Choreographer Karina Sarkissova of Moscow is just twenty three years old and is the youngest of the choreographers presenting work at Choreo.lab 06 by nine years. She started life quickly, engaged at the Vienna State Opera, already in 2000 after the Bolshoi Ballet School and has been a first soloist since 2004.
A very poised young woman, usually glamorously dressed she approaches choreography in the same structured way as she approaches life. In Choreo.lab 04 she presented her first choreography Libertango which was a very stark and direct tango performance. Very well danced, there wasn’t much to it choreographically.
This year Ms. Sarkissova presented Sisters, a more ambitious piece on the music of Antonio Vivaldi. Due to an injury to Elisabeth Golibina, Sisters was only danced on Saturday night.
The other two dancers were Dagmar Kronberger and Nina Poláková.
The choreography was traditional neoclassical dancing albeit with some interesting partnering between the women.
But Sisters didn’t work for a number of reasons. The passage of Vivaldi chosen was something worn out and brought nothing new to the party. The three dancers were all wearing wigs with long black hair to make them all look alike. Unfortunately they looked more like they were in silly wigs than they looked alike. The costumes included long white skirts which draped badly (each skirt had to yield a little piece of cloth to use as a flag in the hands later on). Worse, the dancers wore transparent flesh colored tops.
They were supposed to look natural and naked to the waist. The program shows a photograph of the three dancers from the back naked to the waist. That’s how they should have been on stage. Flesh colored jerseys look anything but natural. They look fake and artificial.
Better to put them into some kind of skimpy draped top or string bikini than flesh coloured jerseys.
I spoke with the choreographer about the costumes after the performance. She readily agreed that her goal had been to have three dancers perform naked to the waist. She had found there were few or no takers among the Staatsoper dancers. In modern dance circles, Ms. Sarkissova would not have had these troubles. To be honest, none of the dancers had much to hide so I really don’t see the issue. Episodes like this make the ballet world look hopelessly out of date. In fairness, many dancers won’t go without clothes unless it’s a paid gig – which Choreo.lab is not (except that they are already employed at the Staatsoper and Volksoper).
In any case, in their silly wigs and their flesh colored jerseys and badly draped skirts, the three sisters looked like anything but children of nature. They looked more like petite drag queens if anything. The artifice was overwhelming and disappointing. Either Ms. Sarkissova has to succeed in her intentions or alter them.
Best would have been three dancers with similar hair and build. Good would have been high quality convincing wigs. Alternative tops or no tops.
For that matter, Ms. Sarkissova could have put each of them in the fantastic black dress she was wearing herself on opening night, left their hair alone and it would have been far more convincing aesthetically.
As this was only Karina Sarkissova’s second outing as a choreographer, I have no doubt that Sisters was an eye opener for her in terms of the distance between intentions and result and she will be more far sighted in the future.