Vladislav Lantratov: The Latest Heroic Male Dancer at the Bolshoi
A torrent of energy, he took command of the stage the second he entered. He exuded an over-the-top virility that was perfect for the role of Petruchio in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew. With outsized swagger, swiping and swatting Katharina, he matched her obstreperousness with his own. With his suspenders half down and his shirt half hanging out, he struck a charismatic (if violent) figure.
This is Vladislav Lantratov, the latest heroic male dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet. Having joined the company in 2006, he's gotten international attention for his role in this ballet, which was choreographed on the company in 2014. He's a bravura dancer with a contemporary edge, inspiring me to go back in time to trace other Bolshoi dancers of larger-than-life heroics:
One of the first Bolshoi dancers to exude an exciting kind of heroics was Vakhtang Chabukiani. A technical virtuoso as well as a swashbuckling figure, he was among the first Soviet dancers to tour the U.S. in the 1930s. A hero of the Georgian people, he choreographed his signature ballet Laurencia in 1939. His name now graces the major training academy for ballet dancers in Tbilisi, where the school is affiliated with the State Ballet of Georgia, now directed by Nina Ananiashvili.
Vladimir Vasiliev, dubbed the "god of dance," took the U. S. by storm when he first toured here in 1959. His leaps and turns were astounding, and his partnering was full of ardor. During his first years in the Bolshoi Ballet, he was chosen to partner both Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya. In 1968, Yuri Grigorovich created his version of Spartacus for Vasiliev, and it defined male bravura for years to come. His enduring marriage to fellow superstar Ekaterina Maximova was part of his legend. In 1995, Vasiliev was named director of the entire Bolshoi Theater, only to be fired five years later (in that typically sudden way the Bolshoi has of making changes). Today he is a sought after judge for ballet competitions and has founded a competition in Perm called the Maximova Arabesque Competition.
Vladimir Vasiliev in Spartacus
In 1981, Irek Mukhamedov won the Grand Prix and Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow and spent the next nine years as a principal dancer at the Bolshoi. He blazed through Soviet classics like Spartacus, Ivan the Terrible, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and Legend of Love. Yuri Grigorovich created the leading role in The Golden Age for him in 1984. He was a favorite on international tours and left Moscow in 1990 for The Royal Ballet, where he danced in many MacMillan ballets. He has staged versions of Swan Lake and Spartacus for companies like Warsaw National Ballet Company and Hong Kong Ballet.
The second Vasiliev, Ivan (no relation), emerged 10 years ago as a wunderkind. He regularly bounds up to the rafters, eliciting incredulous gasps and squeals. But his stage presence is very human, not super polished. With his endearing mischievousness, he excels in comic roles while keeping his virtuosity intact. Three years ago, when he and Natalia Osipova were planning a duet program even though they had broken up, he gave Dance Magazinethis interview.
Of course there have been great Bolshoi dancers who have qualities other than the "heroic" ones I have mentioned. Bolshoi means big, and that doesn't have to mean just big characters or big leaps. It can mean big classicism, as with David Hallberg, or big sensitivity, as with Semyon Chudin, who partnered Olga Smirnova so beautifully in Shrew last week. The ballet world is big and there's room for all kinds of dancers.
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.
I'm a Broadway dancer with a long second toe and the nail is always bruised. I had thought switching from pointe work to dancing in character shoes was the answer—I felt great for several years until recently. What's the problem?