The Kirov and The Bolshoi Ballet Company’s are both world-class companies in the Ballet Dancing World. Moscow and St. Petersburg have been friendly rivals in the ballet dancing and performing arts world for about three centuries. Both of the above cities also have magnificent theatres to stage their works in.
St. Petersburg’s ballet dancing company is the Maryinsky. The Maryinsky has always been influenced by the refinement and elegance of the French. The Bolshoi Ballet Company resides in Moscow and it’s name means ‘Big.’ The Bolshoi dances with drama, conviction and passion. The Bolshoi men are famous for their power and the company sometimes sacrifices technical form to gain greater dramatic effect. The Maryinsky on the other hand maintains its technical purity and precision, and is known for its unparalleled corps that work together so perfectly they could all have one mind.
During the Russian Revolution, shortages and hard times brought along with it an unusual creative energy in traditional ballet dancing. It was during this time that the first daring acrobatic lifts were formed that later became the hallmark of the Soviet style. Unfortunately during this time Russia also lost many of its talented artists to other countries, because the government was so rigid.
In the 1930’s the Maryinsky was renamed the Kirov after an assassinated Communist party official. Romeo and Juliet was one of the great ballets of this time and still forms the basis for many western productions. Legendary ballerinas of this time included Alla Osipenko, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova, Natalia Dudinskaya and Irina Kolpakova.
Today Leningrad is once again St. Petersburg and the Kirov is once again the Maryinsky. It is still often called the Kirov while on tour for familiarity’s sake.
The Bolshoi Theatre was founded in 1776, when Catherine the Great supported ballet training for orphans. During the Soviet era, government censors made it difficult for choreographers to explore ballet dancing fully, and the story lines had to be politically correct. For a time even Swan Lake had to have a happy ending.
The Bolshoi first visited the USA in 1959 and the Kirov soon followed. They thrilled American Audiences. The audience appreciated the Russians technique, style and also their willingness to repeat crowd pleasers. If a solo or extract drew great applause, they just repeated the entire sequence again. When Plisetskaya repeated The Dying Swan, she would even die differently the second time around.
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