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St Petersburg

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See also Kirov; Russia. The birthplace of Russian ballet. The Empress Anna Ivanovna founded a school in 1738 under the direction of Landé and from this developed the Imperial company which performed in St Petersburg and also Moscow. After Landé's death in 1748, ballets were staged by G. Locatelli in an old opera house near the Summer Garden in St Petersburg and the company grew in strength under the influence of visiting ballet masters like Hilverding and Angiolini as well as native ballet masters like Valberkh. Under Didelot (1801–11 and 1816–34) it achieved impressive standards, giving its performances at the Bolshoi Theatre, while the city itself became a leading centre of Romantic ballet. Many ballerinas visited, including Taglioni (first perf. 1837), Grahn (first perf. 1834), and Elssler (first perf. 1848). Perrot was ballet master with the company (1851–8), followed by Saint-Léon (1859–69). In 1860 the Mariinsky Theatre was built in the city and performances alternated between it and the Bolshoi until 1889 when the former became the sole stage for grand ballet. Under Petipa (ballet master 1862–1903) the Imperial Ballet at St Petersburg reached a magnificent peak, with a succession of spectacular works, including La Bayadère (1877), Sleeping Beauty (1890), and Swan Lake (1895), and a generation of virtuoso ballerinas, such as Kshessinska and Preobrajenska, who had been inspired by guest stars like Legnani and Zucchi. After Petipa was forced to retire, the next generation, including Pavlova, Karsavina, and Nijinsky, were left with few new challenges. The reforming vision of Fokine was spurned by the conservative theatre management and much of the new talent left to join Diaghilev. After the 1917 revolution, choreographers like Lopukhov and Goleizovsky experimented with new forms and ideas and in 1932 Socialist Realism was introduced as the new mould for Soviet ballet. However, the classics did remain in the repertory of the Mariinsky company (renamed the Kirov) and rigorous training under Vaganova ensured that high standards remained. A succession of major new ballets, including Zakharov's Fountain of Bakhchisarai (1932) and Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet (1940), maintained Leningrad's dominance but in 1945 there was a shift of emphasis to Moscow, marked by the country's most renowned ballerina, Ulanova, being transferred to the Bolshoi. During the 1960s and 1970s dissatisfaction with the Kirov's rigid artistic and political policies caused a number of famous defections by leading dancers, including Nureyev, Makarova, and Baryshnikov. Under the direction of Vinogradov some Western ballets were acquired, by Petit, Balanchine, and Béjart, among others, but although the new political climate of the 1990s freed the company to experiment with Western influences it also created financial problems. Cuts in state funding meant that the Kirov had to undertake extensive foreign touring to remain solvent, and there was little money to fund new productions. After Vinogradov's departure in 1996, the company was run by Vasiev, then Yuri Fateyev, also Valery Gergiev, the overall director of the Kirov Theatre, which around this time reverted to its original name, the Mariinsky. New ballets were slowly but steadily added to the repertory, as well as revivals of early classics from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, such as Rite of Spring.


Subjects: Performing artsDance

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