Bolshoi Names New Director of Ballet
Makhar Vaziev at news conference, Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Oct. 26, photo: Reuters: Maxim Shemetov
The much awaited announcement of the new director of the Bolshoi Ballet finally came yesterday. Bolshoi Theatre general director Vladimir Urin appointed Makhar Vaziev, who has led La Scala Ballet for seven years and, before that, spent 13 years at the helm of the Mariinsky Ballet. Many Russians are relieved that the choice is a former dancer with leadership experience and good taste. But questions surround this appointment.
No one was surprised last July when general director Urin announced that Sergei Filin’s contract would not be renewed. Filin has gone through emotional and medical hell, and a man who cannot see well cannot run a ballet company well (Alicia Alonso notwithstanding). What was surprising, however, was that Urin also said the position of ballet director would be eliminated or downsized. It was thought that the new ballet director would be relegated to a sort of company manager.
Luckily that plan hasn't gotten very far. But, given the still-prevailing power of 88-year-old Soviet choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, it remains to be seen whether Vaziev will be able to modernize the repertoire. In an interview with Yahoo News, Leila Guchmazova, a Moscow critic with a taste for contemporary dance, is quoted as saying “The question is what powers he will be given, which isn't obvious. I'd like to hope for the best, but it's a big question.”
Another question is how the dancers will take to Vaziev. As Alexei Ratmansky knows, the Bolshoi dancers tend to look down on any director who had not actually been a Bolshoi dancer. Vaziev, who graduated from Vaganova Ballet Academy and rose to principal at the Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet, may be considered an outsider. (To understand more about tensions at the Bolshoi, read Ismene Brown’s excellent feature story in a 2014 issue of Dance Magazine.)
Sergei Filin at right, Wendy Perron at left in 2014 interview at Lincoln Center, via Youth America Grand Prix, photo ©Siggul/VAM
On the other hand, the situation at the Bolshoi has been so volatile since the January 2013 acid attack on Filin that an “outsider” may bring harmony. Vaziev will finish his commitments to projects at La Scala, dividing his time between Moscow and Milan, until Filin’s contract ends in March 2016.
In an interview in yesterday’s Kommersant, when Russian critic Tatiana Kuznetsova asked Vaziev to name some of his favorite living choreographers, he mentioned Forsythe and Ratmansky. (To see the whole interview, go to Ismene Brown’s blog.) That’s promising.
Also promising is this: In the mid '90s when I interviewed him as the new director of the Mariinsky, he admitted that he shortens some of the full-length ballets for American audiences. Knowing how long the Russians like their ballets to be, I would call that savvy cultural diplomacy.
For a Broadway dancer, few opportunities are more exciting than being part of the creation of an original show. But if that show goes on to become wildly successful, who reaps the benefits? Thanks to a new deal between Actors' Equity Association and The Broadway League, performers involved in a production's development will now receive their own cut of the earnings.
Jellicle obsessives, rejoice: There's a new video out that offers a (surprisingly substantive) look at the dancing that went down on the set of the new CATS movie.
When Dr. Mae Jemison was growing up, she was obsessed with space. But she didn't see any astronauts who looked like her.
"I said, Wait a minute. Why are all the astronauts white males?" she recounts in a CNN video. "What if the aliens saw them and said, Are these the only people on Earth?"
It's no surprise that dancers make some of the best TED Talk presenters. Not only are they great performers, but they've got unique knowledge to share. And they can dance!
If you're in need of a midweek boost, look no further than these eight presentations from some incredibly inspiring dance artists.