For the next two weeks, the Mikhailovsky Ballet, from St. Petersburg, will be performing in New York. The company has an interesting history. Originally built to house traveling French prose troupes—the Czar and his friends enjoyed their Molière—the Mikhailovsky Theatre later became a kind of laboratory for revolutionary ideas in ballet and opera. It was here that Balanchine staged his first experiments. This is also where The Bright Stream, Fyodor Lopukhov’s high-spirited 1935 “tractor ballet,” made in collaboration with Dmitri Shostakovich, premièred. (The ballet was a huge hit, would later become one of the most dramatic examples of Stalin’s disastrous cultural policies. Declared a “balletic falsehood,” the ballet spelled the end of Lopukhov’s career. Shostakovich’s music was derided and banned, though he was eventually rehabilitated. He never wrote another ballet.) More recently, the company has been taken over by a Russian businessman, who spruced up the theatre and brought in Mikhail Messerer to do the same with the repertory. Messerer is a highly respected teacher, scion of an important Russian ballet family. Reports of the Mikhailovsky’s tours to London are very impressive indeed.
You can read more on the company here, in this New York Times feature.
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