by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

ABT is sadly loosing another great star: Irina Dvorovenko.

Here is a dancer who is still so artistically superior to most dancers in every category, in her looks, art and intelligence, that it’s a big disappointment to see her pack her bags. The stars we are used to seeing at ABT are shrinking faster than the polar ice caps. Annashevilli, Carreno, Stiefel, Osipova, to name of few recently, and now Dvorovenko. And while some dancers depart in a natural progression, others seem premature. What gives?

But before making her final boisterous curtain calls, Dvorovenko made a lasting impression not soon to be forgotten. Playing Tatiana, the naive and romantic heroine from Pushkin’s famous and beloved narrative poem, Eugene Onegin, we see her express a deep and astonishing range of emotions, progressing from provincial love struck ingenue, to sophisticated and transformed socialite living in St. Petersburg many years later.

Onegin, brooding, cold, and arrogant, must visit the country to inherit the property of a relative who has died. There he encounters the characters pivotal to his future existence. Lensky and Olga, lovers to be married become his friends, as well as Tatiana, a young beautiful, but bookish girl who sees Onegin’s imperial and remote bearing, and is shaken to her heart’s core with love and desire; she struggles as to whether she should reveal her own true feelings. Being smitten, she dreams of him. In a erotic and passionate pas de deux, Onegin’s image appears in her bedroom mirror, then emerges magically in the flesh to dance with her.

Embracing, both Stearns and Dvorovenko create flames in their wild, open and ecstatic dance with Dvorovenko’s longing fluidity, her graceful, exquisite, and effortless nuance. Stearns, rapier slim, and elegant in black, partners her with delicacy and care, and is unwavering in his lift, carries and caresses. Later, as Tatiana  slowly awakens to reality, she bravely opens herself to complete her love letter to Onegin.

Those in attendance at the Met knew it was a memorable moment…

Irina Dvorovenko

Gemma Bond and Blaine Hoven were perfect as Lensky and Olga. Both danced with ardour and connection– totally believable characters that were both charming and clean in their movements; deeply in love, full of hope and joyful expectation, depicted in their splendid pas de deux in Act 1.

At Tatiana’s name-day party, the guests dance a Czardas, and waltz in celebration. Olga and Lensky join in. Onegin catches Tatiana alone in the gazebo, and as she quietly awaits his response to her love letter, he archly and coldly detached, hands her back the letter, leaving her stunned, and then casually returns to the party unmoved. There he arrogantly grabs Olga and dances wildly with her. Olga too submits to Onegin’s charm and energy and forgets herself while Lensky watches  As his jealousy mounts, Lensky confronts Olga for her behavior, but is rebuffed. Onegin unconcerned, continues to waltz with her deliriously as she submits to his lead.  Afterwards, Lensky’s honor wounded, challenges his friend to a duel at sunrise.

With moaning birches stuck onto a gray, forlorn landscape, the duel tragically ensues.  Friend against friend, wounded lover defending his own fragile honor and that of his lover; pride, jealousy and spite all mixed in.  Onegin senses the futility of such a duel and tries to end it, but Lensky will have nothing of it. In a single shot, Onegin kills Lensky. All collapse in bitterness.

Years later in St Petersburg, Onegin returns a broken man, his whereabouts unknown. He appears at an elegant ball, royal and aristocratic, given by a distant relative, Prince Gremin (Vitali Krauchenka). Onegin dances with many women, all in a psychological, metaphorical dream, and ends at a table alone and disgusted. A woman dressed resplendently in red dances with the Prince. Here, Mr Krauchenka dances a beautiful pas de deux with his new bride, none other that Tatiana, and displays a tenderness and care that is fitting in their exquisite pas de deux; Dvorovenko rare, fine and astonishingly moving; the Tchaikovsky music filling the depth of the moment. When Onegin realizes the woman is Tatiana he understands his mistake from the past, and is compelled to write a love letter to her, and express his true nature.  But it is much too late!  As she reluctantly meets him alone, and he pleads for her on his knees,  she realizes too she still loves him, has never forgotten him, but could never open her heart to him again. In an act of courage and defiance, she takes his letter, rips it to pieces, and hands it back to him.

They say that in Russia there is a statue of Pushkin in every town and city, that he is their most esteemed writer. It is also worth noting that English writer Jane Austen also wrote a book that had similar themes in Pride and Prejudice.  That in love, these themes of pride and prejudice, as in aristocratic Onegin and provincial Tatiana play out constantly in art, literature, opera, drama, and popular culture. Class structure impedes and confuses choices of the heart, and as Pushkin seems to be saying through Tatiana, its not a good idea to block your own true natures.  This evening the dancers surely didn’t, and it was a tremendous gift Dvorovenko and company offered on her send off.  Those in attendance at the Met knew it was a memorable moment, and responded with repeated curtain calls to a stage filled with cast and fellow dancers, and mountains of flowers, and lastly Dvorovenko’s little girl, dressed in what else, red.

Onegin, American Ballet Theatre
Choreography by John Cranko
Based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin
Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
Ballet in Three Acts and Six Scenes

Eugene Onegin…Cory Stearns
Lensky, Onegin’s friend…Blaine Hoven
Tatiana…Irina Dvorovenko
Olga…Gemma Bond
Prince Gremin…Vitali Krauchenka