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Christopher Wheeldon in MoscowAnd the Bolshoi Tradition (from NY Times


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#1 leonid17

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 05:28 AM

An interesting insight into Mr. Wheeldon's reception and his creative process.

http://www.nytimes.c...nce&oref=slogin

I find the following statements in this article very interesting, "The role of new, international choreography at the Bolshoi, a theater with a reputation built on the grandeur of its productions, is controversial in Russia’s dance world. Valeria Uralskaya, the editor of Ballet magazine, said she was intrigued by the adagio from Mr. Wheeldon’s work presented at the press preview but worried about the general tendency of the Bolshoi repertory.

“If we show very actively only that we are translating work, we won’t be interesting to the world,” Ms. Uralskaya said. “The Bolshoi Theater is not just the Bolshoi Theater but the Bolshoi Theater of Russia. It is interesting to the world as Russian theater. We’re interesting when we show each other what we have.”

There appears to be an isolationist ideology in Ms Uralskaya's statement and that the Bolshoi Ballet is a Russian icon and should remain nothing more than that,

It is when the Bolshoi show what we have seen countless times before, that audiences in the west begin to fall off and I am not sure how Russian the ballet is in Russia really is today. Surely the staple repertoire has a French heritage as does the method of teaching and it was Swan Lake, Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty (alongside Romeo and Juliet) that wowed audiences in the 1950's and 1960’s when Soviet Russian Ballet companies came to Europe and the Americas especially the Bolshoi's Giselle and Swan Lake and the Kirov's Sleeeping Beauty, Giselle and Swan Lake.

The Franco /Russian Imperial ballet tradition of performing the 19th century repertoire began to become degraded in Petipa's lifetime and authenticism began to disappear with Gorsky revisions and the innovation of the Vaganova method of teaching and between the wars productions. The real Russian Ballet tradition was to be reborn in the West.

This is not a criticism of the Vaganova method just that historically the Perrot/Petipa/St.Leon repertoire performing tradition created in Russia died almost a hundred years ago only to be reappear again in companies like the Ballet Russe, Sadlers Wells and ABT.

So what we are left with is a Soviet Russian ballet tradition that is some distance away from what I would call the Russian ballet tradition which was highlighted when the Kirov reconstructions ended up less than authentic as Soviet accretions would not be dumped.

If we examine the politicised repertoire of the Soviet era there are very few ballets worthy of revival and the Bolshoi ballet was in the forefront of presenting these works.

Ballet in recent years has become almost dominated by international touring and the taking of foreign choreographer’s works into Russian repertoires is in my opinion an enlightened move and I look forward to the days when modern Russian choreographers no longer shackled by politics are invited to produce works for western ballet companies.

#2 vrsfanatic

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 06:42 AM

I am not able to actually address your observations leonid, however I would like to comment however that Mr. Wheeldon does come from a very rich schooling in Vaganova, as he was fortunate to be at White Lodge under the tutelage of the late Anatole Grigoriev and in the Upper School of Royal Ballet under Samuele (sorry, I do not remember his first name). Having read the article, I did not find his suggestions to have been so estounding to the Russian dancers as they are quite common analogies in Vaganova training and elsewhere.

Mr. Wheldon should be able to navigate quite well in Russia as a choreographer. This is not a commenary on how the Russian audience will accept his work, only that he does have in his grasp a similar background.

I believe you edited your post prior to my post? :mad:

Edited by vrsfanatic, 11 February 2007 - 06:44 AM.


#3 leonid17

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 06:56 AM

I am not able to actually address your observations leonid, however I would like to comment however that Mr. Wheeldon does come from a very rich schooling in Vaganova, as he was fortunate to be at White Lodge under the tutelage of the late Anatole Grigoriev and in the Upper School of Royal Ballet under Samuele (sorry, I do not remember his first name). Having read the article, I did not find his suggestions to have been so estounding to the Russian dancers as they are quite common analogies in Vaganova training and elsewhere.

Mr. Wheldon should be able to navigate quite well in Russia as a choreographer. This is not a commenary on how the Russian audience will accept his work, only that he does have in his grasp a similar background.

I believe you edited your post prior to my post? :mad:


I did edit my earlier post for grammatical reasons and cohesion.

Mr. Wheeldon's other teacher was German Samuel who I believe now works in the USA who I met on a number of occasions as I did Anatole Grigoriev.

My comments were not about Vaganova per se as it has its own glories. What changed under Vaganova was that ballet acquired different methods of execution and emphasis of steps and port de bras that was not in accord with the Franco/Russian tradition of performing 19th century ballets. I attended a long series of lectures on the Vaganova method given by Anne-Marie Holmes using film of the Vaganova Academy classes and was delighted that two former Ballet Russe dancer queried the execution of certain steps as not traditional and demonstrated how they should be performed.

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 07:01 AM

I think Uralskaya has a point that is less about isolationism than about the homogenization of ballet repertory. I want to see what the Bolshoi does that is unique to the Bolshoi, not Yet Another Christopher Wheeldon Ballet to Arvo Part (how many does this make already?). However, the company exists both as an importer and exporter of works. It doesn't matter only what an international audience wants to see from the Bolshoi, but what a Russian audience wants to see them bring into the country for their viewing.

Judicious cross-pollination is good for the health of any company, but ballet companies should also maintain their own character.

#5 leonid17

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 12:36 PM

I think Uralskaya has a point that is less about isolationism than about the homogenization of ballet repertory. I want to see what the Bolshoi does that is unique to the Bolshoi, not Yet Another Christopher Wheeldon Ballet to Arvo Part (how many does this make already?). However, the company exists both as an importer and exporter of works. It doesn't matter only what an international audience wants to see from the Bolshoi, but what a Russian audience wants to see them bring into the country for their viewing.

Judicious cross-pollination is good for the health of any company, but ballet companies should also maintain their own character.


I know of five Arvo Paart scores that CW has usedin the ballets:Liturgy, After the Rain Quartenary,Kiss. and now Misericors are there more?

Other choreographers have created a number of works to music by the same composer and I don't see a problem unless of course you don't like Arvo Paart.

I take your point about homogenization of a company's repertoire, but how good is the Bolshoi's repertoire?

Mr Wichel, you say, " I want to see what the Bolshoi does that is unique to the Bolshoi..." so do I, but what the Bolshoi do now is not a patch on what the Bolshoi once did and their uniqueness has been fairly diluted.

Company's decline for various reasons. I have witnessed the Royal ballet's decline under the apalling directorship of Kenneth MacMillan and subsequent directors. Monica Mason has shown that positive steps can be taken to revive the RB's lost status and care of its core repertoire , but it still has a long way to go in my opinion.

I have heard some present day Russians ballet people still talk about 'defectors' as if they should be shamed. Is that how Balanchine and Miassin whose works have entered the Bolshoi repertoire are still seen by some in the Russian ballet heirachy?

We know that Mme Uralskaya is the editor of a Russian ballet magazine and to be quoted in the press shows she does have some status. I am not sure that she wants the "...judicious cross- pollination..." as you kindly suggest.

I do think the major Russian ballet companies do think about what new ballets/productions can be sold abroad and the impresarios who bring the companies to our shores are certainly invited to premieres in Russia and consulted.

#6 richard53dog

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 03:20 PM

I do think the major Russian ballet companies do think about what new ballets/productions can be sold abroad and the impresarios who bring the companies to our shores are certainly invited to premieres in Russia and consulted.



I DO think you are correct!


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