Bayadere' for the Paris Opera Ballet.

18 April 2011

Nijinsky: the Golden Slave

copyright (c) 2010, Sharon Edmunds
Nijinksy: The Golden Slave, Acrylic/MM on Canvas, 20" x 16"

Vaslav Nijinsky: in costume as the Golden Slave, from the ballet 'Scheherazade'. He performed this Classical Ballet, choreographed by Fokine, with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1911. Parisians called him "The God of Dance". The West had never seen a dancer like him. This was at a time when Ballet was all about the Ballerina.

Nijinsky was born in Kiev, in 1889. His parents were both dancers from Poland, of Tatar decent. His father left the family when Nijinsky was eight years old. When he was nine, his mother moved to Saint-Petersburg and he started to study at the famous Imperial Theatrical School. He was a shy, introverted child, considered strange looking and exotic by both classmates and teachers. Academically, he was not a good student. He was taunted and called names. However, it was soon understood that he was an incredibly gifted dancer. His performances as a student were reviewed by the press. He graduated from school at the age of eighteen and immediately became a dancer with the Imperial Ballet - later named the Kirov Ballet and today, renamed the Mariinsky Ballet. The Prima Ballerina of the Imperial Ballet, Mathilda Kschessinska, knew that he was not only a great dancer, but also an amazing actor and would request Nijinsky as her partner. At the age of twenty, he met Diaghilev. The rest is history.

A history of celebratory highs and overwhelming lows. As a dancer, Nijinsky is a legend. As a choreographer, he was not well received in his lifetime. He was a visionary. Now it is understood that his work led the way towards the beginnings of Modern Dance. By the age of 29, his career was over. He would leave a diary of four notebooks, written by him in the six weeks prior to his being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. It would take many years for this diary to be published* in it's original form, including all four notebooks. It is his last heartbreaking statement to the world.


(*The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky (Unexpurgated Edition) Translated From The Russian by Kyril Fitzlyon, Edited By Joan Acocella, First Published in the United States (c) 1999 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.)

12 April 2011

The Wisdom of Jupiter's Goat

copyright (c) 2011 Sharon Edmunds
The Wisdom of Jupiter's Goat, Photo Image

Torn Between Dionysus & Apollo. One is Both. One Can Not be Both. But One Is.
Mysteries to Unravel From a Mystical Source. Who Speaks This Language? Discrete Discourse?
I have A Friend. At the Water's Edge. The Oracle. Jupiter's Goat.

03 April 2011

Death of The Temple Dancer

copyright (c) 2011 Sharon Edmunds
Death of The Temple Dancer, Acrylic on Arches, 30" x 22"

This painting was inspired by the ballet 'La Bayadere'. I am currently working on a large series of paintings and photographs titled: Nureyev's World. This is a piece from this series. The Russian Icon Trilogy is also from this series. Miles to go.