Ballet has always been and will remain one of the most amazing and wonderful spectacles for audiences of all ages and fortunes. Between appearing in the 16th century and its present-day form the art of ballet has undergone a colossal transformation of its canons, which are now called classical.
In 1730s the French ballet dancer Marie de Camargo shortened the skirt and decided against wearing heels. This allowed her to introduce a new ballet move – striking one foot against the other in the air. At the end of the 18th century, attempting to make their dancing more airy, the performers tried to dance on the tips of the toes. This led to the invention of pointe shoes: the dancing slippers acquired a hard toe cap. Design of pointe shoes that were fastened to the dancer’s leg with the help of pink satin and ribbons allowed the ballet dancers to remain steady on their pivot foot. The first dancer to wear pointe shoes was Marie Taglioni.
The ballet made its way to Russia during the reign of Peter the Great, in the beginning of 18th century. In 1738, thanks to the petition by the French dance master Jean-Batiste Lande, the first Russian ballet school – now world-famous as the St. Petersburg Dance Academy named after Agrippina Vaganova – was established. Noble youth was obligated to study dancing: in St. Petersburg ballet dancing became a mandatory discipline even Noble Cadet Corps.
Almost from the very beginning Russian ballet tradition acquired fans all over the world. Russian dancers were famous for their grace, fluidity and expression of hand movements and amazing intuitive understanding of their characters. Russian composers, such as Petr Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev, are considered the real maestros of ballet music. Productions by legendary choreographers Marius Petipa, Mikhail Fokin, Vaclav Nizhinsky and George Balanchine are still considered the etalons of world art of choreography.
Popularization of Russian ballet was in no small measure helped by Sergei Dyagilev’s famous Russian Ballet Seasons. Dyagilev’s Russian ballet – Ballet Russes – was established in 1911. The company that grew out of Russian Ballet Seasons of 1909 had functioned for twenty seasons until Dyagilev’s death in 1929 and was wildly successful abroad, especially in France and Great Britain.
Dyagilev’s Seasons not only had a great influence on the development of Russian ballet, but also made everything Russian very fashionable. For example, English dancers Patrick Heely-Key, Alice Marx and Hilda Mannings took Russian pseudonyms Anton Dolin, Alicia Markova and Lydia Sokolova respectively. The wife of the British king George VI was married wearing a “dress that paraphrased Russian folklore traditions”.
A well-known librettist of those years Jean Cocteau recorded his impressions of the first Dyagilev productions: “Red curtain rises over the celebration that upended France and drew the crowd in ecstasy after the cart of Bacchus”.
More than two centuries later Ballet Seasons are back to conquer the audience!
Summer Ballet Seasons first took place in July-August of 2001 in Moscow and right away drew the attention of the audiences.
The Seasons’ idea — to preserve Russia’s cultural heritage — became the foundation of the program, which consists of the best classical ballets performed by well-known Moscow troupes. The performances reconstruct the staging by legendary choreographers — Marius Petipa, Vasily Vyonen, Asaf Messerer and others. It was thanks to these stage plays that the Russian ballet earned its fame as the world’s most masterful and professional. The pearls of classical ballet are presented on one stage for two summer months and are accessible to any fan and connosier of the classical ballet.
«Ballet is the inspired plastique, embodiment of thought in movement, spiritual in physical»
Ilya Shevelev, writer