No name says “ballet” more than the Bolshoi. To coincide with the company’s visit to Brisbane, Dr Irina Kuzminsky shares her trip to the Bolshoi’s home in Moscow.
SEEING the Bolshoi Ballet conjures up a sense of excitement, a frisson of anticipation. It’s almost impossible to separate the Bolshoi from the magic of ballet, visions of splendour and Imperial opulence, intrigue and artistic excellence. It was like that for me when I finally had the opportunity to go to Moscow and see the company in its own setting a little while ago.
For a start, there were my grandfather’s stories about the Bolshoi Ballet and its stars from before the Russian Revolution. As a young student at Moscow University he had been an avid ballet fan and theatregoer. The scale of the Bolshoi stage was such that directors often needed extras for their productions, both opera and ballet, and students such as he were all too happy to fill out the numbers in the crowd scenes, standing at the back of the stage in basic costume and sometimes even make-up. In return for this service they would get free seats in the “gods” and be able to watch the rest of the performance every night if they chose, comparing their favourite stars.
My grandfather remembered sharing the stage with a horse and an obdurate donkey in Don Quixote. One night the horse was not on its best behaviour and made a large deposit on stage, causing quite a few problems for the dancers!
After a show, the students would rush around to the stage door and compete to be first to put their greatcoats down on the ground for the ballerinas to walk over on their way to their waiting carriages, or, even better, they would jostle for the honour of carrying the prima ballerina to her carriage, a source of great pride to all lucky enough to
receive such a privilege.
So I was doubly keen to see the Bolshoi at the Bolshoi, both for itself and for the vicarious memories it summoned up. I had, of course, seen the Bolshoi before, both in Australia and in England as well as on film, in ballets such as Spartacus and Ivan the Terrible, Carmen and Swan Lake, with unforgettable performances by the likes of Maya Plisetskaya, Galina Ulanova (on film), Marina Kondratieva, Irek Mukhamedov and Ludmila Semenyaka.
This is an extract from an article in the June/July 2019 issue of Dance Australia. To read the full article buy Dance Australia at your favourite retail outlet, or online here... OR never miss an issue by subscribing here.