Svetlana Zakharova. Source: RIA Novosti / Alexander Kryazhev
The Bolshoi Theater is to host a charity gala concert in support of the Kiev Choreographic School as part of an initiative organized by one of the illustrious Moscow theater’s dancers. World ballet superstars will participate in the concert on Dec. 7, entitled Ballet Without Borders, and all the ticket proceeds will go towards helping the Bolshoi’s Ukrainian colleagues.
The main initiator and organizer of Ballet Without Borders is Svetlana Zakharova, a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Theater. Zakharova began her ballet days at the Kiev Choreographic School and then moved to St. Petersburg, where she had a brilliant career at the Mariinsky Theater before conquering the Bolshoi.
Zakharova visited the Kiev Choreographic School for the first time since her graduation in 2013. She was appalled by the condition of the school building, which was seriously dilapidated and in need of urgent repairs. “Children need to study in normal conditions,” Zakharova says, “without freezing in the winter in cold ballet studios and without being afraid that the roof is going to fall in on them any minute, that part of the ceiling is going to collapse.”
The Kiev school and Russian ballet
The Kiev Choreographic School has existed since 1949 and is considered one of the best ballet schools in the entire post-Soviet space. It had its beginnings back in 1934 as a small studio for the Kiev Opera and Ballet Theater, where the disciplines of legendary ballet teacher Agrippina Vaganova worked. Vaganova had a major influence on the development of the Russian ballet that was the trademark of the USSR. Several generations of ballet artists studied under the so-called Vaganova method.
Later, the school became a headquarters of sorts for training Soviet ballet dancers, with former students flying to theaters throughout the Soviet Union from Kiev. Ivan Doroshenko, who directs the Kiev Choreographic School, tells RBTH that even today, despite the existence of a border and complicated Russian-Ukrainian relations, Russian choreographers and directors come to the school every year to recruit young artists for their theaters. The school’s best most recent graduates have been invited to the Kremlin Ballet and the Boris Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg.
In Doroshenko’s opinion, the school’s building isn’t in such sad shape as Zakharova makes it out to be. “We have sponsors who support the school. In the last several years, we have made repairs at the boarding school and in several classrooms. We have plans to rebuild the training theater. Our conditions aren’t glamorous, but they’re getting better,” said Doroshenko, adding that Zakharova’s effort is very important for the school during this difficult time in Russian-Ukrainian relations. “We need to establish ties and be friends – we’re all for that,” Doroshenko said.
A pacifist concert program
The Ballet Without Borders concert program will feature excerpts from ballets that are the signature shows for theaters where the participants frequently dance. Zakharova herself will open and close the evening, performing the legendary Carmen Suite and Pas De Deux from the ballet Le Corsaire with her partners.
Some of Zakharova’s partners will be star graduates of the Kiev Choreographic School. Alina Kozhokaru from the London Royal Ballet, Ivan Putrov and Natalia Osipova from the Covent Garden Royal Ballet, and Iana Salenko and Dinu Tamazlacaru from the Staatsballet Berlin will also come to Moscow to take part in the event.
The centerpiece of the concert will be a performance that is highly symbolic for the occasion: Digital Love by German choreographer and dancer Patrick de Bana. This piece tells of long-distance love and the feelings and emotions transmitted from one end of the world to the other.
De Bana has dedicated this project to the Malaysia Airlines flight that tragically disappeared over the South China Sea on March 8. The performance highlights the human element of the tragedy, which shook but united the whole world. Thanks to de Bana’s work, Ballet Without Borders will be not only a charitable event, but also a pacifist gesture.
The upcoming concert in support of the Kiev Choreographic School could serve as an image-booster for the Bolshoi Theater. During Soviet times, the Bolshoi troupe took its shows throughout the world, in defiance of borders, the Iron Curtain, and the Cold War. In light of today’s tense situation between Russia and Ukraine, an event like Ballet Without Borders solidifies the Bolshoi Theater’s image as a stronghold of art outside of politics.
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