Reminiscing about Maya


Maurice Béjart once told her, that if they had met earlier, ballet of XX Century would be completely different (Plisetskaya would perform in Béjart’s ballet, famous Bolero by Ravel when she turned 50). Perhaps, what he meant was his baby, his famous company that carried its name for a very long time, Ballet of the 20th Century (currently, The Béjart Ballet Lausanne). It greatly influenced the growth of contemporary ballet. But maybe, he thought of a bigger picture. Nevertheless, among those, who admired Plisetskaya’s dance, who analyzed it, examined the nature of her art work and art alliance with Béjart that emerged in their matured years, there will be plenty of most loyal fans and credible professional ballet lovers who are confident that without Plisetskaya’s phenomena, ballet of the past century would be impossible to imagine. Violating canons, she claimed for new omens and contemporary style in classical ballet, and she always, since childhood and especially in her matured years, was striving to create auteur theatre, besides she had such a faithful associate, Rodion Shchedrin, her husband and music author of her ballets. Her other distinction was metaphorical sound and freedom as leading motif. Plisetskaya herself was saying that she never wanted to dance just for the sake of it, she needed a story. Over the years – more of a parable. However, any tale she consolidated to a highest level.

Plisetskaya would always treat her anniversaries evenings with a special rigour: programs would consist of the most spectacular fragments from her signature ballets, including exclusively staged numbers and ballets or Russian premiers of international opuses. The most prominent stars of the world ballets had always taken it as an honor to participate in her anniversary celebrations.

Leading artists of Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres will take part in the current Gala Concert. They will be performing fragments from ballets where Maya Plisetskaya shined. As always, guests can wait for surprises. Heroine of the evening will astonish the audience, living in coming to an end second decade of XXI Century. She will be dancing on a big screen, which will serve as magnificent addition to her most beloved stages in the world – stage of Historical building of the Bolshoi Theatre.

"The way she virtually kicks the back of her head at the climax of some voracious jumps is something generations of dancers have been imitating ever since: it’s still widely known as “the Plisetskaya head-kick”. <...>
Her daring! Her speed! Her backbends! (I would send theater artists to these clips just to study how she uses her fan – often funny and never monotonous.) If you want to see a dancer who performs as if her life depended on it, there’s no better example."
Alastair Macaulay, New York Times 

"What Maya Plisetskaya did with Swan Lake is impossible to put into words: she literally recreated this ballet from scratch. <…> At the age of twenty-two she became a ballet legend due to her incredible interpretation. There are plenty of fine, technically accomplished Odiles (black swan), as there are of romantic, ethereal Odettes (white swan). But to be able to create a double portrait – and such a contrasting one at that – only Maya was capable of this! It was a total victory…" 
André-Philippe Hersin, Les saisons de la danse

"Look at any film of her performances in her prime and you will see the kind of dancing you never see anymore. Her body placement is ideal, never askew; yet energy and dynamism burst out of this vessel. Watch her famous leaps – foot to the back of the head – as Zarema, the harem favorite in The Fountain of Bakhchiserai. Or watch her come charging down in a diagonal of turns or toe-stabbing steps as an exceptionally fiery Kitri in Don Quixote. Anyone who saw her live as Odette in Swan Lake, with the noble Nikolai Fadeyechev as her Siegfried, lived through an eloquent poem. Even here, where technique was not at issue, she offered a performance that is beyond the ken of any younger dancer today in any country, including the Soviet Union. This is dancing that came from the depths of a well-rehearsed soul. To speak of Maya Plisetskaya's dancing was to speak of power and passion."
Anna Kisselgoff, New York Times

"But Maya – she reminded one of Spain, of Cervantes, of course, but also of Lorca, about all those who fought for freedom. Her Kitri was unforgettable. Pretty (of course!), eye-catching, moving, her Kitri anticipates her Carmen… she does not lure… she bewitches, she cleverly manipulates  her sweet barber, and this young, randy sensual lover helps her to make a fool both of her father, and  of the rich nobleman Gamache, who is her father’s choice of husband. Don Quixote will defend her, he is in love, of course, but always defenseless in the face of her indomitable indestructible will-power and desire. And another thing, as Kitri Maya’s perfect technique helps her to avoid  the affected grimacing  typical of this role; her incredible elevation  takes one’s breath away; and for the first time (and perhaps the only time) time her virtuosity adds to her heroine’s authenticity. After her all the subsequent Kitris would try to free the role of affectation…"
André-Philippe Hersin, Les saisons de la danse

"As for me, I believe I have seen and I have managed the greatest ballerinas in the world – Karsavina, Egorova, Kchessinska, Preobrajenska, Pavlova and all the great dancers – and people are always asking me: Can you compare Plisetskaya to Anna Pavlova, to this dancer, to that dancer? I’ve never liked comparisons. There is no true comparison. Every great dancer is absolutely individual.  But Maya Plisetskaya is the only one I could compare to Anna Pavlova. Like Pavlova, when she appears on the stage or anywhere in public, she electrifies the audience."
Sol Hurok, Dance Magazine

"The symbol of her art was her unique leap. Its pattern and rhythm, its metaphorical motifs in various stage situations differed. ‘Amputated’ space, returned for a split second. The obstacle of indifference which the soul desperately attempts to overcome. Unachievable height which the artist-dancer brings within reach. This goal to beat all goals leap can be explained, perhaps, a la Pasternak “Over the barriers”. Plisetskaya’s leap is a brilliant hyperbole of creative willpower. In it is the thirst to exist, make it, to fulfill oneself in the face of disparaging arguments and forces.  In this defiant leap into space Plisetskaya has left us her ‘signature tune’. She presented us right away with a condensed formula of her road in life and her aspirations."
Vadim Gayevsky, from his foreword to the photo album Ave Maya