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Rebellion at the Maryinsky


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#1 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 05:33 AM

In the April Issue of the ‘Dancing Times’ a short article by regular Igor Stupnikov was devoted to the problems occurring at the Maryinsky Theatre last Winter. Stupnikov is mainly summarising an essay which was published in the Moscow ‘Commercial Daily’, wherein it was stated that in December leading soloists of the Kirov Ballet “rebelled” against their director Makhar Vaziev. The initiators are said to be artists of the older generation, foremost Zelensky, Makhalina, and Ruzimatov.

Bascially, complaints were voiced against the authoritarian style of the management; the endless tours causing fatigue; the choice of repertoire (too much Balanchine); the favoritism for the youngsters.

Valery Gergiev is said to have named three candidates for the succession: Dmitri Bryantsev, chief-choreographer of among others the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow; Nikita Dolgushin, former Kirov star and now professor; and Igor Zelensky.

Anyway, the conflict has been settled, everything remained the same, and according to Stupnikov the whole affair was unsuccessful because of the lack of a proper leader. Stupnikov comments rather contemptuously: “If anyone would have joined with the opposition, it would be old-timers: the theatre had renounced the Soviet version of “The Sleeping Beauty” on which an entire generation of dancer grew up (...). In doing so, the theatre fell out with nearly the entire population over the age of fifty.”

Yet, he has to admit that this whole unhealthy affair, quieted down for now, shook everybody up. And stars are still fleeing or are rumoured to leave the company: Samodurov went to Amsterdam, Ivanchenko and Batalov are said to be looking for a position in a Scandinavian company, and rumours also have it that Diana Vishneva (who according to the article, actively supported the rebels) is going to sign a contract with ABT.

#2 Kevin Ng

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 06:51 AM

Yes, I read this article too. Well, I am glad that the conflict has now been resolved, and that Vaziev will lead the company in both the London seasons. Now that he has seen off this unsuccessful challenge to his leadership, I suppose that he must have strengthened his authority in the company.


[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited May 13, 2000).]

#3 Ann

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 07:21 AM

But isn't it depressing that they are rebelling against 'too much Balanchine'? Is that because it is difficult to dance? It's surprising that they do not appear to have grasped the fact that the west is permanently hungry for Balanchine and will not be satisfied with a diet of the old Soviet-influenced choreography.

#4 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 08:57 AM

Ann, unless I'm mistaken, I feel that so far the West has always been quite pleased to see the Russian companies bring these "old-Soviet influenced" choregraphies. People are still flocking to see the Kirov's "Swan Lake" or "Bayadère", wherever they bring it. As a matter of fact we haven't been seeing much else since they first appeared in the West in the fifties and sixties. And it's not because that now all of the sudden some so-called authentic choreography is dug up that all the rest they produced in the last 80 years or so has become worthless or redundant.

Besides, since when is the West so "hungry" to see Balanchine performed by a company which is about as attuned to Balanchine as New York City Ballet is to Yakobson or Zakharov? I haven't seen much proof of that, unless of course you consider the at best condescending tone of many Western critics commenting the Russian way with Balanchine a sign of hunger for more Posted Image.

#5 Dale

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 09:55 AM

Marc, is there any validity to the Vishneva rumor? It would be interesting to get to see her so often at ABT (but maybe not so good for her growth as a dancer).

#6 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 10:09 AM

Dale, I'm afraid it's really just a rumor ... but, who knows?

#7 Kevin Ng

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 10:54 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Ann:
[B]
But isn't it depressing that they are rebelling against 'too much Balanchine'? Is that because it is difficult to dance? ]

Yes, it is depressing if it's really true that they are 'rebelling against too much Balanchine'. The Kirov dancers should grasp that Balanchine's choreography is in many ways a logical extension of their own Petipa repertory, and that dancing Balanchine is beneficial to their company style.

#8 eugene

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 12:04 PM

You would think that the Kirov dancers would love to do new works as they must be sick and tired of the wall to wall Giselles, Swan Lakes, La Bayadere.

But I think that there antipathy towards Balanchine is as much due to Russian Nationalism then artistic reasons. Balanchine represents America. It seems now that the old enemy having beaten the Russians in the Cold war is now challenging the Russians in that most Russian (supposedly) of past times- ballet! It is just another humiliation to the Russian old guard.

I take this view because it is so obvious to anyone that the Kirov repertoire is dated and stale - a museum piece. No one in the Kirov can object to the introduction of Balanchine on artistic reasion given the current Kirov repertoire.

#9 Michael

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 12:20 PM

Of course, the old wisdom about palace coups is that if you're going to attack the king at all you absolutely have kill him.

#10 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 12:25 PM

You made a point there, Eugene. I never thought of it that way. Do you suppose the Russians also bear a grudge against the French? After all, Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 03:04 PM

Oh, Eugene, I don't think it's at all obvious to "everyone" that the Kirov is "dated and stale - a museum piece." Not in the least. I know that dancers and directors love to say, "We're not a museum!!!!" but, as one who is rather fond of museums, that argument has never resonated with me at all. The Louvre doesn't throw out old Masters' paintings to make room for new ones. But some exhibits in a basement perhaps (which you can't do with ballets, but which does work with paintings) but you don't burn them.

Michael, I agree (about killing the King). When coups don't work, it usually means that the King has even more power.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 03:58 PM

There is, of course, the concept of a museum, or a ballet company, which is sufficently flexible to include in its collection/repertoire both old masters and new works....


Mel Johnson
Speaking up for both museums AND ballet companies...

#13 eugene

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 04:00 PM

When the Kirov came to London last time, one of the teachers who was a great ballerina once (I cannot remember her name for sure) actually said in a newspaper that the objective of the Kirov is to be a "musuem". This statement absolutely astounded me. Fortunetly there are enough people in the Kirov who do not share this view. (I think I can remember who said that remark but given the astonishing nature of it I do not want to attribute to anyone unless I am very sure I know who it was).

I think Debbie Bull ( a principal with the RB) best summarize the purpose of a ballet company as to be a "musuem and a laboratory" as quoted in a debate at the Oxford Union. The trouble with traditional ballet is that the repertoire is too small for a ballet company to rely to much on. There cannot be mroe then 10 full length works of the classical period that can be staged (historical curiosity like the Daughter of the Pharoah and the Kirov Corsaire are excluded). Ballet companies far more then opera companies need new works.

#14 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 04:57 PM

Olga Moiseyeva, who coaches among others Asylmuratova, Zakharova, Amosova, and Zhelonkina, is on the record for saying: "We behave like a museum. We try to keep it old-fashioned so that the spirit of the ballet won't be lost. If you don't like the idea of a museum, don't come to us."

I particularly like that last sentence.

#15 Alexandra

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Posted 13 May 2000 - 05:13 PM

Nice quote, Marc. Yes, it would be better if people tried to understand what ballet is, and what a ballet company's history is, before either trying to change them or making pronouncements.

Mel, good point about museums. I'm sure you're remembering Richard Pleasant's idea for ABT and its many "wings." I think Joffrey also well understood the concept of exhibits. There has to be room for both.


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