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.

15 comments:

  1. Beautiful Sharon,and the story is a special added touch.
    Hugs, Amy

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  2. The portrait is as beautiful as your story, Sharon.
    The Kirov Ballet is a very special memory for me, as a child I saw every performance at this theatre, it was magical ( especially because I didn't know about behind the scenes intrigues at the time).

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  3. Very nice strong portrait. I like your choice of colors too. Quite the story!

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  4. Hello Amy! Thank you for your comment. I am a painter, so the painting is my main focus. But I chose these people, for these portraits, and their stories are important to me. I am glad you're enjoying it. - Now, I need to ask - is it Spring yet?

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  5. Elena and Russ, Thank you! OH MY!!! I can only imagine the beauty you saw and the music you heard. Totally magical. (To be a part of the Kirov meant you were the BEST. That many amazing people in one place - there couldn't help but be intrigues and problems behind the scenes. But I have also heard it said that the Kirov dancers all knew they were performing for the best audiences and gratefully once the performance started finding that magic was all that mattered.) Oh My, again!!!

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  6. Hello Stephanie! Thank you for your nice comment. The colors were chosen carefully, they needed to be emotional and strong.

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  7. Hi Sharon
    You have depicted her beautifully..You know she almost looks like some beautiful indian bride shots I found today.. although there is something sad..or melancholy about her.. beautiful..

    thanks for stopping in.. the good news is I like B&W movie classics too.. so I'll just pretend. hehe

    Have fun.. ciao xxx Julie

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  8. Hi Julie, Thank you for your comment. Your sense of what's happening in the portrait is totally aligned with my intentions. It's a portrait of the Ballerina Alla Shelest in costume as Nikiya, La Bayadere (The Temple Dancer). It is one of the most beautiful and saddest ballets of doomed love. The story takes place in India. Even in the happier moments of the story, there is always a sense of sad circumstance.

    Always happy to stop in and see your new posts. Your work is very beautiful and your post are always interesting. Sometimes very poignant - other times really fun, always wonderful.

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  9. Your ballet series is wonderful.. your words adding to the meaning of your portraits. Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a lovely wise comment.

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  10. Donna, Thank you for your sweet comment. It is always a pleasure to see your beautiful work and to read your inspiring posts.

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  11. Celeste, Thank you, again, friend!

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  12. Hi Sharon
    Just popping back to say thanks for the lovely comment.. and just reading your truly lovely response to me here.. so kind!!!

    Glad my sense of intuition is on the ball.. or really just your art speaks your intentions.!!! have a great day.. ciao xxxx Julie

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  13. What a great painting, I love the raptly face expression you created (I don't know how do you say that in English) it's perfect for me.
    As a child I danced in ballet too, and I'm fascinated until today, love specially the elegance, grace and expression.
    Hugs Anja from germany

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  14. Hello Anja! Welcome! Thank you for your sweet comment. I am smiling, thinking about how as a child you also learned just how much effort and hard work it takes to create something as graceful and expressive as Ballet. I understand your continued fascination.

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