Friday, December 28, 2007

The Women of Snow Maiden

Today I would like to feature two of the ballerinas who will star in the Snow Maiden and Nutcracker productions created by the Russian National Ballet Foundation with the Natalya Sats Theater.

As you may recall, this is the production which we will be bringing to the U.S. in the winter of 2008. You can read much more about the production in past podcasts which include short biographies of the male leads, video clips of the rehearsal process, and an audio interview with Valery Lantratov.

Today we feature two beautiful ballerinas of the Kremlin Ballet. Olga Zubkova (pictured left) and Natalia Balahnicheva (right).

Balahnicheva is a graduate of the Perm Choreographic School and has been dancing with the Kremlin Ballet since 1994. She is a bright and original talent who combines lyric and romantic harmony with a rare gift of fluid motion. Her repertory consists of Cindrella (Cinderella by Prokofiev, staged by Vassiliev), Ludmila (Ruslan and Ludmila, by Glinka-Agafonnikov, staged by A.Petrov), Mery, Pastral (The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, staged by A.Petrov), Leda (Zeus by D.Arapis, staged by A.Petrov). Pas de troi, one of the four swans (The Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, Moscow reduction by Ivanov, Petipa, Gorsky and Messerer).

Olga Zubkova, Honored Artist of Russia, is a dramatic ballerina with perfect technique and brilliant proportions. From 1982-1990 she studied at the Moscow Choreography College under the supervision of G. L. Kouznetsova. From 1990-1995 she danced at the Grigorovich Ballet Studio directed by Yuri Grigorovich. Her tutors were N. Bessmertnova, M. Lavrovsky, L. Cherkassova, R. Karelskaya and E. Ryabinkina . There her most important roles included Luska in Golden Age, Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Myrtha in Giselle, Clemnestra in Electra as well as a number of other solos and variations. Since 1995 Olga Zoubkova has been a soloist of the Kremlin Ballet directed by Andrei Petrov. During her career she has created a series of roles, among which are Aphrodite in Zeus, Josephine in Napoleon, Theresa in Cavalry Halt, Naina in Ruslan and Ludmila, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Street Dancer, Mercedes in Don Quixote, Emmy Lawrence in Tom Sawyer, Svanilda in Copellia. Olga Zoubkova has toured extensively including the US, South America, Japan and Europe.

Incidentally, you can see pictures and video of Valery Lantratov on the Kremlin Ballet web page. He danced the role of Napoleon in the production featured on the video clips page. Unfortunately, the video quality is rather poor. But if you know who you're looking for you may be able to spot him and Olga Zubkova. The pictures of the Napoleon production in the "photogalerie" are likewise a bit blurry in spots, but you get the idea.

Remember, you can see a documentary on the Natalya Sats Musical Theater including some rehearsal footage of Snow Maiden at

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas to All

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

While you're feeling festive enjoy this snippet of The Nutcracker performed by the ballet company of the Natalya Sats Theater.

Valery is wrapping up his tour of Lebanon, and preparations are underway for the Association of Performing Arts Conference, which is coming up much faster than we imagined! Soon we'll be bringing you reports from the conference and from the road.

We are planning more recorded interviews and video clips. In the meantime, don't forget Valery Lantratov's recent audio podcast.

We've still got copies of A Child's Introduction to Ballet available. Visit the link to the right to order.

Resources of the Day:

We've been gratified to see more and more ballet appearing on You Tube. Anaheim Ballet has a regular video podcast on You Tube. It is presented with a lot of fun and enthusiasm. It captures a sense of ballet as FUN. Below is one of the episodes. You could kill a whole afternoon watching them all, but don't blame us if you do!

If you respond to a more serious treatment of the art of ballet, check out the resources on the New York City Ballet page. You can listen to audio podcasts on the creative process while doing your stretching.

This Month in Dance History: December

We haven't been on top of This Week in Dance History. So we present for you our first This Month in Dance History. Enjoy!

December 1, 1910- Dame Alicia Markova (pictured left) was born Lillian Alicia Marks in London. At six, she began dance lessons on the recommendation of a specialist, to remedy knock‑knees and flat feet. It worked out well for her. When she was only 14 she joined the Ballet Russes and went on to be, in the words of The Independent, "a living legend." When she passed away at age 94, dance critic Clive Barnes wrote, "so many Giselles, but for me really only Markova."

On this date in 1957- The New York City Ballet debuted "Agon," a collaboration between composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer George Balanchine. New York Times critic Jack Anderson described it this way: "...both Stravinsky's score and George Balanchine's choreography for 'Agon' paid homage to 17th-century dance forms. Yet the music also contained dissonances and the choreography utilized a demanding contemporary dance technique."

And in 1990- Pioneering choreographer and artistic director Alvin Ailey passed away. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times wrote of Mr. Ailey, "You didn't need to have known Ailey personally to have been touched by his humanity, enthusiasm and exuberance and his courageous stand for multiracial brotherhood."

December 2, 1973- One of the great choreographers and performers in the history of modern dance, Jose Limon, (pictured right) passed away after a brief illness. His powerful dancing shifted perceptions of the male dancer. Limon choreographed at least one piece a year until his death.

December 3 2000- Senator Hillary Clinton called Mikhail Baryshnikov "the greatest male classical dancer of all time" when he was recognized with a Kennedy Center Honor.

December 4, 1955- Carl Perkins played a concert at a local high school sorority dance. Perkins saw a beautiful girl dancing with a boy wearing blue suede shoes. As they danced the boy warned the girl not to step on his shoes. Perkins was impressed that this boy was more concerned with his shoes than his date, and was inspired to write a song. He called it "Blue Suede Shoes."

December 5, 1854- Aaron Allen of Boston patented the folding theatre chair.

On this date in 2005- Serge Lavoie, former principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 41 while on tour as ballet master with Columbia City Ballet.

December 6, 1896-Broadway would not be the same without Ira Gershwin, who was born on this date. The lyricists, mainly in collaboration with his brother George, provided the text for such musicals as Porgy and Bess; Of Thee I Sing; Lady, Be Good; Funny Face; Oh. Kay!, Girl Crazy, Lady in the Dark and in adaptations after his death, My One and Only, Crazy for You and Never Gonna Dance.

December 7 1935-At the height of the dance marathon craze, a dance marathon "Super Show"closed in Wenatchee, Washington after 342 hours (just over 14 days).

And on this date in 1998- Kirov ballerina Alla Shelest, a major Russian ballerina of the 1940s and 50s and the former wife of Yuri Grigorovich, passed away in St. Petersburg at age 79. You can find an interesting article reflecting on old photos of the dancer on the blog for the "Society for the Advancement of Auguste Vestris."

December 8, 1900- Uday Shankar, (pictured right) the choreographer and dancer who helped to earn great worldwide respect for Indian dance in the 1930s, was born.

December 9, 1942- The Aram Khachaturian ballet "Gayane," featuring the surging "Saber Dance," was first performed by the Kirov Ballet.

December 10, 1768 - The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in London by George III.

December 11, 1916- "The Mambo King" PĂ©rez Prado was born. One of the most influential pop orchestra leaders of the early 1950s, was the first to market his compositions under the name "mambo," and his "Mambo No. 5" took Latin America and the U.S. by storm.

December 12, 1882 - The Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, became the first to be lighted by electricity.

On this date in 2000- costumes and other memorabilia belonging to Dame Margot Fonteyn (left with Rudolf Nureyev) one of Britain's best loved dancers brought in pounds 640,000, six times more than expected, at Christies auction house. (You can hear Valery Lantratov's comments on Margot Fonteyn in the fourth section of his podcast)

December 13, 1957- Alexander Levitoff passed away. The Russian-born impresario managed such dancers as Ekaterina Geltzer and Anna Pavlova. He organized the Australian tour of the original Ballet Russe and settled in Australia in the late 1930s. He worked there until he moved to Paris a few years before his death.

December 14, 1844- English ballerina Clara Vestris Webster's dress caught fire during a performance of The Revolt of the Harem at the Drury Lane Theater. She died three days later. (The link above is to an interesting historical article "Trials, Troubles and Temptations in a Dangerous Era published in Dance Magazine in 1999)

December 15, 1879- Rudolf Laban, inventor of labanotation, was born.

Also on this date in 1944-Ballet International performed the ballet "Mad Tristan" choreographed by Leonide Massine against a set painted by the surrealist artist Salvador Dali. It was a complete flop. One critic called it a "25-minute yawn." Time Magazine reported: "Regurgitation is a hygienic, not an artistic, process. Salvador Dali, turning aside from surrealistic painting to drama, has swallowed Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and spewed it up with much of the murky contents of his unconscious adhering to the gobbets."

December 16, 1937- "The Lambeth Walk" was introduced during the first performance of Noel Gay's "Me and My Girl" in London.

On this same date in 1977- The disco film Saturday Night Fever was released. John Travolta, who was also shooting the "Welcome Back Kotter" TV series during the filming, ran two miles a day and danced for three hours daily to get in shape for this film.

December 17, 1892: The Nutcracker debuts at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. What can we say about the Nutcracker? BalletMet has compiled a good history.

December 18 1778- Joseph Grimaldi the "greatest clown in history" was born. The son of Giuseppit Grimaldi, an Italian dancing master, Grimaldi used his skills as a musician, acrobat and dancer to become the "father of modern clowning." He a master of physical expression and comic timing. He was so famous in his day that Charles Dickens wrote his biography. (You can read or download it in its entirety through Google Books.)

December 19, 1957-"The Music Man" brings 76 trombones to the Broadway stage. Robert Preston and Barbara Cook starred in the production which made its debut at the Majestic Theatre. Meredith Willson penned the book, lyrics and score from a story he and Frank Lacey devised. It would run for a staggering 1,375 performances.

December 20, 1911- Swan Lake makes its U.S. debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

December 21, 1976- Mikhail Baryshnikov wins a big success as a choreographer and dancer with his Nutcracker at the American Ballet Theater.

December 22, 1815 - French dancer Lucien Petipa was born on this date. A handsome and popular dancer, he made his debut with the Paris Opera in 1840. He partnered Fanny Elssler in "La Sylphide," danced the role of Albrecht in "Giselle" opposite Carolina Grisi and in 1865 became maitre de ballet of the Paris Opera.

December 23 1918 - Born this day was flamenco dancer and actor Jose Greco. He went on to be the best known Spanish dancer of the 20th Century. You can see him at work in this clip from You Tube:

And on this day in 2002- Indian dancer Lakshmi Shanmukham Knight, who divided her professional career between appearances in India and the United States, passed away. You can read her obituary by clicking on the link above.

December 24, 1858-Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, co-founder with Konstantin Stanislavsky of the Moscow Art Theatre was born. This theater, where Valery Lantratov was a principal dancer for much of his career, is featured on the Kennedy Center Artsedge Page. (The Kennedy Center Artsedge is an excellent resource)

And on this date in 1957- The London Festival Ballet presented “The Nutcracker.” The editor’s of Ballet Annual noted “The Festival Ballet has found the ideal Christmas entertainment in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and one need not be a prophet to foresee that this will become an annual event at the Festival Hall.” Critics especially responded to Anton Dolin’s “pleasantly frightening” Drosselmeyer.

December 25- Merry Christmas

December 26, 1869- The ballet "Don Quixote" is performed for the first time at The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. The Footnotes ballet page offers a synopsis and quotes from famous dancers about watching and performing in this classic.

And on this date in 1957- John Cranko’s “The Angels” performed by the Royal Ballet premiered at The Royal Opera House. Arnold L. Haskell and Mary Clarke, editors of The Ballet Annual, were not impressed. “a year ago [Cranko] had seriously jeopardized the success of The Prince of the Pagodas. This time he killed his ballet stone dead,” they wrote.

December 27, 1932-The Radio City Music Hall in New York opened. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Tony Bennett are just a few of the stars to grace the stage of Radio City Music Hall since its opening. It is best known, of course, as the home to the precision-kicking Radio City Rockettes.

December 27 1976-Ballet Shoes, an Emmy-winning story of three orphan girls who attend ballet school in 1935 England premiered on PBS.

December 28, 1918-Paul Godkin, a versatile choreographer who worked in Hollywood films and on stage productions in Las Vegas, New York and Paris, was born. Godkin first danced as a professional in a mid-1930s Hollywood Bowl production of "The Bartered Bride" opposite Agnes de Mille. In 1937, George Balanchine personally requested that Godkin join the American Ballet Theater. After World War II he became a choreographer creating the 1948 Broadway production "Ballet Ballads."

December 29, 1952 - Born this day was American Ballet Theater prima ballerina Gelsey Kirkland (pictured left), perhaps best known for her partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Kirkland is also the author of the children's book The Little Ballerina and Her Dancing Horse and an autobiography Dancing on My Grave.

December 30 1934- Dancer and actor Russ Tamblyn was born. He is best known for his roles in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story. He was a gymnast before his theatrical career.

December 31, 1923-The Song and Dance Man starring George M. Cohan, who also wrote and produced, made its debut at the Hudson Theater. The story highlighted the redemption of an unemployed entertainer who turned to robbery.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Finally Our Second Podcast

Valery Lantratov spoke from Moscow today as he prepares to leave for a tour of Lebanon. He talked about his new Snow Maiden production, the difference in preparing for classical and contemporary productions and offered his advice to students who want to pursue a dance career.

Each interview segment is in .wav format. You can stream it and listen to it on line or save it to your hard drive by right clicking and selecting "save as." You will hear me ask a question, the voice of the translator, Yulia Coe, and then Valery Lantratov's response in Russian followed by the translation.

In the first segment Valery Lantratov talks about the Russian National Ballet Foundation's mission and the premiere of Snow Maiden

In the second segment, he continues his discussion of Snow Maiden.

In the third segment, Valery talks about his upcoming Nutcracker and Swan Lake tour and talks about the differences in preparing for a traditional classical story ballet and a new production like Snow Maiden.

In the fourth segment, Valery talks about teaching classes in America and gives advice to students who are worried that they may not have been born with the perfect ballerina figure.

In the fifth segment, Valery sends a greeting to the students he's worked with in the past, talks about his plans for the upcoming Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference and discusses the "international language of dance."

After the tape was off, Valery said his favorite part of the interview was sending a message to the students.

"Will they really hear it?" he asked.

"Of course," I said.

"Fantastic," he said. (In Russian, of course)

By the way, as you will note in the interview segments above, I was incorrect in reporting that Valery Lantratov was going to be in Cyprus with The Nutcracker. While he is on tour in Lebanon with a performance of Swan Lake/Nutcracker, Snow Maiden travels to Cyprus. You can see an ad for these shows here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Brief Report on the World Premiere of Snow Maiden

The Snow Maiden production premiered this week in Moscow. Valery Lantratov reports that it was well received by the sold-out crowd. We promise photos and reviews soon.

"I think it will be interesting to the American public," Valery says, "because Americans tend to like dymanic group dances. This has a Russian theme. It is from our tradition, but this is a show."

The performance features a variety of styles from beautiful classical duets to high-energy modern and contemporary movements.

"It has no pauses, the action never stops," Valery says. "It is fast moving. The dance is designed very well. It uses sophisticated technique and draws on Russian culture."

Valery leaves next week for a tour of Cyprus with The Nutcracker. We'll keep you updated on both these projects as information comes in.

A Very Important Date

We've added a new element to our page. You will see a calendar link to the right. If you're interested in where we'll be, you can sign up for an RSS feed and receive a notice every time we update.

Resource of the Day

We've had so much news from Moscow lately that's it's been a while since we've brought you "This Week in Dance History" or news from the world of dance. We came across a resource for your ballet fix which we'd like to recommend: Where Were You Sitting? Alexandra Tomalonis shares dance reviews and commentary.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Video from the Natalya Sats Theater

I'm very pleased to make available to you footage from the ballet company of the Natalya Sats Theater of Moscow which was sent to me by Valery Lantratov. On this playlist you will see a behind the scenes documentary in two parts. In the first part you can see preparations for the Russian National Ballet Foundation's new project The Snow Maiden directed by Valery Lantratov and choreographed by Ivan Fadeyev with an original score by Vladimir Sokolov.

The second part of the documentary includes scenes from Swan Lake. After that are three segments from the company's Nutcracker production. Enjoy!