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children in Russian ballet?

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#1 bobsey



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Posted 02 December 2001 - 09:39 AM

Jennifer Dunning in the NY Times (12/2) in commenting about the children in the current NYCB Nutcracker wrote - "City Ballet uses children in its productions as consistently as the Royal Danish, Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets with their long histories of exposing dancers to theatrical performing early on"
I have both the Kirov (1994) and the Bolshoi (1984) versions of Nutcracker and don't believe I saw any children at all.
Did Russian ballet consistently use children as Ms Dunning states?

#2 Kevin Ng

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 11:13 AM

I don't have the tape of the Kirov's Vainonen production of Nutcracker. I saw it when they performed it in London in 1996, I think the children for that Christmas season were recruited from the English schools instead of from the Vaganova Academy, who no doubt would supply students for the performances in St. Petersburg. I haven't seen Grigorovich's production for the Bolshoi however.

#3 rg


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Posted 02 December 2001 - 01:09 PM

there seems to be a misunderstanding here regarding the meaning of this sentence. when dunning says 'productions' she means stagings IN GENERAL, i.e. overall, by the troupes in question and not 'nutcracker' productions, per se. but i can see why in an article about 'nutcracker' that this misreading could be made. before posting this comment, btw, i actually checked w/ j.dunning and she confirmed that she was referring to productions overall in these companies' repertories and was not making reference to 'nutcracker' ones. hope this helps clarify a bit.
re: the bolshoi and 'nutcracker.'
someone more conversant w/ soviet ballet history could enlighten us more fully, but it would seem that gorsky's 1919 'nutcracker' is the earliest bolshoi staging of the work, where i don't THINK children were involved. there is, however, a little footnote to the bolshoi's 'nutcracker' history with regard to children on film. this concerns the kirov-created 1934 vainonen prod., which the bolshoi staged in '39. there is enchanting footage, available on the 'magic of the bolshoi' video tape (and, in the UK, dvd), that documents the incomparable v.vasiliev and e.maximova, as STUDENT dancers, performing vainonen's 'pastorale' choreography to the score's 'merlitons' divertissement.
yuri grigorovich's well-known bolshoi staging from 1966 definitely uses adults in the roles of children.

#4 vrsfanatic


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Posted 02 December 2001 - 06:31 PM

I can only speak from observation in St. Petersburg over a two year period, but it is something more than what we have up to this point! To my knowledge the Kirov only did the Vainonen version of Nutcracker as a school production until recently. By this I mean within the past 10 years. The Mirliton, known as the pas de trois from Nurcracker, is always done by second or third year students, never by professionals. The school productions all subsequent roles interpreted by the students of the school, except Drosselmeyer.

While living in St. Petersburg I did see both school and company productions. In the company productions the students danced the fantasy figures at the opening of what we in the States call the 2nd act, as well as Mirliton. All other roles were performed by the company.

The children in the school perform constantly with the company. The young students do Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Giselle, etc. There are children's roles in most classical ballets. The older students do not have as many opportunities, but there are some. Also the students have their own performances in the school theatre annually. Each class has their demonstration consisting of variations, duets, pas de deux for the older ones, pas de trois, etc. There is also a mid-year production in Marinsky, which was Nutcracker the years I was there. As well as a year end program consisting of a class concert, variations and a finale of say second act Swan Lake or Shades from Bayadere, the years I was living there. The students also do international tours. In my time, they went to France in the winter and Japan every summer. I am sure they still go to Japan.

I am sure Andrei has more complete information consisting of his personal experience as a child. They are on stage constantly!

#5 doug


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Posted 03 December 2001 - 01:55 PM

It appears from the Stepanov notations that even more children were used in the classical ballets during the Imperial era in Russia. A broader age range may also have been represented - in some cases, certains girls were in pointe shoes (older?) and others were on demi (younger?) in the same scene. More boys' roles too.

#6 felursus


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Posted 06 December 2001 - 02:24 AM

Years ago I read a biography of Nijinsky written by a classmate of his (alas, I've forgotten the name, but I'm sure someone here can supply it). The writer mentions that the students of the ballet school frequently participated in performances. I seem to remember him saying that they got paid for it, too. Participating in performances was supposed to be part of their general education in the theater arts. This practice still continues. If you look carefully at the old videos of classical ballets with children's parts you may be able to pick out future principal dancers. For example, there's a Bayadere filmed at the Kirov in which one of the two children with the jugs on their heads is Ayupova - she looks like she's about 12 or 13.

#7 atm711


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Posted 06 December 2001 - 06:39 PM

Anatole Bourman wrote that Nijinsky book and it is not highly regarded.

#8 Alexandra


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Posted 06 December 2001 - 06:56 PM

I'm not familiar with that biography of Nijinsky, though I'll trust ATM smile.gif However, the description of child performers sounds correct. There are photos of children in 19th century productions (you can see Fokine, at about 12, in Paquita, and Pavlova did the Danse Manu when she was a child.) I think it was a custom in European theaters generally -- they were paid (very small amounts), they were used in plays and operas and ballets.

#9 Andrei


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Posted 07 December 2001 - 10:41 AM

Yes, children start to dance on professional stages from the very first year in Vaganova school and it calls "production practice". They have a very small amount of money and food during rehearsals or performances and they serve not just Mariinsky, but all others ballet companies in St. Petersburg. This is very good for artistic education and for guiding you to the ballet world, can you deal with it or not? I still remember my overhelming feelings, when just after one month of training I was throwed on the Mariinsky's stage in "Don Quixote", blinded by the beam lights, the thunder of orchestra, splashes of sweat from turning dancers, the horse and the donkey on the stage miles wide, with hundred peolpe over there and thousands backstage. Of course, I understood nothing, only I knew that I'm participating in something splending and very important for so many people, I wanted to do it again and again and again ...

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