Last night the Imperial Russian Ballet magnificent. The sets and costumes were lavish, the music enchanting and still going through my head. It’s said the Italians invented ballet, the French refined it but the Russians perfected it. And this is the beginning of the Golden Age of Russian ballet.
Catherine the Great, whom Landé taught to dance, established a permanent theatre for the ballet in 1783, named the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre. In 1860 this bigger theater, with the largest stage in the world, was built nearby and named the Mariinsky Theatre after its imperial patroness, the late Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II and mother of the current Tsar, Alexander III.
|Mariinsky Theatre interior (from the stage)|
|Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky|
The cast itself are some of the best in the world. Enrico Cecchetti is considered the greatest ballet virtuoso in the world even though he is 40 years-old. He played the evil witch and in the last act, the Bluebird. The Bluebird dance is still considered one of the most challenging ever choreographed. Enrico will soon be retiring from the stage to teach using his the Cecchetti method that is still being used today.
|Enrico Cecchetti as the Bluebird|
|Last night's cast of Sleeping Beauty|
|Tsar's Box next to the stage|
Not that Sleeping Beauty will be forgotten. It is a classic performed throughout time (although usually shortened.) In 1999 the Mariinsky Ballet will reconstruct this performance with not only the original choreography, but reproductions of the original costumes and sets. But they won’t have the original dancers.
|Mariinsky Ballet's recontruction of Sleeping Beauty|
Sleeping Beauty Waltz
The Bluebird and Florine
The Mariinsky Ballet’s reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty
|Maria Petipa as the Lilac Fairy|
|Princess Aurora and Prince Desiree|
Post Script: In 1924, one of the former students of the Imperial School of Ballet will flee the communists and their restriction on creativity for the West. George Balanchie will co-found the New York City Ballet and serve as it's Ballet Master and choreographer, helping develop ballet in America. You can read about this pioneer in the book:
Balanchine: Russian-American Ballet Master Emeritus