The MiNAPRESS Column

Bolshoi Live on Stage and On Screen

Posted in arts, ballet, cinema, dance, performances, reviews by MiNA on March 20, 2015


Bolshoi Ballet LaBayadere

Photo provided courtesy of Zellerbach Hall on behalf of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Over the course of the Bolshoi’s restoration project, one of the company’s greatest gifts to its global audience was their extended world tour that began in the US in June 2009. Under the artistic direction of Yuri Burlaka, Bolshoi’s first stop in the US was in the San Francisco Bay Area; where I had the privilege of seeing Yuri Grigorovich’s full-length version of “La Bayadere,” live on stage at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall.

A seldom performed ballet within the US, the Sunday matinee on June 7, featuring the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and Bolshoi conductor Pavel Klinichev, was at full capacity.

Utter silence blanketed the auditorium in anticipation, until first notes of Ludwig Minkus’ intoxicating ballet score filled the room.

As the male lead Solor, Alexander Volchkov was superb. Commanding and majestic, the audience gasped the moment Volchkov soared through the air during his powerful grand entrance.

Impossible to not notice was the abundance of male dancer roles; each one exuding extreme masculinity — very typical of Russian ballets.


Nadezda Gracheva as Nikiya. Photo by Damir Yusupov. Provided courtesy of Zellerbach Hall on behalf of Bolshoi Ballet.

As the female lead Nikiya (the temple dancer) and Solor’s love interest, Nadezda Gracheva was radiant; as was Ekaterina Shipulina dancing the role of Gamzatti, Solor’s betrothed — by arrangement.

One slight faux pas during Shipulina’s first solo — which could have gone terribly wrong, was her foot becoming tangled in her long veil. Showing not even the slightest hint of concern; Shipulina simply went about her sparkling tour jetés and grand jetés, as if nothing had happened.

During Act II, the engagement celebration, the highly anticipated dance of the Golden Idol was a smashing success. Covered in gold body paint, Denis Medvedev’s athletic and charismatic performance was extraordinary.

Only on one occasion during the program was the music timing slightly off with the dancing; not necessarily the fault of the dancers, as it’s the job of the ballet conductor to ensure the music is precisely synchronized with each movement.

Act III — the Kingdom of the Shades was a transcending experience. To hear the familiar adagio live as the glowing corps de ballet perform the famous port de bras that repeats across the stage, was to be transported into a dream state. At the close, Volchkov and Gracheva’s pas de deux was breathe-taking, triggering a thundering applause that saw no end.


To see Bolshoi live on stage in one’s lifetime, it is simply a must. Although when live performance is beyond one’s means, there is at least one alternative. Thanks to local independent cinema and advancements in digital technology — the big screen is the next best outlet for viewing live stage performance. Now in its fifth season, Bolshoi LIVE is a cinematic experience no dance enthusiast should miss.

More than a cost effective means of captivating new audiences, dance in cinema is one sure way for companies to reduce their annual tour cost; a likely reason why Bolshoi’s 2014 tour to the US was limited to Washington DC and New York City only.

Under the current artistic direction of Sergei Filin, Bolshoi Ballet has become a leading presenter within the dance in cinema genre.

Bayadere-photo by Damir Yusupov

Photo by Damir Yusupov. Provided courtesy of By Experience on behalf of Pathe Live and Bolshoi Ballet.

On December 7, 2014, Pathé Live  presented Yuri Grigorovich’s “La Bayadere” via distributer BY Experience; a pre-recorded production from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, digitally streamed to cinemas across North America.

For the local presentation of the ballet, I attended the December 10, 2014 evening performance at the Sonoma Wine Country Rialto Cinema in Sebastopol, California.

An eager, culturally diverse audience turned out for the 2 hour/45 minute performance featuring new costumes and set design and such renowned artists as Svetlana Zakharova (Nikiya), Maria Alexandrova (Gamzatti), and Vladislav Lantratov (Solor).

The scene opened to a foreground filled with towering exotic tree limbs and male slaves dancing about the sacred fire; after which, Lantratov (Solor) leaps on stage like a graceful Gazelle.

As the striking prima goddess herself entered, Svetlana Zakharova (the temple dancer Nikiya), wearing pantaloons, a simple midriff top, and worn toe-shoes (perhaps for sentimental reasons), all eyes were fixated on her.

LA BAYADERE ©Damir Yusupov

Photo by Damir Yusupov. Provided courtesy of By Experience on behalf of Pathe Live and Bolshoi Ballet.

The portrayal of undying love between Lantratov and Zakharova was convincing in every way, as the dancers brought life to their characters with every heartfelt movement.

Also dancing impeccably was Maria Alexandrova — as Gamzatti — the perfect foil to Zakharova’s Nikiya — showcasing her wonderfully explosive grand jetés.

During Alexandrova’s time on stage, one slight deterrent stood out; the young entourage that accompanied her. No doubt these students were highly skilled dancers; what was unfortunate was the galumphing choreography and unflattering costumes given to these youth who would likely have preferred simple boring choreography to the simply embarrassing movements they were given.

In Act II, costumes seemed to take-on a more Egyptian appearance than Indian. And the dance of the Golden Idol, though technically spot-on, charismatics fell short.

One particularly spectacular highlight was Alexandrova’s furious fouettes, without question — the fastest I had ever seen.

Act III was pure magic — start to finish. As Solor turned to Opium-infused dreams and 32 corp de ballet dancers appeared as mirror images of his beloved Nikiya, time stood still.

At the close, a tutu perfect pas de deux (down to Lupkhova’s shiny new pointe shoes), prompted that ever so glorious and distinct Russian applause from the Moscow audience. As contagious enthusiasm spread to onlookers within the wine country cinema, satisfied spectators left the theatre with smiles upon smiles.

Coming Soon


Equal to the cost of an average rush ticket, ballet enthusiasts throughout North America have the opportunity to view another Yuri Grigorovich classic at their local independent cinema:

“Ivan the Terrible” (Live in Moscow) — Sunday, April 19, 2015

To learn more, visit:


Bolshoi Ballet: Through the Years

Posted in arts, ballet, dance, journalism by MiNA on March 18, 2015


Grand as its name implies — the great neo-classical Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow is a spectacle whose glory and rich heritage spans over two centuries. Home of the premier Russian ballet company, the Bolshoi Ballet is one of the largest dance companies in the world, employing more than 200 dancers.

While Bolshoi Ballet’s talent lineage is far reaching, so too is its link to controversy over the last few decades; dating back to the 1980s Cold War, during which Soviet artistic director Yuri Grigorovich was at the helm. Rumors of corruption over matters varying from casting and compensation to bribery and coercion raged; creating political divide between Grigorovich loyalists and dancers and teachers favoring that he step down — which eventually occurred in 1995.


First intentions to begin company reform began with artistic director Alexei Ratmansky (2005 to 2008), whose credit includes leading Bolshoi into its golden era — artistically. Following Ratmansky’s resignation in 2008 (due to lingering internal corruption), Yuri Grigorovich returned to assume a directorial role within Bolshoi (where he remains today) to oversee revivals of his ballets; meanwhile — three different artists have held the artistic director title since Ratmansky — including: Yuri Burlaka (2009 -2011), Gennady Yanin (2011), and Sergei Filin (2011 to the present).

Dedicated to instilling further positive change within the company, Filin’s directorial contribution thus far includes introducing contemporary European ballets to the company’s repertoire and recruiting dancers from outside of Russia; i.e. David Hallberg.  Sadly however, scandal in January 2013 cost Filin to nearly lose his eyesight after a soloist, unhappy with the way in which Filin was running the company, ordered an attack on him. Since this near tragedy, the company remains under a fine microscope.

While 2005 marks the beginning when administrative restructuring and efforts to combat impropriety within the Bolshoi Ballet became objectives within the institution, this period also marks when Bolshoi Theatre’s massive reconstruction project began.

Lasting through 2011, the Bolshoi Theatre sustained a thorough interior/exterior overhaul from the foundation up, resulting in the restoration of its original architectural design and legendary acoustics lost during Soviet occupation. With new spaces added, new state-of-the-art technological equipment, and an expanded orchestra pit for up to 130 musicians, the complete grandeur of the Bolshoi has now been fully restored.

Wrapping up the 2014/2015 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Season, the next MinaPress column features:   REVIEWS OF “LA BAYADERE” LIVE AND IN CINEMA

Provided courtesy of By Experience for Pathe Live


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