A two-step ahead of the times

The Mariinsky Ballet has survived Communism, wars and cultural changes, and yet it has managed to remain current.

mariinsky ballet_311 (photo credit: N. Razina)
mariinsky ballet_311
(photo credit: N. Razina)
For children studying ballet in the 1990’s in Pennsylvania, rainy days brought a special treat. Though dance studios are exclusively indoors, the dreary weather would sometimes convince Ballet Master John White to give his students a well-deserved break.
On these special days, he would wheel the VCR and television on an old, creaky stand and pop in the tape of Children Of The Kirov, a documentary about the talented young men and women being trained by the world’s most elite ballet teachers. This video would light a fire under Mr. White’s students to practice more hours with greater intensity, as the students projected on the tiny screen were the pictures of perfection.
After years of hard work, practicing in their tights and leotards, a select few of the young dancers seen in Children Of The Kirov, graduated into the main company. This month, the students from that tape, now celebrated professional dancers, will visit Israel for two performances only. The Mariinsky Ballet, formerly and most commonly known by its former name, The Kirov Ballet, will travel to Caesaria for two shows: Giselle on May 21 and Swan Lake on May 24.
The Mariinsky Ballet was founded in Saint Petersburg in the 1740’s and is named for the wife of Alexander II. The company is a symbol of dedication, perfection and grace, the parent troupe to the internationally acclaimed Vaganova Ballet Academy and a leading force in the modern-day ballet society. The company has recently performed in the U.S., Canada and Germany. In a few short days, over 100 dancers will take the Roman stage in the company’s two performances, including the troupe’s worldrenowned soloists.
FOR YURI Fateyev, Mariinsky is a way of life. The better part of his life has been spent within the establishment known as the Kirov. He graduated from the Leningrad Vaganova School Of Ballet in 1982 and went straight into the corps des ballets (company). For 14 years, he distinguished himself within the company, dancing in every ballet imaginable.
Then, in 1996, he was offered the prestigious role of coach. Today, he is the acting head of the Mariinsky Ballet Company.
Though the ballet discipline was invented in France, it is a well-known fact that the Russians can be thanked for the raising the art form to towering standards.
The company has existed through Communism, wars and cultural changes and yet, they have managed to remain current.
Fateyev recently told The Jerusalem Post that the key to this phenomenon is their ability to weave together new trends with tradition.
“There are very old dancing traditions and strong ballet school in Russia. The ballet is being developed and new trends of choreography, which are popular in Europe, are studied in our country using the base of classical performances and historical repertoire,” he said.
One of the initiatives Fateyev is most passionate about is the addition of fresh repertoire to the company. In his words, his aim is to “put as many new works to the theater’s repertoire as possible.”
For this tour, however, Fateyev and his team decided to keep things simple.
Their program is comprised of two of the most loved and known ballets of all time.
It is during these performances, while dancing the role of Giselle or the White Swan that the Mariinsky soloists are able to truly shine.
“A Mariinsky dancer is a harmonious person first of all, a person who brings beauty and good to the stage,” he said.
For Fateyev, these moments are worth all of the hard work.
“The results I see after the performance,” explained Fateyev, “the rapturous welcome of the audience and the happy eyes of the dancer… these are the moments that bring me the most pleasure.”
The Mariinsky Ballet will perform in Israel on May 21 and May 24. For tickets, visit www.tkts.co.il.