Bringing you the best of Russian ballet news.
Bringing you the best of Russian ballet news.
Just four years ago, I first interviewed Nadezhda Batoeva for Dance Europe magazine. At the time, she was a promising young new addition to the Mariinsky Theatre, just five years into her employment with the troupe, who explained the challenges in entering and training at the Vaganova Academy.
Coming from a family of mechanical engineers, Batoeva's background was far from the world of ballet and at first, it wasn't easy. "Only in the last 3 years [of study at the Academy] was I given a more favoured position in class and allowed to stand in the centre of the barre (an honoured position for the best students)," she said in that interview.
And yet, now a first soloist with the troupe, just one rank away from principal dancer, one would never have guessed that the young ballerina had had earlier struggles. On 21 March she debuted as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, the acid test in Russia for any classical ballerina. In the reliable hands of Xander Parish as her Prince Siegfried, Batoeva made her mark with a fresh interpretation of this traditional role.
Though hailing from France, Marius Petipa, who would have turned 200 years old on March 11, made a name for himself in Saint Petersburg, at the then "Bolshoi Kamenniy", now Mariinsky Theatre, where he served as balletmaster for 34 years and where the bulk of his ballets premiered. In his "Year of Petipa", the house that the great choreographer called home replaced their annual international ballet festival with a hybrid version focusing on Petipa ballets. Rampant with Sleeping Beauties at the start, the festival moved on to include guest artists from Moscow and New York, and even a debut in Swan Lake.
In touching base with Makhar Vasiev of the Bolshoi Ballet last week, the discussion turned to the topic of stage space, in particular, the lack of it on the Bolshoi's two theatres. As many know, the new stage was built for use during the reconstruction of the historical stage. But as Vasiev points out, they're not the same size. "The main stage has 1680 seats. The new one, about 830." These are low numbers indeed when compared to the world's leading theatres. "In Paris, the Opera Garnier holds 1800 people and the Bastille has 2700 seats. So on a given day, they are selling 4500 tickets," Vasiev explained. "The Mariinsky is similar, the historical stage holds 1600 people, the new Mariinsky stage has 2000 seats, and the concert hall about 1100. The Mariinsky conglomerate is therefore selling approximately 4700 tickets per night." The same is not true for the Bolshoi. The low volume of ticket sales are due to the lack of performance venues in Moscow, ironically the country's capital and where one would expect to encounter more options, not fewer. "We need a third stage, and it should be the same size as our historical theatre," Vasiev says.
Is the Bolshoi III on its way? One can hope...
You were born in Perm and began to dance there?
Yes, both of my parents danced in the Perm Theatre, and I studied there as well for 5 years. But my parents were invited to join the Stanislavsky Ballet troupe in Moscow. So we moved, and I transferred to the Moscow Academy of Choreography, where I studied for 4 years.
Was there a noticeable difference? Perm is known to uphold the strictly Vaganova traditions.
In fact I was advised to repeat one year when I came to Moscow because the two programs differed. A lot of things that I should have known in the 5th year I didn't, so they asked me to work an extra year. As a result I studied a total of 9 years, not 8.
Was the technique itself different -- more free, less strict?
They're considered different schools, although it's one school in the sense that it is the Russian classical method of ballet training. I would say that technique is the same everywhere, but the approach to jumps is different, there's more attention paid to them here in Moscow. You could say I learned to jump again when I came from Perm, and that was very beneficial.
For a viewer exposed regularly to Moscow's ballet offerings, the flash and speed of Grigorovich's unique works at the Bolshoi fill a certain niche that accents the largesse of this capital city. But travelling to Russia's northern capital, the more restrained, aristocratic atmosphere in the formerly Imperial city of Saint Petersburg has an undeniable attraction that remains nparalleled worldwide. On the eve of the VI Saint Petersburg Cultural Forum, the Mariinsky Theatre was gearing up for distinguished performers (piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev on 16 November) and guests (President Putin at the opening ceremony). But a routine schedule continued to fill the Mariinsky Theatre that week, with Swan Lake running just two nights before the Forum began.
As is the case with almost all classical ballets in the Bolshoi repertoire, Giselle too is presented in the version created by Yuri Grigorovich rather than the more traditional version of the troupe's northern cousin, the Mariinsky. On 11 November, Olga Smirnova danced the leading role at the Bolshoi for the second time this year alongside the elegant Simeon Chudin, and Alena Kovalyova debuted as Myrtha.
The upper stage of the Bolshoi Theatre: a small auditorium located under the building's roof, complete with a small orchestra pit and audience seating that mimics the actual stage where performances are held. It is a hallowed yet impressive space, and today it's empty except for a small team of six people: Alyona Kovalyova, her partner Yakopo Tissi, two coaches, a pianist, the conductor...and me. It is just five days before Kovalyova and Tissi's debut in Swan Lake. As the dancers rehearse, their coaches, former Bolshoi soloist Alexander Vetrov and former Kirov ballerina Olga Chenchikova, lead the rehearsals to the sounds of a single piano onstage. The conductor for the premiere, Aleksey Vogorad, sits to mark notes about the score and inquires frequently about the tempo while the rehearsal goes on.
What is your background?
I was born in Detroit, Michigan. My mom was born in Latvia, but moved to Moscow at age 10. She was an opera singer but always loved ballet and wanted to be a ballerina but it didn't work out. Her mother also was a singer and also loved ballet ...but it also didn't work out. My dad is the American side, he's more into politics.
It was my mom's idea to start me in ballet because when I was young she saw that I had some physique, talent and potential. When I was 4 years old, she took me once per week to ballet class. By age 6 I attended a studio with a Russian ballet teacher and studied with her from age 6 to age 12.
Alyona Kovalyova, who graduated from the Vaganova Academy in 2016, is now beginning her second season at the Bolshoi. With already several premieres under her belt, this Saturday, 16 September, she will debut as Odette-Odile in Yuri Grigorovich's version of Swan Lake on the Bolshoi main stage.
We wish Ms. Kovalyova every success in her upcoming debut, and will report back on the results!
I began at age 5 with artistic gymnastics, and at age 6 I began to study ballet in children's groups. I was accepted at the attended Riga Choreographic School at age 11 immediately after auditioning. In fact, I was a year too young, and they wanted me to attend a year later but i'm lucky they took me in right away. My pedagogue throughout the 8 years of schooling was Rita Harlapa- Markova, I graduated under her. I was very lucky in that respect, because usually pedagogues change for the students throughout their studies, but she didn't give me away to anyone....she fought for me.
What was the atmosphere like at the school? It was interesting at the school because you go from a childhood period to a more adult one very quickly, and at age 12 you have classes from Monday through Saturday usually until 8 p.m. We couldn't wear nail polish or makeup, we had a uniform of specific leotards so that everyone looked the same, and we worked very hard. It was difficult. Our pedagogue was strict we had good-natured competition in our class, but that atmosphere actually united us together.
My parents both danced at the Maly - Mussorgsky Ballet Theatre (now the Mikhailovsky) in Saint Petersburg. My mother graduated from the Vaganova Academy in the class of perfection under Natalia Dudinskaya and my father graduated under Anatoly Nisnevich. They decided I should start ballet, sent me to the Vaganova Academy, and I was accepted, so at first it was their initiative.
When did your own desire to dance appear?
During my second year the desire to dance arose, I set some goals for myself and decided to forge ahead.
My first grades had not been great because I didn't have the desire to be there, but after I understood what my profession involved and what it was all for, then I had my first successes and accomplishments, further progressed and became a hard worker.
In early June, Noah Gelber and Stephanie Arndt, both formerly with the Forsythe company, flew to Moscow to begin to set Second Detail, the first Forsythe work that the Stanislavsky troupe will perform. The premiere will be part of a mixed bill that takes place on 6, 7 and 8 July, along with Serge Lifar's Suite en Blanc and Jiri Kilyan's Petit Mort.
Here's a look inside Second Detail:
The 275th Vaganova Academy Graduating class delivered its only performance at the Kremlin Theatre on 21 June after first displaying its talents in Saint Petersburg on the Mariinsky stage. Despite the fact that the performance presents, for all intents and purposes, students who are on the literal verge of becoming professionals, Muscovites nonetheless managed to pack the huge Kremlin hall to the brim in order to get a glimpse of what Russia's newest generation of graduates have to offer.
Everything was new for me: a new system, a new culture, new values. Although there are general human values that are shared as well, there were a lot of revelations for me. As interesting as it was for me in Italy, when working in the Bolshoi or Mariinsky Theatre you always know that it is a large empire, and there's some sort of guarantee -- that's the presence of the Vaganova Academy for the Mariinsky and the Moscow Choreographic School for the Bolshoi, and that's a huge strength. La Scala also has their own school but it’s not what we have here.
After all, our school, our training system is distinguished by the fact that there is practically no place else in the world where students are taught and graduate on the basis of classical dance through means of a complex system of classes: character dance, historical, duet, ballet and others.
The Stone Flower, a decidedly Russian ballet based on the Ural fairtytale by Pavel Bazhov, first appeared in 1957 and is said to have started Yuri Grigorovich on his career as a young choreographer. The work focuses on the story of a young stone carver, Danila, who will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets of his art form, venturing to the underground lair of the Mistress of the Copper Mountain in order to reveal the magic of the stones, and in so doing, leaving his earthly beloved, Katerina, behind.
While far from Prokofiev's best work -- the great composer seems to trudge through the score at numerous points, lending a heaviness that one does not sense, for example, in his Cinderella -- Stone Flower, nonetheless currently runs on at least three of Russia's major stages: the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, and Stanislavsky Theatres, all of whom perform Grigorovich's version.
Alexei Miroschnichenko isn't new to choreography. With experience settings works in cities such as New York, Belgium, Saint Petersburg, and beyond, it was his early exposure to creating that led to his appointment as balletmaster of the Perm State Ballet troupe in 2009. In a collaborative effort as part of this year's XVII International Ballet Festival Mariinsky, he presented his version of Swan Lake based on a libretto by Vladimir Begichev. This version eschews the politically correct happy ending of the Mariinsky's current Soviet version, and instead presents a new slant on the traditional double-suicide finale. A somber, but more realistic closure to the classical work.
Bedecked in rich velvet and brocades in maroon and grey tones, almost Venetian in style, the members of the court immediately created an atmosphere of old world wealth in the first scene. Instead of shifting to a purely contemporary rendition of the ballet, the choreography here relies mostly on Petipa. with the formations altered. READ MORE ...
One's first foray to the historic Bolshoi Theatre, especially in its still post-renovation splendor, is an event indeed, and what programme could more symbolically mark the occasion inside precious piece of history than Balanchine's Jewels, a triptych that highlights the different moods and tones of three gemstones with a separate act devoted to each.
On 29 March, Evgenia Obratsova reprised the leading role in Emeralds alongside the ever-smooth Dmitry Gudanov to the Bolshoi orchestra's steady rendition of Fauré's haunting score. With her compact statures and one of the most flexible pairs of arches in the company, Obratsova's physique is a pleasure to watch, but it is her emotional delivery that captivates most. Now the mother of two, Obratsova injected lush movements with moments of rapture in the pas de deux,
Upon its creation in 1935, The Bright Stream, a ballet co-written by Fyodor Lopukhov and Adrian Piostrovsky to a score by Shostakovich, had difficulties. That comic expression in mime form does not always translate well in lengthy doses was only part of the problem. Fitting music and choreography to the state-sanctioned dictate of socialist realism resulted in an awkward combination. An early review in Pravda critiqued the art form of ballet as one built on dolls rather than people, and this ballet in particular as "a game with dolls" in which the depiction of collective farm workers was too character-esque to be believable or truthful. It was, in short, a "nonsense ballet."
On Saturday, 18 February, nearly 5000 people filed into the great hall of the Kremlin Theatre in order to attend the gala concert in honor of Andris Liepa's 55th anniversary. Film clips of Liepa's early years greeted the audience pre-curtain -- the "Ballet Russes" curtain -- referring to the Diaghilev works that Liepa has helped restore over the past few decades in various international theatres.
AUDITIONS FOR THE MARIINSKY THEATRE in VLADIVOSTOCK
The Mariinsky Theatre in Vladivostock is holding auditions on 30 May 2017 at 15:00 in Saint Petersburg for its Vladivostock troupe. Men and women from age 18 to 28 are invited. Men minimum height of 175 cm is required.To participate in the audition, send a resume, photo (full height in dancewear) and links to performances to: email@example.com
Yuri Grigorovich has become more than just an icon in the Moscow ballet scene. He's a living legend who commands respect from the entire world of ballet for his long choreographic and artistic career. His venerable productions include undeniable masterpieces that have not only remained in the repertoire of the Bolshoi Theatre for decades, but been adopted worldwide and even used as sources of inspiration for other creators as well. Two of his first works, The Stone Flower and Legend of Love, are still routinely danced at the Mariinsky Theatre, while the latter also performed at the Stanislavsky.
On 8 April 2018, his production of Spartacus reached its 50th birthday, and the Bolshoi Theatre honoured the event with a video presentation, an all-star group of dancers, and members from the original cast as invited guests. Mikhail Lavrovsky, Ludmila Semenyaka, Mark Peretokhin, Boris Akimov and others sat in orchestra seats and were acknowledged by spotlight with words of respect from Vladimir Urin, General Director of the Bolshoi Theatre. Grigorovich himself, sitting in the Director's box, stood to receive a bouquet of roses from the performers and a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the evening.
The inclusion of guest stars, such as those from the Bolshoi, was no doubt done to underscore the historical weight of the Mariinsky Theatre's Petipa festival this March. Another such star was Marcelo Gomes who performed with American Ballet Theatre for 20 years, and who has previously participated in the Mariinsky's annual ballet festival both as a dancer and a choreographer. Gomes, a veteran principal dancer who hails from Brazil and is perhaps best known for being Diana Vishneva's constant partner during her ABT contract, is also a blossoming choreographer in his own right (he just set a new work with the Washington Ballet). But on stage he's known for his solid technique and strong acting skills, traits he brought to Saint Petersburg for this landmark appearance.
It's no secret to those in the know that Maria Alexandrova and Vladislav Lantratov are two lovebirds ("Vlad" and "Masha") whose deep connection is visible both onstage and off. VaganovaToday sat down with the power couple to talk about their personal and professional lives, their insights about ballet, and their dreams for the future.
How did each of you get started in ballet?
Vladislav: My parents worked at the Stanislavsky, mom was a leading character dancer, my father was a leading premiere danseur and my brother attended the Moscow Choreographic Academy and joined the Bolshoi. I did the same. As I recall there was no discussion if I want to start ballet or not, I loved spending time at home in the courtyard with other boys my age, but later when I started to perform, it drew me in and even now it still does.
Masha: I have the opposite story, no one in my family was connected with the theater, either dramatic or musical, no one was connected with theatrical arts. I made my decision consciously at age 8, I specifically chose ballet...
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It was absolutely my mother's desire, because I don't know a young man who would want to start dancing on his own. There is one such man, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, he is the only who wanted to start ballet on his own. But all the rest of my friends were sent to start ballet by their parents. For me at the very start the profession I didn't really like it or enjoy studying, but at one point it started to draw me in and I began to look at it in another way.
I had several pedagogues there at Gjel, first a female because it's usually done that way, the main fundamentals are taught by females and then there is a transition to men's work where a male teacher must understand the details of technique and how to do a specific movement correctly. Then my last two teachers were men. I graduated under Alexei Alexandrovich Evdokim, who had been a soloist at the Bolshoi.
The Bolshoi Theatre held a press briefing today in order to clarify the postponement of the much-awaited premiere of Nureyev, a ballet choreographed by Yuri Possokhov with a libretto by Kirill Serebrennikov, and originally slated to premiere tomorrow, 11 July.
Vladimir Urin, General Director of the Theatre, spoke uninterrupted for approximately 20 minutes, explaining that the production had not been cancelled or removed but delayed until May 2018 due to its large-scale requirements. The production includes elements of spoken text (both English and Russian), a chorus, numerous set changes, as well as dance.
Urin underscored that none of the original choreography or components of the libretto would be changed between now and May, and that the production simply required more time to perfect and polish. Those who purchased tickets from the Bolshoi box office will be given full refunds.
"Tonight, your efforts allowed me to forget I 'm an artistic director and simply enjoy the dance," such were the comments from Laurent Hilaire during the reception following the Stanislavsky Ballet's long-awaited triple bill that premiered on 7 July 2017. Hilaire's words underscored the troupe's high level of artistic achievement during the challenging evening that included works by Serge Lifar, Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe, the first and last of which premiered for the first time in Russia.
Hilaire, brought to the company at the start of this calendar year, has already made sweeping changes in the troupe by importing new choreographers and adding a significant number of works to the repertoire. Maintaining strict adherence to the dancers' rights to days off (a policy blatantly ignored at the Mariinsky for decades), his respect for the art form, and in-depth, creative, yet humble approach is pushing the Stanislavsky forward to compete against its neighbour the Bolshoi. In fact, the morning after this premiere, the long-awaited Bolshoi production by Yuri Possokhov, Nureyev, was put on hold indefinitely, it's premiere previously slated for 11 July now cancelled until an undetermined date. Perhaps simple coincidence in timing, but a juxtaposition that nonetheless highlights the growing strengths of this "smaller" Russian troupe now under Hilaire's direction.
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Laurent Hilaire, former étoile with the Paris Opera and, since 1st January this year, artistic director at the Stanislavsky Ballet in Moscow, has spent a lifetime with leading figures in the world of ballet. Promoted to étoile under Nureyev, and having worked alongside Brigitte Lefevre in the Paris Opera Ballet administration, his experience spans both stage time and management roles. Hilaire's elegant manner recalls a French nobleman of a past era: tall and graceful, he emits a quiet yet magnetic energy that is uniquely endearing. We sat down to discuss his career and his new role in one of Russia's leading ballet theatres.
On 25 May the Bolshoi Theatre held a press conference announcing its plans for the upcoming 2017-2018 season which will be its 242nd season.
The plans include:
- the revival of Sergey Vikarev's Coppelia (12 December 2017)
- the premiere of John Neuemeier's 2017 production of Anna Karenina (March 2018)
- the premiere of Jiri Kilyan's Forgotten Land
- the addition of Alexei Ratmansky's version of Romeo and Juliet and his version of Flames of Paris
-an evening dedicated to Marius Petipa with a three-act evening with works by Ratmansky, Burlaka, and Vikarev (summer 2018).
There will also be two gala concerts featuring international guest stars dedicated to Petipa in the spring.
The Nemirovich -Danchenko Stanislavsky Theatre, first founded in 1919 as a musical studio under the Moscow Artists Theatre, quietly assumes second place in Russia's capital, often overshadowed by the larger fame of the neighboring Bolshoi. But boasting hidden stores of talent within, this smaller gem in the crown of Moscow's ballet scene is nonetheless a high level troupe worthy of accolades.
With a handful of top-notch ballerinas and an impressive repertoire, the Stanislavsky has much to offer. Currently headed by Laurent Hilaire, formerly of the Paris Opera Ballet and who plans to add both classical and contemporary works to the repertoire, the troupe's future, at least short-term, seems bright indeed.
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Just as in June every year the Vaganova Academy students appear in 3 graduation performances on the Mariinsky Theatre stage, so too the Moscow State Choreographic Academy, in some ways Moscow's equivalent to the Vaganova Academy, holds performances for its graduates on the Bolshoi stage every spring. On 17 May the first of this year's performances took place, featuring a three act programme that covered everything from classical to new works.
Act I began with a Moscovian version of Chopiniana, slightly altering from the classical purity in choreography shown at the Mariinsky. A faster tempo throughout replaced the usual legato flavour of the piece. Here a swivel step is changed to a clear faillé tombé, and the standard first position port de bras shifted to a folded elbow with the hand near the ear. The heads of the corps de ballet sylphs alter positioning based on the breath of their arms (at points where the Mariinsky version does not shift the head position). Port de bras during the tour jeté pose during the Waltz in G Flat major were shifted to an allongé position rather than first position overhead, done at the Mariinsky.
Graduate Ekaterina Fateyeva danced a swift Prelude but maintained the lyrical feel of the section.
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A little known awards ceremony, the "Spirit of the Dance" awards, was held at the Stanislavsky Nemirovich - Danchenko Theatre in Moscow on 27 April to honour the winners from 2016 in categories ranging from rising stars to talented pedagogues and even informative ballet critics.
The evening, structured in a format that combined award ceremony with gala concert, interspersed the presentation of awards with short numbers acknowledging each winner. Though running nearly 4 hours, specific dancing highlights punctuated the evening that covered a range of styles from folk to classical ballet.
The first artist to make his mark during the evening, Yuri Kudryavtsev, performed the pas de deux from La Sylphide alongside Ekaterina Bulgutova. Both leading soloists form the Kranoyarsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Kudryavtsev is a tall young man with clean beats and light ballon with a promising future ahead of him.
The programme notes for the premiere of Paquita at the Mariinsky emphasize the fact that the ballet is not a revival of the mid-19th century ballet by Petipa, but a new creation based heavily on Cervantes' novella, The Little Gypsy Girl. That much is evident from the libretto, set around the idea of a royal baby stolen and raised by gypsies who falls in love with a high-ranking officer and ultimately finds her real parents. This new version differs widely from the original libretto from 1846.
That 1846 ballet also depicts Paquita living with gypsies, but focuses on a visiting French General who wants his son, Lucien, to marry the Spanish governor's sister (at the time, Napoleon had just occupied Spain, highlighting political ties between the two countries). Lucien falls in love with Paquita instead.
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NEWS AND RUMORS
- Premiere of Balanchine's Serenade for the first time at the Stanislavsky as part of a mixed bill including Paul Taylor's Aureole, Jacques Garnier's Aunis and Alexandr Ekman's Tulle.
- The famed Phantasmal Ball by Dmitry Briantsev
- 3 festivals (Danza Contemporanea de Cuba- September; Dresden-Frankfurt Dance Company - November; Context - November)
- Young Choreographer's Workshop
- 23 and 24 April 2018, an evening dedicated to the 200th Anniversary of Marius Petipa with a three-part programme including the participation of students from the Paris Opera Ballet School, the Perm School, and the Stanislavsky troupe.
Bolshoi 2017-2018 Season Premieres:
- Alexeï Ratmansky will recreate Le Corsaire, Romeo and Juliet, and the Flames of Paris
- Coppélia will also return to the Bolshoi.
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