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 unparalleled 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.
Despite being part of the Grigorovich brand, this version differs from the original in several respects. The primary difference is the orchestration and choreography at several points: the end of the corps section just before the peasant pas de deux in Act I, Myrtha’s arabesque hops (three rather than two each time) and the direction of her steps on stage in Act II.
It’s no secret to those in the know that Maria Alexandrova and Vladislav Lantratov (“Masha” and “Vlad” – as they at times affectionately refer to each other) are two lovebirds 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.
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!
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.
You trained at the Gjel school of ballet, but how did you start dancing?
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.
Evgenia Obratsova, the darling of the ballet world and idolised by many, is not just a film actress but an accomplished ballerina and mother of two. From her experiences inside the halls of the Vaganova Academy, through her years at the Mariinsky, and now, her status as a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi, Obratsova discusses her life, career transitions, and dreams with VaganovaToday.
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 and 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 at the Academy 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.
How did you get involved in dance?
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.
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.
Laurent Hilaire, former étoile with the Paris Opera, and since 1st January this year, the 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 bygone 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.
In early June, Noah Gelber and Stephanie Arndt, both formerly with the Forsythe company, flew to Moscow for a month 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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 secrets 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.
02 June 2017 update: Due to the unexpected and untimely death of Sergey Vikarev, the plans listed below are now subject to change.
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.
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 there, 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. In the Eleventh Waltz, Camilla Matsi injected sudden puffs of speed when moving from position to position.
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.
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 then 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.
5 April 2017
Alexei Miroschnichenko is not new to choreography. With experience settings works in 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.