Sunday, March 30, 2008

Video from the Natalya Sats Musical Theater

Now you can have your first glimpse of the brand new ballet Snow Maiden, which premiered in Moscow this past October performed by the ballet company of the Natalya Sats Theater and created in cooperation with the Russian National Ballet Foundation. The production features an original score by composer Vladimir Solokov and is choreographed and directed by Ivan Fadeyev chief choreographer of the Novaya Opera Theatre whose works are described as "striking, modern and powerful."

As you may recall, Valery Lantratov discussed this production after its debut in our second podcast and talked about it in the blog entry from December 5 and even before that we showed you rehearsal photos.

Russian reviewers said of Snow Maiden:

"Fadeyev's fantasy is like fireworks. There are no traditional pas-des-deux or variations in the production, no static scenes - everything is in line with the dramatic development of the storyline. Everyone, from the soloist to the corps dancer, gets an individual identity and an emotional choreographic text..."

"The ballet 'Snow Maiden' is one of those rare productions, where all the elements – music, stage design, costumes, dance monologues and dialogues, ensembles and mass scenes are in harmony, creating a beautifully wholesomeimage of a real-life, fairytale world based on the beliefs and rites of the ancient Slavs... it offers something for both adults and children, making it attractive as a family production that feeds minds and souls of audiences of all ages."

Now you can judge for yourself! We've made two videos of the brand new production available on YouTube, and you can see them here. In the first clip you see the birth of the Snow Maiden.

The second features Mizkir and Kupava.

And we have another treat! Clips from The Natalya Sats Theater performing the lively children's ballet Cippolino.

P.S. Don't forget our Win A Copy of A Child's Introduction to Ballet contest. See the next entry for more details!

Friday, March 28, 2008

This Week in Dance History: March 30-April 5

March 30, 1923: The first dance marathon began at the Audobon Ballroom in New York City. It ended 27 hours later.

March 31, 1985: In an interview with the New York Times, Martha Graham expresses her feelings about dance: "The body says what words cannot."

April 1, 1931: Two dancers ended a marathon performance of 214 days, 12 hours, and 28
1/2 minutes at Chicago's Merry Garden Ballroom. Mike Ritof and Edith Boudreaux won $2,000 for their record dance, which had begun on August 29, 1930.

April 2, 1905: The anniversary of the birth of Serge Lifar. The Russian-born French dancer, choreographer, and ballet master of the Paris Opéra Ballet is credited with enhancing the position of male dancers in a company previously dominated by ballerinas.

April 3, 1904: Sally Rand, the American actress who created the "fan dance" was born.

April 4, 1895: Dance instructor Arthur Murray, the first to teach dance steps through the mail, was born. The dance steps were represented by foot print outlines that a prospective dancer could follow for home study. In 1938 he opened his first dance studio, the foundation of the chain that bears his name today.

April 5, 1987: Explaining his objectives as artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, Gerald Arpino told the Christian Science Monitor, "We wanted to be dancer athletes and to prove that Americans could take the challenge, could become the Olypians of dance as well as the other great countries steeped in it for centuries." [The clip below is Gerald Arpino's Light Rain as featured in the movie "The Company".]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

News from the World of Dance

Before I talk about the news from the world of dance, I wanted to remind you that you have a chance to win a copy of A Child's Introduction to Ballet just by sending in a question for an upcoming interview with Valery Lantratov. Even if you already have a copy of the book, it's a great opportunity to hear Valery answer your question directly. Do you have a question on technique? On dance as a career? About Valery's work as a choreographer, dancer or teacher? Send your question to You can read more about it in a previous entry.

Now that we have that out of the way...

News from the World of Dance

Congratulations to Monika the Donkey on her retirement. Monika steps down after 19 years with the Maryinsky Ballet Company (Kirov) of St. Petersburg. Her signature role was in the ballet Don Quixote in which she carried Sancho Panza. Reuters reported that at the 21 year-old's farewell party Monika waltzed with one of the company’s ballerinas and was given a carrot cake, a pinafore and a kerchief.

"She sometimes nodded her head to the music, and drew some of the attention from the ballerinas. We sometimes told her off about that," ballerina Anastasia Kolegova told the BBC.

You can read more about Monika, and see a video clip, on the BBC's web page.

Resource of the Day

Usually this place is reserved for dance related resources, but I know that many dancers like many different arts. A costume designer I know told me about Etsy. It is sort of an Ebay for artists (although it is fixed price, not an auction). This is a great marketplace that hooks up creators of clothing, gifts, jewelery and other unique items with customers. Type in "ballet" for example, and you'll find ballerina costumes for kids, ballet slipper lockets, hand-made dance bags and more.

Quote of the day: "Toe dancing is a dandy attention getter, second only to screaming."-Agnes deMille

Monday, March 17, 2008

Singing The Body Electric Part II

You may recall that in my February 6 entry: "I Sing the Body Electric," I talked about the anecdotal evidence that the arts, especially dance, tend to be underfunded and de-emphasized in schools.

Today I read some good news from across the pond. A British television documentary has inspired the government to launch a new program. Six new “centres of excellence” where talented youngsters can receive intensive dance training after school and at weekends will target inner-city youths.

The grant-funded schools will feed the Royal Ballet School in London, offering the most talented pupils the opportunity to become professionals.

According to an article in the London Times, the program came about because ministers were impressed by a Channel 4 documentary, Ballet Hoo!, in which at-risk youths were introduced to classical dance.

We are interested to learn more about dance education in your schools. Does your school have a dance program? Have you seen any local stories about funding for the arts in your schools? Let us know what is happening out there by posting comments.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bolshoi Changes

The big news from the world of ballet this past week was that Yuri Grigorovich will be returning to the Bolshoi Ballet.

Grigorovich was ousted as artistic director in 1995 after 30 years at the helm because of his authoritarian style and accusations that the Bolshoi's reperatoire had grown stale.

Dance Magazine noted in 1994 that when Grigorovich be came chief choreographer and artistic director of Bolshoi Ballet thirty years before, the company had many choreographers, including Nina Anisimova, Leonid Jacobson, Leonid Lavrovsky, Asaf Messerer, and Rostislav Zakharov.

"In the process of strengthening his grip on the troupe, however, Grigorovich wiped out his competition. These tactics left the Bolshoi with a limited repertoire consisting mostly of Grigorovich's own restaging of the classics."

During his tenure as artistic director Grigorovich produced only four original creations. But while he drew criticism from some of the Bolshoi's biggest stars, his supporters were just as devoted.

Fifteen dancers protested the decision with a one-day strike. Instead of performing Romeo and Juliet, They appeared on stage in jeans and t-shirts. It was the first time that a performance was cancelled by a dancers' protest since the Bolshoi was founded in 1776.

Grigorovich was replaced by Vladimir Vasiliev. Vasiliev was, in turn, unceremoniously fired by President Putin in 2000. Vasiliev learned he'd lost his job when he heard it on the radio.

Alexei Ratmansky, the current director, announced he would quit in December, in order to concentrate on choreography. During his four-year directorship his supporters hailed him as ushering in a new era for the company, while those of Grigorovich believed Ratmansky was taking the theater away from its roots and making it too "Western."

The Ukrainian-born Ratmansky had been given the reigns in January 2004 to guide the company as the Bolshoi's main theatre underwent a mammoth redevelopment.

The fact that some of the Bolshoi's biggest stars-- notably prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, and the male principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze-- were critical of the direction allowed some talented newcomers such as Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev.

From January 2009, Yuri Burlaka becomes the artistic director and the bridge between the old and new garde. He has largely built his reputation on reviving 19th century dance classics. Alexei Ratmansky will remain the troupe's principal guest choreographer and will focus on new productions and Grigorovich will oversee his own ballets.

How will this approach to mixing innovation and experience play out? We'll have to watch and see.

Want to read more? Here are some of the articles that you might find useful.


Dance Magazine's 1994 article on criticism of Grigorovich
Dance Magazine's 1995 article on Griforovich's departure
Dance Magainze's 2000 article on Vasiliev's departure from the Bolshoi
Dance Magazine's 2001 article on Grigorovich's triumphant staging of Swan Lake at the Bolshoi
Dance Magazine's 2004 article on Alexei Ratmansky

Current Coverage:

CBC News, Canada
New York Times
London Telegraph
Times of London

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pose a Question, Win a Book!

A few weeks ago we put out a call for questions for Valery Lantratov for our next podcast. We were not overwhelmed with responses, so we've decided to make it a little more interesting. Send us a question for Valery Lantratov to answer in our next podcast and you have a chance at winning a copy of A Child's Introduction to Ballet signed by the author, Laura Lee, and Russian ballet dancer, director, choreographer and teacher, Valery Lantratov.

Here's how it works: You can send as many questions as you like, but please try to make them relevant, real questions that you'd like to hear Valery answer in an interview. I will select the best of the submitted questions, and interview Valery Lantratov by phone from Moscow. After the interview Valery himself will select his favorite to win the grand prize.

E-mail your question to with "Interview Question" in the subject line. Be sure to include your name, age, city and dance school and your address in case you're the winner. There is no age limit. Young and old are welcome to participate. The deadline for the contest is April 15 and the winner will be announced when the interview is posted.

Here are some things about Valery that might help you when coming up with questions: He was trained at the Moscow Academy (Bolshoi School). He was a principal dancer with the Moscow Stanislavsky and Kremlin Ballets. In 1997 Russian president Boris Yeltsin gave him the title "People's Artist of Russia."

He has performed all over the world in Russia, Japan, Spain, England, Mexico, South America and the U.S.. He has danced with Rudolf Nureyev, Maya Plitsetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev and many other top Russian artists. He has been teaching for many years and was a guest instructor at the Boston Ballet for three seasons. Over the past few years he has traveled all over the United States teaching at hundreds of schools with students of all different levels and ages.

Good luck.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Valery Lantratov is on an airplane headed to Moscow. He wanted to thank all the great teachers and students we met on our journey which took us 6,687 miles (10761 km) from New York to Florida to Detroit and back to New York. This is greater than the distance from Moscow to Los Angeles, California! We traveled through 14 of the 50 states: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky.

We are both amazed at how much we managed to experience in such a short time, how many places we saw and how many people we met. With enough time and a series of reasonably short drives, you can see a great deal of the country. I promise to go back and fill in the tales of our travels after I've had an opportunity to be a bit more stationery for a little while.

In the meantime, in case you missed the opportunity to pick up a copy of A Child's Introduction to Ballet while Valery Lantratov was there, we had him sign ten copies before he took off for Russia. When you order copies via this web page (see the right hand side for more information) you can get one of these books while the supply lasts.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be pinning down the directions for our summer tour. If we've been to your studio in the past and you'd like to have Valery Lantratov back please contact me by e-mail at and we'll see if we're coming through your area.

Thank you again to everyone who made this educational tour such a wonderful experience.