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Contemporary Russian Ballet
November 20, 2007 19:25

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the following economical crisis brought about real hardships to ballet companies, which used to be generously financed from the state budget before that. Lots of dancers and ballet masters chose to leave the country to settle in the USA, England, Germany, and other western countries.

The Russian ballet missed a few generations of evolution in European choreography and lacked fresh dance ideas. At the same time the masterly performance level of the Russian ballet school was kept up well.

After 1991 domestic ballet resorted to assimilating the experience of the Western ballet in the field of modern, jazz, and free dance. The State Academic Bolshoi Theatre staged quite a number of ballets by Western choreographers, among them Balanchine’s Symphony do major, Agon, and Mozartiana (1998–1999), Noymeier’s Midsummer Night Dream (2004), and others. Mariinsky Theatre also turned to Balanchine’s ballets. The company was awarded with the Golden Mask prize for its stage production of Sergei Prokofiev’s Prodigal Son in 2003. The same year the theatre showed the three famous avant-garde ballets by William Forsythe: Steptext set to music by Bach, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude to Schubert, and Approximate Sonata set to music by Dutch composer Thom Willems.


      Reconstructions of old classical ballets gained new popularity: Sleeping Beauty (Tchaikovsky), La Bayadere (Minkus) in the Bolshoi Theatre in 1991, The Swan Lake in the Mariinsky Theatre, A.M. Liepa’s experiments in reconstructing ballets by Mikhail Fokin (Petrushka, Polovets Dances, Shekherezada) in 1999. Russian and Soviet classics were not merely restaged but subjected to modern interpretations (Don Quixote edited by Alexei Fadeyechev, 1999, Shostakovitch’s The Bolt and The Limpid Brook edited by Alexei Ratmansky in 2003 and 2005 respectively - in the Bolshoi Theatre, K.A.Simonov’s The Nutcracker directed and designed by Mikhail Shemyakin in 2002 in the Mariinsky Theatre, Romeo and Juliet in Panfilov’s Ballet in Perm, etc.)

Lots of Russian dancers and choreographers made international carriers. Vladimir Malakhov, a graduate of the Moscow Choreography Academy was acknowledged the world’s best ballet dancer. Engaged as a dancer in several foreign ballet companies at a time, he has worked as the director of the Staatsteater Unter den Linden (Berlin) since 2002, also expressing his talent as a choreographer.


      One of the leading choreographers of Russia today is Alexei Ratmansky (born in 1968), who, when a dancer of The Royal Danish Ballet was “discovered” by the Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili. His ballets created specially for her, such as The Charms of Mannerism to music by Richard Strauss (Postmodern-Theatre, 1997) and Dreams about Japan were awarded with the Golden Mask. Presently living in Denmark, Alexei Ratmasky at the same time works as the art-director of the ballet company of Bolshoi Theatre (The Limpid Brook). He has staged The Cinderella in Mariinsky Theatre, and L. Bernstein’s ballet Lea (Golden Mask 2003) in Fadeyechev Dance Theatre.

Independent private dance companies of various schools and styles have sprung up in Russia: Dance Theatre under the guidance of Alexei Fadeyechev (aka Ratmansky Ballet Theatre), Imperial Russian Ballet of Gedeminas Taranda, and a range of post-modern dance theatres (those of Y.A. Panfilov, G.M. Abramov, A.Y. Pepelyaev, and other).

The country’s first private ballet theatre was the Experiment theatre founded by Yevgeny Panfilov in Perm in 1987. In 2000 it acquired the status of a state theatre and its present name: Yevgeny Panfilov’s Perm Theatre. Yevgeny Panfilov (1956–2002) has created an original style blending together classics, modern, jazz and folklore. His theatre was purely author’s project, Panfilov creating not only choreography, but also the stage design, costumes and lighting.

      Yevgeny Panfilov staged 49 ballets and 70 miniatures. Apart from the main company a number of subsidiary troupes, including non-professional dancers as well, were established, the most outstanding of them being the ground-breaking Ballet of the Fat. Its production Women. The Year 1945 was awarded with the Golden Mask as the Best Innovation of 2000. The daring experimenter Yevgeni Panfilov was called the second Diaghilev and the choreographer of the 21st century. Since the untimely death of Yevgeny Panfilov in 2002 the theatre has been directed by S.A. Rainik, one of the company’s leading dancers.

Among other modern dance theatres one can mention Contemporary Dance Theatre under the leadership of Vladimir & Olga Pona, Provincial Dances Group headed by T. Baganova, Experimental Plastic Class of G. Abramov, A. Kukin Theatre of Dance, V. Arkhipov Nota Bene Group, etc. one of the most “intellectual” dance theatres of Russia is the Moscow PO.V.S.Tantsy company.

Look also: History of Russian Ballet, Part 1




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